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Congo, Democratic Republic of the (DROC)



Democratic Republic of the Congo

République Democratique du Congo

CAPITAL: Kinshasa

FLAG: The flag is a sky blue field divided diagonally from the lower hoist corner to upper fly corner by a red stripe bordered by two narrow yellow stripes; a yellow, five-pointed star appears in the upper hoist corner.

ANTHEM: Song of Independence.

MONETARY UNIT: In 1997, the New Congo replaced the zaire (z) as the national currency with the Congolese franc (cf). cf1 = $0.00228 (or $1 = cf437.86) as of 2005.

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

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Commemoration of Martyrs of Independence, 4 January; Labor Day, 1 May; Anniversary of the Popular Movement of the Revolution, 20 May; Promulgation of the 1967 Constitution, 24 June; Independence Day, 30 June; Parents' Day, 1 August; Youth Day, 14 October; Army Day, 17 November; the Anniversary of the Regime, 24 November; and Christmas Day, 25 December.

TIME: In Kinshasa, 1 pm = noon GMT; in Lubumbashi, 2 pm = noon GMT.


The Democratic Republic of the Congo is situated in central Africa and is crossed by the equator in its north-central region. It is the third-largest country on the continent, covering an area of 2,345,410 sq km (905,568 sq mi), with a length of 2,276 km (1,414 mi) ssennw and a width of 2,236 km (1,389 mi) enewsw. Comparatively, the area occupied by the country is slightly less than one-quarter the size of the United States, or about as large as the United States east of the Mississippi River. On then it is bounded by the Central African Republic, on the ne by Sudan, on the e by Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania, on the se and s by Zambia, on the sw by Angola, and on the w by the Cabinda enclave of Angola and the Republic of the Congo (ROC), with a total boundary length of 10,744 km (6,661 mi). Its extreme western portion is a narrow wedge terminating in a strip of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. The DROC and Zambia dispute the border to the east of Lake Mweru. Kinshasa, the capital, is located in the western part of the country.


The principal river is the Congo, which flows over 4,344 km (2,700 mi) from its headwaters to its estuary. The gigantic semicircular bend in the river, which is called the Lualaba in its upper course, delineates a central depression known as the cuvette, with an average altitude of about 400 m (1,312 ft). Around this densely forested section, which covers nearly half the area of the country, plateaus rise gradually to heights of 9001,000 m (2,9503,280 ft) to the north and south.

The highest altitudes are found along the eastern fringe of the country, on the edge of the Great Rift Valley, where dislocation of the strata has produced important volcanic and mountain masses, the most notable of which is Margherita Peak. Lying on the border with Uganda, the peak rises to 5,109 m (16,762 ft), the third-highest point in Africa. Nyriagongo (11,365 ft/3,465 m), located south of Margherita Peak is considered to be one of the most active volcanoes in Africa. On 10 January 1977, a lava lake poured out of the summit covering the countryside at speeds of 40 mph and killing about 2,000 people. It erupted again in 1982 and 1994. On 17 January 2002, lava flow from the volcano Nyriagongo forced the evacuation of Goma. About 45 people died and 14 villages were damaged by the lava flow, leaving 12,000 homeless. Mt. Nyamulagira, located about 15 km (9 mi) northwest of Nyriagongo, has erupted 34 times since 1882.

Savanna and park forest vegetation predominate north and south of the equatorial forest belt; the southern savanna belt is far more extensive than the northern one. All major rivers are tributaries of the Congo; these include the Lomami, the Aruwimi or Ituri, the Ubangi, the Uélé, the Kasai, the Sankuru, the Lulua, the Kwango, and the Kwilu. The largest lakes include Tanganyika, Albert (L. Mobutu Sese Seko), Edward, Kivu, and Mweru, all of which form parts of the eastern border. Other large lakes are MaiNdombe and Tumba.


The climate is tropically hot and humid in the lower western and central regions, with frequent heavy rains from October or November through May south of the equator and from April to June and September to October in the north, while along the equator itself there is only one season. In the cuvette, temperatures average 24°c (75°f), with high humidity and almost no seasonal variation. Annual rainfall is between 130 cm and 200 cm (5179 in). In the northern and southern plateaus there are wet and dry seasons, with temperatures slightly cooler in the latter and annual rainfall of 100160 cm (3963 in). The eastern highlands have temperatures averaging 18°c to 24°c (64°75°f), depending on the season. Rainfall averages 120180 cm (4771 in).


The flora and fauna of the DROC include some 95% of all the varieties found in Africa. Among the many species of trees are the red cedar, mahogany, oak, walnut, the silk-cotton tree, and various palms. Orchids, lilies, lobelias, and gladioli are some of the flowers found, along with shrubs and plants of the euphorbia and landolphia families. Larger species of mammals include the lion, elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros, zebra, leopard, cheetah, gorilla, chimpanzee, wild boar, giraffe, okapi, and wild hog. The baboon and many kinds of monkeys are common, as are the jackal, hyena, civet, porcupine, squirrel, rabbit, and rat. Hippopotamuses and crocodiles are found in the rivers. Large snakes include the python, puff adder, and tree cobra. Lizards and chameleons are among the numerous small reptiles.

Birds are mainly of species common to much of Africa. They include the eagle, vulture, owl, goose, duck, parrot, whidah and other weaver birds, pigeon, sunbird, cuckoo, and swift, along with the crane, heron, stork, pelican, and cormorant. The rivers and lakes have many kinds of fish, among them catfish, tigerfish, and electric eels. Insects include various dragonflies, bees, wasps, beetles, mosquitoes, and the tsetse fly, as well as scorpions, spiders, centipedes, ants, and termites.

As of 2002, there were at least 200 species of mammals, 130 species of birds, and over 6,000 species of plants throughout the country.


Deforestation is caused by farming activity and the nation's dependency on wood for fuel. By 1985, 3,701 sq km (1,429 sq mi) of forestland had been lost. In 2000, about 59% of the total land area was forested. The DROC has nine national parks. There are five Natural World Heritage Sites, three biosphere reserves, and two Ramsar wetland sites. In 2003, about 5% of the DROC's total land area was protected.

The main environmental problem is poor water and sanitation systems, which result in the spread of insect- and rodent-borne diseases. The water is polluted by untreated sewage, industrial chemicals, and mining by-products. The nation has 900 cu km of renewable water resources with 23% used for farming activities and 16% used for industrial purposes. Roughly 83% of city dwellers and 29% of the people living in rural areas have access to improved water sources.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 29 types of mammals, 30 species of birds, 2 types of reptiles, 13 species of amphibians, 10 species of fish, 14 types of mollusks, 8 species of other invertebrates, and 65 species of plants. Endangered species in the DROC include the Marunga sunbird and the northern white and northern square-lipped rhinoceros.


The population of Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 60,764,000, which placed it at number 20 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 3% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 48% 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%. The government is concerned about high fertility levels (6.7 births per woman), which contributes to the high population growth rate. The projected population for the year 2025 was 107,982,000. The population density was 26 per sq km (67 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 30% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 4.85%. The capital city, Kinshasa, had a population of 5,277,000 in that year. Almost one third of the population lives in or around Kinshasa, in the lower Congo area. Other large cities are Lubumbashi, Mbuji-Mayi; Kolwezi; Kananga; and Kisangani.

The DROC's population was significantly affected by warfare in the 1990s and early 2000s, when an estimated three million people died mostly from malnutrition and disease. The eastern portion of the country has seen more than one million refugees from neighboring nations. Also, many Congolese have been displaced or fled the country due to internal violence.


Political tensions and crises in neighboring African countries have resulted in large-scale migration to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC, formerly Zaire). Many refugees were resettled in the DROC through the aid of outside governments, private relief organizations, the United Nations (UN), and UN-related agencies.

After a general amnesty for refugees and political exiles in 1978, some 200,000 Zairians were repatriated from Angola, Zambia, Sudan, Tanzania, and Europe. There were 60,200 officially registered Zairians living in neighboring countries at the end of 1992, including 25,800 in Burundi, 16,000 in Tanzania, 15,600 in Uganda, and 2,300 in Sudan.

