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Congo, Republic of the (ROC)



Republic of the Congo

République du Congo

CAPITAL: Brazzaville

FLAG: The flag consists of a green triangular section at the hoist and a red triangular section at the fly, separated by a diagonal gold bar.

ANTHEM: The Congolaise.

MONETARY UNIT: The Communauté Financière Africaine franc (CFA Fr), which was originally pegged to the French franc, has been pegged to the euro since January 1999 with a rate of 655.957 CFA francs to 1 euro. The CFA franc is issued in coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500 CFA francs and notes of 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 CFA francs. CFA Fr1 = $0.00208 (or $1 = CFA Fr480.56) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Labor Day, 1 May; Three Glorious Days, 1315 August (including Independence Day, 15 August); Christmas Day, 25 December. Movable religious holidays include Good Friday and Easter Monday.

TIME: 1 pm = noon GMT.


Lying astride the Equator, the Republic of the Congo contains an area of about 342,000 sq km (132,047 sq mi), extending approximately 1,287 km (798 mi) nnessw and 402 km (249 mi) esewnw. Comparatively, the area occupied by the Congo is slightly smaller than the state of Montana. It is bounded on the n by Cameroon and the Central African Republic, on the e and s by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DROCformerly Zaire), on the sw by Cabinda (an enclave of Angola) and the Atlantic Ocean, and on the w by Gabon, with a total land boundary length of 5,504 km (3,413 mi) and a coastline of 169 km (105 mi).

The Congo's capital city, Brazzaville, is located in the southeastern part of the country.


The Congo is roughly divided into four topographical regions. The coastal region consists of a low, relatively treeless plain, with occasional high spurs jutting down from the Mayombé Escarpment. The escarpment region is made up of a series of parallel folds of moderate height (600900 m/2,0003,000 ft) that are almost completely forested. To the east and north of the escarpment, and forming the watershed between the Niari and Ogooué river systems, lies the plateau region, with savanna covering more than 129,000 sq km (50,000 sq mi) and separating the Zaire and Ogooué basins. The northeastern region of the country is a swampy lowland covering some 155,000 sq km (60,000 sq mi); flooding is seasonal, with different tributaries of the Congo/Zaire overflowing into one another. The country has two river systems: that of the coastal rivers, which flow into the Kouilou River, and that of the Zaire River and its tributaries.


The Congo has a tropical climate characterized by high humidity and heat. There are two wet and two dry seasons. At Brazzaville, in the south, the average daily maximum temperature is 30°c (86°f) and the average minimum temperature 20°c (68°f). At Souanké, in the far north, the extremes are 29°c (84°f) and 18°c (64°f). Annual rainfall varies from 105 cm (41 in) at Pointe-Noire, in the southwest, to 185 cm (73 in) at Impfondo, in the northeast.


About half the land area is covered by okoumé, limba, and other trees of the heavy rain forest. On the plateaus, the forest gives way to savanna broken by patches of bushy undergrowth. The savanna supports jackals, hyenas, cheetahs, and several varieties of antelope; elephants, wild boar, giraffes, and monkeys dwell in the forest. As of 2002, there were at least 450 species of mammals, 345 species of birds, and over 11,000 species of plants throughout the country.


The most significant environmental problems in the Congo are deforestation, increases in urban population, and the protection of its wildlife. The Congo's forests are endangered by fires set to clean the land for agricultural purposes. The forests are also used as a source of fuel. The most accessible forest, that of the KouilouMayombé Mountains, has been overexploited. During 198185, deforestation in the Congo proceeded at a rate of 22,000 hectares (54,400 acres) a year. From 19902000, deforestation occurred at a rate of about 0.1% per year. As of 2000, about 64% of the total land area was forested.

The Congo has nine protected areas, covering some 1.5 million hectares. The two largest, the 7,800-sq-km (3,000-sq-mi) Léfini Reserve and the 2,600-sq-km (1,000-sq-mi) Odzala National Park, were established during the French colonial era. The country has one Wetland of International Importance at the Lake Télé Reserve. Altogether, 6.5% of the nation's natural areas were protected as of 2003.

The Congo's urban centers are hampered by air pollution from vehicles and water pollution from sewage. Its water purity problem is most apparent in rural areas where, as of 2000, only 51% of the people had safe drinking water.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 14 types of mammals, 4 species of birds, 1 type of reptile, 10 species of fish, 1 type of mollusk, and 35 species of plants. Threatened species include the green turtle, the African sharp nose crocodile, the spotted hyena, and black crowned crane.


The population of Republic of the Congo in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 3,999,000, which placed it at number 124 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 3% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 46% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 98 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 3.1%, a rate the government viewed as too high. The projected population for the year 2025 was 7,404,000. The population density was 12 per sq km (30 per sq mi), although large portions of the Congo basin in the northernmost region are sparsely populated or uninhabited.

At least four-fifths of the people live in the southern third of the country; the greatest concentration is in the Brazzaville area. The UN estimated that 52% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 3.75%. The capital city, Brazzaville, had a population of 1,080,000 in that year. Other large cities include Pointe-Noire, 663,400; Loubomo, 106,300; and Nkayi, 56,700.

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS has had a significant impact on the population of Republic of the Congo. The UN estimated that 7.2% of adults between the ages of 1549 were living with HIV/AIDS in 2001. The AIDS epidemic causes higher death and infant mortality rates, and lowers life expectancy.


There is continuous migration to urban centers, but immigration from other African countries is negligible. Some French, Greek, and Lebanese immigrants have settled in the Congo. In 1995, the Congo was host to 15,500 refugees, 12,700 of whom were from Angola and 2,100 from Chad.

In 1999, the Republic of the Congo (ROC), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) signed an agreement, launching a repatriation operation. Later that year approximately 36,000 refugees returned to Brazzaville. That year, 1.8 million Congolese were internally displaced and 300,000 Congolese refugees fled to surrounding countries.

In 2004, there remained about 100,000 internally displaced people. Also in 2004, there were 68,536 refugees in the ROC, about 35% residing in camps and 58% residing in urban areas. Asylum seekers numbered 3,232, with 1,035 returned refugees and another 630 voluntarily returned refugees to Gabon. Numbers of Congolese seeking asylum in the DROC were 6,626, and Gabon, 12, 122. In 2005, the net migration rate for the Congo was estimated as -0.17 per 1,000 population.


The population belongs to four major ethnic groupsthe Kongo (48%), Sangha (20%), Teke (17%), and M'Bochi (12%)which comprise more than 40 tribes. Europeans and other groups make up 3% of the population.

The major ethnic group, the Kongo, occupies the entire area southwest of Brazzaville and accounts for nearly half the nation's population. The Teke, who live north of Brazzaville, are chiefly hunters and fishermen. The M'Bochi (or Boulangi) live where the savanna and the forest meet in the northwest; this group has furnished many immigrants to the urban centers, including the majority of Brazzaville's skilled workers and civil servants. There are about 12,000 Pygmies, possibly Congo's original inhabitants, in the high forest region. In regard to the non-African community, Europeans numbered 8,500, mostly French, before the 1997 civil war. However, the number was thought to be half of that by 1998, following the widespread destruction of foreign businesses in 1997.


French is the official language. Several related African languages and dialects of the Bantu family are spoken. Kikongo has the most users. Monokutuba and Lingala are lingua franca trade languages.


Almost 50% of the population are Christian, with about 90% of all Christians affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. Protestant denominations include Methodists, Seventh-Day Adventists, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and Jehovah's Witnesses. A small number of Christians practice Kimbanquism, a combination of Christian and native customs and beliefs which originated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Less than 2% of the population are Muslim, mostly immigrants from north and west Africa who work or reside in urban centers. The remainder practice traditional indigenous religions or no religion.

With the approval of a new constitution in January 2002, freedom of religion is officially protected and discrimination on the basis of religious affiliation is specifically forbidden. All social, religious, and business organizations must register with the government. Certain Christian holidays are celebrated as national holidays. All organized religious groups have representation in the joint ecumenical council, which meets once a year.


The most important transportation system is the Congo-Ocean Railroad. Completed in 1934, the 510-km (317-mi) line runs between Brazzaville on Pool Malebo and the ocean port of PointeNoire. In the course of descending the Mayombé Escarpment, it crosses 172 bridges and goes through 12 tunnels. To relieve congestion on this stretch, a 91-km (57-mi) line was completed between Bilinga and Loubomo in 1985. The 285-km (177-mi) Comilog rail line was completed in 1962 to transport manganese ore extracted at Moanda, Gabon, from M'Binda on the Gabonese border to the Congo-Ocean line at Mont-Bélo. This traffic was expected to end in the late 1980s with the completion of a railway in Gabon that will transport the ore to the port of Libreville. In 2004, the country's total rail trackage was 894 km (555 mi), all narrow gauge.

Dense tropical forests, rugged terrain, and swamps, together with a hot, humid climate and heavy rainfall, make construction and maintenance of roads extremely costly. In 2002 there were about 12,800 km (7,954 mi) of highways, but only about 1,242 km (772 mi) were paved, and it was considered extremely risky to venture more than 150200 km (90125 mi) from Brazzaville because of the poor road conditions. A Brazzaville-to-Duesso road was completed as far as Owando in the mid-1980s. In 2003, there were 40,585 passenger cars and 17,540 commercial vehicles in use.

River transportation is managed by the state-owned TransCongo Communications Agency. As of 2004, the Congo had a total of 4,385 km of navigable waterways on the Congo and Oubanui rivers. The river port of Brazzaville, which is the junction point of the Congo-Ocean Railroad and the Zaire-Oubangui river system, is an important center for trade with the Central African Republic, Chad, and the DROC. A ferry connects Brazzaville with Kinshasa, DROC. Pointe-Noire is the Congo's only seaport and the terminus of the Congo-Ocean Railroad.

Because of the great distances and the inadequacy of land transportation, air travel and air freight services are rapidly expanding. Brazzaville (Maya-Maya) and Pointe-Noire airports are the hubs of a network of air routes that connect the four equatorial republics with several European cities. The state-owned Lina-Congo holds a monopoly on domestic routes. The Congo is a member of Air Afrique, of which it owns a share. Air Afrique and Union des Transportes Aériens (UTA) are the chief international carriers. As of 2004, there were an estimated 32 airports, of which only 4 had paved runways as of 2005. In 2003, about 52,000 passengers traveled on scheduled domestic and international flights.


