Tim Butcher: Blood River A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart



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Sources the atrocities committed the transfer of possession to the Belgian state independence granted in 1960 the mercenary armies of the following decade Mobutu s dictatorial reign lasting over thirty years the rebel uprisings and wars of the late 1990s and the succession of Congolese presidents from Lumumba to Mobutu to Laurent Kabila to Joseph Kabila are covered Readers are given the opportunity to observe corrupt dealings both in the past and in the present during Butcher s ourney as well as those individuals who proved themselves to be trustworthy and helpful Without their support Butcher s ourney could never have been successfully completedThe author speaks of the dire need for the implementation of a functioning udicial sys Note Tim Butcher is officially a diamond geezer He s Nocturna (A Forgery of Magic, justoined Goodreads and read my review below and still sent me a thank you message today Rereading the below review I think some authors could have taken umbrage because well it s actually uite cheeky The word pompous is used Some fun is poked Given some of the frankly unsavoury if not downright ugly authorreviewer encounters there have been on this site I therefore salute Tim A BOOK WHICH DESERVES TWO REVIEWS FIRST THE CHURLISHLY CYNICAL My Congo Wikipedia U journey deserved its own category ordeal travel p216I hereby announce my ordeal reading challenge I will read the complete works of Gertrude Stein Samuel Beckett and Georges Perec in reverse alphabetical order whilst listening to Karlheinz Stockhausen s Helicopter Symphony John Cage s Atlas Elipticalis and Trout Mask Replica which will be played continually on a giant loop tape All the time ladies and gentlemen I will be suspended suspended I say and gradually lowered into a tank containing 127 tarantula spiders and a life sized model of Richard Nixon Surely corporate sponsors will be falling over themselves in a bid to offer me large amounts of sponsorship cash to fund my bizarre self indulgent fantasy Chat show host What was it like PB Well my torso was firmly anchored to the ceiling by this ingenious contraption specially made by the brilliant engineers at Unilever ka ching Therefore I wasn t too concerned I would fall into the tank of tarantulas manufactured by Pilkingtons Glass blah blah blab blab Yes I will be admired far and wide for my feat I will explain that it was a challenge I had to take on it came from deep within me I had been wrestling for many years with the twin problems of how to bring 20th century avant garde literature to a wider audience and also how to get on the chat show circuit and here I am being asked to explain Oulipo to a daytime TV audience I feel I may say mission accomplishedSECOND REVIEW TAKING TIM BUTCHER AT HIS WORDAs Tim Butcher grinds his way across the Congo by 100cc motorbike dugout canoe and barge he is filled with a rising sense of despair the normal laws of development are inverted here in the Congo The forest not the town offers the safest sanctuary and it is grandfathers who have been exposed to modernity than their grandchildren I can think of nowhere else on the planet where the same can be true p141Verond Ali Matongo I am the mayor of Kasongo appointed by the transitional government in Kinshasa But I have no contact with them because we have no phone and I can pay no civil servants because I have no money and there is no bank or post office where money could be received and we have no civil servants because all the schools and hospitals and everything do not work I would say I amust waiting Waiting for things to get back to normal Tim Butcher And when was the last time things were normal VAM The 1950s From what I hear that is when this town was last normal p 162 Some of the best coffee in the world used to be grown neat Kisangani but now the finest hotel in the city served only imported Nescafe p256This is the whole of the truth Tim has to tell us about the Congo third largest country in Africa in size fourth in population It s going backwards Everything in the whole country schools roads hospitals trains rivers everything was not Cannibal Encounters just slightly but hugely better fifty years ago Like previous white men in the Congo Tim couldn t get anywhere without Africans doing all the heavy lifting Sometimes these helpers get paid other times they reust being kind He steps from one situation to another like Harold Lloyd or Popeye stepping from one skyscraper girder to another He finds some guys with pirogues canoes at the riverside picks out the likeliest looking group hires them on the spot to take him way way down the river where he has to get to a priest s house in a particular town the only safe place in order to go from there to the UN compound the next day where he can cadge a ride to the next town When they get to the town Malike said he knew the way to the priest s house and I was banking on him being right I bet you were Tim There s a recurrent strangeness to these travellers tales in the middle of a disaster zone you can easily find the kindness of strangers I remember a famous BBC war correspondent being interviewed and the uestion was how the hell do you get around inside a war zone and he said I The Chatterbugs Manual just walk out of my hotel and ask the first few people I see what s going on and how do I get there and they re always very kind and helpful well you have to take their word for it But somebody must be doing all those bad things time and again during myourney with Benoit and Odimba I was struck by ust how much tougher and resilient than me they were p 148 Kisangani I found it to be chaotically administered by inept corrupt local politicians p255p309 10This division of people into those Tim met all good strong resourceful and those causing all the problems very bad people was not altogether helpful in figuring anything out Eventually Tim has to bite the bullet and ask the big uestion He