It is 1960. Almost all the black people of Congo are with great hope and joy. On June 30th they will receive Independence.
Yet, I, Nkoi, am with fear.
Maybe my life will always be one of fear and trouble. I was born in the Congo Topoke forest, sometime, I think, in the 1940s. My father had been sent to prison by a white judge. He died there before I was born. I have heard that some of our 'Leopard Men' were hanged in that prison. My mind forbids any connection. Yet my name, Nkoi, means Leopard in our language.
I do remember a happy childhood in our village. My uncle-step-father was good to me, I had many friends, I enjoyed Topoke life and passed through our Topoke manhood Initiation Ceremonies. I attended our forest mission school and was even chosen to go as a boarder to the white man's Mission school where I became top of my class. It was there I learned to crave not just education but also the wealth and power of the white people.
Then I made a mistake at home. Our custom insisted I married and I had to leave the white man's mission school. But Topoke village life was no longer sufficient. I left for Stanleyville where I found many other black people in a similar quandary. We still loved our own culture but found ourselves within a foreign culture which both ruled and tempted us. We wanted the best of both for ourselves. We found Kitawala. Our own religion. It seemed to offer us everything: Identity, self-respect, an African religion claiming, we thought, the best of both Christianity and our ancient beliefs. It also insisted on our independence, true Independence to rule ourselves. Hope.
But things did not go to plan.
It is 1960. I, Nkoi, am with great fear.