By early 1997, over 800,000 Rwandan Hutu refugees had returned to Rwanda from the DROC due to the armed rebellion in the DROC. There were still 250,000 Rwandan Hutus unaccounted for in the DROC at the beginning of 1997. The DROC harbored 400,000 Burundian refugees, 160,000 Angolans, 110,000 Sudanese, and 18,500 Ugandans as of May 1997. In 1998, more than 285,000 Angolans, Sudanese, Congolese, Ugandans, Rwandans, and Burundians remained in the DROC. Following the signature of an agreement between the DROC, Republic of Congo (ROC), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in April 1999, some 36,000 Congolese were repatriated to Brazzaville, ROC. However, instability in Angola made similar repatriation for Angolans unlikely. As a result of internal conflict that started in August 1998, more than 700,000 people were internally displaced. Some 95,000 sought asylum in Tanzania and 25,000 fled to Zambia.

In 2004, the total number of migrants living in the DROC was 213,520 of which 199,323 were refugees; 21% of refugees resided in camps. In 2004, there were an estimated 3,400,000 internally displaced persons in the DROC. In that same year, 11,166 Burundians and 2,011 Central Africans were repatriated. Also in 2004, over 295,000 Congolese applied for asylum in Tanzania, Zambia, Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. The net migration rate in 2005 was -0.17 migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.


There are over 200 African ethnic groups, of which the majority are Bantu. Bantu-speaking peoples form about 80% of the population. Most of the rest are Sudanic-speaking groups in the north and northeast. In the cuvette are found about 80,000100,000 Pygmies. Among the Bantu-speaking peoples, the major groups are the Kongo, or Bakongo, in Lower Zaire; the Luba, or Baluba, in East Kasai and Shaba; the Mongo and related groups in the cuvette area; and the Lunda and Chokwe in Bandundu and West Kasai; the Bemba and Hemba in Shaba; and the Kwango and Kasai in Bandundu. The four largest tribesMongo, Luba, Kongo (all Bantu), and the Mangbetu-Azande (Hamitic)make up about 45% of the total population. Non-Africans include Belgians, Greeks, Lebanese, and Asian Indians.


As many as 700 languages and dialects are spoken in the DROC. Serving as regional linguae francae are four African languages: Lingala is used in the north from Kisangani to Kinshasa, as well as in the armed forces; Swahili, in the Kingwana dialect, is used in the east; Kikongo in Lower Zaire; and Tshiluba in the south-central area. In addition, Lomongo is widely spoken in the cuvette. French is the official language and is widely used in government and commerce.


Until 1990, only three Christian churches were officially recognized denominations: the Roman Catholic Church; the Church of Christ; and the charismatic Kimbanguist Church, which claims to be the largest independent African church on the continent. Kimbanguists constitute about 10% of the population. About 50% of the population are Roman Catholic and about 20% are Protestant. Another 10% are Muslim. Others adhere to syncretic sects and traditional African beliefs. Protestant missionary groups include Lutherans, Baptists, Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses.

During the 1970s, the regime of President Mobutu moved to curb the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. All church-affiliated schools and voluntary associations were either disbanded or taken over by the state. The power of the church was further eroded in 1974 with the cancellation of religious holidays, and as of January 1975, religious instruction in primary and secondary schools was abolished. As of the mid-1980s, however, the Roman Catholic Church, along with the smaller churches, remained independent of government apparatus.

As of 2004, freedom of religion was provided for in article 26 of the transitional constitution and this right was generally respected in practice. Religious groups are required to register with the government according to the Regulation of Nonprofit Associations and Public Utility Institutions statute; however, there are no penalties for failure to register. The Consortium of Traditional Religious Leaders provides a forum for the discussion of religious concerns between faiths and with the government. The Consortium is composed of leaders from the five major religious groups: Catholic, Muslim, Protestant, Orthodox, and Kimbanguist.


Inland waterwaysrivers and lakesare the main channels of transportation. No single railroad runs the full length of the country, and paved highways are few and short. Lack of adequate transportation is a major problem affecting the development of the DROC's vast area. While the rivers, particularly the Congo and its tributaries, are mostly navigable, they are blocked at various points from through navigation by cataracts and waterfalls, making it necessary to move goods by rail or road between the navigable sections. Principal river ports are Kinshasa, Ilebo, Mbandaka, Kisangani, Kalemie, Ubundu, and Kindu. A total of 15,000 km (9,321 mi) of river and lake waterways are in service. The chief seaport and only deepwater port is Matadi on the Congo River, 148 km (92 mi) from the Atlantic Ocean. Other seaports include Boma and Banana, also on the Congo below Matadi. The Zaire Maritime Company is the national shipping line.

In 2002, there were about 157,000 km (97,560 mi) of roads, but were mere tracks. One of the major routes was from Kinshasa to Lubumbashi. The road network was in a state of deterioration. Motor vehicles in 2003 included 148,900 passenger cars and 135,000 commercial vehicles.

As of 2004, the DROC's railroad system consisted of 5,138 km (3,192 mi) of narrow gauge railway, which used three differing gauges. Among the most important internal links are Lubumbashi-Ilebo, Kingala-Kindu, Ubundu-Kisangani, and KinshasaMatadi. In the early 1980s, the Kinshasa-Matadi line was extended by a Japanese company. A road and rail bridge across the Congo River at Matadi was completed in 1983. The southeastern network connects with the Angolan and Zambian railroad systems. In 1974, all railroads were consolidated under a single state-controlled corporation, SNCZ.

Air transport has become an important factor in the country's economy. The DROC has five international airportsN'Djili (Kinshasa), Luano (Lubumbashi), and airports at Bukavu, Goma, and Kisanganiwhich can accommodate long-distance jet aircraft. Altogether, there were an estimated 230 airports, airfields, and landing strips in 2004, of which 25 had paved runways as of 2005. The national airline, Air Zaïre, was organized in 1961 and has flights to European and African cities, as well as within the country. Zaïre Aéro Service and Scibe Airlift Cargo Zaire also offer domestic and international flights. In 2003, about 95,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.


The earliest inhabitants of the area now called the DROC are believed to have been Pygmy tribes who lived by hunting and gathering food and using stone tools. Bantu-speaking peoples entered from the west by 150 ad, while non-Bantu-speakers penetrated the area from the north. These peoples brought with them agriculture and developed iron tools. In 1482, the Portuguese navigator Diogo Cão visited the mouth of the Congo River, marking the first known European contact with the region, but this did not lead to penetration of the interior. The Portuguese confined their relations to the Kongo kingdom, which ruled the area near the mouth of the Congo River as well as what is now the coast of northern Angola. A lucrative slave trade developed.

In the 16th century, the powerful Luba state developed in what is now Katanga Province; soon afterward, a Lunda state was established in what is now south-central DROC. In 1789, a Portuguese explorer, José Lacerdu e Almeida, explored in a cuvette and penetrated as far as Katanga, where he learned of the rich copper mines. A thriving Arab trade in slaves and ivory reached the Luba country from the east in the late 1850s or early 1860s.

The Scottish explorer David Livingstone reached the upper course of the Congo in 1871, when his whereabouts became unknown, and Welsh-American explorer Henry M. Stanley, commissioned by a US newspaper, located and rescued him (in modern Tanzania). In 187677, after the death of Livingstone, Stanley followed the river from the point that Livingstone had reached to its mouth. King Leopold II of Belgium commissioned Stanley to undertake further explorations and to make treaties with the tribal chiefs. In 1878, the monarch formed the International Association of the Congo, a development company, with himself as the chief stockholder. The Berlin Conference of 188485 recognized the Independent State of the Congo, set up by Leopold II under his personal rule, and its ultimate boundaries were established by treaties with other colonial powers.

