In Kinshasa, Kariya Kailane, a willowy black girl, whom many described as a Black Panther because of her sinuous and imperious demeanor, luxuriated in the fact that she had studied and worked at being named class Valedictorian at the all girls Catholic School of the Holy Spirit.
"Congratulations Kariya. All that beauty and brains too. Your parents will be able to fetch a huge dowry from whoever desires to wed you and bed you," declared Major Oron who was the father of her best friend Vele.
Kariya disliked and distrusted the man and she could not explain to herself why she had these suspicions. In fact, she felt guilty about them.
"I value Vele’s friendship. I wonder if he is a good father to her and to her brothers. He has a disrespectful attitude towards me. It is unseemly to feel this way about my best friend’s father. Major Oron is also my father’s friend."
She put all disagreeable thoughts out of her mind the moment she espied her father at the wheel of their pickup truck. He always came after school was over to collect her and her brothers and drive them home.
"At thirteen, you are the youngest girl to ever be chosen Valedictorian, your fourteenth birthday is not until August, almost four months away," her father greeted her with pride in his voice.
"Cher Papa. I am happy that you and Maman are pleased and proud of me," she replied, planting a warm kiss on his cheek.
Her father Mawanga taught history and mathematics at the exclusive boy’s school Saint John’s which her six younger brothers attended. Mawanga Kailane was a white elephant in the Congo, for he refused to be corrupted. He kept refusing bribes, which were offered to him by the high-ranking officers serving in the army of President Mobutu Sese Seko.
"Come. Come. Kailane. We need good, new blood in the Armed Forces. Some of those school boys might even turn out to be excellent spies, dispenser of justice, and informers and enforcers for the CIA and the Sdece (the French Secret Service)."
"I have yet to see a white man turn away from thrusting their cocks and tongues into our girls and women. They are also crazy about our beardless boys and girls so young they still have no pubic hair," remarked Colonel Riko so casually that it struck a chill in Kailane’s spine.
"Colonel Riko is right. You are being unreasonably stubborn. You will be richly rewarded. This is the Congo. Even if we blacks appear as its leaders, the white men run it and they do whatever comes to their greedy and grasping minds. To ensure our good behavior towards their lust, their likes and dislikes, they have a constant supply of CIA, MI6 and SDECE agents at our ribs. Now that you know the score, just hand over a list of the brightest and most promising pupils in your school. You know Kailane the most trainable ones for the Armed Forces,” said Major Oron forcefully.
"Don’t forget the virgin vulvas. The whites will be soaked with semen if they know our black swans are educated in Christian schools," declared Rico with indifference and ease.
"It sounds as if he is used to uttering these obscene comments about our youth,” pondered Kailane sadly.
He turned towards them with disdain in his eyes and contempt in his voice.
"How many times must I repeat my reply? We are talking about girls and boys, ages ten to fourteen. They are adolescents, little more than children. They should be holding fountain pens, not AK – 47s. The answer is no, as always," Kailane countered in indignation, as always.
That golden moonlit night, soldiers smashed into Kariya’s house with the butts of their rifles. She and her family had been enjoying a purple colored cassava pudding for dessert.
The lieutenant tramped towards their well-appointed table and wordlessly brought the barrel of his Magnum down on her stunned father’s face with such force the silverware, the purple cassava pudding as well as their faces were spurted with their father’s blood. He continued striking him with the Magnum. Their father’s nose and mouth disappeared. Slivers of his brains splattered the white linen tablecloth. Pieces of bones from his forehead, cheeks and jaw struck them with such force that Kariya screamed a series of long blood curdling screams.
"Aaaaaaaaa! Please. Please. Please. Noooooo!
The soldiers dragged what was left of their dead father outside. Kailane was brutally thrown into the black van, never to be seen or heard from again.
Kariya’s mother Marena, screamed. pleaded and yelled. She ran after the sinister black van. Marena was in shock. She did not realize that her husband was dead.
"What has he done? He is a good man. Let him go! Come back. Return him to his family," she begged them collapsed on her knees.
In frustration and retaliation, they turned on Marena, who was Kailane’s only wife for they were Christians. Dozens of soldiers crazed with amphetamines, cocaine and heroin, and armed with machetes, jungle knives and hatchets, brutally raped her.
Others stuffed guns into the mouths of Kariya and her six brothers so that they could not cry out They would then know the fear of the powerless for they made them watch in numbed horror.
For some grim reason, which still remains a mystery to me, I had stopped counting the jackals that tore at my mother’s breasts, intimate parts and intestines, at number thirty-seven. Only God knew how long it would take for her to die!
