Corruption at the highest levels of government, greed in the church and brutality among warring factions make the Congo a very dangerous place for television journalist Valerie Grey. Amid the bloody violence of that country's endless civil war, Grey uncovers a deadly diamond-smuggling scheme that reaches from the heart of the Congo to the White House by way of a famous American televangelist. Aided by an altruistic doctor, Grey is pursued by the soldiers of the country's dictator, the mercenaries of the mine's owner, and the rebels seeking control of the country.
Dave gives an overview of the book:
Dr. Jaime Talon sliced into the boy’s cheek where the corrupted flesh festered just below the eye. When he pierced the skin with the lancet, a thin, clear fluid dribbled from the incision. He applied a little pressure with the flat of the blade and was rewarded with a gush of viscous brown pus. The boy flinched each time the knife touched his face, but that was his only reaction. Jaime guessed he was no more than fourteen. He placed a gauze pad over the weeping incision and told the boy to hold it there while the wound drained. With antibiotics and constant attention, the infection could be kept out of the eye, he thought. The antibiotics would come from the clinic’s nearly empty medicine locker; Jaime didn’t know who would attend to the dressing when the boy returned to the Lunda Libre guerillas who held him in the mopane forest of the Congo highlands.
“What is your name?” Jaime asked.
“Christophe,” the boy answered. His voice was high and tight with tension. He cleared his throat quietly, as though he were afraid to disturb Jaime’s concentration. Jaime put the lancet down and smiled gently, hoping to calm the boy’s fears.
“Would you like to stay here for a few days?” he asked. The boy shook his head slowly and looked down. “What if I give you food? Enough to take some back for the others?” Christophe shrugged but shook his head again, glancing furtively at the armed figure waiting for him near the trail at the edge of the forest. Even from a distance, Jaime could see the man’s eyes constantly shifting from the boy to the road and back to the trail leading into the forest.
“You must stay at least for tonight so the wound can drain. I will speak to him. Stay here and do not remove the pad.” Jaime locked his meager tray of surgical instruments inside a cabinet to remove temptation, then walked purposefully across the clearing to the gunman, keeping his hands out of his pockets and in full sight. He stopped a few feet away when the rebel shifted his weight from one foot to the other and casually pointed his rifle at Jaime’s stomach.
“The boy will stay with me tonight,” he declared firmly, trying to forestall any argument.
“No, dakta bandia,” the man replied with a sneer.
Jaime ignored the insult. He had been called much worse than a sham doctor by many people, including his ex-wife, whom he deeply offended when he walked away from his career in New York to come to Africa.
“If you take him away now, he will become blind. He won’t be of much use to you then, will he?” Jaime demanded boldly. The man shrugged as if he didn’t care, but looked Jaime in the face to see if he was lying. Jaime pressed the slight advantage. “If you let him stay, I will give you some food to take back. You can stay with him in the breezeway and I will give you the supplies in the morning. Okay?” The rebel pondered the offer.
The events and characters in Heart Of Diamonds are all fictional, but unfortunately they are not entirely figments of my imagination. Ruthless, evil murderers still haunt the Democratic Republic of Congo and many other countries in Africa. They may wear a cloak of patriotism, tribal self-realization, religious fervor, or some other propaganda, but they are actually driven by one thing—unadulterated greed. While the rhetoric rolls on, so does the death and destruction. The only thing that doesn’t change is the total indifference of the so-called developed nations of the world.
In the 1960’s, millions died across the African continent as the whips and lashes of colonialism were replaced by the automatic weapon fire of “self-government” by strong-arm dictators. In the 70’s and 80’s, civil wars claimed millions more while creatures like Idi Amin, Milton Obote, Hissene Habre, Mengistu Haile Mariam, Robert Mugabe, and Mobutu Sese Seko murdered their own countrymen and pillaged their countries’ treasuries. In 1994, the world was horrified by hundreds of thousands of hacked and bludgeoned bodies in Rwanda.
More than five million people have been killed in the Congo since 1998 according to the International Rescue Committee. There is no end in sight. Today, rival warlords, proxy armies, multi-national corporations, and other gangsters rape and pillage the country while the world pauses briefly to wring its hands and sniffle before turning back to its TV dinners.
Some of the death and destruction in the latter half of the 20th century was the direct result of rebellion against the affront to humanity that was apartheid as well as against other vestiges of the colonial era. Today’s killers, though, are after what men have always lusted after in Africa—gold, copper, timber, ivory, cobalt—and the new riches, coltan, uranium, and oil. And diamonds, always diamonds.
My career as a broadcaster, entrepreneur, and writer has taken me from the jungles of Australia’s Cape York Peninsula to the minarets of Riyadh. I've climbed the spire of the Empire State Building, floated the Usumacinta River to the Mayan ruins at Piedras Negras in...