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“Congo” by David Van Reybrouck is a fascinating and comprehensive book that provides an in-depth look at the history, culture, and politics of the Democratic Republic of Congo. This book is a winner of many awards, including the prestigious AKO Literature Prize in the Netherlands, and has been praised for its exhaustive research, engaging writing style, and balanced approach to a complex and often misunderstood country. This review will provide an overview of the book’s main themes and arguments, as well as an assessment of its strengths and weaknesses.

Historical Overview

Van Reybrouck’s book begins with a detail historical overview of Congo, tracing its roots back to the pre-colonial era when the region was divide into various kingdoms and chiefdoms. The author then delves into the Congo Free State. A brutal and exploitative period when King Leopold II of Belgium claimed the region as his personal property. And forced the Congolese people into forced labor and servitude. The book also covers the colonial era, when Belgium established a formal colony in Congo, and the struggle for independence in the 1960s.

Culture and Society

One of the strengths of “Congo” is its focus on the diverse cultures and societies that make up Congo. Van Reybrouck explores the customs, traditions, and beliefs of different ethnic groups. As well as the challenges they have face in a country that has been marke by violence and conflict for decades. The author also looks at the role of art, music, and literature in Congolese society, highlighting the contributions of well-known artists like the musician Franco and the writer Alain Mabanckou.

Politics and Conflict

Another major theme of “Congo” is the country’s politics and the conflicts. That have plagued it for many years. Van Reybrouck examines the role of colonialism. The struggle for independence, and the post-independence era. When Congo was marke by coups, civil war, and foreign intervention. The author also explores the impact of the Rwandan genocide on Congo. As well as the ongoing conflicts in the eastern part of the country, where militias and armed groups continue to wreak havoc.


Overall, “Congo” is an excellent book that provides a comprehensive and nuanced look at a complex and often misunderstood country. The author’s exhaustive research and engaging writing style make this book accessible to a wide audience. While his balanced approach to controversial topics ensures that readers come away with a well-rounded understanding of the issues at hand. Some of the strengths of the book include its focus on the diverse cultures and societies that make up Congo. Its historical overview of the country, and its exploration of the impact of politics and conflict on Congolese society.

However, there are also some weaknesses to consider. One of the main criticisms of the book is that it can be overwhelming at times. wWth so much information and detail to absorb. Additionally, some readers may find that the author’s attempt to cover so many different topics and themes. That results in a lack of depth in certain areas. Finally, while Van Reybrouck attempts to provide a balanced perspective on controversial issues like the legacy of colonialism. The ongoing conflicts in Congo, some readers may feel that the author is not critical enough of certain actors or institutions.


Despite these criticisms, “Congo” is a highly recommended book for anyone interest in African history, Politics, and culture. It is a thoughtful and thought-provoking examination of a country that has been marked by violence and conflict for decades. That also has a rich and diverse culture that is worth exploring. Whether you are a student, scholar, or general reader.