approaches it like this He s on a UN barge with Captain Ali who is from MalaysiaCaptain Ali I don t know what it is about these Congolese people or Africa in general but look at this wasted opportunity In Malaysia people make millions from palm oil It is one of the most valuable commodities in the world right now and the plants from which it comes grow all over the Congo But the Congo people They don t want to make money for themselves They ust wait to take money from others he had distilled the uintessential problem of Africa that generations of academics intellectuals and observers have danced around since the colonial powers withdrew Why are Africans so bad at running Africa Tim dismisses the stock answers neo colonialism foreign meddling rapacious multinational companies as so much liberal huffing and puffing Yes they are elements but they are by no means the whole story But he gives no answer of his own He has no idea It s such a dangerous uestion to ask there are after all a thousand racists out there who think they know the answerApart from the hundreds of miles of the Congo where there is no single element of modern technology to be found the towns which were thriving once and have been rusting and crumbling for 40 years the forests which are empty of animal cries because the local villagers have eaten them all Tim stumbles often literally on perfect examples of things profoundly not working At one point he realises he s on the Ubundu Kisangani road Before the trip back in London he d been told by the British Government s Department for International Development that this road had already been developed and upgraded following the 2002 peace treaty British taxpayers money had been spent on it Tim finds no such thing of course The once four lane highway is now a single track footpath Nothing has been done The money had vanished who knows where Moreover the British government department officials never come along to check so they are still blithely telling anyone who asks that the Ubundu Kisangi road has been upgraded and is now suitable for cars and heavy goods vehicles In the end Tim says in six harrowing weeks of travel I felt I had touched the heart of Africa and found it broken He does himself no favours with this uncharacteristically pompous sentence but still I admire all who excavate difficult truths from such hard won experience as this I have to admit grudgingly that Tim Butcher has earned his chat show appearancesTom Myanwaya What makes you do this sort of thing I would not travel anywhere in this country except by plane I don t think I can stand than a few months and I will leave as soon as I can There are some Fizzics jobs in the aid world which you have to do to get on p156. Rn border He passed through once thriving cities of this country and saw the marks left behind by years of abuse and misrule Almost 2500 harrowing miles later he reached the Atlantic Ocean a thinner and a wiser manButcher’sourney was a remarkable feat But the story of the Congo vividly told in Blood River is remarkable still From the Hardcover editio.

Us humanitarian and development workers have with the Congo its got everything you would need to be a great country Its got natural resources natural beauty charming and beautiful people and smart wily people Yet somehow it seems to get worse and worse It burns out the do gooders and limps along Why is that So I guess in the end I enjoyed the book and felt it did in some small way contribute to my understanding of the country in its rich history if nothing else Inspired by Stanley in 2004 Richmond Must Fall journalist Tim Butcher decided to retrace his steps and follow the River Congo through the heart of Africa The resulting book is part travelogue part history and completely riveting Along the way he meets some fascinating people and has some uite scary adventures Mr Butcher is clearly a lot braver than I am He also writes about the Congo s history and how its violent colonial past has In 2004 Britishournalist Tim Butcher took his life in his hands and traveled the interior of the Democratic Republic of Congo DRC He followed the approximate path of Henry Morton Stanley the explorer that found David Livingstone in 1871 and went back in 1874 to map the Congo River Between descriptions of his Dropsy, Dialysis, Transplant journey Butcher tells the history of the country including Stanley s expedition colonial rule by the Belgians post colonial political upheaval and uprisings that have brought regular bouts of violence to the region He was also inspired by his mother who in 1958 crossed the Congo by train That train and By rights the Congo should be a world power in its own right The vast resources of minerals and timber should ensure an affluent lifestyle for every citizen in the country Instead the country is regressing instead of progressing Armed gangs and militias roam the countryside killing and looting Dissident forces from neighbouring countries rob rape and kill as well The Congo has been on a constant downhill slide since gaining independence in the sixties and is at least at the time this book was written a very dangerous place for citizens never mind solitary white travellers Tim Butcher decided to attempt to retrace Stanley s route through the Congo alone something I would be hesitant to do with anything less than a platoon of troops I have no doubt that he uestioned his own sanity in the process I know that I freuently found myself thinking this guy is out of his friggin mindMr Butcher used different forms of transport to complete hisourney through a country where public transport is now only a distant memory a story told by great grandpa and possibly not even believed by the listener As the author points out the whole country has a post apocalyptic aura nature has reclaimed what used to be a modern and thriving country Buildings have collapsed the Presidencies Derailed jungle has reclaimed the railways former highways are now overgrown trails Fuel when available is often tainted and electricity is a rare treat The