On a November night in 1965, Che Guevara quietly boarded a small boat on Lake Tanganyika. It was the end of his secret mission designed to spark a revolution in Congo. Several months earlier, he had entered the country secretly with 100 Cuban combatants to support an insurgency against the imperialist forces that had overthrown Congo’s first democratically elected Prime Minister, the socialist Patrice Lumumba. He failed miserably, however, and the mission was disavowed by Cuba as an embarrassment. Fifty years later, the photojournalist Jan-Joseph Stok is retracing Che’s footsteps to see how his loftier ideals of liberty, equality, justice and self-determination resonate with the Congolese of today. Along with the filmmaker Ben Crowe and the graphic designer Teun Van Der Heijden, the Dutch photographer is embarking on a journey to Tanzania and Congo that will materialize in a multimedia project called “Che in Congo.” He joined R&K from his home in Amsterdam.
Roads & Kingdoms: Why did Che Guevara go to Congo?
Jan-Joseph Stok: Because he was trying to get people to decide for themselves. He was trying to fight a war against the imperialist powers. But for more than 30 years, Cuba kept this mission a secret because it was a failure. They didn’t want people to know that a revolution could sometimes be unsuccessful.