In the footsteps of Mr. Kurtz

Description on Amazon

Known as “the Leopard,” the president of Zaire for thirty-two years, Mobutu Sese Seko, showed all the cunning of his namesake — seducing Western powers, buying up the opposition, and dominating his people with a devastating combination of brutality and charm. While the population was pauperized, he plundered the country’s copper and diamond resources, downing pink champagne in his jungle palace like some modern-day reincarnation of Joseph Conrad’s crazed station manager.

Michela Wrong, a correspondent who witnessed Mobutu’s last days, traces the rise and fall of the idealistic young journalist who became the stereotype of an African despot. Engrossing, highly readable, and as funny as it is tragic, In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz assesses the acts of the villains and the heroes in this fascinating story of the Democratic Republic of Congo.


I think the book was plot driven however I wish I could get some snippets of Mobutu because what we got were people’s account of his acts.  There was use of complicated language that did not add any value to the story. A little into the book the author forgot her complicated English ambition and the story flowed.

The main protagonist in the book is Mobutu Seseseko who ruled Zaire now Democratic Republic of Congo for 32 years. The author spent a lot of time reporting on Zaire and got accounts of Mobutu’s rule over Zaire. His style was divide and rule, his generals couldn’t trust themselves with giving him information that to me is political intelligence. This style made him rule for 32 years. At some point in the book I stopped trying to figure out how much money Mobutu had spent and embezzled.

What stood out was the military and how they were not paid and yet a lot of money was disbursed and the lack of accountability of the government in general.

A major weakness with the book is there was no point of view on Mobutu and Kabila’s side of the story, Mobutu’s early life was left out, this would have helped to understand him, the mineral trades were also not given detail as they were relevant to the story. I wish we could get more details on his children and how they influenced his decisions. It would also have been a good transition point to introduce Kabila and how he finally managed to take over the country. What we got as readers was here say but not the life of a man. The author just gave enough detail to reinforce a corrupt dictator.

This is a good read for anybody looking for an African leader’s history, if you are into memoirs, you will enjoy this book


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