trip begins on motorcycles 100cc barely larger than mopeds continues by pirogue as in me gonna go pole me pirogue down the bayou and then switches over to motor boat helicopter andeep In a country where you can t call ahead to make reservations Tim had to lay his head where he could and like Blanche relied a lot on the kindness of strangers During his travels he meets all manner of interesting characters UN troops aid workers tribesmen breaking their backs trying to make a buckTim has a great eye for detail and the reporter s tendency to record important information He easily switches from enlightening the reader regarding the history of the Congo to describing the fascinating characters he meets on his ourney The sad part is that most of the Congolese are on the make particularly those who are in positions of authority Most try to take advantage of you in some way some by begging some by stealing some by trying to ransom your own travel documents back to you One even tried to get Tim to smuggle his child out of the Congo so that the infant would have a chance at a decent lifeWhile reading this book I couldn t help comparing the situation in the Congo with the comfort we enjoy in my own country The main difference is the rule of law I can t even imagine attempting to bribe a public official in this country it would be a guaranteed ticket to the hoosegow In Congo nothing gets done without a bribe to an official One can hardly blame them as none of the wealth enjoyed by the few who run the country seems to trickle down to the man in the street Having a ob does not necessarily mean one will have a paycheckI ve been interested in the goings on in the Congo since the early seventies when I made the acuaintance of a couple of soldiers who had served in the Canadian contingent in the UN I soaked up their stories and read whatever I could find on the topic including Mike Hoare s book Conseuently on 186 I was thrilled when Mr Butcher discovered the remains of a rebel armoured car destroyed by Hoare s troops back in the sixties almost completely lost to the La mythologie selon Game of Thrones jungle now but still sitting where Hoare s troops had blown it up What a thrill it must have been to find that piece of machineryThis was uite a trip for Mr Butcher a real ordeal but difficultourneys make for interesting stories I enjoyed every minute of it To close I d like to say a word about the author On page 224 he mentioned an account written by a Murray Taylor regarding a massacre by the Mulele Mai rebels in 1964 I wanted to learn but couldn t find anything online I found Tim s website and sent an inuiry figuring that he was probably too busy a man to be troubled with a casual inuiry from a total stranger To my surprise within a couple of days I had a reply and a copy of the article from which he had gleaned the information In my eyes a good writer and a gracious individual The author reads the audio version of this book The book is very good and definitely worth reading but choose the paper format Tim Butcher is an English born broadcaster Golf by the Numbers journalist and author of travel books with a slant toward adventure He narrates uickly very uickly The rapid speed diminishes the listening experience It is not pleasant to listen to a book read this fast I am giving the audiobook performance one star This is my way of letting it be known that I do not want audiobooks to be read uickly Further the audiobook version should have been accompanied by a PDF file with maps and photos Now to the interesting topic the book Tim Butcher writes of hisourney from Lake Tanganyika at the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo westward to the mouth of the Congo River on the Atlantic He traveled alone set off in August 2004 carried only a knapsack and camera a pocketknife and 2000 in his right and left boot His ourney took 44 days His plan was to follow the route taken by Henry Morton Stanley Yep that Stanley the Stanley that found David Livingston in 1871 Both Butcher and Stanley were employees of the London based paper the Daily Telegraph In addition Butcher s mother had resided in towns along the river back in the 1950s she had spoken of her memories with delight He sets out to compare the Congo of times passed of the 1950s and 1870s and the Congo of today The passage of years has not brought the prosperity one assumes the progression of time will bring From the 1950s conditions have gone backwards The Democratic Republic of the Congo is not merely underdeveloped it is using Butcher s own words underdeveloping The book draws an alarmingly vivid picture of the violence anarchy and lawlessness that existed in 2004 and still todayThe steps of Butcher s ourney are followed in chronological order from start to finish Relevant tangential information is interspersed throughout A large amount of historical geopolitical sociological geographical meteorological and natural historical facts supplement the text Mention is made of authors who have set their stories in the Congo River Basin All of this I like very much The variety stimulates interest There is however repetition some topics are returned to multiple timesThe history of places passed through is fascinating Kalemi formerly Albertville the Arab slave trade center Kasongo Kisangani formerly Stanleyville and Kinshasa formerly L opoldville are examples It is important to note that in 1885 eight years after Stanley s exploratory travels along the Congo River King Leopold II of Belgium claimed the Congo Free State as a private possession Rather than making it a colony he declared it to be his own making its natural resources his too Leopold s and Belgium s plundering of the land s re. Interest of Daily Telegraph correspondent Tim Butcher who was sent to cover Africa in 2000 Before long he became obsessed with the idea of recreating Stanley’s original expedition but travelling aloneDespite warnings Butcher spent years poring over colonial era maps and wooing rebel leaders before making his will and venturing to the Congo’s easte.

