Help me learn about the Congo.
November 7, 2008 5:34 PM   Subscribe

What should I read (or watch) to learn about the DR Congo?

The recent happenings in eastern DRC have piqued my interest, and I'd like to learn more about the Congo. I'm pretty open to anything, so any recommendations for books, articles, movies, blogs, whatever would be great.
posted by lullaby to Society & Culture (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I was actually thinking about making a FFP of this. This blog is excellent and is written by rangers who protect wildlife there.

As well The Big Picture has some good photos of what's happening.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 6:00 PM on November 7, 2008

I really enjoyed Barbara Kingsolvers "The Poisonwood Bible" for a fictional personal history in the Belgian Congo.
posted by stray at 8:06 PM on November 7, 2008

Best answer: Highly recommended: "Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart" by Tim Butcher. Written a couple of years ago, published in Great Britain, but just published this month in the USA.

Butcher is the London Telegraph's African correspondent, and has been obsessed by the Congo for years. Henry Stanley (of "Dr Livingston, I presume" fame) followed up his Livingston adventure by deciding to try to go across the middle of Africa, from the east to the headwaters of the Congo and down to the west coast. He succeeded, gained wealth and fame, and inspired King Leopold to start the incredible -- and horrific -- 40-year land-grab of Africa by European countries. Butcher wanted to replicate that trip, with the added interest that his mother had done most of it, quite safely and comfortably, as a young woman in the 1950s. During a brief lull in hostilities, he started out, and the book weaves history and modern conditions seamlessly.

Warning: you can't read this book and then see news reports of the horrors in DR Congo without feeling personally involved.
posted by kestralwing at 8:37 PM on November 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: While not about DR Congo, No Mercy, by Redmond O'Hanlon, is a pretty fascinating book about DR Congo (then called Zaire)'s smaller northwestern neighbour, the Marxist People's Republic of the Congo (now just the plain old Republic of Congo). When O'Hanlon visited the Marxist Republic in 1992 or so, it was one of the better nations in Africa to look after its people (as opposed to Zaire across the river), but the book should give you an idea of what life in the region is like. "No Mercy" is one of those books I have kept with me for the past ten years or so.

We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda
, by Philip Gourevitch, is another book that provides a lot of insight into the current mess in the region, starting with the assassination of the presidents of Burundi and Rwanda, and explaining why Rwanda might want to invade the lawless regions of eastern DR Congo to protect or buffer itself from the Interahamwe. This is another fine, fine book. Gourevitch has written extensively about Africa for the New Yorker, but most of it is only available online as abstracts.

Forsaken, by Gourevitch in the New Yorker in 2000, is well-worth looking up at the library (it seems that you can now read it online if you register with New Yorker), as it describes life in the city of Goma, now featured in the news.

Congo's Daily Blood, by Bryan Mealer is also pretty good.

In fact, it seems that Bryan Mealer has a book about DR Congo (the website looks pretty good), All Things Must Fight to Live. I think this may be my next purchase at the bookstore.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:02 PM on November 7, 2008

Best answer: In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz, by Michela Wrong, is an excellent contemporary history of the country. One of my favorite books of 2006. It is certainly my favorite book on Africa.
posted by charlesv at 11:41 PM on November 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Backrounders at the Economist are always a good place to start.

The New York Times' page and archives on the Congo is also good. Be sure to read this article which is the one that opened my eyes to the horrors of what is happening in the region, especially with reagrd to the extreme sexual brutality, which the UN says is the worst in the world.

Should you or anyone else wish to help via donations, Medecins Sans Frontieres (front page has lots of current info on DRC) and the International Red Cross are the organisations on the ground there. A special mention also goes to Panzi Hospital which is providing medical care to the women that survive the sexual violence. I have an email from one of the people who work there giving information on how people can help and if anyone is interested, memail me (I'd post it here, but it's on my work computer).
posted by triggerfinger at 3:48 AM on November 8, 2008

Sorry, forgot to link the article mentioned above.
posted by triggerfinger at 3:49 AM on November 8, 2008

Best answer: The Rebels' hour by Lieve Joris is a composite biography of a Congolese Tutsi solider during the 90s and 00s. The author is a journalist active in the region. I've read a great deal about the region's conflicts but it was this work of fiction that gave me the best insight into what might actually be going through the heads of people caught in the situation. I recommend it after you've gained a background understanding of the conflicts and players.
posted by ChrisHartley at 6:37 AM on November 8, 2008

I went to Eastern Congo last year to see the mountain gorillas, crossing the border for one day from Uganda a few hours North of Goma (which is near the Rwandan border crossing). I didn't write much about it on my blog but I'll memail you a link to my photos. The national park I was in was overrun a few months after I went.
posted by Bunglegirl at 8:53 AM on November 8, 2008

Best answer: King Leopold's Ghost is a good historical look at some of the remarkable fucking Belgium gave to the Congo.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:14 AM on November 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone!!
posted by lullaby at 6:28 PM on November 8, 2008

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