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All Things Must Fight to Live picks up in 2003, when Ugandan troops were pulling out of eastern Congo, and tensions between ethnic Hema and Lendu had reached a peak. Journalist Bryan Mealer stepped in to cover the conflict, intending to write one article, and ended up staying for three years. Based out of Kinshasa and Bunia, he traveled with the war, reporting from the front lines. 

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Bryan Mealer and Col. Joseph Tyhalisi (South Africa), Kamatsi, Congo [Photo by Lionel Healing]*

All Things Must Fight to Live stands out for me because it is not gratuitous. It would have been far more easy to write a book that focuses only on the depravity of the war (and it has been done too many times already-The Rebels Hour, The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo, etc.). Instead, Mealer offers balanced war reporting and a nuanced look at the lives of ordinary Congolese. 

In addition to following the war in both urban and rural conflict zones, the author immersed himself in a two-thousand mile journey by barge, bicycle, and train through the heart of the country. While his meandering trip was fraught with complications such as a train derailment, he was able to see the impact that the war has had on Congolese living in the vast and impoverished interior. 

Here’s a brief except to pique your interest:

We went in first with soldiers, young and terrified Ugandan kids straight from the villages, whip-thin in their baggy fatigues and wound tight around their triggers even high above the clouds. The Ugandan army flew Antonov-26s into Congo, scrapped by the Soviet bloc and born again for African war, steel Trojan horses loaded with gun-mounted jeeps, barrels of diesel, and crates of banana moonshine. You found a place on the floor and instantly started sweating, nestled between rifles and rocket launchers so close to your eyeballs you could study the paint chips on the grenades. There was little cabin pressure to soothe the landings, and going in fast, you felt like your eyes would pop out of your skull. The soldiers buried their faces in their hats to hide the tears. And all you could do was wince and give a thumbs-up and be thankful that the engines were so loud that no one could hear you scream. (xiii)

*Photo ripped from the author’s website http://www.bryanmealer.com/

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