Government of Republic of Congo - History

Government of Republic of Congo - History

Government type

federal presidential republic

name: Moroni

etymology: Moroni derives from "mroni," which means "at the river" in Shingazidja, the Comorian language spoken on Grande Comore (N'gazidja)
Administrative divisions

3 islands; Anjouan (Ndzuwani), Grande Comore (N'gazidja), Moheli (Mwali)

6 July 1975 (from France)
National holiday

Independence Day, 6 July (1975)

history: previous 1996, 2001; newest adopted 30 July 2018

amendments: proposed by the president of the union or supported by at least one third of the Assembly of the Union membership; adoption requires approval by at three-quarters majority of the total Assembly membership or approval in a referendum

note: a referendum held on 30 July 2018 - boycotted by the opposition - overwhelmingly approved a new constitution that allows for 2 consecutive 5-year presidential terms and revises the rotating presidency within the islands
Legal system

mixed legal system of Islamic religious law, the French civil code of 1975, and customary law
International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of the Comoros

dual citizenship recognized: no

residency requirement for naturalization: 10 years

18 years of age; universal
Executive branch

chief of state: President AZALI Assoumani (since 26 May 2016); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government; note - AZALI takes oath of office 2 June 2019 after 24 March 2019 reelection (2019)

head of government: President AZALI Assoumani (since 26 May 2016)

cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president

elections/appointments: president directly elected by simple majority popular vote in 2 rounds for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 24 March 2019 (next to be held in 2024)

election results: AZALI Assoumani (CRC) elected president in first round; with a 59% of the vote; - AZALI Assoumani (CRC) 60.8%, Ahamada MAHAMOUDOU (PJ) 14.6%, and Mouigni Baraka Said SOILIHI (Independent) 5.6%
Legislative branch

description: unicameral Assembly of the Union (33 seats; 24 members directly elected by absolute majority vote in 2 rounds if needed and 9 members indirectly elected by the 3 island assemblies; members serve 5-year terms) (2017)

elections: last held on 19 January 2020 with a runoff on 23 February 2020 (next to be held in 2025) (2020)

election results: seats by party -1st round - Boycotting parties 16, Independent 3, CRC 2, RDC 2, RADHI 1, Orange party 0; note - 9 additional seats filled by the 3 island assemblies; 2nd round - CRC 20, Orange Party 2, Independents 2; composition as of 23 January 2020 men 20, women 4, percent of women 16.7%

Judicial branch

highest courts: Supreme Court or Cour Supreme (consists of 7 judges)

judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court judges - selection and term of office NA

subordinate courts: Court of Appeals (in Moroni); Tribunal de premiere instance; island village (community) courts; religious courts

Political parties and leaders

Convention for the Renewal of the Comoros or CRC [AZALI Assoumani]
Democratic Rally of the Comoros or RDC [Mouigni BARAKA]
Independent Party [N/A]
Juwa Party or PJ [[Ahmed Abdallah SAMBI, Mahamoudou AHAMADA]
Orange Party [Mohamed DAOUDOU]
Party for the Comorian Agreement (Partie Pour l'Entente Commorienne) or PEC [Fahmi Said IBRAHIM]
Rally for an Alternative of Harmonious and Integrated Development or RADHI [Houmed MSAIDIE, Abdou SOEFO]
Rally with a Development Initiative for Enlightened Youth or RIDJA [Said LARIFOU]
Union for the Development of the Comoros or UPDC [Mohamed HALIFA] (2018)

A Guide to the United States’ History of Recognition, Diplomatic, and Consular Relations, by Country, since 1776: Republic of the Congo

Prior to its independence in 1960, the Republic of Congo was part of French Equatorial Africa (AEF). During World War II, the AEF administration sided with Charles DeGaulle , and Brazzaville became the symbolic capital of Free France during 1940-43.

For the last two decades of the Cold War, the Republic of Congo allied principally with the Soviet Union and other Eastern bloc nations. Educational, economic, and foreign aid links between Congo and its Eastern bloc allies were extensive, with the Congolese military and security forces receiving significant Soviet, East German, and Cuban assistance. After the worldwide collapse of communism and Congo’s adoption of multi-party democracy in 1991, Congo’s relations with the United States improved and were cooperative. The United States has enthusiastically supported Congolese democratization efforts, contributing aid to the country’s electoral process. Relations between the United States and the government of President Denis Sassou-Nguesso are strong, positive, and cooperative.

A Very Brief History of the Democratic Republic of Congo

This year I’m using the DRC as a major case study in underdevelopment (it is last on the UN’s HDI rankings after all) – Here’s my (mainly cut and paste from Wikipedia) very brief history of the DRC – I’ll add in video links, general links, pictures and extracts from numerous books later…

The Stuff in italics below each heading are the ‘key historical reasons for underdevelopment’


It was quite nice, suggesting Western Nation States f***ed The Congo Up

[Pre-Colonialism, tribes in the region were doing pretty well for themselves – Organised into the Kingdom of Luba, according to Wikipedia – Each of these kingdoms became very wealthy due mainly to the region’s mineral wealth, especially in ores. The civilization began to develop and implement iron and copper technology, in addition to trading in ivory and other goods. The Luba established a strong commercial demand for their metal technologies and were able to institute a long-range commercial net (the business connections extended over 1,500 kilometres (930 miles), all the way to the Indian Ocean). By the 16th century, the kingdom had an established strong central government based on chieftainship.’

The African Congo Free State (1877–1908) – Colonialism, Brutalisation and Extraction

King Leopold II of Belgium formally acquired rights to the Congo territory at the Conference of Berlin in 1885 and made the land his private property and named it the Congo Free State.Leopold’s regime began various infrastructure projects, such as construction of the railway that ran from the coast to the capital of Leopoldville (now Kinshasa). It took years to complete. Nearly all such projects were aimed at increasing the capital which Leopold and his associates could extract from the colony, leading to exploitation of Africans.

Rubber was the main export from the Congo Free State, used to make tyres for the growing automobile industry, and the sale of rubber made a fortune for Leopold.

Leopold’s colonization of the Congo was incredibly brutal. Thousands of Congolese were forced to work on Leopold’s Rubber plantations, and the practice of cutting off the limbs of the natives as a means of enforcing rubber quotas was widespread. During the period of 1885–1908, millions of Congolese died as a consequence of exploitation and disease. In some areas the population declined dramatically it has been estimated that sleeping sickness and smallpox killed nearly half the population in the areas surrounding the lower Congo River.

The actions of the Free State’s administration sparked international protests led by British reporter Edmund Dene Morel and British diplomat/Irish rebel Roger Casement, whose 1904 report on the Congo condemned the practice. Famous writers such as Mark Twainand Arthur Conan Doyle also protested.

The Belgian Congo (1908–1960) – Colonialism, Condescension and More Extraction

In 1908, the Belgian parliament took over the Free State from the king. From then on, as a Belgian colony, it was called the Belgian Congo and was under the rule of the elected Belgian government. The governing of the Congo improved significantly and considerable economic and social progress was achieved. The white colonial rulers had, however, generally a condescending, patronizing attitude toward the indigenous peoples, which led to bitter resentment from both sides. During World War II, the Congolese army achieved several victories against the Italians in North Africa.

Independence and Political crisis (1960–1965) – Turmoil and Transition

The Belgian Congo achieved independence on 30 June 1960 under the name ‘The Democratic Republic of Congo’. Just previous to this, in May a growing nationalist movement, led by Patrice Lumumba, had won the parliamentary elections. The party appointed Lumumba as Prime Minister. Shortly after independence, most of the 100,000 Europeans who had remained behind after independence fled the country, opening the way for Congolese to replace the European military and administrative elite.

On 5 September 1960, Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba from office. Lumumba declared Kasavubu’s action unconstitutional and a crisis between the two leaders developed. Lumumba had previously appointed Joseph Mobutu chief of staff of the new Congo army. Taking advantage of the leadership crisis between Kasavubu and Lumumba, Mobutu garnered enough support within the army to create mutiny. With financial support from the United States and Belgium, Mobutu paid his soldiers privately. Mobutu took power in 1965 and in 1971 changed the country’s name to the “Republic of Zaïre”.

Mobutu and Zaire (1965 – 1996) – Dictatorship (propped up by the United States), extreme corruption, yet more extraction and infrastructure deterioration

Corruption, Aid, The United States, Cold War

The new president had the support of the United States because of his staunch opposition to Communism. Western powers appeared to believe this would make him a roadblock to Communist schemes in Africa.

A one-party system was established, and Mobutu declared himself head of state. He periodically held elections in which he was the only candidate. Although relative peace and stability were achieved, Mobutu’s government was guilty of severe human rights violations, political repression, a cult of personality and corruption. By 1984, Mobutu was said to have $4 billion (USD), an amount close to the country’s national debt, deposited in a personal Swiss bank account. International aid, most often in the form of loans, enriched Mobutu while he allowed national infrastructure such as roads to deteriorate to as little as one-quarter of what had existed in 1960.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Mobutu was invited to visit the United States on several occasions, meeting with U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. In June 1989, Mobutu was the first African head of state invited for a state visit with newly elected President Bush. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, however, U.S. relations with Mobutu cooled, as he was no longer deemed necessary as a Cold War ally.

The first and second Congo Wars (1996 – 2003) – Rwanda’s Ethnic conflict heads west while neighbouring nations plough in and extract resources

End of the Cold War, Ethnic Conflict, Rwanda, Resource Curse

By 1996, following the Rwandan Civil War and genocide and the ascension of a Tutsi-led government, Rwandan Hutu militia forces (Interahamwe) had fled to eastern Zaire and began refugees camps as a basis for incursion against Rwanda. These Hutu militia forces soon allied with the Zairian armed forces to launch a campaign against Congolese ethnic Tutsis in eastern Zaire.

A coalition of Rwandan and Ugandan armies, led by Lawrence Kabila, then invaded Zaire to overthrow the government of Mobutu, launching the First Congo War. By May 1997, Kabila had made it to the capital Kinshasa, named himself president and changed the name of the country back to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mobutu was forced to flee the country.

However, a few months later, President Kabila asked foreign military forces to return back to their countries because he was concerned that the Rwandan military officers who were running his army were plotting a coup against him. Consequently, Rwandan troops in DRC retreated to Goma and launched a new Tutsi led rebel military movement (the RCD) to fight against their former ally, President Kabila, while Uganda instigated the creation of another rebel movement called the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), led by the Congolese warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba. The two rebel movements, along with Rwandan and Ugandan troops, started the Second Congo War by attacking the DRC army in 1998. Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia became involved militarily on the side of the government.

Kabila was assassinated in 2001 and was succeeded by his son Joseph Kabila, who organised multilateral peace talks which to the signing of a peace accord in which Kabila would share power with former rebels. By June 2003 all foreign armies except those of Rwanda had pulled out of Congo. On 30 July 2006 DRC held its first multi-party elections. Joseph Kabila took 45% of the votes and his opponent, Jean-Pierre Bemba took 20%. On 6 December 2006 Joseph Kabila was sworn in as President.

Contemporary Conflicts in the DRC (2003 – Present Day) – Numerous groups fighting over various things

Ethnic Conflict, Rwanda, learned violence.

There are a number of rebel groups still operating mostly in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. It is widely suspected that Rwanda is funding some of these rebel groups. A lot of the recent conflicts seem to go back to the Hutu-Tutsi conflict from Rwanda.

The FDLR -The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda- Consist almost entirely ethnic Hutus who wish to regain power in Rwanda. The FDLR contains some of the ‘original Hutu genociders’ who carried out the genocide in Rwanda and currently have about 7000 troops still in operation in the DRC. Some of the leaders of the FDLR are facing trial for crimes against humanity in the ICCJ

The CNDP – In 2006, the Congolese military declared that it was stopping operations against the FDLR. This lead to some troops mutinying and the foundation of the CNDP, or The National Congress for the Defence of the People, mostly consisting of ethnic Tutsis, whose main aim continued to be the eradication of the Hutu FDLR. The CNDP consisted of approximately 8000 troops and was believed to be backed by Rwanda.

The M23 Rebels – In March 2009, The CNDP signed a peace treaty with the government, in which it agreed to become a political party and its soldiers integrated into the national army in exchange for the release of its imprisoned members. Its leader, Lawrence Nkunda was also arrested and is now facing trial at the United Nations Court for ‘Crimes against humanity’.

However (here we go again) in 2009 Bosco Ntaganda, and troops loyal to him mutinied from this new ‘integrated army’ and formed the rebel military March 23 Movement, claiming a violation of the treaty by the government. M23 claims that some CNDP troops have not received jobs in the military as promised by the government and also want some limited political reforms.

M23 is estimated to have around 1500 – 6000 troops and as recently as November 2012, M23 captured the city of Goma, with a population of over 1 million, and the provincial capital of the Kivu Province in Eastern DRC, with the aim of getting its political demands met.

Rwanda is widely suspected of funding this rebel group as well, although both Rwanda and M23 deny this.

Other Rebel Groups – In addition to the above there is on and off fighting amongst other rebel groups. For example, Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army moved from their original bases in Uganda (where they have fought a 20-year rebellion) and South Sudan to DR Congo in 2005.