Although little is known of the early history of the Congo, it has been established that there was a Congo Empire that extended into present-day Angola and reached its height in the 16th century. The kingdom of Loango, which broke away from the Congo Empire, also prospered for a time. Another African state mentioned in the accounts of the first European explorers was the Anzico kingdom of the Teke. By the end of the 17th century, however, all these kingdoms had grown weak.

The coastal regions of the area were known to Portuguese sailors as early as the 15th century. The mouth of the Zaire River was discovered by Diogo Cão in 1482. French trading companies, interested in slaves and ivory, appeared on the scene during the 17th century; by 1785, more than 100 French ships annually sailed up the coast. After the French Revolution, however, French interest in the area waned.

With the abolition of the slave trade, merchants began to seek new sources of commerce. The first forays into the interior began at this time, but extensive exploration came only toward the end of the 19th century, with Pierre Savorgnan de Bràzza and Henry Morton Stanley. In 1880, Bràzza signed a treaty with the powerful Teke tribal ruler Makoko, bringing the right bank of the Zaire River under French control. The Congress of Berlin (1885) gave formal recognition to French claims to the region. The period after 1900 was marked by a slow but steady establishment of French administrative machinery. By 1910, Gabon, Middle Congo, and Ubangi-Shari (including Chad) were constituted administratively as colonies; together they constituted French Equatorial Africa, all under a governor general at Brazzaville. In 1940, French Equatorial Africa joined the Free French movement and the Allied war effort against the Axis powers. The first territorial assembly was elected in 1947. In a referendum held on 28 September 1958, the territory of Middle Congo voted to become an autonomous republic within the French Community.

The Territorial Assembly of the Middle Congo proclaimed the Republic of the Congo on 28 November 1958. On 8 December, Fulbert Youlou, mayor of Brazzaville and leader of the Democratic Union for the Defense of African Interests (UDDIA), was elected to head the provisional government. The adoption of a constitution on 20 February 1959 transformed the provisional government into the first official government of the republic. Legislative elections were held that June. The new National Assembly elected Fulbert Youlou prime minister on 27 June and president on 21 November.

The constitutional law of 4 June 1960, adopted by the French Parliament and by the Senate of the French Community, made it possible for a member state to become independent without leaving the community. The Republic of the Congo thus proclaimed its independence on 15 August 1960. President Youlou resigned on 15 August 1963, in the wake of antigovernment rioting that threatened to turn into civil war. Alphonse Massamba-Debat became provisional president and was formally elected to the presidency on 19 December 1963; a new constitution was approved by national referendum that same month. In 1964, MassambaDebat established relations with the USSR and China, and then announced the establishment of a "scientific Socialist state" with one-party control.

On 4 September 1968, Massamba-Debat resigned following a military coup that deprived him of most of his presidential powers. Capt. Marien Ngouabi then established a new revolutionary regime. Ngouabi was named president on 1 January 1969, and he proclaimed the People's Republic of the Congo the following December. Political stability proved difficult to achieve, however, and there were seven coup attempts during his seven years in office, which ended with his assassination on 18 March 1977. He was succeeded by Col. Joachim Yhombi-Opango, who abrogated the 24 June 1973 constitution. Yhombi-Opango resigned on 5 February 1979 and was succeeded in March by Col. Denis Sassou-Nguesso. A 20-year treaty of friendship and cooperation with the USSR was signed in 1981. Sassou-Nguesso was reelected president in July 1984 and was chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) during 198687.

The 1990s ushered in multiparty competition, but also became a tumultuous decade of armed uprisings and civil war. A four month-long National Conference in 1991 led to the appointment of an interim government, headed by André Milongo. Pascal Lissouba won the multiparty elections in 1992, but his unstable coalition, the Presidential Tendency, was rocked by strikes and violent civil unrest. Legislative elections on 2 May 1993, gave way to armed conflict in June and July. To avoid a civil war, the OAU and the president of Gabon brokered an accord that accepted first round results and called for second-round elections on 6 October. The opposition alliance, the Union for Democratic Renewal-Congolese Workers' Party (URD-PCT), won seven of the 11 seats contested. Still, Lissouba's Pan-African Union for Social Democracy (UPADS) and its coalition partners won 69 of the 125 seats and Lissouba's shaky presidency continued. However, fighting broke out in the capital in November 1993, continuing into 1994 as armed forces loyal to Lissouba battled independent partisan militias.

On the one side was the northern Mbochi ethnic group, which had been aligned with the military government of Sassou-Nguesso. On the other sides were two main southern groups, the Pool Lari and the coastal Vili. Transitional Prime Minister Milongo surrounded himself with Lari and Bakongo. Lissouba replaced them with his own people, the Nibolek, and "cleansed" the presidential guard. Although a mediation force was set up after a 30 January 1994 cease-fire, it was difficult to disarm the tribal factions.

By mid-1994 the government announced it would work to integrate the military and security forces with members of tribal militias if they would agree to a cease-fire, but integration proved illusive. After the by-elections in 1995, the Lissouba regime took an authoritarian turn in the face of severe mismanagement and intractable street fighting, imposing restrictions on public demonstrations and eliminating press freedom.

In June 1997 Sassou-Nguesso's forces besieged the capital and shelled the parliament building. In October 1997, forces loyal to Sassou-Nguesso engaged the help of Angolan troops and forced Lissouba into exile. Sassou-Nguesso once again assumed the reins of power and replaced the 1992 constitution with a Fundamental Act, conferring sweeping powers upon himself. He brought a degree of stability back to the country by forming a broad-based government that included former backers of Lissouba and Bernard Kolelas. The government convened a National Reconciliation Forum in January 1998, which elected a 75-member National Transition Council (NTC), replacing the National Assembly. Members of opposition parties and civil society were included in the NTC.

Civil conflict between the government and armed groups of southerners broke out again in mid-1998, intensifying in early 1999, before subsiding during the second half of the year. An estimated 10,000 people died and 800,000 civilians were displaced during the fighting, as rapes, looting, and destruction of many southern towns escalated.

The second half of 1999 saw the government regaining effective control over most of the south through military offensives, offers of amnesty, negotiations, and efforts to broaden the government's political base. The government signed a cease-fire and reconciliation accord with leaders of some rebel groups in November. In December 1999 Gabon's president, Omar Bongo, sponsored another accord, which involved the National Resistance Council (CNR), the only rebel group with military and political organization. With improved prospects for peace, Sassou-Nguesso declared a threeyear transition period leading up to elections.

In presidential elections held 10 March 2002, Sassou-Nguesso was reelected president with 89.4% of the vote over Joseph Kignoumbi Kia Mboungou with 2.7%. In the legislative contest held 11 July 2002, the Democratic and Patriotic Forces (FDP) won 56 seats to 10 seats for other parties in the Senate, and 83 seats to 6 seats for the Union for Democratic Renewal (URD), 3 for the UPADS, and 45 seats for other parties. However, the most serious contendersformer president Lissouba and Prime Minister Kolelaswere banned from participation, and most parties boycotted the election.

In late March 2002 conflict erupted in the Pool region between government forces and "Ninja" rebels loyal to the Rev. Frederic Bitsangou (alias Pasteur Ntoumi) with the result that thousands of people were trapped or displaced with little or no relief support for those caught in the fighting. A peace agreement reached on 17 March 2003 between the government and Ntoumi guaranteed amnesty to combatants willing to disarm, but by July 2003 several thousand were still awaiting either integration into the military or reinsertion into civilian life. Ninja groups and government security units continued to skirmish in the Brazzaville suburbs in December 2003.

In January 2004, Pasteur Ntoumi dealt the peace process a blow when he announced that unless the government engaged in a national dialogue, allowed political exiles to return, and formed a new government of national unity, his forces would no longer disarm. An uneasy truce broken by sporadic security incidentsincluding rebel attacks on the country's main railwayhas held since the government's rejection of these demands. In January 2005, President Sassou-Nguesso further consolidated power by forming a new government without a single member of the opposition coalition.

In early 2006, Congo received the news that Sassou-Nguesso would be the next African Union (AU) head and would lead the organization for a one-year term in 2006.


Until 1992, the Republic of the Congo was governed under a constitution, approved by referendum on 8 July 1979 and amended in July 1984. The chairman of the 75-member Central Committee of the Congolese Labor Party (PCT) was the president of the republic and head of state. He was elected for an unspecified term as chairman (and therefore as president) by the party congress. Executive powers resided with the Council of Ministers, appointed by the prime minister and chaired by the president. The 153-member National Assembly, the sole legislative body, was elected by universal suffrage at age 18 from candidates named by the PCT.

On 15 March 1992, voters approved a new constitution, which provided for a mixed presidential-parliamentary form of government after the French model. Executive authority is vested in a directly elected president, who appoints the prime minister and cabinet. A National Assembly of 125 members was elected in two round elections in June and July 1992. There was also a 60-member Senate. Pascal Lissouba was chosen president (61%) and his Pan-African Union for Social Democracy (UPADS) gained 39 seats. That legislature was dissolved in October and new legislative elections in May 1993 led to partisan fighting. A mediated settlement then confirmed a UPADS majority, yet fighting continued into 1994. In the view of many, the "democratic election" was the catalyst that unleashed tribal hatreds.

Soon after the defeat of Lissouba in the four-month 1997 civil war, Col. Denis Sassou-Nguesso formed a transitional government and replaced the 1992 constitution with a Fundamental Act. The Act gave additional powers to the executive making the president head of state and government, commander in chief of the armed forces with powers to appoint all members of the government, all senior military officers and government officials at subnational level. He was also mandated to direct the general policy of the government and to exercise regulatory powers.

In 1998, Sassou-Nguesso appointed a committee to draft a new constitution, which eventually was approved by national referendum in January 2002. Under the constitution the bicameral parliament consists of the Senate with 66 seats and the National Assembly with 137 seats where members are elected to serve five-year terms. The president may serve for two seven-year terms. The next presidential elections were scheduled for 2009 and legislative elections for 2007.


