ACTRESS Louise Linton has been condemned by the Zambian High Commission in London for falsely presenting the country as “savage” in her memoir.
Edinburgh-born Linton found herself in the midst of a social media storm last week after she published a 290 page account of six months she spent in Zambia in 1999.
In the memoir – billed as “one girl’s perilous journey in the heart of Africa” – she claimed to have hidden in fear for her life from armed Congolese rebels, who had crossed the border into the country.
The ex-Fettes College student also claimed to have survived encounters with lions, crocodiles and foot-long spiders – and to have founded a school for orphans with HIV who described her blonde tresses as “angel hair”.
On Saturday – after days of social media outrage over the “white saviour complex” in her book – the 34-year-old issued an apology and pulled the publication from shelves.
But now the Zambian embassy in London has waded into the row, accusing Linton of ‘tarnishing the image of a very friendly and peaceful country’ in her ‘falsified’ memoirs.
A statement issued by Abigail Chaponda, First Secretary – Press at the High Commission of Zambia in London, read: “Ms Linton presented to the world a savage Zambia, at war.
“It is a historic fact that Zambia has never been at war but rather has been home to thousands of refugees fleeing wars from other African countries.
“The Congo war has never spilt into Zambia. It is southern Africa’s oasis of peace.”
It also hit out the way Linton identified children with HIV – publishing their pictures in the book.
It said: “Those who work in the area of HIV and Aids understand the need to respect the confidentiality of the people they work with.
“Clearly Ms Linton does not seem to take this into consideration nor does she seem to understand that freedom of expression comes with responsibility.
It finished: “The overwhelming condemnation of her falsified memoirs by both Zambians and friends of Zambia worldwide attests to the fact that many have seen through her intentions to tarnish the image of a very friendly and peaceful country.
“We join many others who have taken time to condemn the stereotyping of Africa and Zambia as a backward country in a jungle, thinking which is not of the 21st century.”
A sample passage of her book “In Congo’s Shadow” – recounting the apparent rebel raid – reads: “Gunshots echoed through the bush and seemed to be getting closer.
“I couldn’t imagine the awful, sporadic acts of violence that were being committed as the village was ransacked. Fear and anger for the children consumed my thoughts. Part of me wanted to jump up and make it all stop, but then I heard shrill screams and shrank back into my hiding place.
“As the night ticked interminably by, I tried not to think what the rebels would do to the ‘skinny white muzungu with long angel hair’ if they found me.
“Clenching my jaw to stop my teeth chattering, I squeezed my eyes shut and reminded myself how I’d come to be a central character in this horror story.”
Online, Linton’s book has spawned the #LintonLies hashtag – where social media users have taken her to task for stereotyping the country as a violence-infested jungle.
One wrote “The only thing missing from Louise Linton’s jungle caper was Tarzan swinging to her rescue.
Another added: “Zambians are outraged. Africa is outraged. White man saviour complex.”
Her account was also contradicted by those working at the lodge where she stayed – on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, in the north of the country.
Craig Zytkow – who currently works at the tourist attraction – said: “The distortion of facts about the security in Zambia is what prompted me to comment and correct her story. This story was too close to home to ignore.
“Tourism struggles hugely in Africa with false stereotypes from rebels to Ebola and all the rest.
“I have spent most of my life living on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and we are the closest lodge to the DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo] border – 20kms away.
“Nothing like what she describes ever happened here.”
In her apology – published on Saturday – Linton said: “I am deeply sorry to those whom I have offended.
“I was reflecting and remembering a personal experience as an idealistic teenager that changed my life many years ago.
“I mistakenly thought I could inspire readers by sharing my memories of my time in Africa. The sad truth is that my intent behind the book was to share an empathetic attitude but the result was the exact opposite.
“I now see how my characterisation of the country and its people have been interpreted as condescending and harmful and how such naive descriptions could indeed perpetuate negative stereotypes.”