Congo, Democratic Republic of the

The Kingdom of Kongo ruled the area around the mouth of the Congo River from the 14th to 19th centuries. To the center and east, the Kingdoms of Luba and Lunda ruled from the 16th and 17th centuries to the 19th century. in the 1870s, European exploration of the Congo Basin, sponsored by King Leopold II of Belgium, eventually allowed the ruler to acquire rights to the Congo territory and to make it his private property under the name of the Congo Free State. During the Free State, the king's colonial military forced the local population to produce rubber. From 1885 to 1908, millions of Congolese people died as a result of disease and exploitation. International condemnation finally forced Leopold to cede the land to Belgium, creating the Belgian Congo.

The Republic of the Congo gained its independence from Belgium in 1960, but its early years were marred by political and social instability. Col. Joseph MOBUTU seized power and declared himself president in a November 1965 coup. He subsequently changed his name - to MOBUTU Sese Seko - as well as that of the country - to Zaire. MOBUTU retained his position for 32 years through several sham elections, as well as through brutal force. Ethnic strife and civil war, touched off by a massive inflow of refugees in 1994 from conflict in Rwanda and Burundi, led in May 1997 to the toppling of the MOBUTU regime by a rebellion backed by Rwanda and Uganda and fronted by Laurent KABILA. KABILA renamed the country the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), but in August 1998 his regime was itself challenged by a second insurrection again backed by Rwanda and Uganda. Troops from Angola, Chad, Namibia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe intervened to support KABILA's regime. In January 2001, KABILA was assassinated and his son, Joseph KABILA, was named head of state. In October 2002, the new president was successful in negotiating the withdrawal of Rwandan forces occupying the eastern DRC two months later, the Pretoria Accord was signed by all remaining warring parties to end the fighting and establish a government of national unity. Presidential, National Assembly, and provincial legislatures took place in 2006, with Joseph KABILA elected to office.

National elections were held in November 2011 and disputed results allowed Joseph KABILA to be reelected to the presidency. While the DRC constitution barred President KABILA from running for a third term, the DRC Government delayed national elections originally slated for November 2016, to 30 December 2018. This failure to hold elections as scheduled fueled significant civil and political unrest, with sporadic street protests by KABILA&rsquos opponents and exacerbation of tensions in the tumultuous eastern DRC regions. Presidential, legislative, and provincial elections were held in late December 2018 and early 2019 across most of the country. The DRC Government canceled presidential elections in the cities of Beni and Butembo (citing concerns over an ongoing Ebola outbreak in the region) as well as Yumbi (which had recently experienced heavy violence).

Opposition candidate Felix TSHISEKEDI was announced the election winner on 10 January 2019 and inaugurated two weeks later. This was the first transfer of power to an opposition candidate without significant violence or a coup since the DRC's independence.

The DRC, particularly in the East, continues to experience violence perpetrated by more than 100 armed groups active in the region, including the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), and assorted Mai Mai militias. The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) has operated in the region since 1999 and is the largest and most expensive UN peacekeeping mission in the world.


The Democratic Republic of the Congo is named after the Congo River, which flows throughout the country. The Congo River is the world's deepest river and the world's second-largest river by discharge. The Comité d'études du haut Congo ("Committee for the Study of the Upper Congo"), established by King Leopold II of Belgium in 1876, and the International Association of the Congo, established by him in 1879, were also named after the river. [20]

The Congo River itself was named by early European sailors after the Kingdom of Kongo and its Bantu inhabitants, the Kongo people, when they encountered them in the 16th century. [21] [22] The word Kongo comes from the Kongo language (also called Kikongo). According to American writer Samuel Henry Nelson: "It is probable that the word 'Kongo' itself implies a public gathering and that it is based on the root konga, 'to gather' (trans[itive])." [23] The modern name of the Kongo people, Bakongo was introduced in the early 20th century.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has been known in the past as, in chronological order, the Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, the Republic of the Congo-Léopoldville, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Zaire, before returning to its current name the Democratic Republic of the Congo. [3]

At the time of independence, the country was named the Republic of the Congo-Léopoldville to distinguish it from its neighbour the Republic of the Congo-Brazzaville. With the promulgation of the Luluabourg Constitution on 1 August 1964, the country became the DRC, but was renamed to Zaire (a past name for the Congo River) on 27 October 1971 by President Mobutu Sese Seko as part of his Authenticité initiative. [24]

The word Zaire is from a Portuguese adaptation of a Kikongo word nzadi ("river"), a truncation of nzadi o nzere ("river swallowing rivers"). [25] [26] [27] The river was known as Zaire during the 16th and 17th centuries Congo seems to have replaced Zaire gradually in English usage during the 18th century, and Congo is the preferred English name in 19th-century literature, although references to Zaire as the name used by the natives (i.e. derived from Portuguese usage) remained common. [28]

In 1992, the Sovereign National Conference voted to change the name of the country to the "Democratic Republic of the Congo", but the change was not made. [29] The country's name was later restored by President Laurent-Désiré Kabila when he overthrew Mobutu in 1997. [30] To distinguish it from the neighboring Republic of the Congo, it is sometimes referred to as Congo (Kinshasa) or Congo-Kinshasa.

Early history Edit

The geographical area now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo was populated as early as 90,000 years ago, as shown by the 1988 discovery of the Semliki harpoon at Katanda, one of the oldest barbed harpoons ever found, believed to have been used to catch giant river catfish. [31] [32]

Bantu peoples reached Central Africa at some point during the first millennium BC, then gradually started to expand southward. Their propagation was accelerated by the adoption of pastoralism and of Iron Age techniques. The people living in the south and southwest were foraging groups, whose technology involved only minimal use of metal technologies. The development of metal tools during this time period revolutionized agriculture. This led to the displacement of the hunter-gatherer groups in the east and southeast. The final wave of the Bantu expansion was complete by the 10th century, followed by the establishment of the Bantu kingdoms, whose rising populations soon made possible intricate local, regional and foreign commercial networks that traded mostly in slaves, salt, iron and copper.

Congo Free State (1877–1908) Edit

Belgian exploration and administration took place from the 1870s until the 1920s. It was first led by Sir Henry Morton Stanley, who undertook his explorations under the sponsorship of King Leopold II of Belgium. The eastern regions of the precolonial Congo were heavily disrupted by constant slave raiding, mainly from Arab–Swahili slave traders such as the infamous Tippu Tip, who was well known to Stanley. [33]

Leopold had designs on what was to become the Congo as a colony. [34] In a succession of negotiations, Leopold, professing humanitarian objectives in his capacity as chairman of the front organization Association Internationale Africaine, actually played one European rival against another. [ citation needed ]

Leopold formally acquired rights to the Congo territory at the Conference of Berlin in 1885 and made the land his private property. He named it the Congo Free State. [34] Leopold's regime began various infrastructure projects, such as the construction of the railway that ran from the coast to the capital of Leopoldville (now Kinshasa), which took eight years to complete. Nearly all such infrastructure projects were aimed at making it easier to increase the assets which Leopold and his associates could extract from the colony. [35]

In the Free State, colonists coerced the local population into producing rubber, for which the spread of automobiles and development of rubber tires created a growing international market. Rubber sales made a fortune for Leopold, who built several buildings in Brussels and Ostend to honor himself and his country. To enforce the rubber quotas, the army, the Force Publique, was called in and made the practice of cutting off the limbs of the natives a matter of policy. [36]

During the period of 1885–1908, millions of Congolese died as a consequence of exploitation and disease. In some areas the population declined dramatically – it has been estimated that sleeping sickness and smallpox killed nearly half the population in the areas surrounding the lower Congo River. [36]

News of the abuses began to circulate. In 1904, the British consul at Boma in the Congo, Roger Casement, was instructed by the British government to investigate. His report, called the Casement Report, confirmed the accusations of humanitarian abuses. The Belgian Parliament forced Leopold II to set up an independent commission of inquiry. Its findings confirmed Casement's report of abuses, concluding that the population of the Congo had been "reduced by half" during this period. [35] Determining precisely how many people died is impossible, as no accurate records exist.

Belgian Congo (1908–1960) Edit

In 1908, the Belgian parliament, in spite of initial reluctance, bowed to international pressure (especially from the United Kingdom) and took over the Free State from King Leopold II. [37]

On 18 October 1908, the Belgian parliament voted in favour of annexing the Congo as a Belgian colony. Executive power went to the Belgian minister of colonial affairs, assisted by a Colonial Council (Conseil Colonial) (both located in Brussels). The Belgian parliament exercised legislative authority over the Belgian Congo. In 1923 the colonial capital moved from Boma to Léopoldville, some 300 kilometres (190 mi) further upstream into the interior. [38]

The transition from the Congo Free State to the Belgian Congo was a break but it also featured a large degree of continuity. The last Governor-general of the Congo Free State, Baron Théophile Wahis, remained in office in the Belgian Congo and the majority of Leopold II's administration with him. [39] Opening up the Congo and its natural and mineral riches to the Belgian economy remained the main motive for colonial expansion – however, other priorities, such as healthcare and basic education, slowly gained in importance.

Colonial administrators ruled the territory and a dual legal system existed (a system of European courts and another one of indigenous courts, tribunaux indigènes). Indigenous courts had only limited powers and remained under the firm control of the colonial administration.

Records show that in 1936, 728 Belgian administrators ran the colony. [ citation needed ] The Belgian authorities permitted no political activity in the Congo whatsoever, [40] and the Force Publique, a locally-recruited army under Belgian command, put down any attempts at rebellion.

The Belgian population of the colony increased from 1,928 in 1910 to nearly 89,000 in 1959. [ citation needed ]

The Belgian Congo was directly involved in the two world wars. During World War I (1914–1918), an initial stand-off between the Force Publique and the German colonial army in German East Africa (Tanganyika) turned into open warfare with a joint Anglo-Belgian-Portuguese invasion of German colonial territory in 1916 and 1917 during the East African Campaign. The Force Publique gained a notable victory when it marched into Tabora in September 1916 under the command of General Charles Tombeur after heavy fighting.

After 1918, Belgium was rewarded for the participation of the Force Publique in the East African campaign with a League of Nations mandate over the previously German colony of Ruanda-Urundi. During World War II, the Belgian Congo provided a crucial source of income for the Belgian government-in-exile in London, and the Force Publique again participated in Allied campaigns in Africa. Belgian Congolese forces under the command of Belgian officers notably fought against the Italian colonial army in Ethiopia in Asosa, Bortaï [41] and Saïo under Major-General Auguste-Eduard Gilliaert during the second East African Campaign. [42]

Independence and political crisis (1960–1965) Edit

In May 1960, a growing nationalist movement, the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC) led by Patrice Lumumba, won the parliamentary elections. Patrice Lumumba thus became the first Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, then known as the Republic of the Congo, on 24 June 1960. The parliament elected Joseph Kasavubu as President, of the Alliance des Bakongo (ABAKO) party. Other parties that emerged included the Parti Solidaire Africain (PSA) led by Antoine Gizenga, and the Parti National du Peuple (PNP) led by Albert Delvaux and Laurent Mbariko. [43]

The Belgian Congo achieved independence on 30 June 1960 under the name "République du Congo" ("Republic of Congo" or "Republic of the Congo" in English). As the neighboring French colony of Middle Congo (Moyen Congo) also chose the name "Republic of Congo" upon achieving its independence, the two countries were more commonly known as "Congo-Léopoldville" and "Congo-Brazzaville", after their capital cities.

Shortly after independence the Force Publique mutinied, and on 11 July the province of Katanga (led by Moïse Tshombe) and South Kasai engaged in secessionist struggles against the new leadership. [44] [45] Most of the 100,000 Europeans who had remained behind after independence fled the country, [46] opening the way for Congolese to replace the European military and administrative elite. [47] On 5 September 1960, Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba from office. Lumumba declared Kasavubu's action unconstitutional and a crisis between the two leaders developed. [48]

Events set in motion by the U.S. and Belgium on 14 September removed Lumumba from office with forces loyal to Joseph Mobutu. On 17 January 1961, he was handed over to Katangan authorities and executed by Belgian-led Katangese troops. [49] An investigation by the Belgium's Parliament in 2001 found Belgium "morally responsible" for the murder of Lumumba, and the country has since officially apologised for its role in his death. [50]

Amidst widespread confusion and chaos, a temporary government was led by technicians (the Collège des commissaires généraux). The secession ended in January 1963 with the assistance of UN forces. Several short-lived governments, of Joseph Ileo, Cyrille Adoula and Moise Kapenda Tshombe, took over in quick succession.

Lumumba had previously appointed Joseph Mobutu chief of staff of the new Congo army, Armée Nationale Congolaise (ANC). [ citation needed ] Taking advantage of the leadership crisis between Kasavubu and Tshombe, Mobutu garnered enough support within the army to launch a coup. With financial support from the United States and Belgium, Mobutu paid his soldiers privately. [ citation needed ] The aversion of Western powers to communism and leftist ideology influenced their decision to finance Mobutu's quest to neutralize Kasavubu and Lumumba in a coup by proxy. [ citation needed ] A constitutional referendum the year before Mobutu's coup of 1965 resulted in the country's official name being changed to the "Democratic Republic of the Congo." [3] In 1971 Mobutu changed the name again, this time to "Republic of Zaire". [51] [24]

Mobutu and Zaire (1965–1997) Edit

The new president had the staunch support of the United States because of his opposition to Communism the US believed that his administration would serve as an effective counter to communist movements in Africa. [52] A single-party system was established, and Mobutu declared himself head of state. He periodically held elections in which he was the only candidate. Although relative peace and stability were achieved, Mobutu's government was guilty of severe human rights violations, political repression, a cult of personality and corruption.

