Published: 17.02.15

To see the Kongo and not die. Part 1

Today I`d like to tell you about my journey to the Central African Republic.

I have two wonderful friends, with whom with a glass of wine I can spend hours discussing books and articles having read recently. One cold Moscow evening we were talking about the most famous politician- dictator and the cannibal in the history of Africa .Thus I first learned about the sadist, murderer, tyrant and the most famous high-ranker cannibal Jean-Bodele the Bokassa.
Jean-Bedel the Bokassa ruled the Central African Republic for almost 13 years. It is interesting to know that his specific gastronomic habits revealed themselves when he was 19 years old when the future ruler served in the French Army. Once during one of the raids, it was a Vietnamese military company at that time, Bokassa was lost deep in the jungle. Bocassa`s сolleagues had been searching for him during the whole week, and what a surprise was for the soldiers, when the smoke from the fire brought them to a clearing in the wood, where they saw the pieces of human meat roasting in the fire and the future President of the CARS with a huge knife butchering the Vietnamese guerrilla`s( partisan`s) body.
In those days Bokassa managed not only to avoid Tribunal, but on the contrary he even got a promotion as the rank of Colonel and a new position of Сhief of General Staff.

All this was only possible due to Jean-Bedale`s family ties with the President and his nephew David Dacian. Later on Bokassa "thanked" Dacian having staged a military coup in 1966 and taken the presidential chair.The Bokassa was very suspicious and madly afraid he might be killed like Dacian. They rumored that the Governor never parted with his famous ebony and ivory stick, so that in case of danger without any hesitation put it straight into the opponent`s eye. A very curious historical fact : Jean-Bedel so much distrusted the Communists and at the same time he so hard tried to be closer to them. He even managed to go to the USSR and pay a visit to the children in "Artek", the pioneer camp. By the way only official number of Bokassa`s descendants were 77. Jean-Bedel had special feelings to the children. He was very fond of them... fond of eating them ...

There is a Museum dedicated to the memory of the former President  in Bangui, his cutting tables and the Imperial kitchen ... After the ruler`s overthrow the court chef Philippe Lengis talked about "special canned food," which Jean-Bedel used to take in his trips. And one more peculiar thing, as Bokassa admitted himself , he felt a strong attraction to the Soviet General Secretary Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev."I would have gladly eaten him, he was so well-fed "-Jean-Bedel often joked, and out from the African ruler`s mouth it sounded like a terrible sentence.. in this way all the officials disagreeable to Bocassa got to his festive tables.  He even walked a long time with them, extremely well-fattened and treated them surprisingly gently. But finally all ended on the same scenario in the infamous Imperial kitchen...

Jean-Bedel Bokassa

They say that Bokassa had been experimenting with his taste preferences by collecting the sensation from eating people of different professions. So the winner of the first country beauty contest  perished tragically , the only  scientist-mathematician in the CAR and a dentist.

Time passed and in the early 80-ies of the last century Europe was shocked with one more chilling story.The Son of the famous cannibal - Antoine Jean-Bedel Bokassa, a student at the Sorbonne, was arrested on suspicion of murder and cannibalism. During a search of his apartment there was found a fridge filled  with  parts of women's bodies. During the interrogation Antoine confessed to the murder of six young women. In general, as the English proverb says: "As the old cock crows, so does the young."

But most of all I am struck by the fact that Jean-Bedel Bokassa  lived  the rest of his days quietly in the Central African Republic and in the 90's even tried to run for President, though unsuccessfully. He was not under any court or under investigation. Moreover,  more than 30,000 people came last fareway at his funeral. This phenomenon is inexplicable to me.

Somehow, it seemed to me that it would be possible to understand the etiology of this strange case, only by going to the place of  terrible events. However, I had had more reasons than enough to visit the CAR in addition to a black president-cannibal.. So I hastily started to organise the expedition to the shores of the River Congo (Zaire).

There is an opinion that two of the most dangerous places in the world are the delta of the Amazon and the Congo River swamps. I have been to the Amazon river already so it is right time to visit  the Congo. What danger is there to expect?  Very different ones starting with  poisonous snakes that live in these areas, and ending with tropical viruses that cause deadly dangerous disease. We can also add tsetse fly and heavy, humid climate there.

I have to think carefully  all the details of the trip, thoroughly check all the information about the country. The plan is to spend a couple of days in Bangui, the capital city sightseeing and  and visiting the different museums there, and then go into the dense jungle on the border of the Central African Republic and Congo. Here is the only lodge, ready to receive tourists. The owner of the lodge is South African Caucasian Rod Cassidy, a former scientist-ornithologist. And the most interesting thing is that  the unique Pygmies Baak live in this aria, and the only white among them no less unique is Louis Sarno. Here is a reserve Dzanga Bai, widely known for its forest elephants and lowland gorillas.

The plan has made, the organizational work completed,the vaccinations double checked and the bags have packed -we can set off!

It will take a long time to flight to the Congo, but none of my team is sleeping. The heart is so restless. Agitation, anxiety, confusion, doubt, a sense of adventure, excitement and even fear - a hurricane of emotions is raging in the soul! The country is completely non-tourist, the political situation is completely unclear: everything seems to be stable, but  is it really possible to use this word in this part of Africa?
Our plane is  landing. The  alarmed flight attendant runs into the salon and says that the armed coup has just occurred in the CAR.The power in the country belongs to the military forces. Our plans are changing. It is imposible to stay in Bangui now because of the fighting with the rebels. Nonetheless, the plane is landing. It becomes immediately evident that the airport is empty. I was seized with a terrible fear, "Isn`t that all? Flied off... "..

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