Freight Dogs by Giles Foden
It is autumn, 1996. Patrick Rwema, a seventeen-year-old Congolese farm boy, is tending cattle in the Kivu hills when the troops of Zairian dictator President Mobutu appear and slaughter the herd. Patrick is helpless to defend his home and is forced to watch as his parents are killed. Too late, a rebel group led by Laurent Kabila emerges from the jungle, causing the soldiers to flee. Far from safe, Patrick has no choice but to join Kabila's boy rebels. After months of witnessing and taking part in unspeakable brutality, one day, fleeing the scene of a killing, Patrick stumbles upon an airfield and meets a pilot, Norm Cogan, who helps him to escape Zaire. But Cogan isn't all that he seems, and when he bets another pilot that he can train Patrick to fly in six months, he brings the young man into the world of 'freight dogs' - a dangerous world of mercenaries and weapons, where money trumps honour and contracts are agreed regardless of side.