British actress Louise Linton spent her gap year, an academic year between secondary school and higher education, in Zambia . She decided to publish a memoir about her experiences and titled it In Congo’s Shadow. Since the release of the book, she has received intense backlash from the people of Zambia who have pointed out numerous factual errors in her memoir. Zambians and non-Zambians alike have also criticized Linton’s overall condescending tone throughout her memoir.
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The most forthright criticism from the Zambian people is that Linton is out right wrong about simple historical claims she made in the memoir. Linton discusses the terrible presence of violent rebels crossing into Zambian borders, which leads to the conscription of child soldiers. Zambian poet and writer, Lydia Ngoma, responded; “those are such shocking allegations that any Zambian will tell you did not happen.”
During her interview with NPR, Ngoma went on to say that Linton’s book made her “laugh out loud all at once” and when she wasn’t laughing she felt “confused [and] angry.” She elaborated on more factual errors made by Linton, “She mixes Zambia, Congo and Rwanda so many times leading to the generalization of Africa as ‘one big country.’” She, straight-up, states incorrect facts that somehow got past editors, There is no evidence that Congolese rebels crossed the border in Zambia, as she claims. She incorrectly states that the Hutu-Tutsi conflict caused the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, however, it is common knowledge that this conflict took place in Rwanda. A different country. In essence, Linton reduces a diverse nation of human beings into one lump sum of savagery and chaos.
Zambia is literally one of the most peaceful countries in Africa. Zambia also “played an important role in offering secure refuge for those who fled the conflict.” Meanwhile Linton highlights her experience of “having to hide to avoid rebel shooting” which almost certainly never happened, because there are no rebels in Zambia.
Linton portrays her self as a saint coming to the aid of a deprived country. Whether or not her goal was to truly aid another country, the fact that she lorded her privilege over them and misrepresented the facts works in the opposite of the country’s favor. She reinforces stereotypes and strengthens racism.
The biggest worry about this controversy is the fact that Africans are not being fairly represented in popular media. Linton contributes to this phenomenon by creating tribal wars that don’t exist in locations that make no factual sense. Intentional or not, Linton is furthering the stereotype that Africa is full of HIV, Malaraia, and constant military uprisings.
The people of Zambia turned to Twitter to rise up against another attempt to define Africa negatively and inaccurately. You can follow the story as it develops by using the #LintonLies hashtag. Here are some examples:
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