Three political parties were active in the Middle Congo before the territory achieved its independence. Of these, the most important proved to be the Democratic Union for the Defense of African Interests (Union Démocratique de Défense des Intérêts AfricainUDDIA), founded by Abbé Fulbert Youlou. The UDDIA received 64% of the popular vote and won 51 of the 61 seats in the National Assembly elected in June 1959. Following the resignation of President Youlou and the dissolution of the Assembly in 1963, all political parties were banned. On 2 July 1964, the National Movement of the Revolution (Mouvement National de la RévolutionMNR), led by President Massamba-Debat, was officially established as the country's sole political party. A power struggle between the People's Militia and the army, tribal rivalries, and other conflicts led to Massamba-Debat's resignation in September 1968. The army commander in chief, Marien Ngouabi, then became head of state.

The Congolese Labor Party (Parti Congolais du TravailPCT), created in December 1969 to succeed the MNR, had been based on the principles of Marxism-Leninism and democratic centralism. But at its 1990 conference, the PCT abandoned this ideology. The 1979 constitution recognized the PCT as the sole party: all other political parties and any political activity outside the PCT were illegal. In the National Assembly elections of 8 July 1979, all candidates were PCT members.

After his assassination on 18 March 1977, Ngouabi was succeeded by Col. Joachim Yhombi-Opango, and in March 1979 by Col. Denis Sassou-Nguesso, who was reelected in July 1984.

The 1991 National Conference led to an interim government and multiparty elections in 1992. Continual shifts in parties and in coalitions of parties have taken place since. The most significant of the many parties is the Democratic and Patriotic Forces (FDP), which is an alliance of six parties including that of Sassou-Nguesso's Union for National Renewal. Others include the Pan-African Union for Social Development (UPADS), the party of former President Pascal Lissouba. Lissouba's former coalition included the Rally for Democracy and Development (RDD) and was opposed by the PCT and the Union for Democratic Renewal (URD).

Following the 1993 elections, the National Assembly was broken down as follows: UPADS, 47 seats; Congolese Movement for Democracy and Integral Development, 28; PCT, 15; Association for Democracy and Social Progress, 10; RDD, 6; Union of Democratic Forces, 3; others, 14; independents, 2. Elections due in July 1997 were delayed until the new constitution was adopted. The civil war and fighting between 1997 and 1999 restricted party activity. Sassou-Nguesso allowed some politicians from the former government to return and resume political activity in 1999, but he banned former president Lissouba and former prime minister Bernard Kolelas. Indeed Kolelas and former interior minister Col. Philippe Bikinkita were sentenced to death in absentia on 5 May 2000 in the Brazzaville criminal court for illegal detention, false imprisonment, and torture. The National Transitional Council (NTC) included representatives of opposition parties and members of civil society, but the NTC composition was criticized by some as being government-controlled and not being broad-based enough for a fair representation of Congo's 15 political parties.

In the absence of any serious competition, Sassou-Nguesso's coalition easily won the 2002 presidential and parliamentary elections. Opposition parties remained in disarray. President Sassou-Nguesso allowed Kolelas to return to Congo for his wife's funeral in October 2005 and subsequently asked that parliament grant Kolelas amnesty. Parliament complied with Sassou-Nguesso's request in December 2005.


There are 10 administrative regions and one federal district, each under the authority of a government commissioner. As of the mid-1990s, these were subdivided into 46 districts.


The legal system is based upon French civil law and customary law. The Revolutionary Court of Justice, created in 1969, consists of nine judges who deal with cases involving state security. Judicial bodies include a Supreme Court (appointed by the president), a court of appeals, a criminal court, regional and magistrate's courts, labor courts, and courts of common law, where local chiefs apply traditional laws and customs. These courts are based on the French model while traditional courts in rural areas handle local property, domestic, and probate disputes. All special courts and secret trials were abolished in 1991. The 1992 constitution called for a special courtnot establishedto protect freedom of speech and press.

The 1992 constitution also provided for a number of fundamental rights and freedoms including prohibition of arbitrary arrest and detention. In practice, judicial inefficiency often results in denial of bail and long pretrial detention, a situation exacerbated by the civil war period where extra-judicial killings and executions were committed by security forces. Generally, prison conditions were poor and the judiciary was unable to ensure fair and expeditious trials.


In 2005, the Republic of the Congo had 10,000 active military personnel, of which the Army had 8,000 members, the Navy an estimated 800, and 1,200 personnel in the Air Force. The Army included two armored battalions, two infantry battalion groups, one parachute commando battalion, one engineer battalion, and one artillery group. Equipment included over 40 main battle tanks, 13 light tanks, over 68 armored personnel carriers and more than 66 artillery pieces. The Navy had three patrol craft, and the Air Force had 12 fighter planes, including 12 MiG-21s. There was a paramilitary force of 2,000. The military budget in 2005 totaled $57.4 million.


The Congo was admitted to the United Nations on 20 September 1960 and is a member of all of the specialized agencies except IAEA. It is also a member of the African Development Bank, the ACP Group, G-77, the Central African States Development Bank (BDEAC), the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), and the African Union. The nation is part of the Franc Zone. The country belongs, with the Central African Republic, Gabon, and Cameroon, to CEMAC, in which merchandise and capital circulate freely, and it is a signatory to the Lomé Convention. Congo is a member of the WTO. In addition to close ties with France and other Western European nations, the Congo has established friendly relations with China. Brazzaville is the African headquarters of WHO. Congo is part of the Nonaligned Movement. In environmental cooperation, Congo is part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, International Tropical Timber Agreements, the Montréal Protocol, and the UN Conventions on Climate Change and Desertification.


The Congo's economy is built on its petroleum resources, lumber, transport services, and agriculture. After several prosperous years in the early 1980s, the price of oil declined and cast the Congolese economy into financial turmoil. The country long flirted with state socialist approaches to its economy before embarking on marketstyle reforms in 1989. Early efforts at state-farm production of staple foods failed. The devaluation of Franc Zone currencies in 1994 resulted in inflation of 61%, but this subsided rather quickly. Reforms by the IMF and World Bank were in place when the civil war started in 1997. The economy worsened considerably in 1997, at -1.9% annual GDP growth, rebounding in 1998 to 2.5%, but falling again in 1999 due to renewed fighting. It grew at an average annual rate of 4.28% between 2001 and 2005 with a high of 8% in 2005. In 2001, the IMF approved a $14 million credit to aid the government's post-conflict economic program.

Congo's staple food crops are cassava, maize, plantains, yams, and sweet potatoes. The livestock industry is small and subject to health limitations imposed by the prevalence of the tsetse fly. Petroleum is Congo's most significant resource, contributing over 90% of exports in 2005. Production increased as new fields were developed and improvements in recovery technology were implemented. The oil industry is concentrated in and around Pointe Noire.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2001 Congo's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $2.5 billion. The per capita GDP was estimated at $900. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 4.2%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 3%. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 10% of GDP, industry 48%, and services 42%. Foreign aid receipts amounted to about $24 per capita and accounted for approximately 4% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2001 per capita household consumption (in constant 1995 US dollars) was $357. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the same period private consumption declined at an annual rate of 7%. Approximately 34% of household consumption was spent on food, 12% on fuel, 3% on health care, and 3% on education.


There were about one million economically active people in 1998. Almost half of all salaried employees work for the government. More recent data is unavailable.

The Fundamental Act entitles workers to form and join unions, and the Labor Code prohibits restrictions on the unions. However, members of the security forces cannot join a union. As of 2005, nearly all workers in the public sector and around 50% of those in the formal wage sector belonged to a union. However, this represents only a small portion of workers since most are subsistence farmers or are involved in the informal economy. The right to strike is guaranteed (except for those in the public sector), but there are serious limitations. Workers must file an intent to strike at least three days before the planned date of the strike and must simultaneously participate in arbitration proceedings. Due to extreme economic hardship and reconstruction, in 2002 labor and the government agreed to a "social" truce.

The standard workweek is seven hours per day, six days per week, with a one-hour lunch break per day. Overtime must be paid for work over 40 hours. Compulsory overtime is not prohibited. As of 2005, the minimum wage was $100 per month in the formal economy. Due to high prices in urban areas and the demands of extended families, many workers, including health workers and teachers, have had to accept additional employment, primarily in the informal economy. The prohibition of child labor is focused on the formal sector. Child labor persists in the informal economy. Minors under the age of 16 are prohibited from working, but in rural areas and in the informal economy of urban areas, enforcement lagged. Minimum occupational health and safety standards exist and are only somewhat enforced.


Total arable land only amounts to 240,000 hectares (593,000 acres), or just 0.7% of the total land area. Agricultural activity is concentrated in the south, especially in the Niari Valley. Main crops for local consumption are manioc (880,000 tons in 2004), plantains (73,000 tons), yams, (12,000 tons), bananas (88,000 tons), sugarcane (460,000 tons), and peanuts (23,000 tons). Small amounts of tobacco are also grown. Domestic production of cereals plummeted in the 1990s; by 1999, grain production was 80% less than it had been during 198991. However, crop production during 200204 was 4% higher than during 19992001. Landholdings are small, averaging less than 1.4 hectares (3.5 acres) per plot.

Export crops are coffee, cocoa, and palm oil; in 2004, 1,700 tons of coffee and 1,260 tons of cocoa beans were produced. Palm trees are under the management of a state-owned company. Production of oil from palm kernels, mainly from palm trees indigenous to the Niari Valley, the Pool Malebo, and the Bateke Plateau regions, was estimated at 16,300 tons in 2004. The rural population has fallen from 80% in 1960 to 38% in 2000. Since 1987, the government has encouraged agricultural development by abolishing state marketing boards and retail monopolies, freeing prices, removing tariffs on essential inputs, launching new agricultural credit institutions, and selling or closing most state farms. Sugar output rebounded after a 1989 restructuring of the sugar industry, which has since been privatized.


Animal husbandry has high government priority, and production is steadily increasing. In 2004 there were an estimated 294,000 goats, 98,000 sheep, 46,000 hogs, 100,000 head of cattle, and 2.2 million chickens. Total meat production in 2004 was 30,423 tons.


