Malê Rising

Interlude: A South African union

Basotholand, 1992


“My father always said the Basotho were good mates in the big war, and he was happy to help them throw the Imperials out [1],” said Marius Coetzee to the circle of children. “But he never planned to stay here – not until my brother Piet was killed in the battle at Sani Pass. After that, he promised that he’d die here too – here at the foot of the mountains. He brought his family and took up his land, right next to Mohapi Sekhamane, the Mosotho captain who’d saved his life in the battle.”

Marius laughed suddenly as he looked at the children around him. Half of them were Sekhamanes themselves, and they hardly needed to be told that part of the story. The Coetzee and Sekhamane families had owned adjacent ranches for nearly three quarters of a century, and they were partners in a pasteurizing plant, two mountain lodges and a safari company.

“Did you fight in the battle too?”

“Yes.” That one and many others, he remembered, and wondered what more he should say. None of these children had seen battle, nor, in all but a few cases, had their parents. South Africa hadn’t had a war since Natal fell, and that had been almost fifty years ago. That was a blessing, no mistake, but how could he talk about warfare to children to whom it was hardly even a memory?

“Tell us!”

“I was very young then, Amantle – eighteen, nineteen,” Marius began cautiously. He was ninety-four now; how many veterans of that war were even still alive? “Our family lived in Bloemfontein when the Imperials took over, and my father was one of the people who realized what they had planned for us after they were done with you…”

“Marius.” The old man looked up to see Zivanayi, part of the Mutapa branch of the family. He was a distant cousin on Sannie’s side; the exact relationship would no doubt come to him in time. “Everyone’s getting ready. You need to come.”

He accepted Zivanayi’s hand up with gratitude. “I’ll tell you about the battle another time,” he said. “You should go find your parents.”

The children scattered noisily, and Marius followed his wife’s cousin to the main building. Piet was there – the other Piet, his grandson – and was the obvious center of attention, but a few of the older people had obviously been waiting for him.

“Look at your suit,” scolded his daughter Karin, her hands busy as she brushed and straightened. If Sannie were still alive, she’d have been the one to fuss. “The procession’s just about to start. Do you have the envelope?”

He patted his right pocket in answer. Yes, they’d need him for that. As the oldest, he would lead the procession, and when they got where they were going, the contents of the envelope would be very important.

“Come here, then.” She led him past Piet, helpless in the center of milling relatives, and to a place by the door. He saw, as he passed, that Piet looked remarkably nervous, although he could hardly be blamed for that. At almost the same time, he realized he was nervous himself. The Coetzee and Sekhamane families may have been next-door neighbors for more than seventy years, but in all that time, no Sekhamane had ever married a Coetzee… until today.

Marius had little time to think on that before an unspoken signal was passed and two of his great-grandchildren rushed ahead to open the doors. He walked through into the sunlight, the family formed up behind him. They’d filled the house for days, all the cousins from the Cape and the Free State and Stellaland and the old republic, even a few descendants of the people Sannie had left behind when Marius’ father had arranged the marriage with her parents in Mutapa. Boers were traveling people, and their clans were scattered far. He felt a brief flash of envy for the Sekhamanes; their house had only a few guests, because nearly all their relatives lived within two hours’ drive.

But if the family was chaos, the scene that greeted Marius outside was more so. It seemed like half the district was on the green in front of the ranch house, in a mix of Boer and Sotho finery that didn’t correlate to the wearers’ race. He let his eyes fall from the distant mountains to look at them: the Coetzees’ and Sekhamanes’ hired hands, friends from Thaba Tseka town, a few district councilors and members of parliament, the Swiss and Austrian families who ran some of the other mountain lodges, more country neighbors than he could count…

“The everyday neighbors and the weekend neighbors,” Karin whispered. Marius nodded; the Basotho were country people at heart, and everyone who could afford it had a cabin in the mountains or out by a cattle station, even the ones who had apartments in Motloang or Makhalanyane and took the cable car up to work on Thaba Bosiu plateau. Maybe that was part of the reason they and the Boers got along as well as they did, once they’d started fighting on the same side.