International criticism and investigation of the treatment of the inhabitants, particularly on the rubber plantations, resulted in 1908 in the end of personal rule. The territory was transferred to Belgium as a colony called the Belgian Congo, and in that year a law known as the Colonial Charter set up its basic structure of government.

The rise of nationalism in the various African territories following World War II seemed to have bypassed the colony, which remained without self-government (except for a few large cities) until 1959. The Congolese demanded independence and rioted, first in Léopoldville (now Kinshasa) and then in other parts of the colony. Following the first outbreaks, the Belgian government outlined a program for the gradual attainment of self-rule in the colony, but as the independence movement persisted and grew, Belgium agreed to grant the Congo its independence in mid1960. It also promised to assist in the training of Congolese administrators, as well as to continue economic and other aid after independence.


The newly independent Republic of the Congo was inaugurated on 30 June 1960, with Joseph Kasavubu as its first head of state and Patrice Lumumba its first premier. It was immediately confronted by massive economic, political, and social problems. A week after independence the armed forces mutinied, and separatist movements and intertribal conflict threatened to split the country. Following the mutiny and the ousting of its European officers, the Congolese National Army became an undisciplined and uncertain force, with groups of soldiers supporting various political and military leaders.

A major blow to the new republic was the secession of mineral-rich Katanga Province, announced on 11 July 1960 by Moïse Tshombe, head of the provincial government. The central government was hamstrung by the loss of revenues from its richest province and by the departure of Belgian civil servants, doctors, teachers, and technicians. After some assaults on Belgian nationals, Belgium sent paratroopers into the Congo, which appealed to the UN for help. Faced with the threatened collapse of a new nation, the UN responded with what grew into a program of massive assistancefinancial, military, administrative, and technical. It established the UN Operation for the Congo (UNOC), sent in a UN military force (made up of contingents volunteered by nonmajor powers), and furnished considerable numbers of experts in administration, teachers, doctors, and other skilled personnel.

In September 1960, Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba as premier, and Lumumba announced that he had dismissed Kasavubu as head of state. The parliament subsequently rescinded both dismissals. Kasavubu then dismissed the parliament and with Col. Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, the army's newly appointed chief of staff, succeeded in taking Lumumba prisoner. UN troops did not interfere. As demands for Lumumba's release mounted, Lumumba was secretly handed over to the Katanga authorities, who had him put to death early in 1961. Shortly afterward, the UN Security Council for the first time authorized UN forces in the Congo to use force if necessary, as a "last resort," to prevent civil war from occurring.

In September 1961, after Katanga forces fired on UN troops seeking to secure the removal of foreign mercenaries, UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld flew to the Congo, where he boarded a plane for Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) to meet with Tshombe. The plane crashed, killing him and all others on board. In December 1962, Katanga forces in Elisabethville (now Lubumbashi) opened sustained fire on UN troops. The UN troops then began broad-scale military operations to disarm the Katanga forces throughout the province. As they neared the completion of their task, Tshombe capitulated, and the secession of Katanga was ended on 14 January 1963.

Almost immediately, a new insurrection, in the form of a series of rebellions, broke out. The rebels at one point exercised de facto control over more than half the country. As UN troops were withdrawn on 30 June 1964, the self-exiled Tshombe was recalled and offered the position of prime minister, largely at US and Belgian instigation. Tshombe promptly recruited several hundred white mercenaries to spearhead the demoralized national army. Rebel-held Stanleyville (now Kisangani) was recaptured in November 1964, when a US-airlifted contingent of Belgian paratroopers disarmed the insurgents. Widespread government reprisals against the population followed. By then, the rebellion had been contained.

Tshombe's attempt to establish a nationwide political base was successful in parliamentary elections held in early 1965, but on 13 October 1965 he was removed from office by Kasavubu, who attempted to replace him with Evariste Kimba, also from Katanga. When Kimba was not endorsed by the parliament, Gen. Joseph Desiré Mobutu, commander-in-chief of the Congolese National Army, seized power in a coup d'état on 24 November 1965 and assumed the presidency.

A new constitution adopted in June 1967 instituted a centralized presidential form of government, coupled with the creation of a new political movement, the Popular Movement of the Revolution (Mouvement Populaire de la RévolutionMPR). Tshombe's hopes for a comeback were dashed when he was kidnapped in June 1967 and imprisoned in Algeria, where he died two years later. His supporters, led by French and Belgian mercenaries, mutinied again in July 1967 but were finally defeated in November, in part because of logistical support of Mobutu extended by the US government. Other sources of opposition were summarily dealt with in 1968 with the disbanding of independent labor and student organizations.

Mobutu officially transformed the Congo into a one-party state in 1970, and in 1971, changed the name of the country, river, and currency to Zaire. (This name, an inaccurate rendition of the Kikongo word for "river," had been given by 16th-century Portuguese navigators to the river that later came to be known as the Congo.) This turned out to be the first step in a campaign of national "authenticity," which led not only to the Africanization of all European toponyms (a process that had already been applied to major cities in 1966) but also to the banning of Christian names (Mobutu himself changed his name to Mobutu Sese Seko).

Mobutu was elected without opposition to a new seven-year term as president in 1977, but he continued to face opposition, both external and internal. Former Katangan gendarmes, who had earlier fled to Angola, invaded (then) Shaba Province on 8 March 1977. Mobutu, charging that Cuba and the former USSR were behind the invasion, enlisted the aid of 1,500 Moroccan troops. The incursion was quelled by late May. In May 1978, however, the rebels again invaded Shaba and occupied Kolwezi, a key mining center. French paratroopers retook Kolwezi on 19 May and were later joined by Belgian troops, but several hundred foreigners and Zairians were killed during the eight-day rebel occupation. Troops from Morocco, Gabon, and Senegal replaced the French and Belgians in June; Zairian troops later reoccupied the region.

In 1981, Premier Nguza Karl-I-Bond resigned and became spokesman for an opposition group based in Belgium; however, he returned to Zaire in 1985 and was appointed ambassador to the United States in 1986. In June 1982, 13 former parliament members were jailed allegedly for trying to organize an opposition party. They were released in 1983, as part of an announced amnesty for political detainees and exiles, but six of the 13 were sent into internal exile in 1986.

In 1982, Mobutu resumed diplomatic ties with Israel, which had been broken in 1974; five Arab nations quickly cut ties with Zaire, and $350 million in promised Arab aid to Zaire was blocked. In 1983, Zaire sent 2,700 troops to Chad to aid the government against Libyan-backed rebels; they were withdrawn in 1984. Mobutu was reelected "unopposed" to a new seven-year presidential term in July 1984. In 1986 and 1987 there were reports that the United States was using an airbase in Zaire to supply weapons to the antigovernment guerrillas in neighboring Angola; Mobutu denied these charges and affirmed his support of the Angolan government.

For his support of western positions through the Cold War, Mobutu was handsomely rewarded. Western aid and investment and state seizures of private property made some individuals extraordinarily wealthy. Mobutu allegedly became the wealthiest person in Africa, with a fortune estimated at $7 billion, mostly in Swiss bank accounts. However, widely publicized human rights violations in the late 1980s put Mobutu on the defensive. He lobbied the US Congress vigorously, conducted public relations campaigns in Europe and North America and, until the collapse of his authority in the 1990s, managed to gain support from abroad. French and Belgian troops intervened in the Kinshasa unrest of 1990.

To stave off criticism, Mobutu promised to create a multiparty Third Republic. But, in fact, he raised the level of repression. He originally hoped to create two new parties, both of which reflected his own political philosophy and were to join with his own MPR. Those opposed to Mobutu rejected this scheme. But the opposition was divided into a score of parties. With the army in disarray and disorder growing, Mobutu was forced to call a National Conference of some 2,800 delegates in September 1991 to draft a new constitution. Some 130 opposition parties joined together as the Sacred Union. Mobutu on several occasions suspended the Conference, but it continued to meet. It often failed to arrive at a consensus. When it did, Mobutu thwarted its decisions. Neither side was in a hurry to finish the Conference and get on with political reforms because the Conference allowed Mobutu to delay real political competition, while conferees received a handsome per diem for their attendance.