Most fishing is carried on along the coast for local consumption. The catch rose from 14,939 tons in 1970 to 45,577 tons in 1991 and to 52,400 tons in 2003. Almost 50% of the annual catch is from saltwater fishing.


Congolese forests cover some 22 million hectares (54.3 million acres), or 65% of the total land area of the country. There are three main zones. Mayombé forest, covering about 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres), is the oldest forest under commercial exploitation and is almost exhausted. The Niari forest, covering 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres), along the Chaillu River, was reopened for exploitation after completion of the Comilog railroad. The third zone, situated in the north, is the largest, with 15.5 million hectares (38.3 million acres); because of constant flooding, however, it is the least exploited. Total production of roundwood was 2.5 million cu m (86 million cu ft) in 2003; exports of roundwood were valued at $165.5 million. Okoumé, sapele, sipo, tiama, moaki, limba, and nioré were the main species cut. Eucalyptus and pine are raised commercially in southern and coastal Congo. Foreign private companies dominate commercial production. The Congolese Forestry Office was set up in 1974 to implement an ambitious reforestation program. Forestry contributes only 3% to GDP, and development was neglected during the oil boom years. Forest products contribute over 5% to the value of all exports. Isolated harvestable tracts, difficult weather conditions, and limited rail transport capacity inhibit the expansion of the forestry sector.


The Republic of the Congo's mineral sector, excluding oil, accounts for only a small part of the country's export earnings and its gross domestic product (GDP). In 2004, 90% of the country's export earnings came from oil, as did more than 50% of its GDP. Although potash was the primary mining product before the rapid growth of oil, production was not enough to make operations profitable and ceased after 1977. Gold, mined in the Mayombé area, reached 158 kg in 1967 but fell to an estimated 60 kg in 2003. Iron deposits estimated at 400 million tons have been found. AfriOre Ltd., of Canada, though inactive in the Congo in 2000, held exploration permits on the Boko Songo copper prospect, with 2 million tons of ore, and the Yanga Koubanza lead-zinc-copper prospect, with 5.5 million tons, both west of Brazzaville, and the company located high-grade copper mineralization at four other drilled prospects. Significant resources of magnesium, with byproducts of salt, potash, and possibly chlorine, were being evaluated for development in the Makola and the Youbi magnesium salt evaporite deposits, in the Kouilou region.

In 2004, diamond production (artisanal) was estimated at 50,000 carats, up from 30,000 carats in 2003. Lime was also produced in 2004. Lime output that year was estimated at 400 metric tons. There was no recorded production of hydraulic cement from 2001 through 2004.


Since the 1980s, the oil industry has provided the government of the Republic of the Congo (ROC) with a major portion of its revenues, and the nation, with much of its exports. Around two-thirds of the ROC's real gross domestic product (GDP) comes from the oil industry. The ROC is the fifth-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa, after Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea, respectively. The crude oil produced typically falls into the sweet and medium categories. As of 1 January 2005, the ROC's proven oil reserves totaled an estimated 1.5 billion barrels. In 2004 oil output (all of it crude) was estimated to have amounted to 235,500 barrels per day. Domestic consumption for that same year is estimated at 6,000 barrels per day and forecast to reach 7,000 barrels per day for 2005. Net oil exports were estimated at 229,500 barrels per day. Refining capacity, as of 1 January 2005, is estimated at 21,000 barrels per day.

The ROC's natural gas reserves are the third-largest in sub-Saharan Africa, (after Nigeria and Cameroon, respectively), with estimated reserves of 3.2 trillion cu ft as of 1 January 2005. In 2002, of the 118.31 billion cu ft produced, nearly all was vented or flared (44.14 billion cu ft), or re-injected (70.63 billion cu ft) due to a lack of infrastructure. Only 3.53 billion cu ft was marketed.

The Societe Nationale d'Electricite (SNE) manages the ROC's electric power sector. As of 1 January 2002, electric power generating capacity was put at 118 MW, with two hydroelectric power facilities, the 15 MW Djoue and the 74 MW Bouenza (Moukoukoulou) plants as the nation's primary domestic sources of electric power. Total electrical output for 2002 has been estimated at 358 million kWh, and while electric power consumption in the country is low, estimated at 570 million kWh in 2002, it significantly exceeds domestic production. As a result, the ROC has been forced to import electric power from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the make up the difference. Compounding matters is the state of repair to the nation's electric power infrastructure. Attacks during the country's civil war on the Moukoukoulou facility have cut the plant's actual capacity to around 55 MW. In addition, the civil war also destroyed large portions of the remaining power infrastructure. Plans by the ROC's government to lower the nation's dependence on imports of electric power, call for the construction of new facilities, as well as expanding those currently in use. In 2003, construction began on the 120 MW Imboulou hydroelectric dam, located on the Lefini River, which is expected to be finished in 2009. In addition, the Anglo Belgian Corporation was awarded a contract in January 2005 to build and finance a 35 MW thermal power plant in the ROC's capital of Brazzaville. A 180 MW hydroelectric plant is also being studied by the Canadian-based Magnesium Alloy Corporation, that would be located on the Kouilou River. Although the power generated would be mainly used by the firm's magnesium plant, estimates by the company indicate that up to 50 MW could be sold commercially.


Industry is concentrated in the southern part of the country around Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire. Many industries, until recently, were partially or completely nationalized. Industry accounted for about 64% of GDP in 2004.

The largest industries are petroleum production, followed by food processing, including beverages and tobacco, chemicals, woodworking, metalworking and electrical industries, nonmetallic mineral products, paper and cardboard, and textiles. The ROC is the fourth-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa, and the oil industry accounts for two-thirds of government revenue, 90% of export earnings, and close to 50% of GDP. There are an estimated 1.3 million tons of crude oil reserves in the country. An oil refinery at Pointe-Noire has a capacity of 21,000 barrels per day, but only 50% of the capacity is utilized. In 1996, the government privatized the refinery. Other industries include sawmills, sugar refineries, and cement factories. Artisans create distinctive jewelry, ceramics, and ebony and ivory sculptures. The timber industry was reviving in 2003 and contributed 1.2% of exports in 2004.


Science-related institutions include a Center of Research and Initiation of Technological Projects in Brazzaville, a Technical Center of Tropical Forestry in Pointe-Noire, and a Research Institute for Oils in Sibiti. Marien Ngoubai University in Brazzaville has a faculty of sciences and attached institutes of health sciences and rural development. Sibiti has an agricultural college, and Brazzaville contains a technical, commercial, and industrial college and a school for railway engineering. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 48% of college and university enrollments. In 2000, there were 29 researchers and 32 technicians per million people engaged in research and development.


Small-scale, village agriculture accounts for most of the domestic trade. Most local produce is sold directly to consumers or middlemen at local markets in towns and villages, where imported goods are also sold. Company agents and independent middlemen buy export crops at local markets or directly from the producers for sale to large companies. Most of the country's domestic commerce is managed by West and North Africans and Lebanese, since during the colonial and Marxist eras, Congolese were oriented towards working in the public sector. The country has developed a new investment code to attract foreign investment; however, high production costs, militant labor unions, and poor transportation systems have prohibited investment and domestic productivity.

There is some advertising in the local newspapers and through company publications, handbills, and billboards, but radio stations do not carry advertising. Normal banking hours are 6:30 to 11:30 am Monday through Saturday. Shops open by 8 am, usually close for a midday break, and then stay open to at least 5:30 pm Tuesday through Friday, and are open Saturday morning. They may also be open Saturday afternoon, Sunday morning, and Monday morning.


Crude petroleum and products account for the vast majority of the Congo's commodity export revenues (90%). Diamonds and cement also support the Congolese economy, as do wood exports, including lumber and plywood. In 2004, the main destinations of exports were China (26.8%), North Korea (8.4%), the United

Current Account -2.6
     Balance on goods 1,011.2
         Imports -449.9
         Exports 1,461.1
     Balance on services -460.2
     Balance on income -546.1
     Current transfers -7.5
Capital Account 9.9
Financial Account -58.5
     Direct investment abroad 0.3
     Direct investment in Congo, Republic of the 200.7
     Portfolio investment assets -5.1
     Portfolio investment liabilities
     Financial derivatives
     Other investment assets
     Other investment liabilities -254.4
Net Errors and Omissions -110.3
Reserves and Related Items 161.5
() data not available or not significant.

States (7.3%) and France (5.5%) while the main origins of imports were France (32.7%), the United States (10.1%), Germany (6.2%) and Italy (6.0%). Figures published in the IMF's Direction of Trade Statistics confirm the growing importance of China as a market for Congo's oil exports. These have increased in the last decade, from $1.2 million in 1994 to $249 million in 2004.


Until the 1970s, the Congo's chronic trade deficit led to an annual payments deficit. With the growth of oil revenues, the balance of payments became positive; this trend did not last long, however, since the deficit in services grew even faster than the trade surplus during the early 1980s. In recent years, imports have represented over 70% of private consumption.

The Economist Intelligence Unit reported that in 2005 the purchasing power parity of Congo's exports was $4.24 billion while imports totaled $1.26 billion resulting in a trade surplus of $2.98 billion. According to the latest World Economic Outlook, published by the IMF in September 2005, Congo's current-account surplus will increase from 2.3% of GDP in 2004 to 7.3% of GDP in 2005 and 10% of GDP in 2006.


The bank of issue is the Bank of the Central African States (BEAC), which serves all the members of the Central African Customs and Economic Union (UDEAC). Among the commercial banks are the Congolese Union of Banks, the International Bank of Congo, and the Congolese Commercial Bank. The state is the major shareholder in the two commercial banks. The National Development Bank of the Congo extends loans for economic development. The Congo has a 13% share in UDEAC's development bank, headquartered in Brazzaville.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $324.8 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $352.0 million. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 6.5%.

There is no securities market in the Congo.


In March 1974, all private insurance companies were nationalized and put under the Congo Insurance and Reinsurance Co. (ARC), which is 50% government owned.