And at the end of the path the guests cleared, behind a table by the property line, were old man Sekhamane and his mother Mponeng, looking far too solemn for a wedding day. “Do you have it?” asked Mponeng, as bluntly as she might have asked a driver if he’d loaded all the milk.

“Of course.” Marius withdrew the envelope from his pocket and handed it to Piet, who in turn laid it on the table. “The other was delivered this morning.”

Mponeng, unsmiling, nodded and opened the envelope, counting the bills inside. She’d negotiated in much the same way, without mercy for the fact that the Sekhamanes’ spread was four times the size of the Coetzees’. She was almost Marius’ age, and when they’d been younger, women hadn’t taken part in lobola negotiations; now, Marius wondered if that was because the men were afraid of them.

But he didn’t really mind. Lobola – that wasn’t a Sesotho word, but that’s what they called it in the pan-Southern Bantu jargon that people spoke in the capital these days – was about the union of families, and although the parties had resorted frequently to the traditional bottle of Cape wine and pitcher of sorghum beer on the negotiating table, it had all been neighborly enough. In the end, the Coetzees had agreed to deliver five cows to feed the guests at a celebration the Sekhamanes were otherwise paying for, and to contribute thirty thousand pounds to set the couple up in business. That was how it usually was these days, among people who still paid lobola: the money would be returned to the couple and invested in something they would share. A house, a fi or motor-wagon, tuition, or as now, a florist shop in Makhalanyane…

“Twenty-nine thousand,” Mponeng said.

Old man Sekhamane – Moeletsi Mohapi’s son – broke into a smile and put his hand on Piet’s shoulder. “There’s always something left,” he said. “You still owe Nthati, and you will always owe her, because she’ll never stop bringing you happiness.”

He reached out with his other arm and clasped Marius’ hand. “We are one family.”

And that, it seemed, was all – all of Marius’ part in things, anyway. By Sotho custom, Piet and Ntathi were married now, and the parents and grandparents could retreat gracefully. Ntathi was already on her way from the Sekhamanes’ house, surrounded by dancing, stomping sisters and aunts, and the band was singing praise-songs to the bride in Sesotho and Afrikaans.

But they’d wanted to be married in the church too, so it wasn’t time yet for everyone else to start dancing; the pastor still had to do his work. Marius stood between Moeletsi and Mponeng as the music and conversation stilled, and as the couple prepared to take their Christian vows, he noticed that Piet’s apprehension had gone.

As it should be, he thought, and suddenly it seemed that he was at another wedding, seventy years ago in this very place. He and Sannie, too, had stood before the pastor, and that was when they both had realized that they would truly make a home together. There had been no praise-songs and no lobola, but Mponeng had been the one to welcome her to the district, and Moeletsi had helped carry the coffin at her funeral so many years later.

“We are one family,” he murmured, repeating old man Sekhamane’s words. Maybe we’ve always been.


[1] See post 3755.
A lovely interlude; seems appropriate that after all the time that has passed a mixed Boer-Sotho community would develop.

I love the pluralism this TL has--it seems much more organic than TTL's mosaic and much more like the old cosmopolitanism of Eastern Europe or Salonika or any number of places, except spread out across the urban and rural areas of the entire Earth.


Ah, South Africa truly does belong to all its peoples :) .

That sentence that South Africa hasn't been at war between the fall of Natal and 1992 is sad when compared to the bloodly history it experienced in OTL.
A lovely interlude; seems appropriate that after all the time that has passed a mixed Boer-Sotho community would develop.

Well, if the Boers and Basotho fight alongside each other in the Great War and against the Imperials, then the next thing you know, it's seventy years later and there's a 10,000-strong Boer community in Basotholand. They're a fairly small minority and, as might be expected, have adopted many Sotho customs despite their strong cultural identity, as opposed to the Cape where assimilation is mostly the other way.

You've probably also noticed, BTW, that I don't go in for the Boers as Always Chaotic Evil trope.

I love the pluralism this TL has--it seems much more organic than TTL's mosaic and much more like the old cosmopolitanism of Eastern Europe or Salonika or any number of places, except spread out across the urban and rural areas of the entire Earth.

