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Farewell To The Congo River And Her Stories, For Now

It's an age-old truth: great rivers make for great stories.

The latest evidence for that are the riveting, multimedia snapshots from NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton's journey down the Congo River with Africans for whom the waterway serves an an interstate highway, linking them to families and commerce.

In the final installment of her series, heard on Morning Edition, Ofeibea tells of growing tensions aboard the barge that carried its passengers, both human and four-legged, to their destination of Kinshasha, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a trip that took too long for some passengers.

Ofeibea described final segment in sort of a journal entry for us:

QUARREL: Tension and temper tantrums mark the last couple of days on board, testament to the growing frustration at the delay in reaching the barge's destination and terra firma.

Here NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton recap the on-board fight.

Everyone seems to be quarreling with everyone else — including a very loud spat on the bridge, between the captain and a passenger.  It seems that blows ere exchanged.

RUN-IN WITH MILITARY: Soldiers boarded the barge with two days to go to Kinshasa and kept their own counsel — until they caught sight of a microphone, digital camera and journalists doing their job — recording events on the vessel.

Congo River barge

hide captionLong delays on board lead to quarrels and tension as passengers become increasingly anxious to reach their destination.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton/NPR.org

After the fight, some members of the military tell NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton not to record.

They try to prevent NPR from recording the altercation on the bridge and even resort to threats.

Congo River sunset

hide captionRespect the Congo River — because it's at once a mother and father which feeds and nurtures you and brings you life.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton/NPR.org

SWANSONG:  Time to bid farewell to the Congo River, after 500 miles downstream on an odyssey of adventure and discovery. Congo's Route 66 — the grand boulevard pumping life into the giant nation — is a national treasure.

The river is "both the mother and father who nurture us, " says Congolese sculptor Maitre Liyolo, himself a river man.  "So respect and appreciate what gives us food, life, charm, tranquility and inspiration — all for free".

You can experience Ofeibea's wonderful, Congo River story-telling for yourselves on the series' web site.

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