A Scottish actress based in California, USA, by the name Louise Linton, peeved off our beloved neighbour Zambia, and almost every Pan-Africanist, including even the non-Africans in the USA who read her newly published memoirs of her volunteer gap year period in Africa.
Once again twitter served as the stadium for the African gladiators defending the honour of Zambia, in particular, and that of Africa in general, using the hashtag #LintonLies. An injury to one African country was, apparently this week, an injury to all Africans and pan-Africanists, irrespective of their colour or domicile. Ah, the power of the hashtag.
It all came to fore on July 1 when The Telegraph, London, published an excerpt from Linton’s biography ‘In Congo’s Shadow’, currently sold on Amazon. It is rated one star and the reviews in the seven days since the publication of the article are not flattering.
The article, which appeared in the lifestyle’s women’s section, with the title ‘How my dream gap year in Africa turned into a nightmare’ narrated in first person how Linton jetted off to Zambia after graduating high school in 1999, “with hopes of helping some of the world’s poorest people.”
And that was just the first patronising sentence of a do-gooder white saviour to the long-suffering Africans on this ‘Dark Continent’.
Linton’s narrative was almost as insulting to the Zambians as when in 2006 the internet was abuzz with articles about Angelina Jolie making a reckless decision to give birth to her daughter, Shiloh Nouvel, in Namibia, a third world country that is a hotbed to malaria, with no hospitals, and where life expectancy is… well, apparently basically a couple of hours after birth.
However, Linton committed a more cardinal sin: she wrote a book. In which she liberally embellish about living through the hell of a ‘Congolese civil war between Hutu and Tutsi rebels’, who had crossed the border from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) into Zambia.
She speaks of how she “tried not to think what the rebels would do to the skinny white muzungu with long angel hair if they found me.” That was the final straw that broke the patience of all Pan-Africanists out there, and stoked twitter aflame.
True, DRC and Zambia share borders, but the civil war between Hutus and Tutsis that she talks took place in Rwanda, more than 1 260 kilometres from the borders of Zambia with DRC, and the war was on the other north-eastern side of DRC’s border with Rwanda. The only Rwandese Hutus or Tutsis that crossed the borders into Zambia were surely refugees and not rebels.
“This book is a total joke! Spread the word please… to quote her former employer in Zambia: Part of me feels sorry for this delusional young girl. But in fact I would like to wring her neck for writing so much rubbish,” wrote one of the 164 reviewers on Amazon.
Then the family of her former employer took to Facebook, gallantly asking tweeters to “go ahead and put the record straight.” It transpired that Linton even lied about being at Ndole Bay on the banks of Lake Tanganyika, but was at Kasaba Bay.
“I know all this because I was there,” wrote Gerard Zyktow, whose family has owned the Ndole Bay resort since 1984. “Shame on her for her mindboggling and nonsensical fiction. Her book should be banned…”
The so many twitter missives were as sharp as African spears: “Ugh. Do people still think we don’t have internet in Africa? In the ‘jungle.’ That we’ll never read what they write about us?” tweeted Sithé Annette Ncube.
“The only thing missing from the @LouiseLinton story is Tarzan and Mowgli,” screamed another tweet. “My step mother, just turned 60, is a “muzungu” who’s lived in Zambia from age 18 [and] has never heard of your rebels #LintonLies @LouiseLinton,” came another.
“The ridiculousness and exaggeration of this tale from “long angel haired” Brit in #Africa is as unimaginative as anything I’ve read lately,” tweeted BBC Africa’s Victoria Uwonkunda.
The most refreshing tweet of all was this: “@LittleZimba I did not have Coca Cola with that woman!” This was directed at Linton’s account of Zimba a smiling gap-toothed child with HIV whose greatest joy is to sit and sip from a bottle of Coca-Cola.
Apparently she loved Zimba so much that when a mail plane arrived unexpectedly and offered her a ride out of Zambia’s hell she did not board, because “Zimba ran wailing from the village and begged me to stay at [Linton’s] own risk.”
Before that Linton tells us she “soon learned that Africa is rife with hidden danger. I witnessed random acts of violence, contracted malaria and had close encounters with lions, elephants, crocodiles and snakes.”
That during the Hutu-Tutsi conflict she was forced to spend “a night huddled with others in an old straw hut, hoping not to be found as we listened to the engines of the rebel boats drawing near.”
It is no wonder that there have been no more than five rebuttal articles in major news outlets, including The Guardian, the biggest rival newspaper to The Telegraph.
And the headlines were equally entertaining as the Linton’s own embellished account of Zambia: ‘Delusional White Woman Louise Linton Draws Ire of African Twitter…’, ‘People Are Calling Bullshit On This Woman’s Memoir About Her Gap Year’.
“A gap year spent within a few hundred miles of a conflict zone, where thousands of real lives were lost, does not necessitate an oblivious memoir that paints a crude picture of how it all affected you,” writes Jakes Flanagin, a journalist with Quartz.
To her credit Linto did apologise.
“I am genuinely dismayed and very sorry to see that I have offended people as this was the very opposite of my intent. I wrote this book with the hope of conveying my deep humility, respect and appreciation for the people of Zambia and my sincere hope of making a positive impact there as an 18-year-old volunteer in 1999.”
Linton has appeared in the 2007 movie Lions for Lambs and the 2012 movies Scavengers and She Wants Me.