I would like to tell the story of the time lived through after the night when Stanleyville learned that Lumumba had been murdered, and that he had died in bestial circumstances, in a way that trampled all dignity. Someone's penetrating shout woke us up in the morning. We jumped out of bed - I was sleeping with Duszan in one room, and Jardawas next door - and dashed to the window. In the street in front of our hotel (it was called the Résidence Equateur), gendarmes were beating a white man to within an inch of his life. Two of them had his arms twisted in such a way that he had to kneel and stick his head out, and a third was kicking him in the face with his boot. At the same time we heard shouts from the corridor as other gendarmes went from room to room dragging whites out into the street. It was obvious that the gendarmes had begun a morning of revenge directed at the white colonists whom they blamed for the death of Lumumba. I looked at Duszan: he was standing there, pale, with fear in his eyes, and I think that I too was standing there, pale, with fear in my eyes. Now we listened to hear whether the clumping of boots and the banging of rifle butts against doors was headed our way and, nervously, hurriedly, we started getting dressed because it's bad to be wearing pyjamas or only a shirt in front of uniformed people - it puts you at a disadvantage right away. The one in the street was screaming more and bleeding a lot. In the meantime the gendarmes had pushed a few more whites out of the hotel; I didn't even know where these people were coming from, since our hotel was usually empty.
LRB 3 July 1986 | PDF Download