Oil revenues in the 1970s helped expand public sector employment. The collapse in oil prices in the mid-1980s dramatically decreased government revenues, which led to a surge in international borrowing. In 1985, Congo entered negotiation with the IMF for standby credits to satisfy domestic and foreign creditors. In 1986, Congo reluctantly joined with the IMF in a structural adjustment program for which the country received $40 million in funds and was able to reschedule its international payments. By 1988, the Congo's external debt had risen to an unsustainable $4.1 billion. In 1989, a second structural adjustment program was agreed to. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, weak oil prices and a massive public sector combined to drive up Congo's debt. Civil service salaries absorbed over half of the government's 1995 budget. The budget deficit rose form 5.5% of GDP in 1985 to 14% in 1991 and was estimated at 25% in 1998. In 1995, total external debt was approximately $5 billion with service on the debt amounting to 155% of revenues annually, one of the highest ratios in the world. Although the Paris Club agreed to reduce Congo's debt by 67%, debt reduction payments were still expected to reach $500 million in 1996. In 1995, Congo reached another agreement with the IMF and World Bank that would help alleviate some of its debt burden. This reform program came to a halt when civil war erupted in 1997.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Congo's central government took in revenues of approximately $1.3 billion and had expenditures of $1 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately $263 million. Total external debt was $5 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2002, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were CFA Fr675.48 billion. The value of revenues in US dollars was about us$1 million, based on a official exchange rate of us$1 = CFA Fr696.99 as reported by the IMF for 2002.


A graduated income tax at rates of 150% is levied, varying with an individual's marital status and number of dependents. Employees also pay social security taxes and regional income taxes. As of 2005, the corporate tax rate was 38%, with a minimum of 1% on turnover. Agricultural companies have a 30% corporate rate. Foreign companies that do not have a registered branch in the country are subject to a 7.7% withholding tax on turnover from activities within the country. Foreign companies receiving income sourced from the ROC, but not active within the country are subject

Revenue and Grants 675.48 100.0%
     Tax revenue 176 26.1%
     Social contributions 23.21 3.4%
     Grants 3.79 0.6%
     Other revenue 472.48 69.9%
     General public services
     Public order and safety
     Economic affairs
     Environmental protection
     Housing and community amenities
     Recreational, culture, and religion
     Social protection
() data not available or not significant.

to a 20% withholding tax. Dividends are also taxed at a 20% rate. Also levied are excise duties, and property taxes.


The Republic of the Congo is a member of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) with Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon. There is a 5% duty on basic necessities, 10% on raw materials and capital goods, 20% on intermediate and miscellaneous goods, and 30% on consumer goods. There is also an 18.7% value-added tax based on CIF (cost, insurance, freight) plus the duty. Significant nontariff trade barriers include import license requirements and a corrupt and inefficient customs system.


The 1973 investment code guaranteed the free transfer of capital, normally earned profits, and funds resulting from sales of foreign companies. According to legislation adopted in 1982, reduced import duties and taxes are offered on production equipment and profits on manufacturing and trading are tax exempt for the first five years. However, in view of the Congo's fragile economy, banks required a public guarantee before investing their funds. A new investment code enacted in 1992 and amended in 1996 legislates equal treatment for domestic and foreign investors.

In 1994, the regiment for participation by foreign oil companies was changed from the joint ventures that had prevailed since 1968 to production sharing agreements (PSAs), by which foreign oil companies operate under contracts with the national oil company, SNPC. Plans were announced in 199596 to privatize state-owned enterprises in the oil distribution, oil refining, telecommunications, rail and water transportation, electricity, and water distribution sectors designed to attract foreign investment.

In June 1997, the United States and Congo concluded a bilateral investment treaty (BIT). That month, the outbreak of civil war brought most privatization initiatives to a halt. The flow of foreign direct investment (FDI) was a negative divestment of an estimated -$11.9 million in 1997. Despite renewed violence in 1998 and 1999, privatization of some upstream and downstream operations of Hydro-Congo increased FDI inflow to $117.8 million and $134.6 million, respectively. A fragile peace accompanied by an IMF-directed austerity program in 2000 helped produce a negative outflow of FDI of -$75.2 million. For 2001, FDI inflow was estimated at a modest $77 million. It had risen to $323 million in 2003 and $668 million in 2004 reflecting the donor and international confidence and the end of political turmoil.

Virtually all foreign investment in the Republic of Congo has been in the oil and timber sectors, with the French company TotalFinaElf historically dominant in the oil sector, which in turn historically dominates the economy. The second-largest oil investor has been ENI-Agip (Agip-Congo) of Italy. US oil companies that have investments include Anadarko, ChevronTexaco, CMSNomeco, Exxon-Mobile, and Marathon. Other foreign oil participants are Royal Dutch Shell (United Kingdom), Energy Africa (South Africa), and Heritage Oil (Canada). Most of the oil industry is not only an enclave, employing mostly foreign personnel, but offshore. Investment in the wider economy continues to be hampered by numerous factors even apart from political turmoil, including a poorly developed financial sector; an inadequate and war-damaged infrastructure; high labor, transportation and raw material costs; low productivity; and militant labor unions.


The 198286 development plan called for expenditures of over $2.5 billion for the improvement of infrastructure (roads, electricity, water) and for the development of production in agriculture, forestry, and light industry; however, economic difficulties caused the plan to be cut back sharply. The 198791 development plan promoted agricultural self-sufficiency and rural development through the planned creation of 160 village centers and a mandatory national service program for youths. Reduction of the country's dependency on petroleum and the reform of the parastatal sector were set as priorities. The devaluation of the CFA (Communauté Financière Africaine) franc in 1994 was implemented to boost those economic activities which did not rely on imports.

France is the leading foreign donor country. For a time the country reduced its participation (198589), but raised it to record levels in 1990. China and the former Soviet Union also provided substantial aid. Between 1946 and 1999, Congo also received funds from the European Economic Community (now the European Union), from the World Bank, the International Development Agency, and the African Development Bank.

In the mid-1990s, Congo embarked on a path of economic reform, including reform of the tax, investment, labor, and hydrocarbon codes. The privatization of state-owned enterprises was planned, particularly telecommunications and transportation monopolies. The Paris Club agreed to a debt restructuring plan in 1996. When war broke out in 1997, economic reform came to a halt. President Sassou-Nguesso, reelected in 2002, indicated his desire to reestablish cooperation with international financial institutions, and to further pursue privatization and other economic reforms. The president's economic program, called Nouvelle espérance (New Hope), was to cover the period 200310. A peace accord was signed in March 2003, which was designed to pave the way for sound economic development. In August 2005, the board of the IMF completed its first annual review of Congo's three-year poverty reduction and growth facility (PRGF) and gave a positive endorsement of progress in spite of problems of accountability of the revenues from the oil industry.


Employed persons are covered by the social insurance system, with a special system in place for civil servants. The insured provides 4% of gross earnings, with the employer contributing 8% of payroll to fund the program. Old age, disability and survivorship benefits are provided. Employed women are covered by maternity benefits, which amount to 50% of earnings for 15 weeks. Workers' compensation benefits are funded by employer contributions and include medical care. There is a funeral grant to cover the cost of final arrangements, up to a maximum. Employees are entitled to a family allowance for each child under 16 years of age, and there is a birth grant for the first three children.

The Fundamental Act prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, or religion, but many marriage and family laws do discriminate against women. Polygamy is legal, while polyandry is not. Adultery is legal for men but not for women. Women receive less education on average than men, and their salaries are generally lower. Women are not prominent at the highest levels of political or professional life. However, the Union of Congolese Women promotes the advancement of women and has launched major literacy and female education campaigns. Domestic violence is widespread and rarely reported. Civil conflict is thought to have increased the number of indigent children living on the streets of Brazzaville.

Pygmy minorities also face discrimination despite legal protections. They are often paid with food or goods for their labor, rather than with salaries. Pygmies are underrepresented in government and are largely marginalized from government decision making.

The human rights record has improved somewhat since the transition to democracy, but abuses have continued. There were reports of torture and extrajudicial killings, as well as disappearances, rapes, and arbitrary searches, arrests, and detention.


In 2004, there were an estimated 25 doctors, 175 pharmacists, 185 nurses, and 25 midwives. per 100,000 people. The birth rate was 38 per 1,000 people. The infant mortality in 2005 was at 87.41 deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2005, the average life expectancy was estimated at 52.26 years.

An endemic disease control service conducts vaccination and inoculation campaigns. All medicine, antibiotic, and vaccine imports must be authorized by the Ministry of Health. In 1999, there were 318 reported cases of tuberculosis per 100,000 people. As of 1999, immunization rates for children up to one year old were as follows: diphtheria, polio, and tetanus, 29%, and measles, 23%. In 1990, 24% of children under five years old were considered malnourished. In the mid-1990s, 50% of urban and 11% of rural inhabitants had access to safe water.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 4.90 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 90,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 9,700 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


At last estimate, more than 88% of all housing units were private houses. Owners occupied more than 60% of dwellings, tenants nearly 25%, and over 9% were occupied rent free. Close to one-third of all units had brick external walls, more than 25% had stone walls, nearly 16% had planks, and over 10% cob. In 2000, only about 51% of the population had access to improved water systems.


The educational system is patterned on that of France, but changes have been introduced gradually to adapt the curriculum to local needs and traditions. All private schools were taken over by the government in 1965. Six years of primary school are compulsory. Secondary school covers a seven-year course of study; students may choose a general course of studies or a technical program for their secondary education. The academic year runs from October to June. The language of instruction is French.

Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 54% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 59% of all students complete their primary education. In 2001, there were 183,000 students enrolled in secondary schools. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 24:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 13:1.

The National University, which opened in Brazzaville in 1971, was later renamed Marien Ngouabi University. In 2003, about 4% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 82.8%, with 88.9% for men and 77.1% for women.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 3.2% of GDP, or 12.6% of total government expenditures.


Brazzaville has Marien Ngouabi University Library, with 20,000 volumes in 2002, and the National Popular Library with 15,000 volumes. The French Cultural Center houses a library of 33,000 volumes, and the World Health Organization holds 40,000 in Brazzaville.

The National Museum of the Congo (1965), also in Brazzaville, contains ethnography displays and historical displays. There are regional museums in Pointe-Noire and Kinkala.


