9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Ditto with Mr. Brokesley,
This review is from: In The Footsteps Of Mr Kurtz. Living On The Brink Of Disaster In The Congo (Hardcover)
I was goig to write a review of this most amusing book, but found that Mr. Brokesley had beaten me to it. Following his cogent and penetrating review I find there isn't much left to say. However, in the best tradition of reviewers everywhere, I would like to refer to other parts of the book, which I found to be very entertaining. In the Constitution of a region of Zaire that wanted to secede from Mobutu's Kinshasa government there was an article (article 15) suggesting to anyone who wanted the government's protection or support to "take care of your own business" ("debrouillez-vous"), which essentially the legal form of Mobutu's dictum that corruption was OK so long as it wasn't excessive (President Turbay of Colombia said the same thing in 1978, although he didn't manage to hang around as long as Mobutu did). There is an operating nuclear reactor in Zaire. An enriched uranium core disappeared recently, only to resurface in the hands of the Sicilian mafia. A profet jailed by the Belgians who believed himself to be the incarnation of the Holy Ghost created a church complete with hierarchy and miracles and Holy Writ. Mobutu kept twins as lovers, to ward off malignant influences from his defunct first wife's spirit. I agree with Mr. Brokesley that the soul of the story is Mr. Mobutu. A cunning man, he had that rare combination of shamelessness and grandeur. One would need to go back to Mussolini or Napoleon III to find a similar European mindset. He wasn't a psycopath like other African leaders (such as Francisco Macias NGuema, Idi Amin Dada or Jean-Bedel Bokassa), and while he robbed the country of its lifeblood, bringing it back into the middle ages, he did it much more amusingly than other leaders ever did (who ever heard of a good anecdote about Robert Mugabe or Daniel Arap Moi, who are just as big crooks as Mobutu ever was?). Mobutu shared in the spoils of corruption, and allowed even non-family members to take part in the feast. This is much more than other tyrants (such as Somoza, Trujillo, Khadaffi, Saddam Husseim or Suharto) ever did. So, if you ever want to see what happens when the rule of law is absent and all social constraints implode, this is the book for you.