A firsthand report from deep inside Congo.
Covering much of the center of Africa, Congo is “[b]lessed with deposits of ninety percent of the world’s minerals”—gold, tin, copper, diamonds and more—worth trillions of dollars. These considerable resources have led to multiple conflicts between Congo and its neighboring countries, as well as strife within. With Congo at peace for less than a decade now, Rawlence, a senior researcher on Africa for Human Rights Watch, was finally able to explore the country, and he describes Congo as nothing less than “the most fascinating, beguiling, and…misunderstood country on the continent.” After looking back on his own introduction to Congo, the author gives readers a cursory introduction to the complex history of the nation before launching into his exploration. In a narrative that is part travelogue and part reportage, Rawlence crisscrosses the country, describing the Congolese he meets with vivid and often lyrical prose. He describes a former militia captain, who may or may not have committed unspeakable atrocities during wartime, now “sitting in the sunshine with a child on his knee,” as he “rubs the head of his son while his wife laughs and smiles and winnows the rice with her hard and wrinkled hands.” However, such beauty is overshadowed by the problems that still plague the country: former refugees returning to find that “Congo does not have enough schools even for those who are already here,” food shortages and runaway inflation. Rawlence also points out that “[t]he incidence of rape in eastern Congo is the highest in the world.” Some readers may find it difficult to see the titular “signals of hope” amid so much sadness.
A distressing but important read.