By late 1967 Mobutu had successfully neutralized his political opponents and rivals, either through co-opting them into his regime, arresting them, or rendering them otherwise politically impotent. [53] Throughout the late 1960s, Mobutu continued to shuffle his governments and cycle officials in and out of the office to maintain control. Kasa-Vubu's death in April 1969 ensured that no person with First Republic credentials could challenge his rule. [54] By the early 1970s, Mobutu was attempting to assert Zaire as a leading African nation. He traveled frequently across the continent while the government became more vocal about African issues, particularly those relating to the southern region. Zaire established semi-clientelist relationships with several smaller African states, especially Burundi, Chad, and Togo. [55]

Corruption became so common the term "le mal Zairois" or "Zairian Sickness", [56] meaning gross corruption, theft and mismanagement, was coined, reportedly by Mobutu himself. [57] International aid, most often in the form of loans, enriched Mobutu while he allowed national infrastructure such as roads to deteriorate to as little as one-quarter of what had existed in 1960. Zaire became a kleptocracy as Mobutu and his associates embezzled government funds.

In a campaign to identify himself with African nationalism, starting on 1 June 1966, Mobutu renamed the nation's cities: Léopoldville became Kinshasa (the country was now Congo-Kinshasa), Stanleyville became Kisangani, Elisabethville became Lubumbashi, and Coquilhatville became Mbandaka. This renaming campaign was completed in the 1970s.

In 1971, Mobutu renamed the country the Republic of Zaire, [24] its fourth name change in eleven years and its sixth overall. The Congo River was renamed the Zaire River.

During the 1970s and 1980s, he was invited to visit the United States on several occasions, meeting with U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. [58] Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union U.S. relations with Mobutu cooled, as he was no longer deemed necessary as a Cold War ally. Opponents within Zaire stepped up demands for reform. This atmosphere contributed to Mobutu's declaring the Third Republic in 1990, whose constitution was supposed to pave the way for democratic reform. The reforms turned out to be largely cosmetic. Mobutu continued in power until armed forces forced him to flee in 1997. "From 1990 to 1993, the United States facilitated Mobutu's attempts to hijack political change", one academic wrote, and "also assisted the rebellion of Laurent-Desire Kabila that overthrew the Mobutu regime." [59]

Continental and civil wars (1996–2007) Edit

By 1996, following the Rwandan Civil War and genocide and the ascension of a Tutsi-led government in Rwanda, Rwandan Hutu militia forces (Interahamwe) fled to eastern Zaire and used refugee camps as a base for incursions against Rwanda. They allied with the Zairian Armed Forces (FAZ) to launch a campaign against Congolese ethnic Tutsis in eastern Zaire. [60]

A coalition of Rwandan and Ugandan armies invaded Zaire to overthrow the government of Mobutu, and ultimately to control the mineral resources of Zaire, [ citation needed ] launching the First Congo War. The coalition allied with some opposition figures, led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila, becoming the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (AFDL). In 1997 Mobutu fled and Kabila marched into Kinshasa, named himself president, and reverted the name of the country to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Kabila later requested that foreign military forces return to their own countries. He had concerns that the Rwandan officers running his army were plotting to give the presidency to a Tutsi who would report directly to Rwandan president, Paul Kagame. [ citation needed ] Rwandan troops retreated to Goma and launched a new Tutsi-led rebel military movement called the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie (RCD) to fight Kabila, while Uganda instigated the creation of new rebel movement called the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), led by Congolese warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba. [ citation needed ] The two rebel movements, along with Rwandan and Ugandan troops, started the Second Congo War by attacking the DRC army in 1998. Angolan, Zimbabwean, and Namibian militaries entered the hostilities on the side of the government.

Kabila was assassinated in 2001. His son Joseph Kabila succeeded him and called for multilateral peace talks. UN peacekeepers, MONUC, now known as MONUSCO, arrived in April 2001. In 2002 and 2003 Bemba intervened in the Central African Republic on behalf of its former president, Ange-Félix Patassé. [61] Talks led to a peace accord under which Kabila would share power with former rebels. By June 2003 all foreign armies except those of Rwanda had pulled out of Congo. A transitional government was set up until after the election. A constitution was approved by voters, and on 30 July 2006 DRC held its first multi-party elections. An election-result dispute between Kabila and Jean-Pierre Bemba turned into an all-out battle between their supporters in the streets of Kinshasa. MONUC took control of the city. A new election took place in October 2006, which Kabila won, and in December 2006 he was sworn in as President.

Continued Conflicts (2008–2018) Edit

Kivu conflict Edit

Laurent Nkunda, a member of RCD-Goma, an RCD branch integrated to the army, defected along with troops loyal to him and formed the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), which began an armed rebellion against the government, starting the Kivu conflict. They were believed [ by whom? ] to be again backed by Rwanda as a way to tackle the Hutu group, Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). In March 2009, after a deal between the DRC and Rwanda, Rwandan troops entered the DRC and arrested Nkunda and were allowed to pursue FDLR militants. The CNDP signed a peace treaty with the government in which it agreed to become a political party and to have its soldiers integrated into the national army in exchange for the release of its imprisoned members. [62] In 2012 Bosco Ntaganda, the leader of the CNDP, and troops loyal to him, mutinied and formed the rebel military March 23 Movement, claiming the government violated the treaty. [63]

In the resulting M23 rebellion, M23 briefly captured the provincial capital of Goma in November 2012. [64] [65] Neighboring countries, particularly Rwanda, have been accused of arming rebels groups and using them as proxies to gain control of the resource-rich country, an accusation they deny. [66] [67] In March 2013, the United Nations Security Council authorized the United Nations Force Intervention Brigade to neutralize armed groups. [68] On 5 November 2013, M23 declared an end to its insurgency. [69]

Additionally, in northern Katanga, the Mai-Mai created by Laurent Kabila slipped out of the control of Kinshasa with Gédéon Kyungu Mutanga's Mai Mai Kata Katanga briefly invading the provincial capital of Lubumbashi in 2013 and 400,000 persons displaced in the province as of 2013 [update] . [70] On and off fighting in the Ituri conflict occurred between the Nationalist and Integrationist Front (FNI) and the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) who claimed to represent the Lendu and Hema ethnic groups, respectively. In the northeast, Joseph Kony's LRA moved from their original bases in Uganda and South Sudan to DR Congo in 2005 and set up camps in the Garamba National Park. [71] [72]

In 2009, The New York Times reported that people in the Congo continued to die at a rate of an estimated 45,000 per month [73] – estimates of the number who have died from the long conflict range from 900,000 to 5,400,000. [74] The death toll is due to widespread disease and famine reports indicate that almost half of the individuals who have died are children under five years of age. [75] There have been frequent reports of weapon bearers killing civilians, of the destruction of property, of widespread sexual violence, [76] causing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes, and of other breaches of humanitarian and human rights law. One study found that more than 400,000 women are raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo every year. [77]

The war in the Congo has been described as the bloodiest war since World War II. [78] On 8 December 2017, fourteen UN soldiers and five Congolese regular soldiers were killed in a rebel attack at Semuliki in Beni territory. The rebels were thought to be Allied Democratic Forces. [79] UN investigations confirmed that aggressor in the December attack. [80]

According to the Human Rights Watch and the New York University-based Congo Research Group, armed troops in DRC's eastern Kivu region have killed over 1,900 civilians and kidnapped at least 3,300 people since June 2017 to June 2019. [81]

Kabila's term in office and multiple anti-government protests Edit

In 2015, major protests broke out across the country and protesters demanded that Joseph Kabila step down as President. The protests began after the passage of a law by the Congolese lower house that, if also passed by the Congolese upper house, would keep Kabila in power at least until a national census was conducted (a process which would likely take several years and therefore keep him in power past the planned 2016 elections, which he is constitutionally barred from participating in).

This bill passed however, it was gutted of the provision that would keep Kabila in power until a census took place. A census is supposed to take place, but it is no longer tied to when the elections take place. In 2015, elections were scheduled for late 2016 and a tenuous peace held in the Congo. [82]

On 27 November Congolese foreign minister Raymond Tshibanda told the press no elections would be held in 2016, after 20 December, the end of president Kabila's term. In a conference in Madagascar, Tshibanda said that Kabila's government had "consulted election experts" from Congo, the United Nations and elsewhere, and that "it has been decided that the voter registration operation will end on July 31, 2017, and that election will take place in April 2018." [83] Protests broke out in the country on 20 December when Kabila's term in office ended. Across the country, dozens of protesters were killed and hundreds were arrested.

Renewed regional violence Edit

According to Jan Egeland, presently Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, the situation in the DRC became much worse in 2016 and 2017 and is a major moral and humanitarian challenge comparable to the wars in Syria and Yemen, which receive much more attention. Women and children are abused sexually and "abused in all possible manners". Besides the conflict in North Kivu, violence has gone up in the Kasai region. The armed groups are after gold, diamonds, oil, and cobalt to line the pockets of rich men both in the region and internationally. There are also ethnic and cultural rivalries at play, as well as religious motives and the political crisis with postponed elections. He says people believe the situation in the DRC is "stably bad" but in fact, it has become much, much worse. "The big wars of the Congo that were really on top of the agenda 15 years ago are back and worsening". [84] Due to disruption of planting and harvesting caused by the conflict, the UN estimated in March 2018 that two million children risk starvation. [85]

Human Rights Watch said in 2017 that Joseph Kabila recruited former March 23 Movement fighters to put down country-wide protests over his refusal to step down from office at the end of his term. "M23 fighters patrolled the streets of Congo's main cities, firing on or arresting protesters or anyone else deemed to be a threat to the president," they said. [86]

Fierce fighting has erupted in Masisi between government forces and a powerful local warlord, General Delta. The United Nations mission in the DRC is its largest and most expensive peacekeeping effort, but it shut down five UN bases near Masisi in 2017, after the US led a push to cut costs. [87]

2018 ethnic conflict Edit

A tribal conflict erupted on 16–17 December 2018 at Yumbi in Mai-Ndombe Province, 400 km (250 miles) north of Kinshasa. Nearly 900 Banunu people from four villages were slaughtered by members of the Batende community in a deep-rooted rivalry over monthly tribal duties, land, fields and water resources. Some 100 Banunus fled to Moniende island in the Congo River, and another 16,000 to Makotimpoko District in the Republic of Congo. Military-style tactics were employed in the bloodbath, and some assailants were clothed in army uniforms. Local authorities and elements within the security forces were suspected of lending them support. [88]

2018 election and new president (2018-Present) Edit

On 30 December the Democratic Republic of the Congo general election, 2018 was held. On 10 January 2019, the electoral commission announced opposition candidate Félix Tshisekedi as the winner of the presidential vote, [89] and he was officially sworn in as President on 24 January. [90] However, there were widespread suspicions that the results were rigged and that a deal had been made between Tshisekedi and Kabila. The Catholic Church said that the official results did not correspond to the information its election monitors had collected. [91] The government had also "delayed" the vote until March in some areas, citing the Ebola outbreak in Kivu as well as the ongoing military conflict. This was criticized as these regions are known as opposition strongholds. [92] [93] [94] In August 2019, six months after the inauguration of Félix Tshisekedi, a coalition government was announced. [95]

A major measles outbreak in the country left nearly 5,000 dead in 2019. [96] The 2018 Ebola outbreak ended in June 2020, which had caused 2,280 deaths over 2 years. [97] Another, smaller Ebola outbreak in the Équateur Province began in June 2020, ultimately causing 55 deaths. [98] [99]

The Italian ambassador to the DRC, Luca Attanasio, and his bodyguard were killed in North Kivu on 22 February 2021. [100]

The political allies of former president Joseph Kabila, who stepped down in January 2019, maintained control of key ministries, the legislature, judiciary and security services. However, President Felix Tshisekedi succeeded to strengthen his hold on power. In a series of moves, he won over more legislators, gaining the support of almost 400 out of 500 members of the National Assembly. The pro-Kabila speakers of both houses of parliament were forced out. In April 2021, the new government was formed without the supporters of Kabila. [101]

A vaccination campaign against COVID-19 began on 19 April 2021. [102]

On 22 April 2021, meetings between Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and the DRC President Felix Tshisekedi resulted in new agreements increasing international trade and security (counterterrorism, immigration, cyber security, and customs) between the two countries. [103]

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is located in central sub-Saharan Africa, bordered to the northwest by the Republic of the Congo, to the north by the Central African Republic, to the northeast by South Sudan, to the east by Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, and by Tanzania (across Lake Tanganyika), to the south and southeast by Zambia, to the southwest by Angola, and to the west by the South Atlantic Ocean and the Cabinda Province exclave of Angola. The country lies between latitudes 6°N and 14°S, and longitudes 12°E and 32°E. It straddles the Equator, with one-third to the North and two-thirds to the South. The size of Congo, 2,345,408 square kilometres (905,567 sq mi), is slightly greater than the combined areas of Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, and Norway. It is the second-largest country in Africa by area, after Algeria.