Mounting impatience for reforms unleashed widespread looting in Kinshasa in September 1991 and again the following year, which the Congolese remember as les piages. Mobutu himself abandoned his presidential palace for the security of his yacht on the Congo River. On 16 February 1992, the Catholic Church organized a massive demonstration to reopen the National Conference. Thousands of marchers from all backgrounds converged on the stadium Tata Rafael. Police and soldiers opened fire on the marchers before they could reach their destination, killing hundreds.

In November 1991, Mobutu split the Sacred Union by naming Nguza Karl-I-Bond of the Union of Federalists and Independent Republicans (UFERI) as prime minister. Nguza closed the National Conference in February 1992. Pressure from inside and from western aid donors forced Mobutu to allow the Conference to resume in April. It sought to draft a new constitution and threatened to rename Zaire "Congo." On 14 August 1992, the Sacred Union got the Conference to elect Etienne Tshisekedi of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) as prime minister of a transitional government. Mobutu, who countered by forming a new government under his control and dismissing Tshisekedi in December 1992, controlled the army, the central bank, and the police. Continuing the struggle for control of the state, the Conference drafted a constitution and set a referendum date for April 1993, but it was never held. In March, Mobutu called a conclave of political leaders and named Faustin Birindwa as prime minister. The High Council of the Republic, the interim legislature, continued to recognize Tshisekedi, as did Zaire's principal economic partners abroad. Mobutu was able to incite ethnic violence through "ethnic cleansing policies," thereby dividing his opponents and then using his armed forces to quell the violence.

Two parallel governments attempted to rule Zaire. One controlled the country's wealth and the media; the other had a popular following and professed support from western governments. In September 1993, there was a minor breakthrough. Thanks to UN mediation, the rival powers agreed on a draft constitution for the Third Republic. The two legislatures were to combine into a single, 700-person assembly. New presidential and parliamentary elections were promised. However in January 1994, Mobutu dissolved both governments and a joint sitting of the two legislatures (the HCR-Parliament of Transition). It met on 19 January and appointed the Roman Catholic archbishop of Kisangani as its president. Tshisekedi organized a successful, one-day strike in Kinshasa.

In 1993, Mobutu's Bank of Zaire introduced new currency on three occasions, but it soon became worthless. Merchants would not accept it and riots broke out when soldiers could not spend their pay. French and Belgian troops were deployed in Kinshasa to help restore order as foreigners fled. Public employees also went on strike because of the economic conditions. Anarchy, corruption, uncontrolled violence, and poverty prevailed. Government authority dissolved, leaving the country to pillaging soldiers and roaming gangs. The situation led one journalist to call it "a stateless country." Shaba (Katanga) province declared its autonomy. AIDS was rife. The struggle of two rival claimants to power continued with neither able to mount much overt support.

Due, at least in part, to this chaotic domestic situation, a new outbreak of the Ebola virus was reported in May 1995. Ebola, a virulent disease for which there are no known treatments and which may kill as many as 90% of those infected by it, was responsible for approximately 250 deaths in this outbreak that occurred in Kitwit, a city of about 600,000, 402 km (250 mi) southeast of the capital. Hospitals lacked basic supplies, such as sterile dressings, gowns, and gloves. Many of those who died were medical professionals who had treated the first Ebola patients brought into medical facilities.

Meanwhile the nation was experiencing other problems on its eastern border. Civil war in neighboring Rwanda throughout 1994 and 1995 had forced over one million people to flee into North and South Kivu provinces where refugees settled into densely populated camps. These refugees, mostly Rwandan Hutusmany of whom had participated in the genocide against Rwandan Tutsisquickly became a great strain on the region's scarce resources and in August 1995 the government stepped up efforts to repatriate them to Rwanda. Within a month, over 75,000 refugees had been expelled. However, the expulsion proved counterproductive. Many of the refugees were afraid of being imprisoned or killed by the Tutsi-led government of Rwanda. Some refugees fled into the countryside to avoid being deported while others returned across the border only hours after being expelled. Discussions involving several nations from the region, chaired by Jimmy Carter, sought to resolve the problem.

In October 1996, increasing insecurity, the high cost of living, and the destruction of the fauna and flora led the government of South Kivu province to initiate a series of repressive measures. These reprisals were directed against Rwandan Hutu refugees and against a group of ethnic Rwandans Tutsis, who claimed their ancestors had settled in Zaire more than a century before. This action prompted a rebellion by the Rwandans. By early November the provincial government had been overthrown; the major cities of the province had come under rebel control; and hundreds of thousands of Rwandan refugees were repatriated into Rwanda, attempting to flee the fighting.

At this point the rebellion took a strange turn as Laurent-Desiré Kabila took control. Kabila had originally fought with Lumumba for independence but had been living as a local warlord in the South Kivu province. Kabila's presence as the leader of the rebellion shifted its focus from protecting ethnic Rwandans to conducting a rebellion against the Mobutu government. Kabila obtained the backing of President Museveni of Uganda and Paul Kagame, the leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front.

During the first few months of the rebellion, President Mobutu had been abroad to seek treatment for his prostate cancer. In mid-December, Mobutu returned, appointed a new defense minister, and reshuffled the army command. He also hired Serbian mercenaries and Hutu Rwandans to strengthen his army. In January 1997 the army launched a disastrous counteroffensive against the rebels. By February the rebels controlled nearly all of the Eastern provinces and were threatening to overtake the country. South African-brokered peace talks failed to bring about a cease-fire. The rebels soon took Kisangani, the nation's third-largest city without a fight in March. Any serious opposition to the rebels completely crumbled in the wake of their onslaught. In April, while the UN attempted to negotiate a meeting between Mobutu and Kabila (with Mobutu refusing), the rebels seized Lubumbashi, the second-largest city, and also took control of the diamond-rich province of Kasai.

As rebels closed in on the capital in May, Nelson Mandela hosted talks between Kabila and Mobutu aboard a South African ship. Mobutu agreed to stand-down the army forces in Kinshasa but refused to agree on conditions for his departure. However, as rebel forces drew ever closer, Mobutu realized that his hopes of retaining any of his former power were misplaced, and he fled first to his hometown in the northern part of the country and then abroad. Kabila's forces entered the capital to a hero's welcome. Kabila announced that the country would return to using the name it had been known as from 1960 to 1970, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

While most citizens were glad to be rid of the brutal and corrupt government of Mobutu, and most Western nations were glad to be rid of an embarrassing remnant of the Cold War, Kabila soon proved to be an ambiguous hero. Most of Kabila's top associates were Tutsis in 1997 and were implicated in alleged massacres of Rwandan Hutu refugees in the Eastern Provinces, which they had controlled since November 1996.

By August 1998, a full-fledged war, which eventually involved nine African countries, erupted. It began with a disagreement between Kabila and his Rwandan and Ugandan allies over their future participation in the Congolese state, which soon led to Rwandan and Ugandan attacks on the eastern towns of Goma, Bukavu, and Uvira. With Southern African Development Community (SADC) members Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe supplying troops and materials to Congo, and Chad and Sudan also backing Kabila, US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Susan Rice, dubbed the conflict, "Africa's first world war."

Initially, a Congolese faction called the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD), which included former Mobutu supporters and Kabila dissidents, claimed popular support against the Kabila government to establish democracy in the DROC. This group never achieved wide popularity and some analysts believe it was principally a Rwandan creation to overthrow Kabila by proxy. In AprilMay 1999, the RCD split into two factions with Ilunga claiming that Wamba dia Wamba no longer controlled significant forces. Shooting also broke out between sides of allied Ugandan and Rwandan forces in Kisangani leaving several dead. A third rebel group, the MLC of Jean-Pierre Bemba, controlled parts of Equateur Province and Province Orientale. The UN estimates that some 6,000 people died by the end of the first year of the Congo conflict, many of them civilians. The financial cost to Zimbabwe alone was estimated at $3 million per day.

