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Bloody Cross: Letters from the Congo

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David James had finally struggled to the rank of Colonel in the British Army when he was told what the price was going to be. A year in the Democratic Republic of Congo and overseeing the UN operation to provide the security for their first general elections in almost half a century. And looking after two parrots called Happy and Grumpy. What could go wrong?

The Democratic Republic of Congo is a place of extremes - awash with gold, diamonds and rare metals, possessing sufficient power in its mighty river system to provide 10% of the world's power, the cockpit of the bloodiest war since 1945 and the ongoing object of the most expensive mission in United Nations history. And yet most Westerners would struggle to place it on a map.

BLOODY CROSS is a fascinating insight from a constantly bemused, and occasionally sceptical observer, to a part of the world which barely registers on the Western consciousness - but is the subject of serious Chinese attention - and to an event which should have been one of the most important in the 2006 political calendar yet which passed with barely a flicker in the Western press.

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