Saturday, April 10, 2021

Michela Wrong's "Do Not Disturb"

Michela Wrong is a writer and journalist with more than twenty years' experience of covering Africa. She joined Reuters news agency in the early 1980s and was posted as a foreign correspondent to Italy, France and Ivory Coast. She became a freelance journalist in 1994, when she moved to then-Zaire and found herself covering both the genocide in Rwanda and the final days of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko for the BBC and Reuters. Wrong later moved to Kenya, where she spent four years covering east, west and central Africa for the Financial Times.

She was awarded the 2010 James Cameron prize for journalism that combines "moral vision and professional integrity." She is regularly interviewed by the BBC, Al Jazeera and Reuters on her areas of expertise.

Wrong applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Do Not Disturb: The Story of a Political Murder and an African Regime Gone Bad, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Do Not Disturb captures the suspicions Emile Rutagengwa, assistant to exiled former Rwandan intelligence chief Patrick Karegeya, began to harbour in 2013 towards Apollo Gafaranga, a businessman friend visiting the latter in South Africa. Emile took against Apollo, and since the book kicks off with Patrick's strangling in the Michelangelo Hotel in Johannesburg - an event Apollo organised - we know Emile's suspicions are justified.

Page 99 is not a bad introduction to the rest of the book. It uses first hand testimony to bring to life not only some key players in the story - Patrick, the laid-back spy chief; Apollo, the high-rolling Judas; Emile, the wary driver and bodyguard - but to highlight the predicament of any high-profile African who goes from being a presidential aide to an enemy of the state, trying to set up an opposition party while keeping out of the clutches of the killers sent by his old friend, President Paul Kagame. The phenomenon of the revolution eating its own is certainly not the only theme of my book. I also delve back into the recent history of Africa's Great Lakes to examine how the Rwandan Patriotic Front to which both Kagame and Karegeya belonged saw the light of day in Uganda and how it came to invade neighbouring Rwanda in 1990. But the moment in which former brothers in arms turn on one another is the climax to which the rest of the book builds. Do Not Disturb is, amongst other things, a story of personal betrayal, and the most egregious example of that toxic, fatal process was Patrick Karegeya's murder.

The test fails in that it gives no indication that only the first four chapters of the book are set in South Africa in the 2010s, amongst the fearful Rwandan diaspora based there. In the rest of the book the narrative shifts back in time to the Uganda of Idi Amin and Milton Obote, tracks the birth of Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Movement, explains how the Bush War gave birth to the RPF, and then moves with the RPF itself into neighbouring Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. At the end the book examines how and why the West has misunderstood Rwanda's recent history and turned an indulgent blind eye to Kagame's worst abuses, before returning to the story's point of departure: the Rwandan opposition in exile today.
Visit Michela Wrong's website.

--Marshal Zeringue