As a result of its equatorial location, the DRC experiences high precipitation and has the highest frequency of thunderstorms in the world. The annual rainfall can total upwards of 2,000 millimetres (80 in) in some places, and the area sustains the Congo Rainforest, the second-largest rain forest in the world after the Amazon. This massive expanse of lush jungle covers most of the vast, low-lying central basin of the river, which slopes toward the Atlantic Ocean in the west. This area is surrounded by plateaus merging into savannas in the south and southwest, by mountainous terraces in the west, and dense grasslands extending beyond the Congo River in the north. High, glaciated mountains (Rwenzori Mountains) are found in the extreme eastern region. [ citation needed ]

The tropical climate also produced the Congo River system which dominates the region topographically along with the rainforest it flows through, though they are not mutually exclusive. The name for the Congo state is derived in part from the river. The river basin (meaning the Congo River and all of its myriad tributaries) occupies nearly the entire country and an area of nearly 1,000,000 km 2 (390,000 sq mi). The river and its tributaries form the backbone of Congolese economics and transportation. Major tributaries include the Kasai, Sangha, Ubangi, Ruzizi, Aruwimi, and Lulonga.

The sources of the Congo are in the Albertine Rift Mountains that flank the western branch of the East African Rift, as well as Lake Tanganyika and Lake Mweru. The river flows generally west from Kisangani just below Boyoma Falls, then gradually bends southwest, passing by Mbandaka, joining with the Ubangi River, and running into the Pool Malebo (Stanley Pool). Kinshasa and Brazzaville are on opposite sides of the river at the Pool. Then the river narrows and falls through a number of cataracts in deep canyons, collectively known as the Livingstone Falls, and runs past Boma into the Atlantic Ocean. The river also has the second-largest flow and the second-largest watershed of any river in the world (trailing the Amazon in both respects). The river and a 37 kilometres (23 mi) wide strip of coastline on its north bank provide the country's only outlet to the Atlantic. [ citation needed ]

The Albertine Rift plays a key role in shaping the Congo's geography. Not only is the northeastern section of the country much more mountainous, but due to the rift's tectonic activity, this area also experiences volcanic activity, occasionally with loss of life. The geologic activity in this area also created the African Great Lakes, four of which lie on the Congo's eastern frontier: Lake Albert (known during the Mobutu era as Lake Mobutu Sese Seko), Lake Kivu (Unknown until late 1712), Lake Edward (known during the Amin era as Lake Idi Amin Dada), and Lake Tanganyika. Lake Edward and Lake Albert are connected by the Semliki River. [ citation needed ]

The Rift valley has exposed an enormous amount of mineral wealth throughout the south and east of the Congo, making it accessible to mining. Cobalt, copper, cadmium, industrial and gem-quality diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, germanium, uranium, radium, bauxite, iron ore, and coal are all found in plentiful supply, especially in the Congo's southeastern Katanga region. [104]

On 17 January 2002 Mount Nyiragongo erupted in Congo, with the lava running out at 64 km/h (40 mph) and 46 m (50 yd) wide. One of the three streams of extremely fluid lava flowed through the nearby city of Goma, killing 45 and leaving 120,000 homeless. Four hundred thousand people were evacuated from the city during the eruption. The lava poisoned the water of Lake Kivu, killing fish. Only two planes left the local airport because of the possibility of the explosion of stored petrol. The lava passed the airport but ruined the runway, trapping several airplanes. Six months after the 2002 eruption, nearby Mount Nyamuragira also erupted. Mount Nyamuragira then erupted in 2006 and again in January 2010. [105]

    – home to the rare bonobo primate
  • The Eastern Congolian swamp forests along the Congo River
  • The Northeastern Congolian lowland forests, with one of the richest concentrations of primates in the world
  • A large section of the Central Zambezian miombo woodlands
  • The Albertine Rift montane forests region of high forest runs along the eastern borders of the country.

Provinces Edit

The country is currently divided into the city-province of Kinshasa and 25 other provinces. [3] The provinces are subdivided into 145 territories and 32 cities. Before 2015, the country had 11 provinces. [106]

Flora and fauna Edit

The rainforests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo contain great biodiversity, including many rare and endemic species, such as the common chimpanzee and the bonobo, the African forest elephant, the mountain gorilla, the okapi and the white rhino. Five of the country's national parks are listed as World Heritage Sites: the Garumba, Kahuzi-Biega, Salonga and Virunga National Parks, and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of 17 Megadiverse countries, and is the most biodiverse African country. [107]

The civil war and resulting in poor economic conditions have endangered much of this biodiversity. Many park wardens were either killed or could not afford to continue their work. All five sites are listed by UNESCO as World Heritage in Danger.

Conservationists have particularly worried about primates. The Congo is inhabited by several great ape species: the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), the bonobo (Pan paniscus), the eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei), and possibly the western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla). [108] It is the only country in the world in which bonobos are found in the wild. Much concern has been raised about great ape extinction. Because of hunting and habitat destruction, the chimpanzee, the bonobo and the gorilla, each of whose populations once numbered in the millions, have now dwindled down to only about 200,000 gorillas, 100,000 chimpanzees and possibly only about 10,000 bonobos. [109] [110] Gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos are all classified as endangered by the World Conservation Union, as well as the okapi, which is also native to the area.

Poaching Edit

Poaching for the exotic animal or ivory trade has been a persistent problem for species loss in the DRC, it has been made a necessity for some trying to escape poverty and a means of continuing the civil war for some rebel groups including the Lords Resistance army (LRA). [111] The forest elephant is particularly at risk due to the high cost of its ivory, especially in the Far East, which led to a 62% decrease in population in 2002–2011 [112] The main way this poaching for ivory can be reduced is through the hampering of the international demand for ivory, as this drives the trade. [112]

The introduction of park guards and the implementation of eco-tourism in Virunga National park, a primary habitat for great apes, has allowed the endangered mountain gorilla population to jump over 1000, a 25% rise on 2010 numbers. [113] However, the study indicated that poaching is still an existing problem, with researchers finding 380 snares and park guards continually being ambushed and killed by poachers. [113]

Government Edit

After a four-year interlude between two constitutions, with new political institutions established at the various levels of government, as well as new administrative divisions for the provinces throughout the country, a new constitution came into effect in 2006 and politics in the Democratic Republic of the Congo finally settled into a stable presidential democratic republic. The 2003 transitional constitution [114] had established a parliament with a bicameral legislature, consisting of a Senate and a National Assembly.

The Senate had, among other things, the charge of drafting the new constitution of the country. The executive branch was vested in a 60-member cabinet, headed by a President and four vice presidents. The President was also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. The transitional constitution also established a relatively independent judiciary, headed by a Supreme Court with constitutional interpretation powers. [115]

The 2006 constitution, also known as the Constitution of the Third Republic, came into effect in February 2006. It had concurrent authority, however, with the transitional constitution until the inauguration of the elected officials who emerged from the July 2006 elections. Under the new constitution, the legislature remained bicameral the executive was concomitantly undertaken by a President and the government, led by a Prime Minister, appointed from the party able to secure a majority in the National Assembly.

The government – not the President – is responsible to the Parliament. The new constitution also granted new powers to the provincial governments, creating provincial parliaments which have oversight of the Governor and the head of the provincial government, whom they elect. The new constitution also saw the disappearance of the Supreme Court, which was divided into three new institutions. The constitutional interpretation prerogative of the Supreme Court is now held by the Constitutional Court. [116]

Although located in the Central African UN subregion, the nation is also economically and regionally affiliated with Southern Africa as a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). [117]

Foreign relations Edit

The global growth in demand for scarce raw materials and the industrial surges in China, India, Russia, Brazil and other developing countries require that developed countries employ new, integrated and responsive strategies for identifying and ensuring, on a continual basis, an adequate supply of strategic and critical materials required for their security needs. [118] Highlighting the DR Congo's importance to United States national security, the effort to establish an elite Congolese unit is the latest push by the U.S. to professionalize armed forces in this strategically important region. [119]

There are economic and strategic incentives to bring more security to the Congo, which is rich in natural resources such as cobalt, a strategic and critical metal used in many industrial and military applications. [118] The largest use of cobalt is in superalloys, used to make jet engine parts. Cobalt is also used in magnetic alloys and in cutting and wear-resistant materials such as cemented carbides. The chemical industry consumes significant quantities of cobalt in a variety of applications including catalysts for petroleum and chemical processing drying agents for paints and inks ground coats for porcelain enamels decolorant for ceramics and glass and pigments for ceramics, paints, and plastics. The country possesses 80% of the world's cobalt reserves. [120]

It is thought that due to the importance of cobalt for batteries for electric vehicles and stabilization of electric grids with large proportions of intermittent renewables in the electricity mix, the DRC could become an object of increased geopolitical competition. [118]

In the 21st century, Chinese investment in the DRC and Congolese exports to China have grown rapidly. In July 2019, UN ambassadors of 37 countries, including DRC, have signed a joint letter to the UNHRC defending China's treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities. [121]

Military Edit

The Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) consist of about 144,000 personnel, the majority of whom are part of the land forces, also with a small air force and an even smaller navy. The FARDC was established in 2003 after the end of the Second Congo War and integrated many former rebel groups into its ranks. Due to the presence of undisciplined and poorly trained ex-rebels, as well as a lack of funding and having spent years fighting against different militias, the FARDC suffers from rampant corruption and inefficiency. The agreements signed at the end of the Second Congo War called for a new "national, restructured and integrated" army that would be made up of Kabila's government forces (the FAC), the RCD, and the MLC. Also stipulated was that rebels like the RCD-N, RCD-ML, and the Mai-Mai would become part of the new armed forces. It also provided for the creation of a Conseil Superieur de la Defense (Superior Defence Council) which would declare states of siege or war and give advice on security sector reform, disarmament/demobilisation, and national defence policy. The FARDC is organised on the basis of brigades, which are dispersed throughout the provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Congolese troops have been fighting the Kivu conflict in the eastern North Kivu region, the Ituri conflict in the Ituri region, and other rebellions since the Second Congo War. Besides the FARDC, the largest peacekeeping mission of the United Nations, known as MONUSCO, is also present in the country with about 18,000 peacekeepers.

The Democratic Republic of Congo signed the UN treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. [122]

Corruption Edit

Mobutu Sese Seko ruled the DRC, which he renamed Zaire, from 1965 to 1997. A relative explained how the government illicitly collected revenue: "Mobutu would ask one of us to go to the bank and take out a million. We'd go to an intermediary and tell him to get five million. He would go to the bank with Mobutu's authority and take out ten. Mobutu got one, and we took the other nine." [123] Mobutu institutionalized corruption to prevent political rivals from challenging his control, leading to an economic collapse in 1996. [124]

Mobutu allegedly stole as much as US$4–5 billion while in office. [125] He was not the first corrupt Congolese leader by any means: "Government as a system of organized theft goes back to King Leopold II," noted Adam Hochschild in 2009. [126] In July 2009, a Swiss court determined that the statute of limitations had run out on an international asset recovery case of about $6.7 million of deposits of Mobutu's in a Swiss bank, and therefore the assets should be returned to Mobutu's family. [127]

President Joseph Kabila established the Commission of Repression of Economic Crimes upon his ascension to power in 2001. [128] However, in 2016 the Enough Project issued a report claiming that the Congo is run as a violent kleptocracy. [129]

Human rights Edit

The International Criminal Court investigation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was initiated by Joseph Kabila in April 2004. The International Criminal Court prosecutor opened the case in June 2004.

Child soldiers have been used on a large scale in DRC, and in 2011 it was estimated that 30,000 children were still operating with armed groups. [130]

Instances of child labor and forced labor have been observed and reported in the U.S. Department of Labor's Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor in the DRC in 2013 [131] and six goods produced by the country's mining industry appear on the department's December 2014 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor.

