Bad blood river

William Shaw has a rant on Palimpsest about Tim Butcher’s Blood River:

Of course the real reason why the Congo is a hell hole has to do with the last 150 years of history, not with any darkness. The older part is documented in Hochschild’s brilliant history King Leopold’s Ghost. Back then it was about rubber. That was why Belgium slaughtered around 10 million Africans and brutalised milllions more. The last 15 years are more to do with the way we turn a blind eye to the way companies source the materials they need to make our laptops and mobile phones. Butcher acknowledges these arguments, but you sense he doesn’t really have much time for such liberal explanations. He sees Africa instead as eternally tribal and fractious. He has turned the wheel full circle to a kind of HM Stanley vision of Africa as something that only a strong hand could ever heal; the difference is that Butcher comes from an era which cannot condone such violence. As a result, he creates a picture of a country that nothing can redeem.

Entertaining and illuminating stuff.

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