In 1996, the fighting in Rwanda spilled over the Congolese border, sparking a conflict that would eventually claim more lives than any other since the Second World War. In the course of his three years as a reporter in Congo, Bryan Mealer was the witness — often the only witness — to almost unimaginable scenes: entire cities laid waste by teenage gunboys with machetes and ball gowns; an obsessed UN commander locked in a fight with a shadowy militia leader named Cobra Matata; local heroes who resurrected a defunct rail line to ferry supplies to war-choked villages.
Staying in Kinshasa and Bunia and traveling with the war, Mealer immersed himself in Congolese life — a turbulent and often terrifying existence. But every tie he tried to leave for home and his wife, he found himself drawn back, absorbed into the cycle of destruction and hope in Africa's most troubled state. Eventually, he set out from the urban fight zones he covered to take a two-thousand-mile journey through the wild backcountry by barge and train, searching for signs of renewal.
All Things Must Fight to Live is an unforgettable tour through the aftermath of war and colonialism, in a country that is still the site of the greatest humanitarian catastrophe on earth. It is nonfiction at its best: harrowing, beautifully crafted, and, in the end, redemptive.
Travel to the Congo with Web-only video and excerpts by chapter.
“Bryan Mealer has put his life on the line to bring us a story of terror and courage from the heart of Congo. It’s already an accomplishment just to go to such a place; to return with such a powerful and important story is rare indeed. Both as a journalist and as a reader, my hat’s off to Mealer.” — Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm
“Gorgeous, heartbreaking, and redemptive. Bryan Mealer has given us a story of a people and a land nearer to our hearts than we know. An immensely honest job of reporting, wonderfully told by a writer who feels as much as he sees.” — Robert Kurson, author of Shadow Divers
“One has to be young and perhaps a touch mad to voluntarily travel, as Bryan Mealer has, by foot, boat, barge, bicycle, rickety airplane, and a train that goes off the rails, through one of the most violent places on earth. But a sane and cautious person would not have been able to bring back the vivid and tragic stories he has, from what is by far the world’s bloodiest—and most underreported—zone of conflict.” —Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s Ghost
“Five years ago, Bryan Mealer left a comfortable desk job in New York for one of journalism’s worst bets: reporting from the harrowing—and virtually forgotten—war zone of the Congo. We are all very fortunate he chose to take that bet. In All Things Must Fight to Live, Mealer endeavors to make sense of the bewildering maze of conflicts that, until recently, tore apart the former Zaire while the outside world did shockingly little to prevent it. Even more important, he has succeeded in putting a human face to the struggles in this troubled corner of Africa, and leaves us with a portrait that is both deeply haunting and surprisingly hopeful. A profound achievement.” — Scott Anderson, author of Moonlight Hotel and The Man Who Tried to Save the World