National and international communications are state owned and operated. In 2003, there were an estimated two mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 94 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

Radio and television are the primary sources of news and information. In 2004, there was one privately owned radio station and one privately owned television station. There were two government-owned radio stations, Radio Congo and Radio Brazzaville and one government-owned television station, Tele Congo. Radio Brazzaville broadcasts in French and local languages. telecasts are in French, Kikongo, and Lingala. The news coverage and the editorial positions of the state-owned media reflected government priorities and views. There are several satellite television connections available. In 2003, there were an estimated 109 radios and 13 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 4.3 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 4 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet.

In 2002, there were five daily newspapers, all published in Brazzaville: Mweti, published by the government information ministry (2002 circulation, 7,000); ACI (Daily News Bulletin, circulation 1,000); Courrier d'Afrique; Journal de Brazzaville; and Journal Official de la Republique du Congo. There are also a few periodicals and magazines, the most popular among them being La Semaine Africaine, published by the Catholic Church, with a 1995 circulation of 8,000. The state owned Agence Congolaise d'Information is the primary news service.

Though the constitution provides for free expression and a free press, the government retains a monopoly over radio and television. A 2001 press law abolished long-standing jail sentences for libel and insult, but penalties still exist for incitement to violence and racism.


There are Chambers of Commerce, Agriculture, and Industry in Brazzaville, Loubomo, Pointe-Noire, and Ouesso. In rural areas, cooperatives promote the production and marketing of agricultural products. Among the tribes, self-help societies have grown rapidly, particularly in the larger towns. Some volunteer service organizations, such as the Lions Clubs International, are also present.

Larger towns have youth centers. The two major national youth movements are the Union of Socialist Youth of the Congo (UJSC) and the National Federation of Young Students (FENAJEST). The Congolese Olympic Committee (COC) coordinates about 10 national youth sports organizations. There are a few scouting programs as well.

The Congolese Observatory for Human Rights is a national group. There are also national chapters of the Red Cross Society, UNICEF, and Caritas.


The main tourist attractions are the beaches near the Côte Sauvage region and water-skiing on the Kouillou and Congo rivers. In 2002, there were 21,611 visitors from other countries and 2,986 rooms in hotels. More than 91% of the tourists were from Africa and Europe. All visitors need passports, and visas must be secured in advance. Vaccination for yellow fever is required and precautions for malaria are recommended.

The US government estimated the daily cost of staying in the Congo in 2005 at $284, depending upon choice of accommodations.


The best-known figures are Abbé Fulbert Youlou (191772), a former Roman Catholic priest who served as president from 1960 to 1963, as well as mayor of Brazzaville; Alphonse Massamba-Debat (192177), president from 1963 to 1968; and Marien Ngouabi (193877), who came to power in a 1968 coup and was president from 1968 to 1977. Denis Sassou-Nguesso (b.1943?) became president in 1979; he served until 1992, and then again beginning in 1997. Prominent author and playwright Emmanuel DongalaBoundzeki (b.1941) is also a chemistry professor at Marien Ngouabi University in Brazzaville.


The Republic of the Congo has no territories or colonies.


Attwater, Helen. My Gorilla Journey. Leicester, Eng.: Charnwood, 2000.

Decalo, Samuel. Historical Dictionary of Congo. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1996.

. Historical Dictionary of Congo. [computer file] Boulder, Colo.: netLibrary, Inc., 2000.

Fegley, Randall. The Congo. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio, 1993.

Republic of Congo: An Old Generation of Leaders in New Carnage. New York: Amnesty International, USA., 1999.

Tayler, Jeffrey. Facing the Congo: A Modern-day Journey into the Heart of Darkness. New York: Three Rivers, 2000.

Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.

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Congo, Republic of The




The Republic of the Congo (ROC) is located in Western Africa and has an area of 342,000 square kilometers (132,000 square miles). It has a modest coastline of 169 kilometers (105 miles) along the Atlantic Ocean in the southwest and shares land borders with Gabon, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic on the west and north. The country is sometimes referred to casually as simply Congo or the Congo, or even Congo Brazzaville, to designate that it is the Congo with Brazzaville as its capital, distinguishing it from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (or Congo Kinshasa), which has its capital at Kinshasa. The Democratic Republic of the Congo lies along Congo's eastern border, with Angola's Cabinda Province sharing a small section of the southeastern border. The Congo is slightly smaller than Montana. The capital city of Brazzaville is located in the southeast of the country, directly across the Congo River from Kinshasa.


Congo's population was 2,830,961 and growing at an annual rate of 2.23 percent annually in 2000. The birth rate and the death rate in 2000 were estimated at 38.61 and 16.35 per 1,000 population, respectively. Life expectancy in Congo is only about 47 years of age, with women living to age 50 and men on average to age 44. One contributing factor to this short life span is the AIDS epidemic, which has in recent years swept across much of sub-Saharan Africa (that part of the African continent that is south of the Sahara desert).

The Congo is one of the most urbanized countries in Africa. Eighty-five percent of the population lives in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, or one of the smaller cities found along the railway which connects Brazzaville and Point-Noire. The official language is French. However, there are many dialects spoken in the Congo of which Lingala and Monokutuba are the most widely spoken.

The population of the Congo is made up of 4 major ethnic groups: the Kongo, the M'Bochi, the Sangha, and the Teke. Only 12,000 pygmies (or the Baka people, a collection of tribes who dwell in African forests in the region occupied by Congo and its neighbors) remain in the country.


The Congolese economy depends on agricultural production for personal consumption and the exploitation of natural resources. Because the country provides a key port and other transport facilities for neighboring countries such as Chad, Gabon, and the Central African Republic, commercial activities also play an important role in the economy. In 1997, the Congo's government had US$302 million in revenues and US$468 million in expenditures, with a major share of its revenues derived from oil drilling. In the 1980s rising oil revenues provided the Congolese government with the ability to finance large-scale development projects by borrowing against a large share of its future oil income. But this has resulted in shortages in current government revenues. In the late 1990s, oil prices fell and this further reduced government revenue and the country's economic progress. Further, the Congo suffered another setback due to a civil war that broke out in 1997.

By the end of the 1990s the Republic of the Congo was in a state of disarray. The country's external debt in 1997 was estimated at a huge US$5 billion. Added to this burden of debt was a highly overvalued CFA franc, which made it difficult to export goods; a 5-month civil war in 1997 that cost thousands of lives, wreaked havoc on the capital city of Brazzaville, and sent hundreds of thousands of refugees into the countryside and out of the country; a volatile oil market; and a bloated bureaucracy that is unable to quickly shift economic policies for the better.


The Congo's 1992 constitution states that the Congo is a multiparty democracy, and that the president is head of state. Legislative power is apportioned between a 125-member National Assembly and a 60-member Senate. The constitution also stipulates that the president and members of the national assembly are to be elected every 5 years, while senate members are to be elected every 6 years. In 1997, however, the constitution was suspended by former President General Denis Sassou-Nguesso, who overthrew the popularly-elected government of President Pascal Lissouba. To his credit, President Sassou installed a cabinet composed of individuals from various political parties in order to build a broad consensus. In addition, he created a unicameral 75-member National Transitional Council to act as a legislature until the time that elections are held again. He has failed, however, to make good on his promise to restore democratic rule to the Congo by 2001.

The Republic of Congo gained its independence from the colonial power of France in 1960, and was led in its first years by a Catholic priest named Abbé Fulbert Youlou, who created a single-party state and aligned the nation with the socialist nations led by the Soviet Union. General Sassou-Nguesso first seized power in 1979. He transformed himself into a civilian leader, and continued the country's socialist policies. However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s the country made the difficult transition to market economic practices and created a new constitution that paved the way for democratic elections. Sassou-Nguesso lost the presidency in the Congo's first universal elections in 1993 to Pascal Lissouba. In 1997, as the next presidential election loomed, conflict broke out between supporters of President Lissouba and Sassou-Nguesso. A 5-month civil war erupted, and troops from neighboring Angola intervened on Sassou-Nguesso's behalf. General Sassou-Nguesso's forces won, and he declared himself president. However, the peace was short-lived, and fighting broke out once more. The war reached its zenith in 1998 during the battle to control Brazzaville, which substantially destroyed the city and resulted in the deaths of thousands and the flight of 250,000 of its inhabitants. Since that time there have been several attempts to negotiate an end to the conflict, but as of 2001 no settlement has been agreed upon and Sassou-Nguesso remains in power.

The war has had a devastating impact on the Congo's economy, due in part to the severing of the main rail line between Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire, which disrupted trade. Oil revenue is the only reason the Congo has not experienced a total collapse of its economy. In 1998, as a result of the war, the country's budget deficit increased to 30 percent. It was reduced to 10 percent in 1999.


Two major riversthe Congo (the fifth largest in the world) and the Ubangicarry commercial shipping in the Congo, and comprise a vital mode of economic activity. A 534-kilometer (332-mile) railroad links many of Congo's villages and the 2 major cities of Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire; however, this railway was badly damaged in the civil war of 1997-98. Congo's road system consists of a total of 12,800 kilometers of highways (7,954 miles), of which only 1,242 kilometers (772 miles) are paved. The Congo has 2 international airports in Brazzaville and the port city of Pointe-Noire.

Six newspapers are published in the Congo daily. Congolese sources report that there are 4 AM and 1 FM radio stations, while the CIA World Factbook lists 1 AM, 5 FM, and 1 shortwave station. Very few people in the Congo have telephones, international calls are possible, and the telephone system is highly unreliable. In 1998, there were only 8 telephone lines per 1,000 people. Internet service is provided on a limited basis by the government's Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, as well as by a small number of providers in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Congo's potential for hydroelectric power generation is substantial, but is not fully exploited. Even though hydroelectric plants provide some 99 percent of the country's power, the Congo must still purchase roughly one-fourth of its electricity requirements from its neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Altogether, the total electricity produced in 1998 amounted to 503 million kilowatt hours (kWh). Wood is the primary source of fuel for most people living in rural areas.

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Rep. of Congo 8 124 12 N/A 1 N/A N/A 0.00 1
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Dem. Rep. of Congo 3 375 135 N/A 0 N/A N/A 0.00 1
Gabon 29 183 55 N/A 8 0.4 8.6 0.02 3
a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999and are per 1,000 people.
b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE : World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.


