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Rebuilding Congo's Railroad

Villagers in Congo's Maniema province work to revamp part of a 900-mile stretch of railroad track. Almost all the work is done by hand.
Jason Beaubien, NPR /
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Villagers in Congo's Maniema province work to revamp part of a 900-mile stretch of railroad track. Almost all the work is done by hand.

As the Democratic Republic of Congo struggles to recover from a five-year civil war, one priority of international relief agencies is to restore a vital rail link in the central African nation's interior. NPR's Jason Beaubien reports.

A transitional government in Kinshasa made up of former rebel leaders and President Joseph Kabila is attempting to reunify the vast nation. But the government still exerts little influence outside the capital, and fighting in eastern Congo has become a major setback to recovery efforts.

The city of Kindu sits in Congo's interior, 1,200 hundred miles up river from Kinshasa. Kindu used to be a bustling port where goods moved between river barges and a railway to the southern border.

In 1998, when civil war broke out, both river and rail traffic came to a halt. Kindu has no running water, only sporadic electricity and almost no gasoline. There are no passable roads, and the only commercial goods come in by plane or after being pushed up river for days in dugout canoes.

Before fighting broke out last week in the city of Bukavu, a rail line linking Kindu with the southern city of Lubumbashi was on the verge of reopening. Villagers have been working for months to revamp the 900 miles of track almost entirely by hand. Officials hope reopening the railway will revive the region's economy.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.
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