That's an effect of the process being slower and, for the most part, more natural, which also means that in he places where conflicts arising from forcible settlement have had to work themselves out, there have been more models for them to draw from. With that said, though, some have been a lot luckier than others.

That sentence that South Africa hasn't been at war between the fall of Natal and 1992 is sad when compared to the bloodly history it experienced in OTL.

South Africa was fortunate enough to get most of its formative conflicts out of the way during the first half of the twentieth century, unlike some other parts of Africa; the ones that remain are manageable, or at least livable, through political means.
Nice interlude...

That photo shows the essence of "good defensive country."

Country like that is why Lesotho exists in OTL (that, a good supply of guns and Moshoeshoe I's strategic acumen, anyway) and, ITTL, is part of why the Basotho were able to fend off invasions from the Orange Free State and the Imperials and join the British Empire and later South Africa on decent terms.

BTW, the scene in the photo is Sani Pass, the site of the battle in which Marius' brother was killed. It, and the Basotholand mountains in general, draw a lot of South African internal tourists as well as Europeans who want to ski during the Northern Hemisphere summer. (Tourism, along with ranching, agriculture and a little light industry, is important to the local economy; Basotholand is only moderately prosperous by TTL South African standards, but it does well enough to support a decent living standard and it has resisted consumer culture pretty strongly.)
I apologize for the delay in updating - I've got the next one thought out, and I was actually planning to finish it yesterday, but office deadlines and social obligations got in the way. There's still a chance I might post it today or tomorrow, but it will more likely happen Thursday.

In the meantime, here's a short-short story inspired by Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities - ITTL, a similar collection was written by Senegalese futurist Gaiaye (known to OTL as Blaise) Diagne, and you can assume this story was part of it.



In Andarghana, no passage leads the same place twice. A door that lately opened onto a garden might now reveal a plaza; a street-corner that turned into a knot of market stalls might divert its traffic to a counting-house floor; a hallway leading to a master bedroom might lead on endlessly instead, passing under and over the city before finally meeting the rush of an underground stream. The passages might lead to open spaces or closed; to chambers far below the earth or aeries as far above it; to the mansions of the rich or the tenements of the poor. There are no rules to the succession of passageways: no rules but one.

Except for the Great Gates, which may be only legend, each passage within Andarghana leads to another place within the city, and thus, the number of possible destinations is limited by the city’s extent. Sooner or later, if a traveler follows where the passages lead, she will get where she is going. The worker will find his way to office or workshop or farm, and at the end of the day’s work, will eventually come home again. A few, whether through instinctive knowledge of the probabilities or through ability to control them, do this effortlessly; work is always behind the next door and home around the next corner, and if they wish to shop or tour the city when their time is their own, their chosen destination, or a serendipitous one, is always close at hand. But for the others, the journey might be one of days or years, or even centuries.

Some who leave home in the morning never give up their quest, subsisting on odd jobs and beggary and sleeping on rainy stoops or abandoned floors in a search for a job or market they may never find. Others abandon themselves to nomadism. Gathering in families or tribes, they make their homes in houses left furnished for them by prior owners, staying until hunger or restlessness drives them on to tend gardens or pick up tools left behind by workers who have sought their homes. The legend is that if any of these tribes visits every chamber and open square in the city, it will find itself at last at one of the Great Gates and pass into the world beyond, but this has never happened, because in the centuries that the journey requires, some of the spaces they have visited before will have changed.

And lastly, there are those who take no passages at all. They pull down houses and buildings, fill in hallways, brick up doors, and dig through the rubble until they have exposed the soil. There they plant and harvest gardens and build shelters of canvas that they take down each morning; there are no passageways in their domains, only walls that surround and protect them from wandering off into the unknown.

There is a legend about them as well. It is said that if enough people choose the Path of No Paths, they will in time pull Andarghana down around them, and all the people lost in the corridors of the city will be found. But this, too, has never happened, nor will it, as long as the walls around their compounds have space for an arm, a finger, a hair to lead the restless to the wonders outside.
I love how even your apologies for not updating come with snippets of world building attached, JE.