Agriculture contributes to 10 percent of the GDP and employs approximately 60 percent of the workforce , indicating the real inefficiency of this sector. Most participants in the agricultural sector produce food for their own consumption only. Industry and services represents 59 percent and 31 percent of GDP, respectively. Petroleum produced from offshore oil fields and crude oil represent 75 percent of the Congo's annual exports. Additionally, the Congo exports natural gas, lead, gold, and copper.

The Congolese state bureaucracy is a major employer. At the beginning of the 1990s the state employed some 80,000 people, an enormous number for a country of its size. Since that time government efforts to privatize state-run industries have lessened state employment, but the still large and corrupt government bureaucracy acts as a drag on economic growth.


Agriculture and forestry comprised 12 percent of GDP in 1995, and just 10 percent in 1999. Reliable statistics for a country such as the Congo are difficult to obtain, as most agricultural labor takes place outside of official channels, but most estimates put the percentage of the workforce engaged in agriculture between 60 and 75 percent. In 1998, agricultural exports totaled US$15.3 million, while agricultural imports totaled US$130 million. Cassava is the principal food crop. Other major crops include manioc, plantains, bananas, peanuts, sugarcane, cocoa, coffee, and palm kernels. Agricultural commodities that are exported include tropical and other woods, sugar, coffee, and cocoa. The Congo also produces beef and veal, chicken, lamb, game, and pork. Less than 2 percent of the country's land is cultivated.

Forest products from the Congo's lush rainforests represent 10 percent of export earnings, and once led exports until the country developed its oil industry. But due to high transportation and wage costs as well as low productivity, the forest industry has suffered severe declines in recent years.



The Congo's manufacturing sector plays a small role in the economy, consisting of around 100 factories in Brazzaville and Pointe Noire, mostly engaged in the processing of agricultural and forest products. There are a number of companies engaged in manufacturing import-substitution products such as footwear, soft drinks, chemicals, cement, and metal-working products. The less significant sectors of the manufacturing industry produce textiles, footwear, cement, and soap.


Oil is Congo's main export and the major support for a faltering economy. In 1998, the Congo exported more than 257,000 barrels of oil daily, and petroleum comprises some 50 percent of exports. In sub-Saharan Africa, the Congo is the fourth-largest oil producer, and has an estimated 1.5 billion barrels in reserve.

In 1994, the Congo took steps to deregulate the oil industry by offering production-sharing agreements with major foreign oil companies. This initiative is intended to regularize the flow of income to the government. Despite these steps, declining oil prices in 1998 badly hurt the Congo's economy. The French oil company Elf-Aquitaine, which accounts for 70 percent of Congo's annual oil production, is the major producer, along with the Italian oil firm Agip, and Chevron and Exxon from the United States. Rising worldwide oil prices in 2001, together with new discoveries and production, are expected to increase export revenues in the coming years.


The Congo has the third-largest natural gas reserves in sub-Saharan Africa, estimated at over 3 trillion cubic feet. As of 2001, however, there was no development of a natural gas industry. The Congo has substantial reserves of copper, lead, zinc, gold, and platinum, but these metals are mined in small quantities.


Services provide a major portion of GDP, making a 37 percent contribution in 1997, second only to industry's 59 percent (largely composed of oil production).

One major services area in the Congo is the public bureaucracy. In the early 1990s, the Congolese government was the biggest employer in the country, with a pay-roll in excess of 80,000. This was a severe drain on the country's resources. Due to pressure from the World Bank and other institutions, the government made major cuts in the number of civil servants as well as their salaries. Since the mid-1990s, the payroll has been cut in half and nearly 8,000 government employees have been let go.

Figures for other aspects of the service sector such as banking are sketchy. Most of the service industry is located in Pointe-Noire and Brazzaville. As of 2001, the government was engaged in intensive talks with the World Bank, the IMF, and other bodies in an effort to renegotiate aid packages and rebuild the banking system.


With exports of US$770 million and imports of US$1.7 billion, the Congo has a severe trade imbalance of nearly US$1 billion. The Congo conducts considerable trade with other Central African countries such as Cameroon, the Central African Republic, and Gabon, which are part of the Customs and Economic Union of Central Africa. However, it exports the majority of its goodsprimarily oilto Western countries. The United States purchased 23 percent of the country's exports in 1998, while the Benelux countries took 14 percent, followed by Germany, Italy, Taiwan, and China. France was the major source of goods imported into the Congo, with 23 percent; the United States provided 9 percent; Belgium, 8 percent; and the United Kingdom, 7 percent.

Although the Congo has a bilateral investment treaty with the United States and a new investment code intended to bring in more foreign direct investment , it has been unable to attract meaningful foreign investment. According to the U.S. Department of State Background Notes, "High costs for labor, energy, raw materials, and transportation; militant labor unions; and an inadequate transportation infrastructure are among the factors discouraging investment. The recent political instability, war damage, and looting also will undermine investor confidence."

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Democratic Republic of the Congo
Exports Imports
1975 .275 .300
1980 .544 .278
1985 .950 .792
1990 .999 .888
1995 .438 .397
1998 N/A N/A
SOURCE : International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.
Exchange rates: Republic of the Congo
Communaute Financiere Africaine francs (CFA Fr) per US$1
Jan 2001 699.21
2000 711.98
1999 615.70
1998 589.95
1997 583.67
1996 511.55
Note: From January 1, 1999, the CFA Fr is pegged to the euro at a rate of 655.957 CFA Fr per euro.
SOURCE : CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].


The Republic of the Congo is part of the Central African Monetary and Economic Union (Communauté Economiquareue et Monetaire de l'Afrique Centrale, or CEMAC), a group of 5 francophone countries that use the same currency, the CFA franc. The CFA franc is tied to the French franc and can be readily exchanged at 50 CFA francs to 1 French franc. Congo, like all members of the CFA franc communities, has benefitted from this stable currency.

As a member of the CFA zone, Congo was profoundly affected by the 50 percent devaluation of the CFA in 1994. The currency had been overvalued prior to the devaluation, making it difficult for the country to export its goods. The devaluation has made its traditional exports more competitive on world markets. In the short term, however, devaluation lowered living standards and probably increased poverty by raising prices while most salaries remained static.

CEMAC planned to open a regional stock exchange in Libreville, Gabon, in 2001, despite the existence of a limited stock exchange in Douala.


The lack of proper monitoring makes it difficult to determine the actual income levels of the Congolese people, the majority of whom are involved in subsistence agriculture and trade their labor for the goods that they need. World Bank estimates indicate that the per capita GDP was just US$670 per year in 1999. According to the Congolese government, only 30 percent of the population has access to health care, and they estimate that CFA44 billion is needed to rebuild the medical services sector. Further, there are over 120,000 HIV/AIDS victims in Congo, and only 14 percent of the people live in "healthy" environments.

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Rep. of Congo 709 776 1,096 933 821
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Dem. Rep. of Congo 392 313 293 247 127
Gabon 6,480 5,160 4,941 4,442 4,630
SOURCE : United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

For children ages 6 through 16, schooling is compulsory and free. The CIA and World Bank estimate that 79 percent of Congolese over the age of 15 are literate. The country's only university, Universite Marien-Ngouabi, is located in Brazzaville and has an enrollment of 12,000 students annually.


The lack of proper monitoring agencies makes it impossible to estimate the total workforce or unemployment figures for the Congo; moreover, the existence of a large informal economy and subsistence agricultural practices would distort any figures that were available.

The government calls for a monthly minimum wage of about US$85, a sum insufficient to afford a worker and his or her family a decent standard of living. The lack of proper protections for workers has led to the rise of a number of militant labor unions, including the Congolese Trade Union Congress, the General Union of Congolese Pupils and Students, the Revolutionary Union of Congolese Women, and the Union of Congolese Socialist Youth.


1879. Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza of France explores the area of today's Congo. He signs treaties with its leaders and declares the area to be subject to France's protection. Subsequently, this territory becomes known as the Middle Congo.

1910. The Middle Congo officially becomes one of France's federated colonies. Brazzaville becomes the principal city of the Middle Congo and head of the Federation's government.

1924-34. The Congo-Ocean Railway is completed, which paves the way for the development of the port city of Point-Noire and the numerous townships along the ocean.

1944. Major reforms in France's colonial policy take place as a result of the Brazzaville Conference, including the end of compulsory labor, French citizenship for colonial members, and the right to limited self-rule.

1960. France grants Middle Congo its independence; the country is renamed the Republic of the Congo.

1963. Fulbert Youlou becomes the Congo's first president and prohibits all political parties except his own. He is overthrown by Alphonse Massamba-Débat 3 years later. President Massamba-Débat introduces communism to the Congo and establishes strong ties with communist states, including the People's Republic of China.

1968. Marien Ngouabi becomes head of state after overthrowing Massamba-Débat. Ngouabi's 9-year rule is even more leftist than that of his predecessor.

1970. A new constitution is ratified, renaming the country the People's Republic of the Congo.

1977. General Joahim Yhombi-Opango assumes power after Ngouabi is assassinated. The Congo continues its close ties with France, despite its ideological affiliation with communism.

1979. President Yhombi-Opango is succeeded as president by Colonel Denis Sassou-Nguesso.

1981. The Congo signs a treaty with the Soviet Union establishing cooperation and friendship between the 2 nations.

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Rep. of Congo 34 2 12 3 3 11 36
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Dem. Rep. of Congo N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Gabon 40 3 9 3 7 4 34
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
a Excludes energy used for transport.
b Includes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE : World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

1991. A new constitution is ratified making the Congo a multi-party democracy. The country's name is changed back to the Republic of the Congo and the country adopts a new national flag and anthem.

1992. Sassou-Nguesso is defeated in the presidential elections by Pascal Lissouba. Subsequently, Lissouba is accused of ethnic favoritism and armed factions supporting Sassou-Nguesso rise against him.

1997. Civil war breaks out in Brazzaville, which results in Brazzaville's destruction. Later that year, Sassou-Nguesso overthrows Lissouba with help from Angola.


