"In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz" is the true story of President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire and the society of thieves and impoverished masses he created in the most resource-wealthy country on the planet.
Beginning with his assumption of the position of Army Chief-of-Staff to Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, the book traces his path from his successful military coup in 1965 to his overthrow by Rwandan militiamen in 1997.
Along the way, it recounts his abuses of power for personal gain, to the tune of several trillion dollars, most of it spent on buying a Mercedes for every new cabinet member and financing the maintenance of Gbadolite, an opulent jungle palace with gold and silver inlay, stocked to the rafters with caviar and pink champagne.
While the president was happily looting the country's coffers and blithely appropriated money loaned by the World Bank, the country descended into an anarchy of smuggling, graft, and fraud, a state that Mobutu not only condoned, but actively encouraged, as in a speech in which he exhorted his people to only steal "a little."
From army officers who more resembled bandits in their relations with civilians to the economy-obliterating flop that was "Zaireanisation," Michela Wrong's book tells the complete story of the man whose leopardskin toque and Buddy Holly-style glasses became the symbol for opression and criminal excess across the world.
This report prepared by James Craver