That was a particularly intriguing literary snippet, by the way - yet another world I would love to know more about...
Now that is one story I wouldn't mind hearing more of.

Also, thanks for pointing out Invisible Cities to me. Another order from my local publisher, please! :D
Symposium on Central African Development
National University of the Congo, Malebo Campus
September 16, 2014


MODERATOR: I hope you all enjoyed your lunch. Our next panel discussion, to open the afternoon session, is “Congo: Transitional State or State in Transition?” The presenters are, to my far left, Aishwarya Trivedi of the University of Zanzibar, author of several works on the colonial and post-colonial Congo; on my immediate left, Amadeo Mukadi of the National University’s Matadi campus; on my right, Ntambwe Bokele, director of the Malebo Open Society Forum and former member of parliament, and to the far right, on this platform if not politically, Barack Obama, professor of public administration at the University of Nyanza.

Let’s start in 1970, after George Tshilengi had consolidated power and the outline of his development plan for the Congo had become clear. [1] This is the period often considered the beginning of the modern Congo – I know some of you dispute that, but it’s certainly the popular impression. I think we can agree that the 1970s interfered with some of his plans…

TRIVEDI: The 70s interfered with everyone’s plans.

MUKADI: Despite Tshilengi’s efforts at industrialization, the Congolese economy still centered on cash crops and mining, and commodity prices fell worldwide. The Congo didn’t do as badly as the one-product countries did – for instance, not all the coltan was in Maniema, and the growing demand for electronics meant that it produced gains which partly offset the lower prices of cobalt and gold – but agriculture and timber took a beating. And diamonds – those are always an uncertain source of wealth, unless your population is as small as Bechuanaland’s or Namaland’s.

BOKELE: I wouldn’t say the 70s were unrelieved darkness. I was an industrial worker at the time, and Tshilengi chose wisely in most of the industries he developed. He concentrated on smelting and refining local minerals, the kind of thing that was cheaper to do domestically even when demand was down. We had to tighten our belts, but we all kept our jobs.

MUKADI: You were the lucky few – I don’t mean you personally, given that you were working in the smelting plant because you were a political exile, but the industrial workers. Industrialization was one of Tshilengi’s vanity projects…

BOKELE: That’s unfair.

MUKADI: All right, it wasn’t just that, but he made sure the industries were protected even at everyone else’s expense. Some of his choices weren’t very wise – he protected the import-substitution industries too, and that meant higher consumer-goods prices everywhere. The capital was his power base, and he nearly lost it that way.

TRIVEDI: The import substitution was a pet project of the left wing of his movement – yes, I know there were technically no political parties in the Congo at that time, but he knew who his supporters were, and just as importantly, they knew. If it came down to losing them or losing Malebo, Tshilengi was going to keep them.

OBAMA: That shows what kind of tightrope he was walking, though.

BOKELE: Certainly. He was also still dealing with an insurgency in the northeast provinces and subsistence farmers withdrawing into the forest. They weren’t the kind of emergencies they’d been in the 50s and early 60s, but they were a steady drain.

MODERATOR: Is that what prompted Tshilengi’s shift to energy?

TRIVEDI: Yes, in large part. The real problem in the 70s was foreign exchange – the Congo was meeting most of its domestic needs, but its export earnings were way down, and Tshilengi needed those earnings to continue building industrial development and infrastructure. That led him toward Congo’s richest natural resource, and one for which demand was expanding throughout Africa: hydroelectricity.

BOKELE: You can’t mine out a river.

TRIVEDI: A river is forever, yes – and Professor Mukadi did mention Tshilengi’s taste for vanity projects. The Grand Inga was certainly big enough to qualify.

BOKELE: I wouldn’t say the Grand Inga was a vanity project either, not like the Malebo Metro or the purpose-built capital at Ilebo. After all, it’s powering the room in which we’re sitting.

MUKADI: The vanity was that he couldn’t afford it. Even the first stage, the 2000-megawatt dam, was well above what Congo could finance at the time, let alone the 39,000-megawatt complex.

MODERATOR: Let’s shift to another aspect of the Grand Inga project. I’ve heard it said that the Grand Inga was the first crack in Tshilengi’s opposition to internationalism, and that it also revitalized Congolese civil society. Did it do those things?