Violence against women Edit

Violence against women seems to be perceived by large sectors of society to be normal. [132] The 2013–2014 DHS survey (pp. 299) found that 74.8% of women agreed that a husband is justified in beating his wife in certain circumstances. [133]

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 2006 expressed concern that in the post-war transition period, the promotion of women's human rights and gender equality is not seen as a priority. [134] [135] Mass rapes, sexual violence and sexual slavery are used as a weapon of war by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and armed groups in the eastern part of the country. [136] The eastern part of the country in particular has been described as the "rape capital of the world" and the prevalence of sexual violence there described as the worst in the world. [137] [138]

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is also practiced in DRC, although not on a large scale. The prevalence of FGM is estimated at about 5% of women. [139] [140] FGM is illegal: the law imposes a penalty of two to five years of prison and a fine of 200,000 Congolese francs on any person who violates the "physical or functional integrity" of the genital organs. [141] [142]

In July 2007, the International Committee of the Red Cross expressed concern about the situation in eastern DRC. [143] A phenomenon of "pendulum displacement" has developed, where people hasten at night to safety. According to Yakin Ertürk, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women who toured eastern Congo in July 2007, violence against women in North and South Kivu included "unimaginable brutality". Ertürk added that "Armed groups attack local communities, loot, rape, kidnap women and children, and make them work as sexual slaves". [144] In December 2008, GuardianFilms of The Guardian released a film documenting the testimony of over 400 women and girls who had been abused by marauding militia. [145]

In June 2010, Oxfam reported a dramatic increase in the number of rapes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and researchers from Harvard discovered that rapes committed by civilians had increased seventeenfold. [146] In June 2014, Freedom from Torture published reported rape and sexual violence being used routinely by state officials in Congolese prisons as punishment for politically active women. [147] The women included in the report were abused in several locations across the country including the capital Kinshasa and other areas away from the conflict zones. [147]

In 2015, figures both inside and outside of the country, such as Filimbi and Emmanuel Weyi, spoke out about the need to curb violence and instability as the 2016 elections approached. [148] [149]

The Central Bank of the Congo is responsible for developing and maintaining the Congolese franc, which serves as the primary form of currency in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2007, The World Bank decided to grant the Democratic Republic of Congo up to $1.3 billion in assistance funds over the following three years. [150] The Congolese government started negotiating membership in the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA), in 2009. [151]

The Democratic Republic of Congo is widely considered one of the world's richest countries in natural resources its untapped deposits of raw minerals are estimated to be worth in excess of US$24 trillion. [152] [153] [154] The Congo has 70% of the world's coltan, a third of its cobalt, more than 30% of its diamond reserves, and a tenth of its copper. [155] [156]

Despite such vast mineral wealth, the economy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has declined drastically since the mid-1980s. The African country generated up to 70% of its export revenue from minerals in the 1970s and 1980s and was particularly hit when resource prices deteriorated at that time. By 2005, 90% of the DRC's revenues derived from its minerals (Exenberger and Hartmann 2007:10). [157] Congolese citizens are among the poorest people on Earth. DR Congo consistently has the lowest, or nearly the lowest, nominal GDP per capita in the world. The DRC is also one of the twenty lowest-ranked countries on the Corruption Perception Index.

Mining Edit

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the world's largest producer of cobalt ore, and a major producer of copper and diamonds. [158] The latter come from Kasai province in the west. By far the largest mines in the DRC are located in southern Katanga province (formerly Shaba), and are highly mechanized, with a capacity of several million tons per year of copper and cobalt ore, and refining capability for metal ore. The DRC is the second-largest diamond-producing nation in the world, [159] and artisanal and small-scale miners account for most of its production.

At independence in 1960, DRC was the second-most industrialized country in Africa after South Africa it boasted a thriving mining sector and a relatively productive agriculture sector. [160] The First and Second Congo Wars began in 1996. These conflicts have dramatically reduced national output and government revenue, increased external debt, and resulted in deaths of more than five million people from war and associated famine and disease. Malnutrition affects approximately two-thirds of the country's population. [ citation needed ]

Foreign businesses have curtailed operations due to uncertainty about the outcome of the conflict, lack of infrastructure, and the difficult operating environment. The war intensified the impact of such basic problems as an uncertain legal framework, corruption, inflation, and lack of openness in government economic policy and financial operations.

Conditions improved in late 2002, when a large portion of the invading foreign troops withdrew. A number of International Monetary Fund and World Bank missions met with the government to help it develop a coherent economic plan, and President Joseph Kabila began implementing reforms. Much economic activity still lies outside the GDP data. A United Nations Human Development Index report shows that the human development index of DRC is one of the worst the country has had in decades. Through 2011 the DRC had the lowest Human Development Index of the 187 ranked countries. It ranked lower than Niger, despite a higher margin of improvement than the latter country over 2010's numbers. [ citation needed ]

The economy of DRC relies heavily on mining. However, the smaller-scale economic activity from artisanal mining occurs in the informal sector and is not reflected in GDP data. [161] A third of the DRC's diamonds are believed to be smuggled out of the country, making it difficult to quantify diamond production levels. [162] In 2002, tin was discovered in the east of the country, but to date has only been mined on a small scale. [163] Smuggling of conflict minerals such as coltan and cassiterite, ores of tantalum and tin, respectively, helped to fuel the war in the Eastern Congo. [164]

In September 2004, state-owned Gécamines signed an agreement with Global Enterprises Corporate (GEC), a company formed by the merger of Dan Gertler International (DGI) with Beny Steinmetz Global, to rehabilitate and operate the Kananga and Tilwezembe copper mines. The deal was ratified by presidential decree. In 2007, a World Bank report reviewed DR Congo's three biggest mining contracts, finding that the 2005 deals, including one with Global Enterprises Company, were approved with "a complete lack of transparency" (Mahtani, 3 January 2007). [165] [166] [167] Gertler and Steinmetz put GEC's 75% share in Komoto Oliveira Virgule (KOV), the project made of up of Tilwezembe and Kananga, along with the Kolwesi concentrator, into Nikanor plc. Registered in the Isle of Man, it reached a market capitalization of $1.5 billion by 2007. [166] In February 2007, 22% of the Nikanor Mining company was owned by the Gertner Family Trust and 14% by Dan Gertler. [168] In January 2008 Katanga Mining acquired Nikanor for $452 million. [167]

In April 2006, Gertler's DGI took a major stake in DEM Mining, a cobalt-copper mining, and services company based in Katanga. [166] In June 2006, Gertler bought Tremalt from the Zimbabwean businessman John Bredenkamp for about $60 million. Tremalt had a half share in the Mukondo Mine. In 2007, Tremalt was owned by Prairie International Ltd, of which Dan Gertler's family trust was a major shareholder. Tremalt owned 80% of Savannah Mining, which held concessions C17 and C18 in Katanga Province and 50% of the Mukondo project. The other 50% of Mukondo was held by Boss Mining, which in turn was 80% owned by Central African Mining & Exploration Company (CAMEC). Boss Mining had rented and operated Bredenkamp's half of Mukondo. Gertler terminated this arrangement. [166]

Katanga Mining Limited, a Swiss-owned company, owns the Luilu Metallurgical Plant, which has a capacity of 175,000 tonnes of copper and 8,000 tonnes of cobalt per year, making it the largest cobalt refinery in the world. After a major rehabilitation program, the company resumed copper production operations in December 2007 and cobalt production in May 2008. [169]

In April 2013, anti-corruption NGOs revealed that Congolese tax authorities had failed to account for $88 million from the mining sector, despite booming production and positive industrial performance. The missing funds date from 2010 and tax bodies should have paid them into the central bank. [170] Later in 2013, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative suspended the country's candidacy for membership due to insufficient reporting, monitoring and independent audits, but in July 2013 the country improved its accounting and transparency practices to the point where the EITI gave the country full membership.

In February 2018, global asset management firm AllianceBernstein [171] defined the DRC as economically "the Saudi Arabia of the electric vehicle age," due to its cobalt resources, as essential to the lithium-ion batteries that drive electric vehicles. [172]

Transportation Edit

Ground transport in the Democratic Republic of Congo has always been difficult. The terrain and climate of the Congo Basin present serious barriers to road and rail construction, and the distances are enormous across this vast country. The DRC has more navigable rivers and moves more passengers and goods by boat and ferry than any other country in Africa, but air transport remains the only effective means of moving goods and people between many places within the country, especially in rural areas. Chronic economic mismanagement, political corruption and internal conflicts have led to long-term under-investment of infrastructure.

Rail Edit

Rail transportation is provided by the Congo Railroad Company (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer du Congo) and the Office National des Transports (Congo) (ONATRA) and the Office of the Uele Railways (Office des Chemins de fer des Ueles, CFU). Like much of the infrastructure in the Congo, the railways are poorly maintained, dirty, crowded and dangerous.

Road Edit

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has fewer all-weather paved highways than any country of its population and size in Africa — a total of 2,250 km (1,400 mi), of which only 1,226 km (762 mi) is in good condition (see below). To put this in perspective, the road distance across the country in any direction is more than 2,500 km (1,600 mi) (e.g. Matadi to Lubumbashi, 2,700 km (1,700 mi) by road). The figure of 2,250 km (1,400 mi) converts to 35 km (22 mi) of paved road per 1,000,000 of population. Comparative figures for Zambia and Botswana are 721 km (448 mi) and 3,427 km (2,129 mi) respectively. [173]

Three routes in the Trans-African Highway network pass through DR Congo:

    : this route crosses the western extremity of the country on National Road No. 1 between Kinshasa and Matadi, a distance of 285 km (177 mi) on one of the only paved sections in fair condition. : the DR Congo is the main missing link in this east-west highway and requires a new road to be constructed before it can function. : this east-west highway crosses Katanga and requires re-construction over most of its length, being an earth track between the Angolan border and Kolwezi, a paved road in very poor condition between Kolwezi and Lubumbashi, and a paved road in fair condition over the short distance to the Zambian border.

Water Edit

The Democratic Republic of Congo has thousands of kilometres of navigable waterways. Traditionally water transport has been the dominant means of moving around in approximately two-thirds of the country.

Air Edit

As of June 2016 [update] , DR Congo had one major national airline (Congo Airways) that offered flights inside DR Congo. Congo Airways was based at Kinshasa's international airport. All air carriers certified by the DRC have been banned from European Union airports by the European Commission, due to inadequate safety standards. [174]

Several international airlines service Kinshasa's international airport and a few also offer international flights to Lubumbashi International Airport.

Energy Edit

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there are both coal and crude oil resources that were mainly used domestically in 2008. The Democratic Republic of Congo has the infrastructure for hydro-electricity from the Congo River at the Inga dams. [175] The Democratic Republic of Congo also possesses 50% of Africa's forests and a river system that could provide hydro-electric power to the entire continent, according to a UN report on the country's strategic significance and its potential role as an economic power in central Africa. [176]

The generation and distribution of electricity are controlled by Société nationale d'électricité (SNEL), but only 15% of the country has access to electricity. [177] The DRC is a member of three electrical power pools. These are SAPP (Southern African Power Pool), EAPP (East African Power Pool), CAPP (Central African Power Pool).

Renewable energy Edit

Because of abundant sunlight, the potential for solar development is very high in the DRC. There are already about 836 solar power systems in the DRC, with a total power of 83 kW, located in Équateur (167), Katanga (159), Nord-Kivu (170), the two Kasaï provinces (170), and Bas-Congo (170). Also, the 148 Caritas network system has a total power of 6.31 kW. [178]

Education Edit

In 2014, the literacy rate for the population between the ages of 15 and 49 was estimated to be 75.9% (88.1% male and 63.8% female) according to a DHS nationwide survey. [179] The education system in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is governed by three government ministries: the Ministère de l'Enseignement Primaire, Secondaire et Professionnel (MEPSP), the Ministère de l'Enseignement Supérieur et Universitaire (MESU) and the Ministère des Affaires Sociales (MAS). Primary education in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is not free or compulsory, [ citation needed ] even though the Congolese constitution says it should be (Article 43 of the 2005 Congolese Constitution). [180]

As a result of the six-year civil war in the late 1990s—early 2000s, over 5.2 million children in the country did not receive any education. [181] Since the end of the civil war, the situation has improved tremendously, with the number of children enrolled in primary schools rising from 5.5 million in 2002 to 16.8 million in 2018, and the number of children enrolled in secondary schools rising from 2.8 million in 2007 to 4.6 million in 2015 according to UNESCO. [182]

Actual school attendance has also improved greatly in recent years, with primary school net attendance estimated to be 82.4% in 2014 (82.4% of children ages 6–11 attended school 83.4% for boys, 80.6% for girls). [183]

Health Edit

The hospitals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo include the General Hospital of Kinshasa. DRC has the world's second-highest rate of infant mortality (after Chad). In April 2011, through aid from Global Alliance for Vaccines, a new vaccine to prevent pneumococcal disease was introduced around Kinshasa. [184]

In 2012, it was estimated that about 1.1% of adults aged 15–49 were living with HIV/AIDS. [185] Malaria is also a problem. [186] [187] Yellow fever also affects DRC. [188]

Maternal health is poor in DRC. According to 2010 estimates, DRC has the 17th highest maternal mortality rate in the world. [189] According to UNICEF, 43.5% of children under five are stunted. [190]

In May 2019, the death toll from the Ebola outbreak in DRC surpassed 1,000. [191]

United Nations emergency food relief agency warned that amid the escalating conflict and worsening situation following COVID-19 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, millions of lives were at risk as they could die of hunger. According to the data of the World Food Programme, four in ten people in Congo lack food security and about 15.6 million have been facing hunger crisis. [192]

Crime and law enforcement Edit

The Congolese National Police (PNC) are the primary police force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. [193]

Largest cities Edit

Ethnic groups Edit

Over 200 ethnic groups populate the Democratic Republic of the Congo, of which the majority are Bantu peoples. Together, Mongo, Luba, Kongo peoples, Mangbetu and the Azande peoples constitute around 45% of the population. The Kongo people are the largest ethnic group in the Democratic Republic of Congo. [195]

In 2018, the United Nations estimated the country's population to be 84 million people, [196] [197] a rapid increase from 39.1 million in 1992 despite the ongoing war. [198] As many as 250 ethnic groups have been identified and named. The most numerous people are the Kongo, Luba, and Mongo. About 600,000 Pygmies are the aboriginal people of the DR Congo. [199] Although several hundred local languages and dialects are spoken, the linguistic variety is bridged both by widespread use of French and the national intermediary languages Kikongo, Tshiluba, Swahili, and Lingala.

