342,000sq km (132,046sq mi)
Kongo 52%, Teke 17%, Mboshi 12%, Mbete 5%
CFA franc = 100 centimes
Land and climateCongo generally has a hot, wet equatorial climate. Its narrow, treeless coastal plain is dry and cool due to the Benguela Current, which flows n along the coast. Inland, the River Niari has carved a fertile valley through the forested highlands. Central Congo consists of luxuriant savanna. Tree species include the valuable okoumé and mahogany. The n contains large swamps in the tributary valleys of the Congo and Ubangi rivers.
History and PoliticsThe Loango and Bakongo kingdoms dominated the Congo when the first European arrived in 1482. The coast became a centre for the slave trade. In 1880 Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza explored the area and it became a French protectorate. In 1910 Brazzaville became the capital of the federation of French Equatorial Africa. In 1960 the Republic of Congo gained independence. In 1964 Congo adopted Marxism-Leninism as the state ideology. The military, led by Marien Ngouabi, seized power in 1968. Ngouabi created the Congolese Workers Party (PCT) and was assassinated in 1977. The PCT retained power under Colonel Sassou-Nguesso. In 1990 it renounced Marxism and Sassou-Nguesso was deposed. The Pan-African Union for Social Democracy (UPADS), led by Pascal Lissouba, won multi-party elections in 1992. In 1997 Sassou-Nguesso overthrew Lissouba and the Congo plunged into civil war. In 2002 the Congo adopted a new constitution and Sassou-Nguesso was re-elected.
EconomyCongo is a lower-middle-income developing country (2000 GDP per capita, US$1100). Over 60% of the workforce engages in subsistence agriculture. Major food crops include bananas, cassava, maize and rice, while cash crops are coffee and cocoa. Congo's main exports are oil (70% of the total) and timber.
Denis Sassou-Nguesso (dĕ´nē säs´ō-əngā´sō), 1943?–, Congolese army officer and president (1979–92, 1997–) of Congo (Brazzaville). He served (1977–79) as the minister of national defense. As president he won approval for a new Marxist constitution and signed (1981) a friendship treaty with the USSR, while maintaining the Congo's strong economic ties with France. The increasing economic impoverishment of the Congo, however, led to a national political conference (1991) that stripped him of many powers. In 1992 he ran for reelection in a democratic contest and came in third. Prolonged fighting and unrest following disputed parliamentary elections in 1993 ultimately led to a victory by Sassou-Nguesso's forces in 1997, and he again became president. He was elected president in 2002 and reelected in 2009; both votes were marred by irregularities.