OBAMA: I can speak to the civil society, and the reaction to the Grand Inga played a part in that. In the early Tshilengi years, civil society was cowed and co-opted, but it was never eliminated. Also, many of the people who settled near Inga Falls were refugees from the Tschikaya regime in what had been the German Congo. They were very tight-knit, and after what they’d been through under Tschikaya, there was little Tshilengi could do to intimidate them. They were the nucleus of the protests in 1980, when it became clear that the Inga reservoir would displace them, and given the mood of the time, they were able to rally some of the existing civil-society groups to their cause…

MUKADI: The mood of the time? You don’t have to be that polite, Professor Obama. You mean forced labor.

OBAMA: I could say that Tshilengi was trying to be the Ma Emperor.

BOKELE: Or, if you want to be kinder, that he was trying to be Toussaint. I’d say it was somewhere between the two. I’m a bit bemused that I seem to be his chief defender this afternoon – after all, he put me in prison – but I don’t think his labor service was much different from a military draft. It was two years at age eighteen and then two weeks a year – that would be perfectly respectable in any Belloist country, and people of different backgrounds working together was an integral part of his state-building.

TRIVEDI: It’s different in a Belloist society, though, where labor taxation has organic roots. In the Congo, it was what the rubber barons and colonialists did. You mentioned Toussaint’s fermage system, and Tshilengi had the same problem he did. He needed to develop the country fast, and he needed earnings for foreign exchange, but no matter what he said about sharing and education, it still felt like slavery. After he started phasing the program in in ’77, there were more withdrawals all over the country, and strikes for the first time since the 60s, and that certainly did tie in with the protests over the dam…

OBAMA: There’s also the fact that the dam was being built by an international consortium, so Tshilengi wasn’t fully in control of what happened. I’d disagree that the Grand Inga project represented a step back toward internationalism – Tshilengi’s ideology was still very Westphalian and very protectionist – but he knew he needed help if the Congo was going to profit from hydroelectricity, so he reached out to his neighbors and the Niger Valley states. They made it clear that they were listening to the protesters, and that if Tshilengi wanted their money, he’d have to reach a compromise…

MUKADI: So we got the 1984 agreement, changing the shape of the project and doing most of it on a run-of-the-river basis. That delayed it by a few years, especially when biodiversity issues started cropping up, but minimized the displacement. You can call it Tshilengi’s first retreat since he took power.

BOKELE: He was retreating at the same time on the communal labor duties – he eliminated the annual reserve obligations in ’81, and by ’85 it was mostly for university and civil service candidates.

TRIVEDI: And that opened the door for civil society to reorganize, to increase its demands. Napoleon III might have called it Tshilengi’s Liberal Empire phase…

BOKELE: No free elections, remember? And he compensated for the opening in other ways – for instance, the cult of personality in the schools and government offices became more stifling than ever.

MUKADI: Oh, yes. I was a primary student then, and I played Tshilengi once in the Congo passion play. You couldn’t turn around without seeing his face and hearing his sayings about state-building. And there were a lot of things going on up north with the army that we only found out about later…

MODERATOR: Before we get to the northern insurgency and the events of the 90s, you mentioned state-building. Tata Bokele, I know you’ve said that creating a Congolese people was Tshilengi’s greatest project. How was it progressing in the 70s and 80s?

BOKELE: The 70s put a strain on it, certainly, like they did on everything else. And you have to understand that nation-building was taking place mainly among the middle class and the elites at that time. It was normal for university students, civil servants and executives to work outside their province of birth and marry outside their ethnic group, and they mostly thought of themselves as Congolese. Lingala was becoming a first language. Among the rank and file… there were some national feelings, it was drilled into everyone at school after all, but it was just starting to penetrate, and to some extent, ethnic conflict was being replaced by a conflict between the elites and everyone else. That’s where I broke with Tshilengi, as I’m sure you know – it was my ’72 white paper on emerging elite classes that got me sent to prison and then to the smelting plant.