Migration Edit

Given the situation in the country and the condition of state structures, it is extremely difficult to obtain reliable migration data. However, evidence suggests that DRC continues to be a destination country for immigrants, in spite of recent declines in their numbers. Immigration is very diverse in nature refugees and asylum-seekers – products of the numerous and violent conflicts in the Great Lakes Region – constitute an important subset of the population. Additionally, the country's large mine operations attract migrant workers from Africa and beyond. There is also considerable migration for commercial activities from other African countries and the rest of the world, but these movements are not well studied. [200] Transit migration towards South Africa and Europe also plays a role.

Immigration to the DRC has decreased steadily over the past two decades, most likely as a result of the armed violence that the country has experienced. According to the International Organization for Migration, the number of immigrants in the DRC has fallen from just over one million in 1960, to 754,000 in 1990, to 480,000 in 2005, to an estimated 445,000 in 2010. Official figures are unavailable, partly due to the predominance of the informal economy in the DRC. Data are also lacking on irregular immigrants, however given neighbouring countries' ethnic links to DRC nationals, irregular migration is assumed to be a significant phenomenon. [200]

Figures for Congolese nationals abroad vary greatly depending on the source, from three to six million. This discrepancy is due to a lack of official, reliable data. Emigrants from the DRC are above all long-term emigrants, the majority of whom live in Africa and to a lesser extent in Europe 79.7% and 15.3% respectively, according to estimated 2000 data. New destination countries include South Africa and various points en route to Europe. The DRC has produced a considerable number of refugees and asylum-seekers located in the region and beyond. These numbers peaked in 2004 when, according to UNHCR, there were more than 460,000 refugees from the DRC in 2008, Congolese refugees numbered 367,995 in total, 68% of whom were living in other African countries. [200]

Since 2003, more than 400,000 Congolese migrants have been expelled from Angola. [201]

Religion Edit

Christianity is the majority religion in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The most recent survey, conducted by the Demographic and Health Surveys Program in 2013–2014 indicated that Christians constituted 93.7% of the population (with Catholics making up 29.7%, Protestants 26.8%, and other Christians 37.2%). An indigenous Christian religious movement, Kimbanguism, had the adherence of only 2.8%, while Muslims made up 1.2%. [202] Other recent estimates have found Christianity the majority religion, followed by 95.8% of the population according to a 2010 Pew Research Center [203] estimate, while the CIA World Factbook reports this figure to be 95.9%. [204] The proportion of followers of Islam is variously estimated from 1% [205] to 12% [206]

There are about 35 million Catholics in the country [3] with six archdioceses and 41 dioceses. [207] The impact of the Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo is difficult to overestimate. Schatzberg has called it the country's "only truly national institution apart from the state." [208] Its schools have educated over 60% of the nation's primary school students and more than 40% of its secondary students. The church owns and manages an extensive network of hospitals, schools, and clinics, as well as many diocesan economic enterprises, including farms, ranches, stores, and artisans' shops. [ citation needed ]

Sixty-two Protestant denominations are federated under the umbrella of the Church of Christ in Congo. It is often simply referred to as the Protestant Church, since it covers most of the DRC Protestants. With more than 25 million members, it constitutes one of the largest Protestant bodies in the world.

Kimbanguism was seen as a threat to the colonial regime and was banned by the Belgians. Kimbanguism, officially "the church of Christ on Earth by the prophet Simon Kimbangu", now has about three million members, [209] primarily among the Bakongo of Bas-Congo and Kinshasa.

Islam has been present in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since the 18th century, when Arab traders from East Africa pushed into the interior for ivory- and slave-trading purposes. Today, Muslims constitute approximately 1% of the Congolese population according to Pew research center. The majority are Sunni Muslims.

The first members of the Baháʼí Faith to live in the country came from Uganda in 1953. Four years later the first local administrative council was elected. In 1970 the National Spiritual Assembly (national administrative council) was first elected. Though the religion was banned in the 1970s and 1980s, due to misrepresentations of foreign governments, the ban was lifted by the end of the 1980s. In 2012 plans were announced to build a national Baháʼí House of Worship in the country. [210]

Traditional religions embody such concepts as monotheism, animism, vitalism, spirit and ancestor worship, witchcraft, and sorcery and vary widely among ethnic groups. The syncretic sects often merge elements of Christianity with traditional beliefs and rituals and are not recognized by mainstream churches as part of Christianity. New variants of ancient beliefs have become widespread, led by US-inspired Pentecostal churches which have been in the forefront of witchcraft accusations, particularly against children and the elderly. [ clarification needed ] [211] Children accused of witchcraft are sent away from homes and family, often to live on the street, which can lead to physical violence against these children. [212] [ clarification needed ] [213] There are charities supporting street children such as the Congo Children Trust. [214] The Congo Children Trust's flagship project is Kimbilio, [215] which works to reunite street children in Lubumbashi. The usual term for these children is enfants sorciers (child witches) or enfants dits sorciers (children accused of witchcraft). Non-denominational church organizations have been formed to capitalize on this belief by charging exorbitant fees for exorcisms. Though recently outlawed, children have been subjected in these exorcisms to often-violent abuse at the hands of self-proclaimed prophets and priests. [216]

Source Christianity
Catholicism Protestantism Islam Other Source
US State Department 90% 45% 40% 5% 10%(Including other Christians) [1]
Pew Research Center 96% 47% 48% 1.5% 2.5% [2] [3]
CIA World Factbook 95.9% 29.9% 26.7% 1.3% 42.1%(Including other Christians) [4]
Association of Religion Data Archives 93.9% 55.8% 39.1% 2.1% 5.1% [5]

Languages Edit

French is the official language of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is culturally accepted as the lingua franca facilitating communication among the many different ethnic groups of the Congo. According to a 2014 OIF report, 33 million Congolese people (47% of the population) could read and write in French. [217] In the capital city Kinshasa, 67% of the population could read and write French, and 68.5% could speak and understand it. [218]

Approximately 242 languages are spoken in the country, but only four have the status of national languages: Kituba ("Kikongo ya leta"), Lingala, Tshiluba, and Swahili. Although some people speak these regional, or trade languages as first languages, most of the population speak them as a second language after their own ethnic language. Lingala was the official language of the colonial army, the "Force Publique", under Belgian colonial rule, and remains to this day the predominant language in the armed forces. Since the recent rebellions, a good part of the army in the East also uses Swahili where it is prevalent.

When the country was a Belgian colony, the Belgian colonizers instituted teaching and use of the four national languages in primary schools, making it one of the few African nations to have had literacy in local languages during the European colonial period. This trend was reversed after independence, when French became the sole language of education at all levels. [219] Since 1975, the four national languages have been reintroduced in the first two years of primary education, with French becoming the sole language of education from the third year onward, but in practice many primary schools in urban areas solely use French from the first year of school onward. [219] Portuguese is taught in the Congolese schools as a foreign language. The lexical similarity and phonology with French makes Portuguese a relatively easy language for the people to learn. Most of the roughly 175,000 Portuguese speakers in the DRC are Angolan and Mozambican expatriates.

The culture of the Democratic Republic of the Congo reflects the diversity of its hundreds of ethnic groups and their differing ways of life throughout the country — from the mouth of the River Congo on the coast, upriver through the rainforest and savanna in its centre, to the more densely populated mountains in the far east. Since the late 19th century, traditional ways of life have undergone changes brought about by colonialism, the struggle for independence, the stagnation of the Mobutu era, and most recently, the First and Second Congo Wars. Despite these pressures, the customs and cultures of the Congo have retained much of their individuality. The country's 81 million inhabitants (2016) are mainly rural. The 30% who live in urban areas have been the most open to Western influences.

Music Edit

Another feature in Congo culture is its music. The DRC has its influences on Cuban music rumba, originally kumba from Congo and merengue. And those two later give birth to soukous. [220] Other African nations produce music genres derived from Congolese soukous. Some of the African bands sing in Lingala, one of the main languages in the DRC. The same Congolese soukous, under the guidance of "le sapeur", Papa Wemba, have set the tone for a generation of young men always dressed up in expensive designer clothes. They came to be known as the fourth generation of Congolese music and mostly come from the former well-known band Wenge Musica [fr] .

Sports Edit

Many sports are played in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including football, basketball, and rugby. The sports are played in numerous stadiums throughout the country, including the Stade Frederic Kibassa Maliba. [221] As Zaire they have participated in the World Cup Football (Final stage) in 1974.

Internationally, the country is especially famous for its professional basketball NBA and football players. Dikembe Mutombo is one of the best African basketball players to ever play the game. Mutombo is well known for humanitarian projects in his home country. Bismack Biyombo, Christian Eyenga, and Emmanuel Mudiay are others who gained significant international attention in basketball. Several Congolese players and players of Congolese descent—including strikers Romelu Lukaku, Yannick Bolasie, and Dieumerci Mbokani—have gained prominence in world football. DR Congo has twice won the African Cup of Nations football tournament.

Food Edit

Media Edit

Newspapers of the DRC include L'Avenir, Radion Télévision Mwangaza, La Conscience [fr] , L'Observateur [fr] , Le Phare, Le Potentiel, Le Soft and LeCongolais.CD, [222] a web-based daily. [223] Radio Télévision Nationale Congolaise (RTNC) is the national broadcaster of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. RTNC currently broadcasts in Lingala, French, and English.

Literature Edit

Congolese authors use literature as a way to develop a sense of national consciousness amongst the Congo people. The tragic history of colonialism and war lead the Congolese people to settle in a place of complacency, accepting the culture that was forced upon them by Belgium.

Modern Congolese literature began to emerge in the late 1950s. There are a few rare pieces of literature dated back to before WWI, but it was not until about 1954 that literature written in French made its appearance in the Congo. After gaining their independence from Belgium in the 1960s, new authors, such as Guy Menga and Jean Pierre Makouta-Mboukou, were inspired by older authors, such as Jean Malonga from Congo-Brazzaville, and used writing to bring attention to new issues affecting the Congo. The rise of female authors began in the 1970s introducing diversity to Congolese literature and support for gender empowerment. Many authors who have contributed to the success of Congolese literature are now living abroad due to economic and political issues. [224]

Frederick Kambemba Yamusangie writes literature for the between generations of those who grew up in the Congo, during the time when they were colonised, fighting for independence and after. Yamusangie in an interview [225] said he felt the distance in literature and wanted to remedy that he wrote the novel, Full Circle, which is a story of a boy named Emanuel who in the beginning of the book feels a difference in culture among the different groups in the Congo and elsewhere. [226]

Rais Neza Boneza, an author from the Katanga province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, wrote novels and poems to promote artistic expressions as a way to address and deal with conflicts. [227]

These authors, along with others, used their platforms to bring awareness to the crises and conflicts that took place in the Congo.

Environmental issues Edit

A dense tropical rainforest in the DRC's central river basin and eastern highlands is bordered on the east by the Albertine Rift (the western branch of Africa's Great Rift System). It includes several of Africa's Great Lakes.

Major environmental issues

DR Congo's major environmental issues include:

Displaced refugees cause or are otherwise responsible for significant deforestation, soil erosion and wildlife poaching. Another significant issue is environmental damage from the mining of minerals, especially diamonds, gold, and coltan – a mineral used to manufacture capacitors.

Species and Biodiversity loss Edit

The environmental problems associated with The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) affect its many endemic species of flora and fauna. The DRC has the world's second largest contiguous rain forest after the Amazon as well as other ecosystems including Savanna, swamps and flood plains. According to the World Wildlife Fund, these unique habitats and species make the DRC one of the most valuable yet vulnerable areas in the world for biodiversity, wildlife protection and rainforest sustainability. [229]

Species loss has been cited as a problem in the DRC, brought about or exacerbated by reasons that include deforestation for mining, wood fuel, infrastructure or agriculture, war, illegal poaching and increased consumption of bush meat due to overpopulation and lack of food security. [230] Some attempts to combat species loss in countries such as the DRC are actions such as the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), specifically SDG 15 Life on Land, the primary goals of which is to increase reforestation and biodiversity and reduce species loss, desertification, and illegal poaching. [231] One of the primary defences for species and habitat protection in the DRC is its system of national parks and reserves, which gives protected status to nearly 12% of the DRC's rainforest. [232] Five of these parks and reserves are UNESCO world heritage sites, including Africa’s first national park Virunga national park. All of these parks have been put on the World Heritage in Danger List. [233] Poor governance and low economic conditions have reduced the effectiveness of these protections, especially during war times. [232] The human cost of protecting these parks has also been high with 200 park ranger deaths in the past 20 years. [234] Virunga national park and Salongo National Park, both of which are UNESCO world heritage sites are currently being looked at for mining and oil exploration. The move would open 21.5% of the Virunga park for exploitation, this is highly criticised by animal rights activists as it would threaten the habitat of mountain gorillas and other endangered species.

