Larry Devlin arrived as the new chief of station for the CIA in the Congo five days after the country had declared its independence, the army had mutinied, and governmental authority had collapsed. As he crossed the Congo River in an almost empty ferry boat, all he could see were lines of people trying to travel the other way—out of the Congo. Within his first two weeks he found himself on the wrong end of a revolver as militiamen played Russian-roulette, Congo style, with him.
During his first year, the charismatic and reckless political leader, Patrice Lumumba, was murdered and Devlin was widely thought to have been entrusted with (he was) and to have carried out (he didn't) the assassination. Then he saved the life of Joseph Desire Mobutu, who carried out the military coup that presaged his own rise to political power. Devlin found himself at the heart of Africa, fighting for the future of perhaps the most strategically influential country on the continent, its borders shared with eight other nations. He met every significant political figure, from presidents to mercenaries, as he took the Cold War to one of the world's hottest zones. This is a classic political memoir from a master spy who lived in wildly dramatic times.
In this vivid, authoritative account of being CIA station chief in Congo during the height of the Cold War, Devlin brings to life a harrowing tale of postcolonial political intrigue, covert violence and the day-to-day reality of being a key player in a global chess match between superpowers. Posted to Congo in 1960, Devlin quickly found himself at the swirling center of conflict the Belgian colonial rulers had pulled out, the local strongmen had begun what would be a decades-long struggle for power and the Soviet Union was sending agents to influence events. Arriving on the scene with his wife and young daughter in tow, Devlin finds "central authority had broken down; there was no one in control who could prevent random acts of barbarity." As the country begins to fall apart and Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba starts flirting with the Soviets, orders come from Washington for "his removal." Within weeks Lumumba is not only out of power but dead. While the rest of the book is full of exciting cloak-and-dagger derring-do and scrapes with death, it is this incident that haunts Devlin. He devotes the last chapter of the book to a point-by-point refutation of his or the agency's involvement in Lumumba's death. That alleged assassination is often used to illustrate the hypocrisy in U.S. foreign policy. Devlin's straightforward, plainly written approach to the task lends credence to his assertion of innocence.