MUKADI: There was class conflict, but for once I’ll be more sanguine than Tata Bokele. By the early 80s, the “elite” he’s talking about wasn’t just the middle class – it included the upper peasantry and many of the urban workers. The hardships in the 70s actually helped somewhat in that regard – there was more labor migration, and people looked for work in places they usually wouldn’t – and the spread of education to the villages was also pretty well advanced by then. It wasn’t an urban elite lording it over the countryside – the elite was maybe a quarter or a third of the country, so there were people in every village with Congolese sentiment.

TRIVEDI: Which made them part of the class that the poorer peasants and the shantytown-dwellers resented.

MUKADI: In some places, yes. In others, there was more harmony. Remember that kinship crossed class lines.

OBAMA: The elite national consciousness wasn’t always the same from place to place either. The Kingdom of Kongo people, for instance, stayed strongly in the cultural as well as the political opposition. They were the largest, but they weren’t the only ones.

MODERATOR: To move on, we have the events of the early 80s creating an opening of sorts, which began to open wider as Tshilengi aged. But the northeast – it was almost a separate country, wasn’t it?

OBAMA: They thought so, certainly. Many of them were non-Bantu, some were Mormon or Muslim, and they identified more with Ubangi-Shari and the Great Lakes commonwealths than with Malebo. The international administration had a hard time controlling them and Tshilengi didn’t do much better – this was good guerrilla country, and logistics prevented the army from taking firm control. That didn’t stop it from trying, though, and Tshilengi let the generals do pretty much what they wanted up there – it was a very dirty war.

MUKADI: We didn’t hear much about it in the 70s and 80s. There wasn’t a military draft, so the soldiers’ stories didn’t spread fast, and most of the refugees went north. But in ’88, the conflict was suddenly on the Court of Arbitration’s docket along with the Tschikaya regime and the hill peoples in Siam. I think there were a few others. Those were the cases where the court expended its definition of international conflicts to include anything that affected international trade or sent refugees across borders. The ruling didn’t come until ’91, of course, but everyone who listened to Portuguese or Bazembe radio heard the allegations, and by then even Tshilengi couldn’t keep it out of the papers.

BOKELE: That really brought the civil society out. They’d been demanding free elections already, but atrocities that reminded them of the rubber-baron days – the opposition to that kind of thing runs very deep here. Tshilengi had to retreat again, on all fronts. He had to settle the northern conflict – that happened at the Consistory table in ’92…

TRIVEDI: And all his Westphalianism couldn’t stop Uele from becoming a special province.

MUKADI: That’s part of what made ’93 the year of peace, too – shame the Afghans and Bougainville had to spoil it all the next January.

BOKELE: He also had to start opening the political system. Local elections first, but you can ask the Russian oligarchs how easy it is to stop there.

MODERATOR: That was your return to politics, Tata Bokele?

BOKELE: Yes, I was elected to the Malebo city council that year. It was an important step – the opposition took control of the capital, which made it much easier to mobilize the streets a few years later.

MODERATOR: In the presidential election.

BOKELE: Yes, the one in ’97. It was under the new constitutional amendment, the one that allowed political parties, and Tshilengi tried to steal it. The people had other ideas.

MUKADI: The personality cult was wearing very thin by then, precisely because we got jammed so full of it.

OBAMA: And also because it had become harder to control information.

BOKELE: Certainly harder than the ‘70s, yes, although we didn’t have the kind of communication we do now. There weren’t computers in village schools in the ‘90s. Some of the villages still hadn’t got electricity then.

MODERATOR: So at the end of the Tshilengi era, how did development stand? And what about the Congolese state?

MUKADI: It’s a little premature to talk about the end of the Tshilengi era. He’s still with us – he just celebrated his ninetieth birthday. And his party has been part of more than one government, even if there are many of us who’d like to see him tried for war crimes.

BOKELE: But you have to say we’ve had a more mature politics since then, and – here I am defending him again – it’s a politics that his nation-building helped prepare us for.

OBAMA: Somewhat. Maybe. But he was just the most visible face…

MUKADI: You wouldn’t believe how visible.

