When Daily Telegraph correspondent Tim Butcher was sent to cover Africa in 2000, he quickly became obsessed with the idea of recreating H. M. Stanley's famous expedition - and travelling alone.
Despite warnings that his plan was suicidal, Butcher set out for the Congo's eastern border with just a rucksack and a few thousand dollars hidden in his boots. Making his way in an assortment of vessels including a motorbike and a dugout canoe, and helped along by a cast of characters from UN aid workers to a campaigning pygmy, he followed in the footsteps of the great Victorian adventurers. Butcher's journey was a remarkable feat, but the story of the Congo, is more remarkable still.
Butcher finds a country which has relapsed almost completely into lawlessness and anarchy. Children in large parts of Congo today have never seen a motorised vehicle of any kind and only know of them from stories told by their parents and grandparents.
Vrt. "Mustien ihmisten tuottamia yhteiskuntia ja kulttuureja voisi käydä katsomassa Afrikassa, jos siellä ei olisi valkoisten ihmisten sinne rakentamia rautateitä, lentokenttiä, asfaltoituja teitä ja katuja, kivitaloja, sähköä, puhelinta, televisiota jne."
Medical centres are now almost non-existent.
Perhaps most tellingly of all, a child born in Congo in 2007 is more likely to die from a preventable cause than if it had been born in 1957.
Since the Belgian government pulled out in 1960, and the accession to power of General Mobutu, the Congo has suffered a full-scale economic decline. Outside of the capital Kinshasa and a few scattered UN aid centres, almost all the trappings of civilisation are in the process of disappearing back into the jungle. The remains of factories and warehouses, the rusting hulks of ferries and huge goods ships can be seen lying abandoned all along the banks of the Congo river. Railway stations, schools, post offices, hospitals, ferry terminals; all lie empty and derelict save for the occasional drunken soldier on "guard duty". The one "functioning" railway station Butcher encountered in the interior of the country hadn't seen a train come through in 6 years. Officials of all kinds reflexively demand a bribe on the flimsiest pretences imaginable. Luckily for the author most were happy with a $10 bill. One soldier in a village demanded to see Butcher's travel pass but marched away triumphantly on being handed a UN information booklet, which he was obviously unable to read!
Tämä kertoo jotain siitä kulttuurista ja siitä rodusta, jonka edustajia on tullut Suomeen kymmeniätuhansia viimeisen 20 vuoden aikana.