I recently realized that I had yet to read an author from the Democratic Republic of Congo, so I picked up In Koli Jean Bonafe’s Congo, Inc. It was a pretty intense, sad, violent yet hilarious short read (around 200 pages). While it shares some themes and similarities with Alain Mabanckou’s Black Moses (set in Congo-Brazzaville), this has a much darker tone, even if they are both satires of corruption and colonialism that will make you laugh at times.
Here we have the story of Isookanga, a Pygmy from the deep forest of Congo who dreams about being a big-time trader and reaping the benefits of globalization. He looks up to Snoop Dog and plays a violent online game on the exploitation of national resources by corporations, corrupt governments, energy companies and arms dealers through the most despicable means. He leaves for Kinshasa where he meets his Chinese mentor (a victim of globalization and corporate greed). Together, they try to navigate corruption, police brutality and underage street gangs in a very brutal environment.
After reading Scholastique Mukasonga’s Igifu and Cockroaches, Congo Inc helped me put the Rwandan genocide into a much broader perspective, how it engulfed and affected both Congos, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.
This story doesn’t lack villains: Tutsi warlords, corrupt UN officials and power-hungry politicians, all benefiting from the chaos. And, as in all wars, the greatest victims are women and children. But these women, though subjected to worst possible abuses and sexual violence, they manage to be strong, smart, vengeful. Survivors making the best play with the terrible cards patriarchy has dealt them.
One would need a semester to go into details into all the themes explored on this book, but suffice it to say that the author does a fantastic job at portraying the horrible effects of colonialism, western intervention, globalization, ecological devastation, war, corruption and police brutality. I particularly loved who he portrayed useless white guilt and bigotry, paternalistic white savior attitude that solves nothing.
CW: rape, sexual violence, mass murder, graphic violence, graphic sexual scenes, pedophilia, abuse of minors, policy brutality.