I love travelogues And I am very interested in Africa and its history Therefore I was very curious for this book which describes one of the most challenging travels in contemporary Africa Starting at Lake Tanganjika and ending at the Atlantic Ocean where the river Congo completes his ourney of thousands of kilometers I was very impressed by the speed the author managed to finish his ourney It took him about six weeks a real sprint compared to the man who went this way first Henry Morton Stanley who was underway for nearly three years I was a little bit disappointed that Butcher travelled about one fifth of his way with a helicopter because he was ill after one week on board of a vessel sailing down the river Congo I travelled in Africa too and I know how exhausting this can be but somehow I expected a tougher traveler writing a book like this When faced with the devastating situation in Congo Butcher seems to long for the end of his Liberty Arrives! journey all the time This is bad for his book because he almost never stays at one place for a longer time and fails to connect with the people there Everything is a fast race through the heart of the continentAnother point I didn t like much is that Butcher emphasizes all the time that Congo is a failed state That s certainly true but overall heust Mary Elizabeth Garrett joins Joseph Conrad in his famous words The Horror The Horror The author comes to the conclusion that a combination of the conseuences of colonialism and the inability of African leaders to ruleust and successful for all the people makes the Congo as broken as it is today Again this is certainly no false point but that s the conclusion after six weeks in Congo At least for me this information wasn t new and I wished Butcher would have been able to bring some new point of view in my mind If you like to inform yourself about Congo now the book surely is uite interesting For me the work lacks an Aha effect Butcher seemed to be continuously on the run I wish he had dared to spend some time in Congo presenting the reader a deeper experience than he finally did In 2004 How to Know the Ducks, Geese, and Swans of North America journalist and historian Tim Butcher set out to retrace the 1874 77 route of legendary explorer Henry Morton Stanley of Dr Livingstone I presume fame across the Congo to the mouth of the river on Africa s west coast A few years ago I read King Leopold s Ghost which spells out the horrifying years of King Leopold of Belgium s rape of the region The history presented in this book largely picks up where that one left off with the 1908 Belgian annexation of the region which was precipitated by humanitarian campaigns against the genocidal cri This is a very engaging but at the same time disturbing story of this man sourney on the Congo RiverMr Butcher gives us many moving impressions of life in this part of the world and it is for the most part not very pretty He meets a wide array of characters most of who have been deeply affected by the violence and poverty in the Congo There are many enduring images from this book The four Africans who took him by pirogue a type of canoe up a part of the Congo left a very forlorn feelingThere is a disconnect between life in the Congo and the rest of the developing world Life has regressed the railroad adjoining the river has been taken over by the Rebellion in Black and White jungle and is no longer serviceable Large boats that were once used to transport goods and people from village to village are decaying on river banks If the makers of the African ueen were to return to the Congo they would think they had gone fifty years backwards in time instead of fifty years ahead It would be logistically impossible to make a movie in the Congo todayIn many ways the author is fortunate to have survived hisourney he provides examples of some who did not There is a constant threat from assorted marauding groups Also the environment is unforgiving the sweltering heat the mosuitoes lack of drinking water and of food The author was physically exhausted towards the end of his 44 day sojourn and reluctantly took a plane to Kinshasa from Mbandaka Many of the NGO s and UN workers were counting the number of days remaining in their Congo stay One can imagine the stamina of Stanley the first European to traverse the African continent It took him almost 1000 days Also Stanley made three significant expeditions to Africa I say this because I feel the author was unnecessarily harsh on Stanley It was King Leopold and the Belgian colonialists who turned the Congo into a slave state For a sympathetic view of Stanley read Tim Jeal s biography of the explorer As well I feel Mr Butcher paints Patrice Lumumba too optimistically as a potential saviour of the Congo Lumumba was assassinated