In July 1999, all sides signed the Lusaka peace accords, and eventually the UN agreed to send some 5,000 peacekeepers under the MONUC mission to DROC to monitor the implementation of the accord. However, with more than half the national territory under rebel control, and with Kabila refusing to cooperate with the UN negotiator, a political and military stalemate ensued. The country fell further into economic chaos due to gross mismanagement of monetary and fiscal policy. On 16 January 2001, a presidential guard shot and killed Laurent Kabila. Kabila was succeeded by his son, Joseph, who was confirmed unanimously by his father's appointed parliament to be the new head of state on 27 January 2001. In mid-January 2003 the assassination trial was concluded, and despite questionable evidence, 29 people were found guilty and condemned to death.

In August 2002, Joseph Kabila succeeded in concluding a peace deal with Rwanda, and with Uganda in September 2002 and in March 2003. By April 2003 most but not all foreign troops had withdrawn, and Kabila had extracted commitments from his neighbors to respect pre-1997 Congolese borders.

Given his youth and inexperience, few observers thought Joseph Kabila could have orchestrated the power-sharing agreement signed in Pretoria on 17 December 2002 between his government, the Mouvement pour la Libération du Congo (MLC), the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD-Goma), the unarmed opposition, and civil society. The agreement permitted Kabila to remain president of the republic until elections were held, a condition on which he insisted throughout the Inter-Congolese Dialog (ICD) talks. However, despite the Pretoria agreement and the presence of several dozen French peacekeeping troops, fierce fighting continued between the Hema and Lendu tribes over control of Bunia, a town in the northeast.

Fighting also continued in other parts of the country. In early 2003, the MLC rebel faction was accused of mass murder, cannibalism, rape, and other human rights abuses committed against Pygmies in Ituri located in the northeast. Fighting, raping, looting, and theft also were reported into June 2003 in towns and villages in the eastern Kivu provinces. Despite having signed a peace agreement in Sun City, South Africa in April 2003, the Rwandanbacked RCD-Goma captured the town of Lubero in June 2003.

In June 2003 concrete steps were taken to resolve the conflict and to implement the Pretoria Accord. A transitional power-sharing government with representation from all the main factions was charged with the responsibility of preparing the country for its transition to democratic elections in 2005. Implementation of the timetable, however, was slow with the government in no hurry to speed the transfer of power. Citizen protests over the delays culminated in a major demonstration organized by the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party in July 2005, and only under concerted pressure from donors did the parliament announce a new and presumably final elections deadline for March/April 2006. The enormous task of voter registration, which began in June 2005, proceeded apace throughout 2005, and the deadline for candidate registration was set for 17 January 2006.

Despite progress in moving the political transition forward, renewed clashes between armed factions operating in Ituri district and North Kivu province threatened to derail the process. Leaders of RCD-Goma were opposed to the transition, claiming that armed Hutu Interahamwe militias continued to conduct attacks on the Banyamulenge Congolese Tutsi population. It was also clear that RCD-Goma was interested in staying in power as long as possible, benefiting from the smuggling of cassiterite and other precious minerals from the DROC into Rwanda. Talks between Kabila and the Rwandan Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) aimed at disarming them and repatriating them to Rwanda broke down because the FDLR wanted to impose amnesty conditions that Rwanda refused.

The protracted fighting was responsible for an estimated 3.3 million war-related deaths in the Kivus between 1998 and 2002. This scale of human calamity had not been seen anywhere on the globe since World War II. In December 2005, the International Court of Justice ruled that Uganda would have to pay reparation to the DROC for looting during the 1998-2003 war. Meanwhile, the specter of a return of Rwandan armed forces to Congolese soil was very real.

In late 2005, the UN MONUC peace-keepers numbered over 16,500 strong and additional police were authorized to maintain order in the run-up to the elections. MONUC claimed to have successfully demobilized several thousand militia fighters in Ituri, however, some 2,000 militia members were thought to be operating with most of their weaponry in that area. While MONUC provided a deterrent to conflict, observers noted that the failure to restructure the armed forces, to disarm militias, and redirect the loyalty of soldiers to the central government presented a major obstacle to the success of the transition process. Congo's "gold curse" and the illegal exploitation of precious minerals from eastern Congo by rebel factions and foreign governments were expected to continue to fuel the fighting. In January 2006, eight MONUC soldiers were killed and several wounded allegedly in an attack by the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army rebels.


A basic law (loi fondamentale ) was adopted in early 1960, before independence, pending the adoption of a permanent constitution by a constituent assembly. It provided for a division of executive powers between the head of state (president) and the head of government (premier). The premier and a cabinet known as the Council of Ministers were both responsible to the bicameral legislature on all matters of policy. This document was replaced by a constitution adopted in 1964 and modeled closely on the 1958 constitution of the French Fifth Republic. Under its terms, the president determined and directed the policy of the state and had the power to appoint and dismiss the prime minister. The powers of the parliament were sharply reduced. After his takeover in November 1965, Gen. Mobutu initially adhered to the 1964 constitution, but in October 1966 he combined the office of prime minister with the presidency. In June 1967 a new constitution was promulgated. It provided for a highly centralized form of presidential government and virtually eliminated the autonomy that provincial authorities had previously exercised.

The constitution was further amended on 23 December 1970 when the MPR was proclaimed the sole party of the republic. MPR primacy over all other national institutions, which resulted from the 1970 establishment of a single-party system, was affirmed in constitutions promulgated in 1974 and 1978. Instead of directly electing the president of the republic, voters confirmed the choice made by the MPR for its chairman, who automatically became the head of state and head of the government. The president's leading role in national affairs was further institutionalized by constitutional provisions that made him the formal head of the Political Bureau, of the Party Congress, and of the National Executive and National Legislative councils.

Organs of the MPR included the 80-member Central Committee, created in 1980 as the policy-making center for both party and government; the 16-member Political Bureau; the Party Congress, which was supposed to meet every five years; the National Executive Council (or cabinet); and the National Legislative Council, a unicameral body with 310 members. The Legislative Council was elected by universal suffrage from MPR-approved candidates. In practice, however, most government functions were directly controlled by President Mobutu through his personal entourage and through numerous aides and advisers. The constitution was amended in April 1990 to permit the formation of alternative parties.

In 1990, Mobutu was challenged by a rival government and he was unable to secure compliance with his decrees. In September 1993, the transitional Tshisekedi government elected by the National Conference in August 1992 and the Mobutu forces agreed on a draft constitution for the Third Republic and on an electoral process leading to a popular government in 1995. However, on 14 January 1994, Mobutu dismissed both governments and rival parliaments, a move that had little effect on the nation. Zaire had (as it had since 1992) two ineffectual governments, neither of which was capable of carrying out policy.

A rival legislature, the 435-member High Council of the Republic (HCR) was established by the National Conference in December 1992, and a government set up by the HCR and headed by Prime Minister Tshisekedi claimed to rule. Yet the army evicted his officers from government facilities. Mobutu repeatedly tried to remove Tshisekedi from office, but Tshisekedi refused to recognize Mobutu's authority to do so. Mobutu had de facto control of the administration but it was unable to act effectively. As a result of this stalemate, the government virtually collapsed.

With the overthrow of Mobutu in 1997, much uncertainty prevailed concerning the structure and organization of the new government. Zaire was renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the names of some provinces were changed. BasZaire became Bas-Congo; Haut-Zaire became Province Orientale; Shaba assumed its former name, Katanga; and the two Kivus and Maniema were grouped together as one Kivu. In September 1997, Laurent Kabila had named several associates to the ministries, and others to governor posts. In November 1998 he approved a draft constitution, but it was not ratified by a national referendum; one outcome of the ongoing inter-Congolese dialogue is to be a new constitution. Laurant Kabila was assassinated in January 2001.

