This memoir is gentle, insightful, and spirited by turns. It offers glimpses of a lost fragment of Africa that has since been overcome by circumstance and conflict. Kivu still lives, but it lives now in memory.
Amidst the chaos that followed independence from Belgium in 1960, Kivu was spared . . . and survived. It was a little paradise as strife and disorder drew ever nearer.
Frederic Hunter sketches local characters, both whimsical and profound, probes the inanities of US Foreign Policy, and paints the darkness gathering beyond Kivu, forces that would inevitably overwhelm this quaint, quirky realm of hope and humanity.
As a young Foreign Service officer, Frederic Hunter was assigned to the Congo in 1963, three years after independence. He expected to encounter heat, jungle, hardship, violence. Instead he found the Kivu, a kind of paradise, nestled among Rift Valley lakes. The climate was benign, the beauty extraordinary. It was peaceful, the people were splendid and got along. He lived in Bukavu, a town that occupied five peninsulas jutting into Lake Kivu. Furthermore, an African king lived atop the nearby green and often fog-bound mountains.
This memoir lets you accompany these Kivu adventures. We get to know Hunter's Number One Congolese colleague, a womanizing rogue. We meet local politicians who all attend a luncheon and discuss strategies for victory in the coming election--seemingly oblivious to the point that they were competing against one another for the post. There are expats: an American academic intoxicated by Africa, a missionary woman who has lost track of time. Hunter's truck sank in a mud pit at night and he was soon surrounded by a herd of the most dangerous animals in Africa: hippos. Hunter risks more, however, when a local Kivu woman catches his eye and then steals his heart.