Public Lives/Private Lives
A few weeks ago, the phone rang at 11:45 p.m. in my home in Amsterdam. It was my friend Vincent, who’s been living in Sweden since he fled Congo some fifteen years ago. Life hasn’t been easy on him. He used to be an engineer in his country, and ended up working as a laborer in a factory outside Stockholm.
“I was just wondering if you’d heard the news,” he said.
“You haven’t heard anything?”
“Not really, no.”
“Oh, then it might not be true.” There was relief as well as disappointment in his voice.
“What are you talking about?”
“Well… I heard young Kabila* has been killed. Or, at least, been shot at—wounded.”
“But the rumor of his death was doing the rounds on the internet two weeks ago, his ministers have publicly denied it!”
“I know, but that’s not what I’m talking about. This information is fresh, it came in tonight.
I was sitting at my computer and started looking frantically for the latest news. “Have you listened to RFI?” I asked.** “They’d have it if it were true.”
He hadn’t. “So instead of listening to the radio, you call me? You think I’m better informed than the radio?”
Fifteen years of exile, of being exposed to worldwide media, but here he was, calling his friends to check the village rumors.
“Oh well, then maybe it isn’t true after all,” he said. “But if we hear two times in a row Kabila’s being shot, it means he isn’t liked at all. And that he could be killed any day now.”
* President of the Democratic Republic of Congo
** RFI: Radio France Internationale