This blogger read “Stringer” by Anjan Sundaram, published in 2014. The author studied mathematics at university but entered the field of journalism instead. He went to the Congo with the hope of getting paid for reporting news. Someone helped him become a freelance writer for the Associated Press.
However, this book is unclear about when any of his experiences occurred, as no dates– not even approximate ones– are provided. Not even during his description of Kabila’s historic election “victory” over Bemba. This appears to be a case of laziness and cheapness on the part of the author and his publisher. If dates were provided, then this book would need to have notes, references and possibly an index– entailing additional work, time and expense. Also, by omitting a timeline and confining the writing to the author’s personal experience, this work appears less credible and less literate than otherwise. Journalists are supposed to be recorders of history. History is all about when events occurred– so that there is context. This blogger has observed the lack of dates in other recent books written by foreign correspondents, too. It is a disturbing trend that bespeaks of the decrease in quality of personal accounts of “Darwin Award” candidates in war-torn countries.
Anyway, Sundaram stayed in Victoire, a section of Kinshasa with a reputation for “…gangs and disorder, and expatriate and embassy workers were banned even from visits.” As he was a stringer, he was paying his own expenses to collect news stories of the civil war. Competition in the region for getting stories published was fierce, as the AP bureau in Dakar covered 22 countries. “There was constant news of rape, child soldiers and violence.”
Congo was influenced by missionaries. When a child was misbehaving, and the family suffered a misfortune, it was thought that the devil was influencing the child, so a pastor would compel the child to confess.
“Congo’s minuscule 25 miles of coast was rich with oil.” Sundaram met an Indian whose land was allegedly seized illegally by the Congolese government and the Americans, because some natural resource was found in it. Sundaram avoided covering the story, as the situation was sure to be rife with corruption. The business community was comprised of Indians, Lebanese, Israelis, Belgians and politicians. These foreigners shamelessly engaged in conspicuous consumption; hence the common Congolese people rioted in wealthy neighborhoods.
Sundaram was present when the Congolese people were led to believe there might occur a historic political change in their nation, as they could vote for a presidential candidate. “From across the country came stories of villagers who had walked for days, supplies on their heads, families in tow, to reach a polling station… turnout was higher than 80 percent in many districts worst hit by the war.” However, as usual, their corrupt government took advantage of their lack of education and naivete.
Read the book to learn how Congo has historically been manipulated by foreign powers. But don’t expect to learn when.