The Congo …

The River Congo is Africa’s second longest river (after the Nile) but Africa’s mightiest river in the quantity of water discharged at its mouth. It acquired its name from the Kongo civilisation once situated near the mouth of the river, and it’s given its name to the two modern day countries that it separates, The Democratic Republic of the Congo to the south, capital Kinshasa and the Republic of the Congo to the north, capital Brazzaville. The two capitals face each other across the river, the closest capital cities in the world … unless one includes the Vatican and Rome.

The Republic of Congo was a French colony given independence in 1960. The first president shackled the country to the communist bloc. His rule came to an end in a coup in 1968. President Ngouabi followed and the country became the People’s Republic of the Congo. He was assassinated in 1977. There were two years of an interim government before Denis Sassou Nguesso became president. Sassou was pushed aside in a civil war that began in 1997 but after a few months the Angolan socialist régime invaded and reinstated him. He is still in power. He is a connoisseur of foreign bank accounts and fine French real estate.

On March 4th 2012 a fire started in an army base, in the neighbourhood of Mpila which is close to the docks and a densely inhabited area. It led to a series of explosions that flattened the surrounding housing and two churches in which services were underway. About 14,000 people were made homeless, the dead exceeded 250 and the injured ran into the thousands.

Social infrastructure and health services are shambolic. As of 2010, the maternal mortality rate was 560 deaths/100,000 live births, and the infant mortality rate was 59.34 deaths/1,000 live births. Malnutrition is widespread.

By comparison the Democratic Republic (the former Belgian Congo, then briefly Zaire) is a mess.

We flew into Brazzaville over the river, over the construction site of a new stadium for the 2015 African Games and into the nice new airport.

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Here we were greeted by the quarantine staff in full protective gear, hand sanitizer was dispensed, our temperature was taken and our recent travel history inspected. The Republic was the location of a particularly lethal outbreak of Ebola in 2003. The response is impressive. Outward travelling passengers get to see sophisticated health advice on the airport screens as they wait to check in.

When in Brazzaville McGee stays at Mikhael’s Hotel. An excellent hotel, if you are there any time soon look out for the head waiter, Francis, the man is a gem.

The following morning it was back to the airport and into a Cessna Caravan for the trip to Odzala Kokoua National Park. Transfers were managed impeccably by Wilderness Safaris’ local staff. Hat tip to Imelda.

Coming next Odzala … but I will be back in Brazzaville for further adventures after that.

 

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