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A Compelling Congo Memoir

All Things Must Fight To Live

Stories of War and Deliverance In Congo

By Bryan Mealer

Bryan Mealer has penned a brutal memoir of his three years as a reporter in the Congo, three years when teenage gunboys roamed the countryside and city streets, when UN peacekeeping forces faced mystical leaders operating from jungle mountaintops, when rebel militias and government forces alike pillaged their own nation. It was a horrible time in the history of a country that has seen little else for the last hundred years.

While Mealer writes about the bloody atrocities he witnessed, the real story he tells is about himself. He’s drawn back to the Congo three times, apparently addicted to the extreme discomfort and random violence he endures. His travels cover nearly the entire country from the capital of Kinshasa to the mineral-rich southern provinces to the guerilla-infested eastern region where an alphabet-soup of militias, foreign armies, and UN forces fight a never-ending war of terror, rape, and mutilation. He rides a newly-reconstructed rail line and even follows Conrad’s trail up the Congo River via barge. At one point, he and his adventure-junkie buddies take off through the jungle on bicycles.

While Mealer tells us the names and stories of many Congolese he meets along the way, he never really gives much insight into them as anything other than victims. He says as much when he reflects on his bicycle journey:

“…once in the jungle, my own basic needs and level of comfort had stood in the way of learning anything. I didn’t even know my riders’ last names or anything about their families. I’d simply been too exhausted and hungry to care. It wasn’t my proudest moment, and even now, those last days on the trail leave a sting of regret.”

Still, All Things Must Fight To Live puts the reader close to the action and accurately reflects the aftermath of war and colonialism in one of the world’s greatest humanitarian catastrophes.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Mealer's efforts are to be commended.  If he thinks that being too exhausted and hungry prevent him from showing empathy, then imagine being attacked by outside forces and your very survival hangs in the balance?  That's war.  Yet Sun Tzu, who wrote the military classic The Art of War, imbued his work with practicality and compassion.  Check it out.