The December 2002 Pretoria agreement led to the establishment in June 2003 of a power-sharing transitional government led by President Joseph Kabila and co-led by four vice presidents who represented the five main armed factions, unarmed civilian opposition, civil society, and members of the previous Joseph Kabila government. The parliament was composed of a 500-member National Assembly and a 120-seat Senate with deputies appointed by the factions participating in the transition government. An electoral commission, a media-regulator, a truth and reconciliation commission, a national human rights watchdog, and an anticorruption commission rounded out the remaining temporary governmental bodies. The constitution was amended to change the age limit to 30 years old for presidential candidates, allowing Joseph Kabila (34 years old) to run.


Political activity was sharply restricted during the colonial period, but several dozen political parties had sprung into existence by early 1960, most of them small and based on local or ethnic organizations. Only the National Congolese Movement (Mouvement National CongolaisMNC) led by Patrice Lumumba entered the May 1960 elections and emerged with an effective national organization. Although the MNC captured only 30% of the popular vote, it formed alliances with two regional parties and controlled 64 of the 137 seats in the House of Representatives.

The national government subsequently organized in June 1960, however, won the backing of a much broader (although less cohesive) coalition which included, among others, Joseph Kasavubu's Bakongo Alliance (Alliance des BakongoABAKO), the largest of the ethnic parties. Kasavubu became the country's head of state and in September 1960 ousted Lumumba. After Tshombe's accession to the post of prime minister in 1964, national and provincial elections were scheduled. In a rather belated effort to organize national support for his policies, Tshombe persuaded some 40-odd local formations to go to the polls under the hastily improvised label of the National Congolese Convention (Convention Nationale CongolaiseCONACO). The elections, held in MarchApril 1965, gave CONACO 106 of the 166 seats in the lower house of the legislature. Kasavubu's subsequent dismissal of Tshombe in October 1965 and the failure of his handpicked successor, Evariste Kimba, to secure majority support in the CONACO-controlled lower house led to a complete stalemate, which was finally resolved only by Mobutu's seizure of power on 25 November 1965.

The new regime initially suspended all political parties, but in April 1967, Mobutu created the Popular Movement of the Revolution (Mouvement Populaire de la RévolutionMPR) in order to develop a political base for his regime. The constitution promulgated in June 1967 provided for the existence of "no more than two" political parties. However, all attempts to organize an opposition party to the MPR were summarily repressed, and the facade of bipartisanship was officially abandoned on 23 December 1970 when a constitutional amendment formally transformed the country into a single-party state. The chairman of the MPR held the office of head of state and head of the government after approval by the voters. Party and state were effectively one, and every citizen was automatically a member of the MPR. Of the four exiled opposition groups headquartered in Brussels, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (Union pour la Démocratie et du Progrès SocialUDPS) appeared to be the most significant.

The constitution was amended to permit party activity in April 1990. By the time the National Conference was called in September 1991, more than 200 parties had emerged. Half of them belonged to the mouvence présidentielle but had no popular basis. The most important opposition parties formed a coalition known as the Sacred Union. These included the UDPS, the Union of Federalists and Independent Republicans (UFERI), the Unified Lumumbist Party (PALU) of Antoine Gizenga, and the Social Democratic Christian Party (PDSC). UFERI was later pried away from the Sacred Union by Mobutu's offer of the prime ministership to UFERI's Nguza Karl-I-Bond in November 1991.

In 1997, President Kabila outlawed all political parties and party activities until at least 1999 when elections were promised. However, party leaders such as Zahidi Ngoma (Les Forces du Future), and Olenghakoy (Forces for Renovation for Union and SolidarityFONUS), who were previously jailed, did participate in the clergy-sponsored "Consultation Nationale" to discuss national issues. In April 2000, Tshisikedi of the UDPS traveled to the United States and Europe, signaling a thaw in the provisional ban on party activities.

In the run-up to the scheduled June 2006 elections, parties once again were legalized. The dominant players appeared to be Joseph Kabila's Party of the People for the Reconstruction of Democracy (Parti du Peuple pour la Reconstruction et la DémocratiePPRD); the PDSC; FONUS; the National Congolese Lumumbist Movement (MNC); the MPRdivided into three factions; PALU; UDPS; and UFERIdivided into two factions.


Since independence, the number of provinces has varied from six to 21, with an autonomous capital district at Kinshasa (formerly Léopoldville). In 1966, the number of provinces was cut back to 12, later to 8, and then to 10. At the same time, provincial autonomy, considerable in the republic's early years, was virtually eliminated following the adoption of a new constitution in 1967. The regions then were Bas-Zaire, Bandundu, Equateur, Haut-Zaire, Nord-Kivu, Shaba (formerly Katanga), Kasai-Oriental, Maniema and Sud-Kivu, and Kasai-Occidental. They were administered directly by regional commissioners. The regions were divided into 37 subregions (the former districts), of which 13 are major towns and their environs. These were further subdivided into 134 zones. Urban zones contained localities, while rural zones contained collectivities (chiefdoms), which in turn contained rural localities (groups of villages). Kinshasa, although autonomous, was organized like a region with subregions and zones (see Government Section).

Local administration was for years virtually coterminous with the local branch of the MPR. Regional, subregional, and zone commissioners were appointed by the central government. There were rural and urban councils. Urban councils were elected in 1977 and 1982; rural councils were elected in 1982. But the current breakdown of government leaves the operation of local government in doubt.

In April 1999, Laurent Kabila launched the CPP (Comité de pouvoir populaire), whose main purpose was to report to the authorities the needs of the population. CPP offices were located in each commune, and each neighborhood had its own representative. To some degree, their responsibilities overlapped with the existing local government. However, CPP more easily obtained funds to implement local projects, such as street lighting, sanitation, schools, and transportation. One example was the City Train, a tractor-trailer cab pulling a passenger wagon. Conventional local government administration was handicapped without a source of funding.

The country is divided into ten provinces and one cityKinshasa, the capital.

Changes to the country's administrative structure were expected once the new government issuing from the 2006 elections was in place.


The legal system is based on both Belgian and tribal law. The courts include courts of first instance, appellate courts, a Supreme Court and the Court of State Security. Many disputes are adjudicated at the local level by administrative officials or traditional authorities. Although 1977 amendments to the constitution and the new constitution proposed in 1992 guarantee an independent judiciary, in practice the president and the government have been able to influence court decisions.

In theory, the constitution guarantees defendants the right to counsel and a public trial. Appellate review is afforded in all cases except those involving national security and serious crimes adjudicated by the Court of State Security. Since August 1998, and because of the war, the president appealed for a provisional court (la Cour d'Ordre Militaire). The judges are soldiers who apply the law vigorously, and sometimes the rights of the defendants are totally ignored.

The judicial system in Congo is broken in almost every wayfrom the crumbled physical infrastructure of the courts to the low salaries of judges, to the bribes and enticements that compromise judgments and decisions of the courts.


In 2005, the armed forces of the DROC numbered 64,800 active personnel, with the Army consisting of around 60,000 personnel. Equipment included 30 main battle tanks, over 40 light tanks, and more than 130 artillery pieces. The Navy numbered approximately 1,800 active members whose primary units consisted of eight patrol/coastal vessels, of which two were largely inoperative. The Air Force had around 3,000 members whose primary combat aircraft were two fighters and four fighter ground attack aircraft. Paramilitary forces operated at both the national and provincial levels and included a rapid intervention police force. There was no data on the DROC's defense budget.


The DROC was admitted to membership in the United Nations on 20 September 1960. It is a member of ECA and several nonregional specialized agencies and is a member of the WTO. The DROC is also a member of the African Development Bank, COMESA, the ACP Group, G-24, G-77, the SADC, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), and the African Union. The DROC is a member of the International Council of Copper Exporting Countries. The DROC, Rwanda, and Burundi form the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL).

The United Nations Organization Mission in the DROC (MONUC) was established in 1999 to assist in the disengagement of forces and the continuation of cease-fire agreements stemming from the 1998 civil war within the country. In 2005, MONUC was the largest UN peacekeeping mission in the world, with 47 nations participating. The DROC is part of the Nonaligned Movement.