OBAMA: True enough. As I was saying, though, the making of the Congolese state began before Tshilengi was even born. Civil society was making the state, quietly, behind the scenes, and I think people sometimes give Tshilengi far too much credit.

TRIVEDI: You could say he focused the people’s energy.

BOKELE: For or against him.

MUKADI: Anyway, you asked about the economy as well. ’97 was the year the Inga project was finished, and even with it owned by a consortium, the Congolese share of the profits was immense. And that’s proven to be a mixed blessing. Much of the revenue has been reinvested in development, and we’ve been able to finish a lot of the infrastructure that Tshilengi started. But it gave us a bad case of Dutch disease, and that pulled the rug out from under our industries a second time. We’re just starting to recover from that now.

TRIVEDI: You might have had fewer currency problems if you’d joined the union.

MUKADI: Blame Tshilengi again. Except for Uele and now Kongo, we’re still a very Westphalian state, thanks to him. I can’t say he was wrong about that in the 60s, given what he was dealing with at the time, but…

OBAMA: But the cost of building a state is measured in lost opportunity.

BOKELE: I mentioned class conflict before. The Grand Inga has accentuated that too. Malebo has a metro, fiber-optic cable, amenities including the fine university where we’re sitting now, but there are still parts of the country that aren’t much above subsistence level. Overall, we’re still one of the poorest economies in Africa. Even the parties that say they want to build a social democracy are mainly interested in what they can take for themselves. I feel we may be going back to the way things were before Tshilengi, when any government could be bought, and I hope we have the strength to avoid it.

MODERATOR: We’re almost out of time, so one final question: what is the most remarkable thing about Congo today?

BOKELE: That, in spite of everything, it mostly works.

MUKADI: That, in spite of everything, it has prospects.

OBAMA: That people who were oppressed so harshly rose up so strong.

TRIVEDI: That there is an art, a music, a culture that is Congolese, and that there are millions of people who recognize it as such. That the country that the great powers invented by accident has become… something real.

[1] See post 5995.


Most definitely...

Country like that is why Lesotho exists in OTL (that, a good supply of guns and Moshoeshoe I's strategic acumen, anyway) and, ITTL, is part of why the Basotho were able to fend off invasions from the Orange Free State and the Imperials and join the British Empire and later South Africa on decent terms.

BTW, the scene in the photo is Sani Pass, the site of the battle in which Marius' brother was killed. It, and the Basotholand mountains in general, draw a lot of South African internal tourists as well as Europeans who want to ski during the Northern Hemisphere summer. (Tourism, along with ranching, agriculture and a little light industry, is important to the local economy; Basotholand is only moderately prosperous by TTL South African standards, but it does well enough to support a decent living standard and it has resisted consumer culture pretty strongly.)

Most defintitely; sort of a South African Switzerland...



On a related note, a year ago I read a book which was basically a bunch of interviews with former dictators. What saddened me was that none of them showed any remorse.
Now that is one fine update. :D

In some ways, Tshilengi reminds me of the various Southeast Asian leaders during the 70's, 80's and 90's, with a little mix of all of them inside him. Though that being said, I wonder if he is as blunt and unabashed in his words/actions as some of them too (Mahathir and Lee Kuan Yew comes to mind).

So first things first: with the man out of power but still living free, I'm guessing Tshilengi still has a few supporters in high places despite several attempts to put him on trial. When he finally dies, will there be any attempts to keep up some semblance of his personality cult? Or will there be more open criticism of his policies?

Also, was Tshilengi in opposition to the former German Kongo to the very end? I dimly remember that even he was disgusted by what happened across the river that he recognized the government-in-exile as the legitimate one (or was it the native tribal government that wanted out from the German Kongo? Damn, I forgot which was which).

Besides that, it's mentioned that there was an insurgency in the northeast across the decades. From reading between the lines, I could positively say the refugees from that conflict ended up in the upper Congo Basin states like Ituri and Maniema. Was there any intimidation by Tshilengi's forces or any attempts to destabilize those countries during the conflict?

Also, what happened to that Mormon state? I can dimly remember that some Americans mormons moved there because it didn't ban polygamy. How developed is it now? Does it still have ties to Salt Lake City?