Deforestation Edit

Between 2000 and 2014 the DRC lost an average of 570,000 hectares (0.2%) of rainforest to deforestation per year, with the highest amount of deforestation coming between 2011 and 2014. [235] Deforestation is the primary cause of biodiversity reduction and species loss globally, through habitat loss and fragmentation. [236] One of the goals of the SDG 15 is to reduce deforestation and encourage reforestation by 2020. The DRC had a 2018 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 7.56/10, ranking it 36th globally out of 172 countries. [237]

The DRC has Africa’s largest rainforest, which is under the threat of deforestation through mining operations, agriculture, infrastructure and wood fuel. In the DRC 94% of wood taken from the rainforest is used for wood fuel, mainly due to poverty, lack of energy infrastructure and the decentralised nature of its population. To mitigate this aid agencies have tried to promote agro-forestry with fast growing trees to avoid over exploitation of the rainforests. [238] Other large drivers of deforestation include mining and conflict, during the Congo conflict deforestation by militia groups was high for wood fuel, small mining operations and illegal logging to fund their operations. However, conversely conflict reduced deforestation for large scale mining due to security instability. [232]

One policy being attempted to reduce the deforestation and increase biodiversity in the DRC is the UN-REDD program, which uses emissions trading system so that developed nations can offset their carbon emissions by paying developing nations with rainforest to manage and conserve their forest. [239]

Bush meat Edit

Bush meat refers to any meat that is procured from the wild. Overpopulation and continual conflicts in the DRC have led to food shortages, which have therefore increased the use of bush meat. Although data on bush meat use is not extensive, studies estimate 6 million tonnes of animals are taken for bush meat globally each year. [240] What animals are hunted are done so indiscriminately without thought of the importance of certain species that could be ecosystem engineers or keystone species. [240]

Bush meat is an important source of protein for millions in the DRC, especially in rural areas where it makes up 50–70% of meals. For some who cannot afford farmed produce it is a free meal. [241] A recent study in the DRC revealed that almost all of the animals are taken from the Congo each year, at 93% of all live animals there are in the forest are extracted for bush meat, whereas a sustainable rate would be 20%. [242] This is a huge amount compared to the Amazon where bush meat is hunted at only 3% the rate of the Congo. [242] the study reveals the only way to solve this is to find other food sources to feed people in the Congo Basin as bush meat is their only means of eating. [242] Another study showed that the species of bush meat in the meat markets of the DRC's third largest city Kisangani were primarily Artiodactyla at 40.06% of the carcasses sold then primates at 37.79% of carcasses sold. [243]

Recently the prevalence of hunting for bush meat has declined because of the risk to hunters and butchers from the Ebola virus from specifically ape and bat meat. [244] Even though when the meat is cooked smoked or dried it kills the virus, business has dropped significantly with some hunters reporting as much of a reduction in sales of 80%. [244]

Conflicts Edit

There has been a war in the DRC in different levels of intensity since 1994 when the country was called Zaire. [245] Although what was known as Africa's World War had ended in 2003 the eastern part of the country still has ongoing skirmishes between rebel groups and government forces. [245] No other method has reduced species population so dramatically than conflict, when a militia reached the Garamba National Park in 1997, within three months half of the park's elephants, two thirds of the buffalo, and three quarters of its hippos vanished. [246] The reason conflict is so damaging to wildlife is the increased use of bush meat to feed soldiers, the prevalence of weapons, the lucrative industry of selling exotic animals and ivory as well as the general failure of law and order. [246] According to another study which was taken during the time of the civil war in the Okapi Faunal Reserve, there was a 50% reduction in the abundance of elephants and a vast change in the distribution of them to the more secluded areas of the park. [247]


USAID has provided assistance to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continuously since the country’s first years of independence. During the 1960s, USAID programs were directed at developing the United Nations’ new role as the coordinator of bilateral assistance. These programs focused on implementing a comprehensive economic stabilization program to contain inflation and improving internal security through military and police training.

In the first half of the 1970s, USAID helped the DRC establish infrastructure for road, river, maritime, and air transportation, and by the mid-1970s, USAID assistance expanded to meet the country’s basic developmental needs—health, agriculture, rural development, and human resource development.

In the 1980s, other components were added to USAID funded development assistance programs, including balance of payment support to encourage the manufacturing sector, reduce food shortages, encourage policy dialogues to foster the adoption of sound fiscal and monetary policies, and support private sector initiatives

Democratic Republic of the Congo: History

Belgium colonizes Kongo and announces the establishment of the Congo Free State.

The Belgian state annexes Congo amid protests against the millions of Congolese that have been killed or worked to death during the Belgian control of the territory.

Congo becomes independent, while the State of Katanga separates and proclaims its independence from the Republic of Congo.

A coup led by Joseph Mobutu takes place, succeeding and giving him control of the government. Later in 1971, he renames the country Zaire and himself, Mobutu Sese Seko also Katanga becomes Shaba and the river Congo becomes the river Zaire.

Mobutu begins to nationalize many foreign-owned firms and forces European investors out of the country.

The country fails to repay Belgium its loans, resulting in a cancellation of development programs and increased deterioration of the economy.

Tutsi rebels and other anti-Mobutu rebels, aided principally by Rwanda, capture the capital, Kinshasa, while Mobutu is abroad for medical treatment and rename the country to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Just after a few months of peace, rebels rise up against the new DR Congo government, with both sides backed by other African nations.

US refugee agency says the war has killed 2.5 million people, directly or indirectly, since August 1998.

Last Ugandan troops leave eastern DR Congo following the peace treaty signed in 2002.

The International Court of Justice rules that Uganda must compensate DR Congo for rights abused and the plundering of resources in the five years up to 2003.

DRCongo, Rwanda, and Burundi relaunch the regional economic bloc Great Lakes Countries Economic Community, known under its French acronym CEPGL.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Government

In addition to being in charge of the executory tasks of the government, the president also appoints the prime minister and judges and is commander and chief of armed forces. The prime minister heads the cabinet and advises and aids the president on executory tasks.

The president is elected by plurality vote.

The supreme court of justice is the highest court of the land. The constitutional court reviews cases concerning the constitution.

The supreme court of justice judges is nominated by the judicial service council, an independent body of public prosecutors and selected judges of the lower courts.

The legislative branch is in charge of policy making and oversees the prime minister's duties.

The senate has 108 members indirectly elected through an open-list proportional representation system. The national assembly has 61 members who are elected by plurality vote in single-member constituencies and 439 members who are elected by open list proportional representation in multi-member constituencies.


The transitional government is sworn in with Joseph Kabila as interim president. Democratic elections are scheduled to be held within two years. Fighting continues in the east.

October 2003

The UN panel on illegal exploitation publishes its final report concluding that the plunder of Congo's mineral wealth is likely to continue to fuel conflict and cause immense human suffering if national and international measures to curb it are not put in place. The panel recommends UN member states investigate 33 companies it had previously listed. The UN passes no resolutions and ends the mandate of the panel.

The Congolese transitional government requests the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate crimes committed in Congo since July 2002.

The media reports on dozens of cases of sexual exploitation abuses by MONUC peacekeepers in Congo. The UN dispatches a team to investigate the claims that later upholds a number of the allegations.

May/June 2004

Tutsi renegade general, Laurent Nkunda, with support from Rwanda, takes control of the eastern town of Bukavu (South Kivu) claiming to protect Tutsi civilians under attack. MONUC peacekeepers fail to halt Nkunda's advance. After intense diplomatic pressure, Nkunda withdraws from Bukavu four days later, but across the country MONUC staff are attacked by angry crowds protesting the UN's failure to act.

Failed coup attempt against President Kabila in Kinshasa led by Major Eric Lenge, who later flees with his accomplices.

The ICC announces it will open the court's first-ever investigation on crimes committed in the Congo. It focuses its attention on Ituri, in the northeast.

August 2004

160 Congolese Tutsi in a refugee camp in Gatumba, Burundi, are massacred by Burundian Hutu guerillas, possibly aided by other armed groups. Congolese Vice-President Azarias Ruberwa, a Tutsi and leader of the former Rwandan-backed rebel groups, suspends his participation in the transitional government, nearly causing the peace process to unravel. He later returns after diplomatic pressure.

October 2004

The UN Security Council authorizes an additional 5,900 troops for MONUC bringing the total number of peacekeepers to 16,431. The figure is only half of what the UN secretary-general had requested a few months earlier.

December 2004

The death toll climbs to 3.9 million dead, according to the International Rescue Committee in its fourth mortality survey. The majority of the deaths are due to lack of access to medicine or malnutrition.

January 2005

The transitional government appoints five former Ituri warlords with brutal records of human rights abuses as generals in the army. Human rights groups express outrage.

February 2005

Nine Bangladeshi peacekeepers are killed in an ambush by militias in Ituri in the deadliest assault yet on MONUC.

Thomas Lubanga and Floribert Njabu, two notorious warlords from Ituri, are arrested in Kinshasa by Congolese authorities for alleged war crimes.

Human Rights Watch publishes "The Curse of Gold," a report detailing the widespread human rights abuses linked to ruthless efforts by armed groups and multinational companies to control and profit from gold mining areas in northeastern Congo. A Swiss company buying gold from Congo, criticized in the report, immediately announces it will halt its purchases.

A Congolese parliamentary commission led by parliamentarian Christophe Lutundula submits a report which finds that dozens of mining contracts struck during the war years are either illegal or provide no benefit for the state. It recommends judicial action against senior political and corporate actors. Copies of the report for distribution to parliament go missing.

Elections due to be held in 2005 are delayed. Thousands of demonstrators protest in Kinshasa but are dispersed with tear gas.

September 2005

The Ugandan rebel group the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) moves into Garamba National Park in northern Congo. Uganda, at war with the LRA for over 20 years, threatens to invade Congo.

October 2005

The ICC issues its first ever arrest warrants for five senior leaders of the LRA for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Uganda since July 2002.

October 2005

The UN Security Council authorizes further reinforcements for MONUC bringing the total of peacekeepers to over 17,000 - at the time, the largest UN peacekeeping mission in the world.

November 2005

The Congolese army launches a military operation in Katanga province in the south of the country to quell an insurgency led by Mai Mai commander Gedeon Kyungu Mutanda, a former ally of Kabila. Both sides commit such atrocities that locals dub the area of operations "the triangle of death."

December 2005

Congo's new constitution is passed in a public referendum paving the way for national elections.

December 2005

The International Court of Justice finds Uganda committed human rights violations and the illegal plundering of Congo's resources while its armed forces occupied parts of the country between 1998 and 2003. It orders that compensation be paid, but Uganda fails to comply.

January 2006

Eight Guatemalan peacekeepers are killed during a highly secretive operation against the LRA in Garamba National Park in northern Congo. The operation fails to apprehend the LRA's leaders.

February 2006

The International Court of Justice rules it has no jurisdiction to rule on crimes committed by Rwanda in Congo during the 1998-2003 war.

The ICC issues an arrest warrant for Thomas Lubanga for the war crime of using and recruiting child soldiers. Congolese authorities transfer Lubanga to The Hague where he becomes the first-ever ICC indictee in custody.

An Ituri militia group kills a Nepalese peacekeeper and takes seven others hostage. After protracted negotiations, the peacekeepers are released a month later.

Slow candidate registration, political wrangling and continued fighting in the east delay elections again. One of the main opposition parties, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), decides to boycott the elections, claiming they will not be free and fair.

The UN Security Council authorizes the temporary deployment of a European Union force of 2,000 soldiers to support MONUC peacekeepers during Congo's elections. The force stays until November 30, 2006.

Mai Mai leader Gédéon Kyungu Mutanda and his wife surrender to UN peacekeepers effectively ending the insurgency in central Katanga. Several days later, they are handed over to Congolese judicial officials.

Election campaigning begins in Congo's first multiparty elections in over 40 years. 33 presidential candidates compete for the top job. Joseph Kabila is the favorite to win.

Joseph Kabila marries his long-time girlfriend, Marie Olive Lembe, in a colorful ceremony in Kinshasa broadcast live on national television improving his election chances.

Laurent Nkunda launches a new rebel movement in North Kivu, the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP). Many of its members, including Nkunda himself, were previously in other Rwandan-backed rebel groups.

First round of presidential and parliamentary elections. 70 percent of voters turn out to vote.

August 2006

Election results announced. President Kabila receives 45 percent of the vote, with his main rival, Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba, winning 20 percent. The candidate from the former Rwandan-backed rebel group wins less than 10 percent of the vote. Since neither candidate wins 50 percent, a run-off vote is scheduled. Kabila supporters are shocked at the failure to win on the first round.

August 2006

Kabila's camp orders the military into central Kinshasa. The soldiers and Bemba's security guards exchange fire, killing a number of people. Diplomats attempt to reduce tension between the two sides but while meeting with Bemba at his home, soldiers open fire, trapping the vice-president and 14 diplomats inside and destroying Bemba's helicopter. UN peacekeepers intervene and remove the trapped ambassadors.

August 2006

A joint commission is established to investigate the fighting and establish the rules of conduct for the run-off vote. No one is held accountable for the 23 deaths during the skirmishes or for the attack on Bemba's home. Tensions remain high.

