Africa is, purely and simply put, beautiful. When I visited it the first time to research Heart of Diamonds, I fell in love–as everyone does. Scenery to take your breath away, wildlife that fascinates, people who open their hearts to you like no other people on earth.
Unfortunately, while the events and characters in Heart of Diamonds are all fictional, they are not entirely figments of my overwrought imagination. Ruthless, evil murderers still haunt the 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 genocide. 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 lashes of colonialism were replaced by the automatic weapon fire of dictatorial self-government. In the 70’s and 80’s, civil wars claimed millions more while creatures like Idi Amin, Milton Obote, Hissene Habre, Mengistu Haile Mariam, and Mobutu Sese Seko murdered their own countrymen and pillaged their country’s treasuries. In 1994, the world was horrified by 900,000 hacked bodies in Rwanda.
As of this writing, five million people have been killed in the Congo since 1998, according to the International Rescue Committee. There is no end in sight. Today, Robert Mugabe starves the people of Zimbabwe and the body count builds in Darfur 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 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.