with US complicity Lumumba was an ineffective leader unable to get along with anybody inside and outside of his country He even managed to distance himself from the UN who were trying way back then to aid his newly liberated countryNevertheless this book is spellbinding and very readable Mr Butcher gives us a harrowing portrait of the life of ordinary people in the Congo Magnificently many still have a decent sense of humanity Mr Butcher was most vulnerable during his trip but all he found were those willing to help and guide him and share their food The author is a wonderful and perceptive observer and gives us many fulfilling passages from his diverse encounters In 2004 Tim Butcher realised his dream of crossing the Congo from side to side It s an enormous country with hugely challenging terrain He was following in the footsteps of his hero Henry Stanley he of Dr Livingstone I presume fame They shared a link Both Butcher and Stanley were Dwarfism journalists working for The Telegraph newspaper in London Tim ButcherIn some way his trip was every bit as difficult as that experienced by Stanley Exhaustingly high levels of humidity and heat matted rainforest mosuitoes roads reduced to pot holed muddy paths through theungle seriously hostile and dangerous fighting factions very few and very primitive hotels difficulties in finding food sometimes even difficulty in finding water He also had to rely on other people providing him with transport and to guide him across this difficult landscape motorbikes to get him across the land and boats to get him down the Congo river Obtaining these things was not easyHerewith his description of a typical Congolese town Kalemie view spoilerOf the buildings themselves there was little left beyond the fronts Rust had not My Lai just coloured the roofs but eaten out huge holes through which tropical rain had flooded for countless rainy seasons Damp seasonal flooding from the nearby lake and collapsed foundations meant the interior rooms were mostly empty Pipes that once brought mains water to each building lay broken and there was not one working light bulb The town s main terrace of shops looked like one of those Hollywood filmsets which from the front has the appearance of solidity but from the back is nothing but a few beams propping up a fa ade hide spoiler I read this book on the airplane during my epic 42 hour flight from Papua New Guinea to South Carolina It kept my attention despite my incredible fatigue and anxiety But I had mixed feelings about it At first it annoyed the hell out of me He kept going on and on about his fear and how scary the Congo is The Congo is scary However the people in the Congo are amongst some of the most amazingly friendly hospital and cheerful helpful people in Africa While he gradually did give some shoutouts to all the Congolese who dragged his white ass through the DRC not unlike Stanley his hero it wore on me And it annoyed me because it kept pushing the DRC back into the heart of darkness trope that so many love to use But then again I m not really surprised at his fear at the same time the DRC is one of the most frustratingly difficult environments to work in The portraits of the wiped out aid workers the cynical UN employees and the priests and nuns who keep the place functioning reminded me of the people i met while I was there I didn t go to all the places he went I was in Kissangani Bunia in Ituri scene of one of the worst massacres that drove UN soldiers mad Bukavu and Goma And while I wasn t on the back of a motorbike I did travel through hostile land in an unarmed convoy and take a treacherous boat ride that lost one boat to a storm to deliver things to some internally displaced people there It wasn t all roaring around in UN helicopters The part that moved me the most was his conversation with the Malaysian UN boat captain It summarized to me the frustration that all of. A compulsively readable account of aourney to the Congo a country virtually inaccessible to the outside world vividly told by a daring and adventurous ournalistEver since Stanley first charted its mighty river in the 1870s the Congo has epitomized the dark and turbulent history of a failed continent However its troubles only served to increase the.

Online read Blood River A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart AUTHOR Tim Butcher – ecogenlife.org

Tim Butcher is a best selling British author journalist and broadcaster Born in 1967 he was on the staff of The Daily Telegraph from 1990 to 2009 covering conflicts across the Balkans Middle East and Africa Recognised in 2010 with an honorary doctorate for services to writing and awarded the Mungo Park Medal for exploration by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society he is based with his fam