In environmental cooperation, the DROC is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, the London Convention, International Tropical Timber Agreements, the Montréal Protocol, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change and Desertification.


The DROC has a wealth of natural resources that should provide the foundation for a stable economy. However, in September 1991 mutinous military troops looted all major urban centers bringing the economy to a virtual standstill. A large government deficit, primarily to pay salaries for the military and civil servants, was financed by printing currency. Hyperinflation, rapid devaluation, and abandonment of the formal economy ensued. As a result of the accompanying widespread uncertainty and civil disorder, most businesses that were unable to leave the country adopted a defensive stance, minimizing their exposure in the DROC and waiting for an upturn in the economy. After the civil war began in August 1998, the government depreciated the franc four times to keep up with inflation. This did not help the economy, only serving to increase mistrust in the currency.

When operational, the DROC's economy is mixed. The state dominates the mining and utility sectors, but private industry is dominant elsewhere. Except for petroleum products, utilities, and parts of the transportation sector, market-determined prices are the norm, and many parastatal enterprises compete with private ones. Although the DROC possesses large amounts of unused agricultural land, its urban population is dependent on imported food due to the lack of a transportation network. Foreign exchange for food and other imports is generated primarily through export of diamonds, crude petroleum, and coffee.

The government under Joseph Kabila in 2001 implemented stabilization measures designed to break the spiral of hyperinflation and currency depreciation caused by the war. Growth of the GDP increased from -2.1% in 2001 to 6.6% in 2005, fueled by the mining, export agriculture, and forestry sectors. International donors supply the DROC with humanitarian aid, including the EU, World Bank, IMF, African Development Bank, and such bilateral donors as Belgium, Canada, and France. In 2003, a debt cancellation program under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries program came into effect, with 80% of the DROC's external debt being written off.

Because the government only controlled the western and southwestern regions of the DROC in 2002, any estimates of the state of the economy applied only to those regions. The war caused an increase of government debt; reduced government revenue and economic output; increased corruption; caused a collapse of the banking system; and, because many industries and businesses could not operate, relegated much of the population to subsistence agriculture and barter. A UN report released in 2002 stated that over 85 multinational corporations, largely based in Europe, the United States, and South Africa, had taken advantage of the instability caused by the war and violated ethical guidelines by dealing with criminal networks exploiting the DROC's natural resources, including gold, diamonds, cobalt, and copper. This activity must be seen against the backdrop of the plunder undertaken by the combatants themselves and other African nations involved in the fighting.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2001 Congo's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $32 billion. The per capita GDP was estimated at $590. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at -4%. The average inflation rate in 2004 was 9%. 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 54% of GDP, industry 9%, and services 37%. Foreign aid receipts amounted to about $5 per capita and accounted for approximately 5% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2001 per capita household consumption (in constant 1995 US dollars) was $57. 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 30%.


Unemployment and underemployment have remained serious problems for the DROC. In 1998, there was an estimated labor force of 20 million; perhaps fewer than 20% were wage and salary workers. Agriculture employs 80% of the population, with the modern sector employing only about 400,000 persons. More recent data is unavailable.

The law provides for the right to unionize with the exception of magistrates and military personnel. The right to strike is limited by restrictions (mandatory arbitration and appeal procedures), and the unions have difficulty protecting workers' rights due to the difficult economic situation and lax government enforcement.

The official workweek is 48 hours in six days, with one 24-hour rest period required every seven days. The legal minimum employment age is 18, although many children work to help feed their families. As of 2005, minimum wage laws continue to be under suspension. All wages and salaries are extremely low, and most people cannot maintain a decent lifestyle. Civil servants supplement their incomes through various types of corruption, including bribery.


The agricultural sector supports two-thirds of the population. Agricultural production has stagnated since independence. The principal crops are cassava, yams, plantains, rice, and maize. The country is not drought-prone but is handicapped by a poor internal transportation system, which impedes the development of an effective national urban food-supply system.

Land under annual or perennial crops constitutes only 3.5% of the total land area. Agriculture is divided into two basic sectors: subsistence, which employs the vast majority of the work force, and commercial, which is export-oriented and conducted on plantations.

Subsistence farming involves four million families on plots averaging 1.6 hectares (four acres), usually a little larger in savanna areas than in the rain forest. Subsistence farmers produce mainly manioc, corn, tubers, and sorghum. In 2004, food-crop production included manioc, 14,950,000 tons; sugarcane, 1,787,000 tons; corn, 1,155,000 tons; peanuts, 364,000 tons; and rice, 315,000 tons. In 2004, plantains totaled 1,199,000 tons; sweet potatoes, 224,500 tons; bananas, 313,000 tons; yams, 84,000 tons; and pineapples, 193,000 tons. Domestic food production is insufficient to meet the country's needs, and many basic food products have to be imported.

The production of cash crops was severely disrupted by the wave of civil disorder that engulfed the country between 1960 and 1967, and production fell again after many small foreign-owned plantations were nationalized in 197374. By the mid-1990s, the production of the DROC's principal cash crops (coffee, rubber, palm oil, cocoa, tea) was mostly back in private hands. Commercial farmers number some 300,000, with holdings between 12 and 250 hectares (30 and 618 acres). Coffee is the DROC's third most important export (after copper and crude oil) and is the leading agricultural export. An estimated 33,000 tons were produced in 2004 (down from an average of 97,000 tons during 198991); 80% of production comes from the provinces of Haut Zaire, Equateur, and Kivu. Only 1015% of production is arabica coffee, the vast majority being robusta; coffee exports are mostly sold to Italy, France, Belgium, and Switzerland. The collapse of the International Coffee Agreement in 1989 quickly led to a doubling of exports by the former Zaire, whereupon the surplus entering the world market drove down prices rapidly.

Rubber is the second most important export cash crop. The plantation crop has been slowly recovering from nationalization. Some plantations are now replanting for the first time in over 20 years. In 2004 production amounted to 7,000 tons. Oil palm production is concentrated in three large operations, two of them foreign-owned. Production in 2004 totaled 1,150,000 tons. Palm oil production remains profitable in the DROC due to a 100% tax on competing imported oil. The production of cotton engages about 250,000 farmers, who annually produce about 8,000 tons. Domestic production, however, is not sufficient for the country's textile manufacturers. Other cash crops produced in 2004 were 3,700 tons of tobacco, 1,400 tons of tea, and 5,800 tons of cocoa.


In 2004, domestic meat production was an estimated 218,000 tons, but only half of the meat demand is met domestically. The number of head of cattle in 2004 was estimated at 765,000, found in the higher eastern regions, above the range of the tsetse fly. ONDE, a state agency, manages large ranches, mainly in Shaba and West Kasai. The number of goats in 2004 was estimated at 4,009,000; hogs totaled 953,000; and sheep, 897,000.


Fish are the single most important source of animal protein in the DROC. Total production of marine, river, and lake fisheries in 2003 was estimated at 222,965 tons, all but 5,000 tons from inland waters. PEMARZA, a state agency, carries on marine fishing.


Forests cover 60% of the total land area. There are vast timber resources, and commercial development of the country's 61 million hectares (150 million acres) of exploitable wooded area is only beginning. The Mayumbe area of Lower Zaire was once the major center of timber exploitation, but forests in this area were nearly depleted. The more extensive forest regions of the central cuvette and of the Ubangi River valley have increasingly been tapped. Roundwood removals were estimated at 72,170,000 cu m in 2003, about 95% for fuel. Some 14 species are presently being harvested. Exports of forest products in 2003 totaled $25.7 million. Foreign capital is necessary in order for forestry to expand, and the government recognizes that changes in tax structure and export procedures will be needed to facilitate economic growth.