One of the major impediments to improvements to the Congo's economy is the service on the Congo's external debt. The Congo is one of Africa's most indebted countries, with its foreign debt totaling about 250 percent of its GDP. As a result, too large a share of the government's revenues goes to servicing that debt and very little remains for building infrastructure and maintaining the social services of the country. To solve this problem, the International Monetary Fund agreed to an Interim Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Program which provides for debt relief based on the Congo's implementation of economic reforms. If these measures are undertaken, and debt relief is begun, this will free up much needed resources that can be channeled to infrastructure building. Improvements in infrastructure are essential if the country wishes to draw any foreign investment and build its underdeveloped manufacturing and industrial base.

The Congo's economic progress had been hampered by poor oil prices in 1998, which resulted in a decline in government revenue. The government also experienced a slump in revenue as a result of the war. Both of these factors contributed to the major decline in the Congo's economy, which experience-3.0 percent annual GDP growth in 1999. Subsequent increases in world oil prices in 2000 and 2001 were certain to aid the economy, though the destruction of the country's infrastructure by the 1997-98 civil war may make it difficult for the country to prepare its goods for export.

In the long term, the Congo must rebuild political stability and commit itself to the dual projects of paying down public debt and rebuilding its infrastructure. Should it solve its political problems the country is likely to gain the assistance of international lending agencies, but even with such assistance the Congo faces a long and difficult road to economic well-being.


The Republic of the Congo has no territories or colonies.


Congo Brazzaville Report. <>.Accessed July 2001.

CongoWeb. <>. AccessedJuly 2001.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Republic of the Congo. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

"Republic of Congo." The World Bank Group. <>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Background Notes: Congo. <>. Accessed August 2001.

Michael David Nicoleau

Raynette Rose Gutrick




Communauté Financiére Africaine franc (CFA Fr). The CFA franc is tied to the French franc at an exchange rate of CFA Fr50 to Fr1. One CFA franc equals 100 centimes. There are coins of 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500 CFA francs, and notes of 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, and 10,000 CFA francs.


Petroleum, tropical and other woods, diamonds, sugar, coffee, and cocoa.


Petroleum products, machines and appliances, construction materials, chemical products, transportation equipment, foodstuffs, textiles, and paper products.


US$4.15 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).


Exports: US$1.7 billion (f.o.b., 1999). Imports: US$770 million (f.o.b., 1999).

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Congo, Republic of the

Republic of the Congo, republic (2005 est. pop. 3,039,000), 132,046 sq mi (342,000 sq km), W central Africa. Congo is bordered on the west by Gabon; on the north by Cameroon and the Central African Republic; on the east and southeast by the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and on the southwest by Cabinda (an Angolan exclave) and the Atlantic Ocean. Brazzaville is the capital and largest city. Other important cities include Pointe-Noire and Loubomo.

Land and People

The terrain is covered mainly by dense tropical rain forest, with stretches of wooded savanna. Tributaries of the Congo and Ubangi rivers, which separate Congo from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, flow through the country. The climate is warm and humid and rainfall is heavy. The Congo serves as the transport and commercial hub of central Africa, with economically important road, river, and rail systems connecting inland areas with the Atlantic. The country's internal road network is inadequate, however, and has hampered economic development.

About half of the nation's population resides in urban areas, and the population density is relatively low. There are about 15 ethnic groups in Congo, and these are subdivided into some 75 smaller groups. The Bakongo, who make up nearly half of the population, are mostly farmers or traders and live primarily around Brazzaville; they are Bantu-speaking, as are the Bateke (who live north of Brazzaville), the Sanga, and the Mbochi. Pygmies live in the north, and Vili people dwell along the coast. About half of the Congolese people practice traditional religions; the rest are primarily Christian, although there is a small Muslim minority. French is the country's official language, but many African languages, including Lingala and Monokutuba (both lingua franca trade languages) and Kikongo, are widely spoken.


Petroleum production (which supplies a major share of government revenues and exports), forestry, and agriculture are the chief economic activities in Congo. Domestic food production does not meet national demand, and food must be imported in large quantities. The major subsistence crops are cassava, rice, corn, and vegetables. Sugarcane, cocoa, and coffee, raised primarily on plantations, are important export crops, as are peanuts, palm products, and tobacco. Lumber and plywood are also important exports, as are diamonds. Diseases restrict cattle raising, and fishing is not well developed.

Industry is limited mainly to the processing of petroleum and agricultural and forest products; much of it is concentrated in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire and in the Niari valley. Although attempts have been made to diversify the economy, it is still largely dependent on petroleum and influenced by fluctuating world oil prices. Mining is important, with oil, diamonds, and potash the principal mineral exports. Lead, zinc, uranium, copper, phosphates, and natural gas are other important mineral resources. China, the United States, and France are the major trading partners.


Congo is governed under the constitution of 2002. The president, who is both head of state and head of government, is popularly elected for a seven-year term and is eligible for a second term. The bicameral legislature consists of the 66-seat Senate and the 137-seat National Assembly. All legislators are popularly elected to five-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into ten regions and the Brazzaville federal district.


Early History through Colonialism

Pygmies, migrating from the Congo (Kinshasa) region, were probably the first inhabitants of what is now the Republic of the Congo. Other early inhabitants include the Bakongo, the Bateke, and the Sanga, who arrived in the 15th cent. After the coastal areas were explored by the Portuguese navigator Diogo Cão in 1482, commerce developed between the Europeans and the coastal African states, which raided the interior for slaves to trade.

Portuguese traders predominated throughout the 17th cent., although French trade centers were established (mainly at Loanga), and English and Dutch merchants sought commercial opportunities. Europeans penetrated inland in the late 19th cent., with Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza leading major expeditions in 1875 and 1883. In 1880 he negotiated an agreement with the Bateke to establish a French protectorate over the north bank of the Congo River.

Between 1889 and 1910, the Congo (called the French Congo and later the Middle Congo) was administered primarily by French companies that held concessions to exploit the area's rubber and ivory resources. Scandals over the decimation of the African population through forced labor and porterage broke out in 1905 and 1906. France restricted the role of the concessionaires in 1907, and in 1910 the Congo became a colony in French Equatorial Africa. Renewed forced labor and other abuses sparked an African revolt in 1928. The Free French forces made the Congo a bastion of their struggle against the Germans and the Vichy regime during World War II. In 1946, the region was granted a territorial assembly and representation in the French parliament. In the French constitutional referendum of 1958, the Congo opted for autonomy within the French Community.

Postcolonial History

Full independence was achieved on Aug. 15, 1960, with Fulbert Youlou as the first president. Forced to resign after a revolt in 1963, he was succeeded by Alphonse Massamba-Débat. In 1964 the new president founded a Marxist-Leninist party and proclaimed a noncapitalist path of economic development. A Five-Year Plan was initiated, and the state sector of the economy in agriculture and industry was expanded. Tensions between the government and the army grew, and in 1968, Marien Ngouabi, an army commander, seized power. He followed his predecessor's socialist policies but created his own Marxist-Leninist party, the Congolese Workers party (PCT). An attempted coup in 1972 provided Ngouabi with a reason to purge opponents. Ngouabi was assassinated in 1977 after being unable to contain the growth of the popular opposition movement.

The success of the Marxist party in Angola led to imitation in the Congo and Ngouabi's successor, Joachim Yhombi-Opango, was expected to reestablish military control over the PCT. He instead attempted to dissolve the PCT congress, a move that the trade unions protested. Amid accusations that he had embezzled government funds, Yhombi was ousted from the PCT and in 1979 Col. Denis Sassou-Nguesso was appointed head of state.

Sassou-Nguesso maintained a politically neutral course in international affairs, seeking ties with both capitalist and Communist countries (the Congo signed a treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union in 1981, as it continued to benefit from French investment). A dramatic decline in petroleum prices resulted in severe unemployment in 1988 and 1989. The PCT-appointed congress reelected Sassou-Nguesso president for a third five-year term in 1989.

In 1992, voters approved a new constitution establishing multiparty rule, and Pascal Lissouba won the country's first democratic presidential election. However, disputed parliamentary elections in 1993 led to bloody fighting between progovernment forces and the opposition (both largely ethnically based groups). Following a Jan., 1994, cease-fire, tribal militias began disarming; the following year some opposition members were included in the government. Unrest continued, however, with full-scale civil war breaking out in June, 1997. Presidential elections scheduled for July were cancelled, and by October the forces of Sassou-Nguesso, aided by Angolan troops, had captured Brazzaville, and Lissouba had fled the capital. Sassou-Nguesso was installed as president, but fighting continued into 1999, when a cease-fire was signed.

In the Pool region in the south, however, fighting erupted with rebel militias in 2002–3; a new peace deal did not lead to disarmament as intended. The militias remain in control in some areas in the south and have turned to criminal activities to support themselves; fighting broke out in the capital in Oct., 2005. Meanwhile, in Mar., 2002, Sassou-Nguesso was elected to a seven-year term as president, but the vote was marred by irregularities. A new peace accord was signed with the Pool region rebels in Apr., 2007, and the following month their leader was given a post in the government. Legislative elections in mid-2007 were won overwhelmingly by parties allied with the president; most opposition parties boycotted the polls, which were criticized by many observers. Sassou-Nguesso was reelected in July, 2009, in balloting that was boycotted by some in the opposition and was reported to suffer from a low turnout (despite official figures of 66%). In mid-2012 the governing party and its allies again won a majority in the legislative elections.


See A. Gide, Travels in the Congo (tr. 1927); V. Thompson and R. Adloff, Historical Dictionary of the People's Republic of the Congo (2d ed. 1984); C. Allen and M. Radu, Benin and the Congo (1988).

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Congo, Republic of the

Congo, Republic of the

AKA 215

The people of the Republic of Congo are called Congolese. The population belongs to four major ethnic groupsthe Bakongo, Bateke, Mboshi, and Sangawhich comprise more than 40 tribes. This chapter begins with an article on the Congolese people as a whole. There is also an article on the Aka, a group that lives in the high forest region and are possibly the Congo's original inhabitants. The Bakongo, profiled in the last article in this chapter, are Congo's largest ethnic group.

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