One night in Kilometre 5, the police commissioner talks about the nuns and all the rape and slaughter that went on across the river after the Belgian Congo became independent. He is drunk, to be sure, but this gruff, seemingly heartless policeman, weeps after detailing the atrocities inflicted on white colonialists. It takes a few minutes for me to realize he is crying tears of joy. “Oh why,” he moans, “can’t it happen to the whites on this side of the river?”

I receive a discreet message from the police commissioner asking me to pay a visit. He meets me on the steps of the imperial police headquarters, saying it’s too dangerous to speak inside. “Mon ami, I can no longer protect you. You are an anarchist and a provocateur. If you stay any longer in the Empire, you will certainly die. And I have no intention of joining you.”

The night before we reach Mongoumba, I decide to make my move. It’s about two a.m. and there is a symphony of snores from the sleeping passengers on deck. The police agent is standing alone at the bow, gazing at the night sky.

I pull out my knife. I am no expert at killing but if I stab him in the neck and quickly push him overboard, with luck there’ll be a minimum of noise.

As I approach the police agent, I hear him faintly whistling a melody. It is a carefree whistle, the type of whistle when you’ve had one too many palm wines. As I move closer, ready to plunge the knife, I recognize the tune. It is “Vive l’Empereur,” the song I composed for Emperor Bokassa!

Startled, I hesitate, unconsciously lowering the knife. The police agent suddenly turns towards me, not knowing that “Vive l’Empereur” has saved his life.

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