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The Place Where Rivers Meet by Nigel Roth

Have a coffee in downtown Kinshasa, and you’ll be in the capital city of a country that has changed its name more times than most English people change their underwear.

Today, the country is the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but it’s also been known as Congo-Kinshasa and DR Congo, sometimes the DROC or the DRC, and other times as Congo or The Congo, and, of course, formerly as Zaire.

If that isn’t confusing enough, it was, in 1886, the Belgium Congo, and Kinshasa was Léopoldville, because the country, the largest in sub-Saharan Africa, second only to Algeria in the whole of the African continent, and eleventh on the entire planet, was the private breadbasket of King Leopold II of Belgium, who exploited it’s natural resources, and didn’t give a waffle for anyone who might’ve lived there before he arrived.

In that same year, an expedition was underway to help the embattled and entrapped governor of the Anglo-Egyptian province of Equatoria, now a region of southern Sudan, and once including most of northern Uganda, who was having trouble with the irritable Mahdists.

The Mahdists, by the way, were uprising for reasons so convoluted we’d need another whole essay and a song from Danny Kaye to attempt to explain them, but generally, the Sudanese were angry at the Ottoman rulers, the Muslims were infuriated with a lack of religiosity among the Turkish, no-one was enamoured with the appointment of Christians in the region as leaders, the Sufi didn’t take to the Egyptian officials at all well, and everyone was annoyed that they couldn’t trade slaves anymore, which had been a staple of the region for centuries.

And so they uprose.

The forlorn governor trying to keep some semblance of peace was a Polish Jewish doctor called Isaak Eduard Schnitzer, though he soon became Mehmed Emin Pasha, and, eventually, just Emin Pasha.