Radio Congo: Signals of Hope from Africa's Deadliest War

Radio Congo: Signals of Hope from Africa's Deadliest War

by Ben Rawlence
     
 

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While poring over dust-caked pamphlets in the library, Ben Rawlence stumbles upon the photo of a lost city of colonial Congo--a glistening, modern metropolis built by huge tin mines and European capitalists. Today, that city, Manono, sits beyond the infamous “Triangle of Death,” in an area rarely reached by outsiders since war turned the country’s… See more details below

Overview

While poring over dust-caked pamphlets in the library, Ben Rawlence stumbles upon the photo of a lost city of colonial Congo--a glistening, modern metropolis built by huge tin mines and European capitalists. Today, that city, Manono, sits beyond the infamous “Triangle of Death,” in an area rarely reached by outsiders since war turned the country’s rivers to blood.

In this compelling debut, Rawlence sets out to gather the news from this ghost town in one of the most dangerous places in the world. Ignoring the advice of locals, reporters, and mercenaries, he travels by foot, motorbike, and canoe, taking his time and meeting the people who are rebuilding their homes with hope, faith, and nervous instinct. We meet Benjamin, the kindly father of the most terrifying Mai Mai warlord; Leya, who happily gives up a good job in Zambia to return to her razed town; Colonel Ibrahim, a guerrilla turned army officer; the Lebanese cousins Mohammed and Mohammed, who oversee the remains of Manono’s great mine; the priest Jean-Baptiste, who explains the conjoined prices of beer and normality; and the talk-show host Mama Christine, who dispenses counsel and courage in equal measure.

From the “blood cheese” of Goma to the decaying city of Manono, Rawlence shares the real story of Congo during and after the war, and finds not just a lost city but the seeds of a peaceful future.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A distressing but important read." - Kirkus Reviews

“Intrepid and undaunted by hazards that would send most journalists scurrying back to the bar of their hotel, Ben Rawlence gets far deeper into the life of this war-torn country than most.”
--Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s Ghost

“Lucid, laconic, and elegantly written.”
--Michela Wrong, author of In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz

“Gripping... Rawlence gets under Congo’s skin... He makes a self-effacing guide with a necessary sense of the ridiculous, an eye for the telling detail and a talent for evocative description. But it is his closeness to the Congolese that really stands out.”
--The Times (London)

Radio Congo is an unexpected broadcast of hope... This is a much-needed to a misunderstood country—and a welcome glimpse of sunshine.”
--Prospect magazine

“Intimate and entertaining portraits.”
--The Economist

“Rawlence writes in a lyrical style, whether he’s introducing us to some of the eccentric characters he meets along the way or... the scenes he encounters, both harsh and beautiful.”
--We Love This Book

“A compelling debut.”
--The Bookseller

Kirkus Reviews
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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781851689651
Publisher:
Oneworld Publications
Publication date:
03/19/2013
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
1,343,995
Product dimensions:
5.24(w) x 7.58(h) x 0.86(d)

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