Raiders of the Congo
How does the ongoing massacre of tens of thousands slip off the radar? Why? Is it because the what is going on in the Congo is too complicated to easily explain or is it because what is going in is too clear with little or no room for discussion- and that may force us to sit up, take notice and act?
These questions and others like them force us into an uncomfortable corner. How do we decide what outrages us and what doesn’t? Why don’t we seem to care about almost 50,000 victims in Syria with over half a million refugees but obsess over a hundred plus dead in Gaza? Why are the 1.7 million Palestine in Gaza the focus of so many while the many million more Palestinians languishing for decades in camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and elsewhere forgotten?
Does race play a role? Does it matter who the victims are who the perpetrators are?
A few years ago, a pair of white security contractors embarked on a journey deep into the African bush. Their mission? Unknown. A week later, a seemingly innocent man lay dead on the side of the road, and the two soldiers of fortune were the targets of an epic manhunt through the Congolese jungle. James Bamford retraces the strange odyssey of Tjostolv “Mike” Moland and Joshua French—and discovers that more than one hundred years after Heart of Darkness, some things never change.
The white men seemed nervous. There were two of them—one tall, one a few inches shorter, both conspicuously “other” from the sea of African faces. The tall one with the goatee carried a green nylon bag that he kept suspiciously close to his body, peering into it several times as he and his partner negotiated with the locals in the dusty parking lot.
The muzungus—that’s the Bantu term for foreigner or, in the literal translation, “aimless wanderer”—needed a ride. That much was clear to Kasimu. But they were struggling to communicate with his boss, the driver of the white Toyota Land Cruiser the white men had singled out among all the beat-up trucks and sedans as big enough and rugged enough to transport them and their broken-down motorcycle across the jungle. At first the muzungus balked at the driver’s price. Then they complained when they realized that Kasimu and his friend Kepo, who needed a lift home to his village, would be riding along. Finally, at about 6:30 p.m. on an early-spring evening in the crumbling colonial city of Kisangani, Congo, all five men piled into the Land Cruiser and settled in for a long drive through the jungle. Kasimu and Kepo shared the open back of the vehicle with the motorcycle—a white Yamaha trail bike—and the tall muzungu. The shorter one rode up front with the driver.