August 2006

Nkunda's rebel troops clash with government soldiers in eastern Congo. Nkunda's area of control expands.

September 2006

Results from parliamentary polls are announced leaving Kabila's party with the biggest tally of seats, but no overall majority.

October 2006

More warlords are made colonels in the Congolese army, including Ituri warlord Peter Karim, responsible for the earlier murder and hostage taking of UN peacekeepers.

October 2006

A televised debate between the two presidential candidates, required by law, is cancelled after Kabila refuses to debate face-to-face with Bemba. Neither candidate campaigns personally, each fearing the possibility of assassination by the other side.

October 2006

The run-off vote is held between the two presidential candidates amidst high tensions in Kinshasa.

November 2006

Nkunda's rebel troops clash again with government troops in eastern Congo, and gain more ground. UN peacekeepers push Nkunda back.

November 2006

Election results announced. Kabila wins 58 percent of the vote to Bemba's 42 percent. Bemba files a legal challenge alleging vote rigging by the Kabila camp, and more violence ensues. Kabila's victory is upheld by the Supreme Court and Bemba reluctantly accepts the decision.

December 2006

Joseph Kabila sworn in as president.

Republic of Congo

The Republic of Congo, also known as Middle Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, and Congo (but not to be confused with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire, which was also at one time known as the Republic of the Congo), is a former French colony of west-central Africa. It shares common borders with Gabon, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Gulf of Guinea. Upon independence in 1960, the former French region of Middle Congo became the Republic of the Congo. A quarter century of experimentation with Marxism was abandoned in 1990 and a democratically elected government installed in 1992. A brief civil war in 1997 restored former Marxist President Denis Sassou-Nguesso. The capital is Brazzaville. The Republic of Congo is one of Africa’s oil rich states, however its economic potential is hampered by the current ongoing civil war.

In 1876 a vast zone in central Africa was ‘allocated’ to the ‘International African Association’. With this act, the kingdom of the Kongo and other central African territory effectively became the private estate of the Belgian King, Leopold II. So began the oppressive colonial history of corruption, bribery and theft on a scale unprecedented in Africa. Reports by missionaries there on Belgian rubber planters’ treatment of labourers were initially not believed. The Belgian Foreign Office eventually sent Roger Casement to investigate the situation. He discovered that workers were treated like wild animals. Most of them were not paid, and if they did not meet their production quotas they would be either tortured or killed. Soldiers would collect baskets of hands to prove that they were carrying out their instructions, and not wasting ammunition. Ears, too were often cut off. There were also huge sums of money that went unaccounted. It was not until 1908 that the Belgian government took over the colony in an attempt to stop this kind of abuse. However, although the administration did improve, wages remained very low, even after the discovery of copper, gold, diamonds and cobalt. The Belgian plunder continued. Some road, rail and town development occurred, but the Congolese themselves were hardly better off than when colonized by Leopold II.

Independence and Lumumba

From the 50s when the a critical mass toward independence developed across Africa (as epitomized in Nkrumah’s speech) the Belgians initially decided it would be best to follow a slow road to independence - it was thought a period of about thirty years should be allowed. The Congo experienced a very stable period from 1945 to 1957, and for this reason leaders were unaware of the problems developing under the surface. The publication of the 30-year independence plan, which stated that the development of a ruling elite in the Congo was a generation behind that of the British and French colonies, made the situation worse. In 1959 there were riots in Leopoldville (later to become Kinshasa), and the Belgians panicked and withdrew from the Congo in less than eighteen months. By 1960 the area was already independent, with very few educated or trained people.

The freedom movement in the Congo was initially led by Patrice Lumumba. Lumumba attended Nkrumah’s All African Peoples’ Conference in Accra in December 1958, which encouraged his becoming radical. Nkrumah assured Lumumba that he had the support of the rest of Africa in his fight for independence, and Lumumba returned to the Congo with confidence and new methods (bit vague) learnt from Nkrumah. He gave moving speeches, got the support of the masses and during the unrest called for strikes. He was very successful as a result of the poverty and living and working conditions of those living in the Congo. During 1959 the situation in the Congo changed, and the Belgians realized that they would not be able to maintain indefinitely. The United Nations also put pressure on them to reconsider their position in Africa.

The situation in the Congo became increasing unstable as conflict developed in Rwanda- Burundi, as the Batutsi tried to keep the social position they had been given over the Bahutu under Belgian and German rule. The Belgians switched their support to the Bahutu, which resulted in the murder of many Batutsi as the Belgians lost further control. During the crisis Congolese leaders were called to discussions in Ostend, Belgium where it was promised that no more foreign soldiers would be sent to the Congo, and that it would become independent under a central government.

Lumumba and the struggle for leadership

In May 1960 elections were held, and Lumumba and his Mouvement National Congolais (MNC) became the majority in the central government. Meanwhile, Association des Bakongos (Abako), a party desiring the restoration of the ancient Kongo kingdom, with Joseph Kasavubu as leader, got the majority at the local level. The result was thus indecisive, but Lumumba managed to form a government before the 30 June day of independence. Lumumba became Prime Minister, with Kasavubu as President. Problems however began immediately. At independence celebrations the Belgian King spoke of the bond between Belgium and the Congo, but Lumumba criticized Belgium and the oppression and exploitation experienced under colonial rule. A few days later the Congolese Army turned on Belgian officers and their families. When Belgian troops stepped forward in support of the Belgian officers, tensions rose and the army, joined by other Congolese started attacking other whites. Many whites fled the country, and conflict rose between tribes. Lumumba was unable to deal with the chaos, and on 11 July Katanga broke away from the Congo under Tshombe of the Confederation des Associations Tribales du Katanga (CONAKAT). At the request of Lumumba, the United Nations (UN) stepped in to replace the withdrawing Belgian army, but had little success. Problems in Rwanda-Burundi also continued, and this area, while under UN control in 1962, became independent. Bloodshed continued in Rwanda as the Batutsi were attacked by the Bahutu.

The West ensured that the UN forces focused on the establishment of a ‘rational’ government in Leopoldville, before focusing on Katanga. Mining interests in the country were also of utmost importance to their decision-making. In September Lumumba was arrested by his press secretary, Joseph Mobutu, and during detention he began considering ties with the Soviet Union. This was something that the West was not prepared to tolerate considering the mineral wealth of the Congo. An army mutiny called for the release of Lumumba, and other politicians in Leopoldville began to realize that he was gaining popular support. Lumumba attempted an escape, but was recaptured. On the order of Tshombe in early 1961, Lumumba was murdered in circumstances clouded with intrigue. Conflict between Tshombe and Lumumba’s successor, Gizenga, continued until he was also imprisoned. The Soviet Union also gave support to Gizenga, although many African states were behind Tshombe. Only in 1963 was Katanga eventually reintegrated into the Congo, and by this time American influence in the country had increased considerably. These years of problems also left the masses in the Congo confused and uncertain, and there were already calls for a ‘second independence’.

Peasant uprisings and Mobutu’s ascension to power

From 1964 to 1968 there were significant peasant uprisings across the Congo. In the Kwilu region (map ref) demands of a ‘second independence’ were expressed clearly under Pierre Mulele, a man influenced a lot by both Marxism and Maoist ideas. He developed his own ideology- Mulelism- that incorporated Marxist ideas but adapted them for the African peasantry. In other areas there were yet more cases of resistance against the new elite who took power after the elimination of Lumumba. Corrupt practices and political instability in the country reminded people of the situation under the Belgians. Eventually in 1965 Mobuto was able to gain power in certain areas, and, with the help of Western mercenaries and American support, he was able to spread his control across the Congo. Mobuto was very pro-American, and even closed the USSR embassy after coming to power.

The rise of Mobuto, who came to call himself Mobuto Sese Seko Koko Ngbendu was za Banga (‘the all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, will go from conquest to conquest leaving fire in his wake’) only ushered in another period of corruption and poverty in the Congo. Mobuto began to run a country which received millions of dollars in aid from Western countries. Sadly the majority of this never reached or had an effect on those for whom it was destined, as the kleptocrat Mobutu diverted the money to his own accounts. The Congo, or what he renamed Zaire, remained poor and unemployment and suffering continued. Even Congolese officials came to rely fully on bribes in order of ensure some sort of income.

Corruption and the Western response

The West watched passively, continuing to trade with the ruler of one of the most mineral rich states in Africa. Even after rumours concerning the level of corruption and self-enrichment in the country reached Western policy makers, they chose to continue pumping money into the Congo. In the light of the Cold War, this situation was more understandable. Mobuto gave lip-service to siding with the West, giving it a launching pad in the middle of Africa from where they could extend their influence. From the Congo the USA was able to give support to their Angolan puppet, Jonas Savimbi. During the Angolan war the USA Embassy in Kinshasa was one of the biggest CIA stations in the world. It was only near the end of Mobuto’s regime, and with the end of the Cold War, that American and Western policy began to change. By the time Mobuto fell in 1997 the USA was glad that a sign of their embarrassing foreign policy was gone and hoped for new economic links.

The ousting of Mobuto and continued conflict

Mobuto was able to build up his web of supporters both inside and outside the Congo. Many were awarded economic benefits in return for their support for the regime. These people also often felt that the fall of Mobuto would never happen, partly as a result of his army. However, in the last days even his army began to fall apart as Mobuto spent the money intended for the army on himself. Under Mobuto’s rule the Congo became dilapidated, and the infrastructure that the Belgians had left behind went to ruin. On one occasion Mobuto was quoted as saying to a fellow dictator, who phoned to say that a rebel army was at his gates, ‘I told you not to build any roads’. The Congo became a country that was impossible to control as a result of bad transport and size. For this reason there was no control over administration in the far away areas. Mobuto always said that he would die in office. However this was not the case – he died on foreign soil in exile and while receiving terminal cancer treatment.

Rebel forces had always continued to exist, and these became stronger as dissatisfaction grew. One group that played a big role in the rebellion was the Tutsi of Zaire, because of being denied rights under Mobuto. One individual jockeying for power was Laurent Kabila. Kabila had been a youth leader for a group allied to Lumumba and his movement. When Lumumba was murdered, Kabila fled to the bush, from where he later became the leader of a guerrilla band. 1964 saw Kabila instrumental in fomenting a revolt in the Ruzizi region. The famous Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara briefly joined Kabila in the Congolese jungle battle before declaring "Nothing leads me to believe he is the man of the hour".

The change in power in this Central African region affected other African countries in the area. As Angolan UNITA forces had lost both the safe-ground of the cross-border region and a financial supporter, the Bahutu were now taking refuge in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). After the Rwandan genocide, millions of Tutsi’s were driven away and Uganda was able to attack the bases of rebel groups. Many hoped that the end of Mobuto would have as much effect on African peace and security as the end of apartheid. Unfortunately this was unfounded. Soon after setting himself up in Mobuto’s place, Kabila began to follow the same path. Political alliances broke down, and rather than working together with Mobuto’s old political rival Etienne Tshisekedi, he continued harassing him. Other political parties were all banned and the promised elections were never held. Kabila was filled with paranoia and fears of conspiracy. This led to the murder of many suspected Mobuto supporters. Kabila failed to form new links with the West as had been hoped, and even refused to work together with the UN while they were busy with investigations into the murder of thousands of Rwandan Hutus. This was for fear of being implicated in the killings on his side of the border and his part in them being exposed.

In 1998 a rebellion broke out against Kabila, and his former allies Rwanda and Uganda turned against him. He was however still given the protection of other African countries, and Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola all sent troops to aid him. They managed to push back the rebels, largely in order to protect their own economic and political interests. The fighting continued in the Congo until 1999, and although the rebel forces were kept outside the capital, they did still hold almost half the country.

Peace initiatives

In 2000 a peace agreement was reached, but the fighting did not stop. In January 2001 rebels managed to enter the capital and a gun battle took place near the Presidential Palace. After this battle there were various stories surrounding the event and what happened to Kabila. Some reports said he had been assassinated and others claimed that he was still alive. When it became known that Kabila had been assassinated, his son, Joseph Kabila took over his position as leader of the DRC. Joseph Kabila was only 29 years old, and a leader in the army when the cabinet decided that he should take over his father’s position. He inherited a country that was at war, and realized that the most important thing to do was stop the war and unite the DRC. However, after more than two years in power, Joseph Kabila has not been able to bring complete peace to the DRC. Press and other democratic freedoms are still broken and the DRC has not yet achieved what was hoped for after the fall of Mobuto.

Various peace settlements have been negotiated and signed, but each time deal-breaking problems have arisen. In December 2002 an agreement was reached, but it led only to further conflict in other parts of the country. An explanation for the endemic violence is that some power-blocs actually benefit from the continuation of war, and they cause problems each time an agreement is about to be reached. In July 2003 another peace settlement was reached on a transitional government. Only time will be able to tell how effective this agreement proves to be.

The Congo has faced a difficult and violent past. The country has been plagued by corruption, exploitation and ethnic conflict. Various powers and leaders have added to the problem, either through not reaching a solution or by what exactly? Peace in the Congo would be stabilizing for central Africa, and would affect all the countries surrounding the Congo, and for this reason is something that must be worked towards and supported