Marena begged the only soldier who had not participated in the mass rape to kill her and end her suffering. In her heart she was thinking more of her children than of herself. A slow agony would be worse torture for them than a quick death.
The children could not understand a word their mother said – all her teeth were gone, her tongue was swollen three times its size. Every bone in her body was reduced to gristle and pulp. Kariya sensed her mother did not wish to wait for death to come.
"If you are a Christian, I implore you, show mercy and shoot me."
The Tutsi youth, from Rwanda did not speak Lingala Congolese, but was sensitive enough to understand that their situation was hopeless.
"The poor woman is begging me to kill her? I must end her suffering," he said in a quivering voice.
He placed his gun directly on her eyeball. He was holding a 22.calibre Beretta; the best weapon for a close and accurate kill. He shut his eyes and blew off the back of Marena’s head.
Diamanthe surveyed the soldier, imprinting every feature into her mind where it would remain forever. He was devoid of expression, an eighteen-year-old walking dead man.
"The woman asked me to do it. It was the best way to end her suffering,” he repeated in toneless and passable French.
She threw herself upon her mother’s mutilated body, shrieking, sobbing and screaming.
"The woman as you called her was our mother, Marena Kailane. Do you hear?”
She whirled several times in grief. And yet … and yet … she never lost her self-possession.
"I must not show these monsters that I am in deepest despair even if it is so. They will surely finish us off. Oh my God, help me," she prayed silently.
She had not lost her powers of observation. The main street and the side street were empty. All their neighbors were cowering and defecating in terror inside their homes. The shutters and the louvres were shut. Except for her stifled sobs and the loud ones from her brothers, there was nothing but silence coming from the closed houses.
"I understand what you are telling me. I can expect no help or quarter from any of you. May you all rot in hell," she yelled and cursed with such desolation that her vocal chords became strained and she realized that her voice was suddenly raucous.
"Girl, we are sorry. We can do nothing except survive. You must do the same," inner voices crackled inside her heart.
"Answer me soldier. Did you hear? The dead woman was our mother, she was somebody," screeched Kariya. By now her voice had disappeared and only a croak ensued from her mouth.
The young soldier tugged at her white sleeve now horribly scarlet with her mother’s blood.
"Quelle dommage pour votre mere." I am sorry about your maman Marena Kailane. But you must stop screaming now. There is no choice. Girl, they will kill you too, unless you come quietly. If you don’t, they will sell all your pretty brothers to pedophiles and pederasts in the West as sexual pets, or cut their throats and sell off their body parts. Decide."
The word pretty lacerated her. It was a kind of chilling code the Tutsi soldier used to reveal to her the horror that was to come if she did not comply with the human beasts that held power over her.
"I will bow my head and bend at the knee in order not to lose my spirit. I will do anything to keep my family together," she swore silently.
Heart of Diamonds name, when she was captured and allowed the Army of President Mobutu Sese Sekou to turn her into a child soldier and killer before her fourteenth birthday, had been Kariya.
"On the same day that Mawanga and Marena Kailane, mother and father of Kariya and six brothers died their savage deaths, I, Kariya no longer existed."
In order to save her six brothers and keep what was left of her family together, she volunteered to become a sniper for the Army of Mobutu. Even at that age, she was a skillful negotiator.
"You need a good sniper more than you need a whore. Let no one lay a finger on me or on my brothers. If you take my six brothers, the youngest of whom is five, you will not regret it."
She had sworn out of desperation. She did not know the first thing about guns and firearms but she was a strong-willed and determined young woman.
"I will not be crushed, and neither will I allow my six brothers to be trampled underfoot." This became her motto, which she would repeat endlessly.
"Do you want a good whore or the best killer? Don’t lay a finger on me or on any of my brothers. Whores are plentiful. Super snipers are not."
She became the best sniper in the Congo. Each time she had a man in the cross hairs, white or black, she kept her brothers in mind. They lived and breathed because of her. By then, the Congolese Army of President Mobutu referred to her as the "Black Warrior".
A legend in her own time: The Africans called her Simba – which meant lion in Swahili. To the white and black mercenaries who served various warlords, mostly American, Belgian, English and French; who fought on any side provided they were paid in gold South African rand; she was the "Black Amazon".
The musicians and troubadours, and the brutalized people of the Congo, for many of them their country was just a figment in their souls, roamed the villages and forests chanting and reciting the exploits of the She Simba. They exalted her. Above all, the people sang. Music kept the Congo alive.
Kariya and her brothers were forced to march with the wicked soldiers of Mobutu and take part in shootouts with rebels and rival government forces.
“Someday, at the right opportunity, I will cut as many of you as I can into pieces,” she vowed to the dead spirits of Marena and Kailane, her unforgotten parents.