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

Ebook Book Blood River A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart – cafe1919.org

Note Tim Butcher is officially a diamond geezer He s just joined Goodreads and ead my eview below and still sent me a thank you message today Rereading the below eview 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 journey deserved its own category ordeal travel p216I hereby announce my ordeal eading challenge I will ead the complete works of Gertrude Stein Samuel Beckett and Georges Perec in everse 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 ising 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 eceived and we have no civil servants because all the schools and hospitals and everything do not work I would say I am just 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 oads hospitals trains ivers everything was not 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 e just 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 iverside picks out the likeliest looking group hires them on the spot to take him way way down the iver 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 ide 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 ight I bet you were Tim There s a ecurrent strangeness to these travellers tales in the middle of a disaster zone you can easily find the kindness of strangers I emember 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 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 e 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 my journey with Benoit and Odimba I was struck by just how much tougher and esilient 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 esourceful 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 ight 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 just 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 unning Africa Tim dismisses the stock answers neo colonialism foreign meddling apacious 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 acists 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 usting an. A compulsively eadable account of a journey to the Congo a country virtually inaccessible to the outside world vividly told by a daring and adventurous journalistEver since Stanley first charted its mighty iver in the 1870s the Congo has epitomized the dark and turbulent history of a failed continent However its troubles only served to increase the.

D 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 ealises he s on the Ubundu Kisangani oad Before the trip back in London he d been told by the British Government s Department for International Development that this oad 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 oad 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 jobs in the aid world which you have to do to get on p156 The author eads the audio version of this book The book is very good and definitely worth eading but choose the paper format Tim Butcher is an English born broadcaster journalist and author of travel books with a slant toward adventure He narrates uickly very uickly The apid speed diminishes the listening experience It is not pleasant to listen to a book ead 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 ead 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 his journey 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 ight and left boot His journey took 44 days His plan was to follow the oute 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 esided in towns along the iver 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 journey 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 epetition some topics are eturned 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 esources his too Leopold s and Belgium s plundering of the land s esources 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 eign lasting over thirty years the ebel 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 journey as well as those individuals who proved themselves to be trustworthy and helpful Without their support Butcher s journey could never have been successfully completedThe author speaks of the dire need for the implementation of a functioning judicial system The country has great natural esources copper diamonds gold cobalt timber and tin but profits have lined the pockets of those wielding power ather than back to the Congolese nation its infrastructure and its people He proposes no concrete solutions on how to bring about change Nor does he sufficiently point out the failure of the Belgian government to provide an adeuate amount of money and time to train the Congolese people in the art of self government ie before independence I always give two atings to an auddioook the first for the book s written content and the second for its narration The book s content I have given four stars but its narration only one By ights the Congo should be a world power in its own ight The vast esources of minerals and timber should ensure an affluent lifestyle for every citizen in the country Instead the country is egressing instead of progressing Armed gangs and militias oam the countryside killing and looting Dissident forces from neighbouring countries ob ape 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 etrace. Interest of Daily Telegraph correspondent Tim Butcher who was sent to cover Africa in 2000 Before long he became obsessed with the idea of ecreating Stanley’s original expedition but travelling aloneDespite warnings Butcher spent years poring over colonial era maps and wooing ebel leaders before making his will and venturing to the Congo’s easte.

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Stanley s oute 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 his journey 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 eclaimed what used to be a modern and thriving country Buildings have collapsed the jungle has eclaimed the ailways former highways are now overgrown trails Fuel when available is often tainted and electricity is a are 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 and jeep In a country where you can t call ahead to make eservations Tim had to lay his head where he could and like Blanche elied 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 eporter s tendency to ecord important information He easily switches from enlightening the eader egarding the history of the Congo to describing the fascinating characters he meets on his journey 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 ansom 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 eading 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 ule 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 un the country seems to trickle down to the man in the street Having a job 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 ead whatever I could find on the topic including Mike Hoare s book Conseuently on 186 I was thrilled when Mr Butcher discovered the emains of a ebel armoured car destroyed by Hoare s troops back in the sixties almost completely lost to the 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 eal ordeal but difficult journeys 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 egarding a massacre by the Mulele Mai ebels 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 eply and a copy of the article from which he had gleaned the information In my eyes a good writer and a gracious individual In 2004 British journalist 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 journey Butcher tells the history of the country including Stanley s expedition colonial ule by the Belgians post colonial political upheaval and uprisings that have brought egular bouts of violence to the egion He was also inspired by his mother who in 1958 crossed the Congo by train That train and its infrastructure have since been eclaimed by the jungle Butcher explains how a country so ich in natural esources diamonds cobalt copper oil palm products ubber can emain underdeveloped and the bulk of its people living in deprivation This country is one of the few that had gone backwards from fifty years before primarily due to corruption exploitation lack of leadership and lawlessness It is a description of an amazing 44 day journey through close to 3000 kilometers of jungle on foot motorbike pirogue and iverboat not knowing exactly where he would stay the night and elying on a network of contacts he had made before the trip He connects with United Nations employees humanitarian workers and missionaries He sees and describes how the people live both in the bush and the decaying cities He dodges militia carrying AK47s survives on cassava and suffers disease He also meets caring Congolese that offer hospitality despite possessing few esources Tim Butcher writes in a direct style and does not shy away from expressing his opinions This book is so much than a travelogue It provides an informative history of the DRC while documenting an extremely challenging journey offering perspective on the immense issues facing the country and providing thoughts on the outlook for the Congolese people It is eye opening and inspired me to look up the ecent history of the DRC to find out what has happened since 2007 when this book was published Inspired by Stanley in 2004 journalist Tim Butcher decided to etrace his steps and follow the River Congo through the heart of Africa The esulting book is part travelogue part history and completely iveting 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 impacted on its present state corruption lawlessness poverty a country which seems to have gone backwards as the est of the world has developed Fantastic story fantastic boo. 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 eached the Atlantic Ocean a thinner and a wiser manButcher’s journey was a emarkable feat But the story of the Congo vividly told in Blood River is emarkable still From the Hardcover editio.

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