This account by Michela Wrong of the 30-year rule of Mobutu over Zaire was a mind-boggling book for me. I know it is real because Ann grew up in Zaire during this time. She knows the places in the book, and can picture the people. For me, my mind balks at the facts presented. If half of them are true, Mobutu must have been the most industrious thief in history. Not only did he plunder every accessible asset from his own country, he yearly made millions in foreign aid from the United States disappear. The entire population of the country was plunged into an economic morass founded on theft. He essentially created a kleptocracy in Zaire. How he managed it for so long, how the population survived, and how it all affected Ann as an American girl growing up in missionary family is left to a confounded imagination.
As usual I’m short on some background reading to fully appreciate this book. Mr. Kurtz is the main character of Joseph Konrad’s Heart of Darkness, whom the author compares to Mobutu. Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost is recommended for the colonial history of the Congo, and The Congo Cables by Madeleine Kalb covers the period after independence, the murder of Patrice Lumumba, and Mobutu’s takeover.