1945, the war is over. Best friends Guy Moeyaert and Luk Vermarcke celebrate their graduation and Luk's marriage to Hélène Vermarcke, who chose him over Guy. They make a pact to stick together whatever happens before moving to the Congo colony. Luc becomes the new assistant administrator, destined to succeed his boss, who warns war wounds wrecked Congo's social fabric. Luc succeeds his dad as manager of a plantation, in concession, in Masisi, in Guy's district. Hélène makes a bad start getting used to colonial life.
Mine engineer Jean Roland's son Pierre and his teenage mate, Albert Letong's son Fred, are bored having to spend the summer holidays with their colonial parents. Drinking and car racing cockily are bound to go wrong, but Guy's forensic investigation may run out of time. Helene proves she can neither run the plantation intelligently, nor handle the superstitious black staff. Luckily, Guy thus gets a brand-new second-hand 'cursed' car.
1950, the white colonials vote in the referendum on the return of king Leopold III. Guy's resistance against the mine's offer to help with repairing bridges is ultimately overruled by the governor's office. Tribal chief Lwubusi and father Alexis bicker where the mission's new school and medical campus will be founded and whether the wicked, now protestant heir is to be rehabilitated. Guy is the only colonial to approve of the doc marrying black Hortense. Guy hounds mine supervisor François Stévenin, whom another nicker claims to have sired here mulatto baby, until his...
In 1957, native superstition objects to cutting a 'sacred' forest tract to expand the mine. To father Alexis's horror, his own young assistant Wim takes the African side. Guy gets a visit from his predecessor Karel Horemans, who thinks more like his present deputy Arthur. Luc's wife's unrealistic expectations and 'un-colonial' priorities wreck their marriage. She moves in with outcast doc Stevenin and his black wife.
In 1957, Guy still follows instructions to teach "evolved natives" at the 'cercle' in preparations of autonomy, but is disheartened. His health breaks down, so Arthur takes over, the conventional white-first-way, while father Alexis does the legal teaching. Guy's lover, the nurse, returns, but just then Helene, who left the plantation 'temporarily', was sharing his bed. Luc bitterly concentrates on Thomas' inheritance, but a horrible accident smashes his last dream.
The Belgian colonial authorities have scheduled an orderly preparation to independence, but only Guy is naive enough to hope the natives will wait that long. In fact, all work is neglected, insolence soon followed by vandalism and escalates into an anti-white crime wave, which becomes a bloodbath among those who don't get evacuated in time, and natives seen as collaborators.