During Mobutu Sese Seko's 30 years as president of Zaire (now the Congo), he managed to plunder his nation's economy and live a life of excess unparalleled in modern history. A foreign correspondent in Zaire for six years, Michela Wrong has plenty of titillating stories to tell about Mobutu's excesses, such as the Versailles-like palace he built in the jungle, or his insistence that he needed $10 million a month to live on. However, these are not the stories that most interest Wrong. Her aim is to understand all of the reasons behind the economic disintegration of the most mineral-rich country on the African continent; in so doing, she turns over the mammoth rock that was Mobutu and finds a seething underworld of parasites with names like the CIA, the World Bank and the IMF, the French and Belgian governments, mercenaries, and a host of fat cats who benefited from Mobutu's largesse and even exceeded his rapaciousness.
Wrong turns first to Belgian's King Leopold II, who instituted a brutal colonial regime in the Congo in order to extract the natural and mineral wealth for his personal gain. Mobutu, with the aid of a U.S. government determined to sabotage Soviet expansion, stepped easily into Leopold's footsteps, continuing a culture built on government-sanctioned sleaze and theft. Under the circumstances, it's hard not to feel some sympathy for the people who survived in the only ways they could--teachers trading passing grades for groceries, hospitals refusing to let patients leave until they paid up, cassava patches cultivated next to the frighteningly unsafe nuclear reactor. What is less comprehensible--and rightly due for an airing--are Wrong's revelations about foreign interventions. Why, for example, did the World Bank and IMF give Mobutu $9.3 billion in aid, knowing full well that he was pocketing most of it?
In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz is a brilliantly conceived and written work, sharply observant and richly described with a necessary sense of the absurd. Wrong paints a far more nuanced picture of the wily autocrat than we've seen before, and of the blatant greed and paranoia of the many players involved in the country's self-destruction. --Lesley Reed --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The beauty of this book is that it makes sense of chaos. For the past few decades, the Congo, one of Africa's richest countries in natural resources, has been in an economic decline that has resulted in violence and lawlessness. Wrong, a British journalist who spent six years covering Africa as a reporter for European news agencies, skillfully balances history with nuanced reportage. She details the "discovery" of the Congo by the British explorer Lord Stanley, the land's subsequent exploitation by the Belgian King Leopold II for his own personal benefit and the role of the United States and other Western nations in propping up Joseph Mobutu. Without apologizing for his brutal regime, Wrong explains how the cold war dictator used a mixture of terror and charisma to maintain his hold on the country for three decades. But although the roots of the country's downfall are traced to Western policies the book's title comes from Joseph Conrad's famous anticolonialist novel this book is no anti-imperialist screed. What Wrong finds is a widespread refusal, among Westerners and Congolese alike, to accept responsibility for the country's deterioration, which has led to a situation in which "each man's aim is to leave Congo, acquire qualifications and build a life somewhere else." And when Wrong uses her keen eye to describe contemporary life in Congo as in her portrayal of the handicapped businessmen's association the streets of this now-wretched nation come alive. Illus. (Apr. 29)Forecast: Wrong will come to the States to do a three-city tour: New York, D.C. and Boston. This fine book should benefit from being one of several books on Africa coming out, including Ryszard Kapuscinski's (see above) and Bill Berkeley's The Graves Are Not Yet Full (Forecasts, Mar. 26).
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Editorial Reviews
Fantastic book, I throughly enjoyed it - so well written that I devoured it in just 4 days!Published 1 month ago by laura mardon
The conclusion may surprise you; it did me and I am fairly well read on the Zaire/DRC. Ms. Wrong takes the reader through the history of Mabutu; his rise to power and how he deftly... Read morePublished 1 month ago by World traveler
I had to read a chapter of this book for an assignment on development studies and ended up going from cover to cover. Read morePublished 8 months ago by matius
Michela Wrong has an unusual ability to inform and entertain and engender compassion all at the same time. Read morePublished 10 months ago by R. Strickler
A fascinating look at a big country and a big man, neither of whom are well understood. Well worth the read!Published 15 months ago by Handukani L Moyo
Outstanding history of the Congo.
Not for the fainthearted as it describes in detail, Belgium's genocide in the Congo, its enslavement of the people and the ugliness of a... Read more
A great read. I have visited various locations in DRC and know other African countries and loved the way the country is depicted. The story is rich with informationPublished 18 months ago by George
I liked this book because I learned a ot about this part of the world that I knew very little of. I actually think Mobuto was a tragi-comic figure who started out with good... Read morePublished 23 months ago by C. Welch