Fourth Estate 2000. ISBN 1-84115-421-0

Is there a surprise or isn't there?

Michela Wrong writes at length about the chaos and banditry of Congo from the standard Western viewpoint but finally on the last page while she looks at photos from the 1950's of a tidy pre-independence Kinshasa she says, " I was pulled up short. There .... was a photograph of a policeman directing traffic on one of the boulevards. His uniform looked neat, his gauntlets were a spotless white. But while looking closely at his face, I could swear he was wearing gold-rimmed, slanting sunglasses - pimps sunglasses, sinister trademark of the secret policeman and presidential guard, the torturer possessed of arbitrary, undefined powers. Now there, in that tiny, telling detail, was the country I had come to know and love."

In her introduction she gives the description of the way Marlow is taken over by Kurtz in Conrads "Heart of Darkness" and she seems to follow in his footsteps as she is taken over by the Congo in general and Mobutu in particular. She takes the journey from shocked arrival, "how can this happen?", to some kind of acceptance of the way things are and pleasure in the Congolese people.(top)

Neverthless, the stimulation and excitement of the pure animal spirit ("do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law") still seems to produce some guilt. She needs to blame someone, so in predictable this is placed on the colonial experience and foreign interference.

This is not honest and she also lives in the U.K. - not in the Congo that she claims to know and love.

The idea is to present the Congo as entertainment, while carefully covering herself from attack by 1) liberals with "it's the colonialists fault" and 2) the Congolese with "the country I had come to know and love".

She is simultaneously excited and horrified by Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga ("The All Powerful Warrior who goes from Conquest to Conquest, leaving Fire in his Wake") and the Big Men around him.

Neverthless she is a good reporter and the facts speak for themselves. Mobutus chartered Concord lands beside his jungle Versailles loaded with pink champagne as Kinshasa reverts to subsistence farming on city centre vegetable plots.

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