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“For me, the history of the Congo is in itself a thriller, an intrigue, a mystery; from the slave trade to independence, passing through colonization, it is full of twists and turns », says Godefroy Kahambo Mwanabwato. It is therefore in the form of a thriller that, after a first novel and a collection of short stories, the 36-year-old writer decided to tackle the situation in the east of his native country, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Having grown up successively in Kindu, Kisangani and Goma, Godefroy K. Mwanabwato lived in his flesh the anguish, instability and incomprehension that can be felt by civilian populations taken hostage by repeated conflicts. As a young adult, political activist of the Fight for Change (Lucha) movement between 2015 and 2017, which demanded respect for the Constitution and more freedom, he experienced prison. So are the vines made, his third book, draws on these different experiences but transforms them and undoubtedly transcends them thanks to the power of the literary genre he has chosen.
The ingredients are fear, suspense, action, crime, death and the characters: ruthless killers and a hero in search of the truth. By plunging us into the suffocating atmosphere of a cell in Makala – Kinshasa’s infamous remand center – the first pages of the book set the scene. A prisoner named Ambroise Ngbokoso was summoned there in the middle of the night by one of his fellow prisoners, Zachée Diangenda, who enjoyed the special status of “mfumu” (master, king), which neither the guards nor the locks seem to resist.
“Recreating the Kongo State”
From his VIP cell, he prepares his escape as well as that of his supporters and offers Ambroise to flee in his wake. “I am leading a fight that aims to redraw the borders of our country and those of its neighbours. I have to recreate the Kongo State. I must restore the Kongo nation in its rights. We have nothing to do with the Congo project as conceived by foreigners,” he tells her.
But why was Ambrose chosen, he who is not even a disciple of the master? This is what he will try to understand by remembering different moments of his life until his incarceration. The author then operates a large flashback during which the destinies of many protagonists will intertwine.
There are these two children left to fend for themselves after surviving a massacre in their locality. There is also Michel, a great French reporter who has gone on vacation to Tanzania with Julie, his photographer companion in search of beautiful landscapes and wildlife. It is then Ambroise, an air pilot, who must lead Michel and Julie to their destination. But the trio will never succeed, because the plane crashes accidentally – and by the magic of writing – in the middle of the Congolese forest… very close to the locality where the two surviving children are.
If the author thus pulls the strings behind the scenes, skilfully distilling the elements of his plot, we nevertheless feel that he is more eager to show the complexity of the situation in the eastern Congo than to lead the investigation or point out a culprit. Quite simply, no doubt, because those responsible are legion.
Also the characters bring different points of view on the question. According to Zachée Diagenda, the settlers are at fault for having drawn borders where they did not exist: “No coherence can arise from a State project designed by others on a space with no vocation to become one and which will have been taken over by people other than its designers. »
Michel, the reporter, gives another interpretation: “Whoever loses the war is accused of all the evils of the country. It is enough to win it to be exonerated from the atrocities committed and crowned with pompous titles: national hero, liberators, what do I know…” Julie only wants to see the region through the filter of the beauty of nature. As for the children, they represent innocence and are the object of manipulation despite themselves.
“What exactly is the Congo? How to define this immense space in which we see over the ages and the rhythm of successions in power of potential winners and losers? », asks one of the characters ironically. Under the guise of a detective novel, This is how creepers are made tries to answer this question with originality. “It’s a fiction that I place in real historical and geographical contexts”, stresses Godefroy K. Mwanabwato. In short, a thriller to unravel the inextricable creepers of the reality of the Great Lakes.
This is how creepers are made, by Godefroy K. Mwanabwato, ed. Speckled Letters, 196 pages, 17 euros.