Mining was the country's leading industry in 2003, and diamonds, copper, and cobalt ranked first, second, and fourth, respectively, among export commodities. Mining has historically accounted for 25% of gross domestic product (GDP) and three-quarters of export revenues. In 2000 the mining sector's share of GDP was 6%, down by 21% between 1996 and 2000 (the latest year for which data was available). GDP declined by an annual average of 5% from 1998 to 2000. The outbreak of civil conflict in the DROC (then known as Zaire) in 1996 severely disrupted the economy, including metals mining, leaving diamond exports as the major source of revenue. Despite the collapse of much of the formal mining infrastructure, the DROC remained an important source of industrial diamond and cobalt. The value of mineral exports in 2003 were valued at $1.28 billion, of which diamonds accounted for $813 million, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The public mining company La Générale des Carrières et des Mines (Gécamines) in 2002 reported total "global reserves" of 54 million tons of copper, 4.66 million tons of cobalt, and 6.4 million tons of zinc, expressed in contained metal. Gécamines, the country's most important company, produced all of its coal, cobalt, copper, and zinc. The Congo also produced, and was richly endowed with, cadmium, coal, columbium (niobium), and tantalum (locally referred to as "coltan"), germanium, gold, lime, manganese, petroleum, silver, crushed stone, sulfuric acid, tin, tungsten, uranium, and zinc. Uranium for the first US atomic bomb was mined in the former Zaire. Most foreign exploration activity and development-oriented feasibility work came to a halt in 1998, following the flare-up of a new full-scale civil war. Negotiations on a 1999 cease-fire agreement continued into 2001, and the decrease in military conflict permitted the government to address a proposal for new foreign investment and mining laws. Over half of the DROC's mineral exports took a circuitous route by air, riverboat, railway, and road from Shaba to the Matadi port (copper shipments could take 45 days to go from the plant to the dock), because the Benguela railway to Angola has effectively been closed since 1975; most of the rest went south by rail to South Africa, which was an important source of imports. Because of the size and wealth of its resources, the long-term potential of the Congo was more promising, and the country could return to world markets as an important supplier of cobalt, copper, diamond, and zinc, dependent on its ability to achieve political and economic stability and to put in place the legal and business framework needed to attract new foreign investment.

Until 1986, the former Zaire was the leading producer of industrial diamonds. The chief diamond-producing center was Mbuji Mayi, in East Kasai. The 80%-government-owned Société Minière de Bakwanga (MIBA) produced 6.9 million carats of low-value, near-gem-quality stones in 2003, up 25% from 2002. However, the majority of the diamonds produced by the DROC comes from artisanal mining in the Tshikapa, Kinsingani, and Mbujimayi regions. In 2003, artisanal production of diamonds totaled 21.1 million carats, compared with output in 2002 of 16.4 million carats.

Mine copper output in 2003 was 52,700 metric tons, up from 32,300 metric tons in 2002. Copper was produced exclusively in the Shaba Region (formerly Katanga), shaba meaning "copper" in Swahili. Gécamines holdings in the Copperbelt, in Shaba, contained one of the greatest concentrations of high-grade copper and coproduct cobalt resources in the world. Since 1993, most mining operations have come to a standstill. This condition was attributed to aging equipment, lack of domestic and international investment, lack of spare parts, shortages of fuel, lubricants, and sulfuric acid, problems with transporting ore and finished products, theft of finished products, debts owed to the state electrical company and Société Interrégionale Zaïroise de Rail (Sizarail), flooding of open-pit mines, and the inability to retain professional and other personnel. First Quantum Minerals Ltd.'s small, highgrade Lonshi copper deposit began open pit mining in 2001; it contained a measured and indicated resource of 5.1 million tons grading 5.75% acid-soluble copper.

The output of cobalt from mined ore was 12,000 metric tons in 2003, down from an estimated 14,500 metric tons in 2002. In 1994, Gécamines initiated a program to shift emphasis toward cobalt production, which jumped 57% that year, after falling 87% since 1987. Gécamines's strategy was to concentrate development and mining activities at cobalt-rich zones of several copper ore bodies, with plans to produce 10,00015,000 tons of higher value cobalt by the end of 2002. The decline of copper and cobalt production in the 1990s has led to the deterioration of Gécamines.

OM Group, Inc. (OMGI), of the United States, one of the world's largest consumers of refined cobalt, and l'Enterprise Générale Malta Forrest SPRL (EGMF) completed the first major foreign investment in Shaba in recent years; full operating capacity from their Luiswishi copper-cobalt mine was reached in 2000. As of early 2002, total resources remaining at the Luiswishi Minethe only mine operating in Gécamines's Southern Group in 2001were reported to be 7.58 million tons at a grade of 2.8% copper and 1.0% cobalt; the second phase of mining would develop 3.5 million tons of oxide reserves at a rate of 500,000 tons per year of ore. Anvil Mining NL of Australia and First Quantum announced plans to develop the high-grade Dikulushi copper-silver deposit. Anvil also held a number of exploration licenses covering more than 43,000 sq km (16,600 sq mi), including gold and platinum prospects near Kalemie, copper and gold prospects near Kapulo, and copper prospects near Lungeshi. The Kolwezi copper-cobalt tailings project, operated by a 5050 joint USUK venture, was based on reprocessing of a resource of nearly 113 million tons grading 1.49% copper and 0.32% cobalt of oxide tailings from the Kingamyambo and Musonoi tailings dams; mining would be by high-pressure water monitor guns with the material pumped along a slurry pipeline to a new leach SX-EW plant.

Mined output of zinc (mineral content) fell from 172,000 tons in 1969 to zero in 1999 and 1,014 in 2001. There was no recorded zinc production in 2002 or 2003. Scoping studies in 2001 of the Kipushi zinc mine, which ceased full-scale mining in 1993, concluded that mining operations of up to 100,000 tons per year contained in concentrate could be sustained for 20 years; the mine, started in 1929, has been maintained in excellent condition, and the bulk of measured and indicated mine resources remaining for development amounted to 17 million tons at a grade of 16.7% zinc and 2.32% copper, with an additional inferred resource reported to be 9 million tons at a grade of 23.3% zinc and 1.93% copper.

Congo recorded no silver production in 2000 and 2001, but did produce 2,100 kg in 2002 and 35,500 kg in 2003. Gold output was 20 kg in 2002, down from 207 kg in 1999. Undocumented artisanal gold production in areas controlled by the rebel faction Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) could range from 3,000 to 6,000 kg. No cassiterite (tin ore) was produced in 19972001, compared with 500 tons in 1994 and 7,502 in 1974.

According to the 1994 Constitution, the soil and subsoil belonged to the state. A draft of a new mining code, to reach parliament in 2002, was to create a framework of incentives conducive to private investment, including a change in the role of government from mining operator to mining regulator, creation of a single investment agreement framework, introduction of a special tax regime, and the option of issuing mining titles on a first-come-first-served basis, transparently managed. The government maintained at least partial ownership and generally majority ownership of all the productive and service sectors of the economy.


The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC) has reserves of petroleum, natural gas, coal, and a potential hydroelectric power generating capacity of around 100,000 MW. The DROC's Inga dam, alone on the Congo River, has the potential capacity to generate 40,000 to 45,000 MW of electric power, sufficient to supply the electricity needs of the whole Southern Africa region. However, ongoing uncertainties in the political arena, and a resulting lack of interest from investors has meant that the Inga dam's potential has been limited. In 2001, the dam was estimated to have an installed generating capacity of 2,473 MW. But, it is estimated that the dam is capable of producing no more than 650750 MW, because two-thirds of the facility's turbines do not work. As of 1 January 2003, the DROC had a total installed electric generating capacity of 2.548 GW. For that year, a total of 6.04 billion kWh were generated, with domestic consumption accounting for 4.32 billion kWh. The DROC is also an exporter of electric power. In 2003, electric power exports came to 1.30 billion kWh, with power transmitted to the Republic of Congo and its capital, Brazzaville, as well as to Zambia and South Africa.

The DROC has crude oil reserves that are second only to Angola's in southern Africa. As of 1 January 2005 the DROC's crude oil reserves came to 187 million barrels (Angola: 5,412.0 billion barrels as of the same date). In 2004, the DROC produced 21,100 barrels of petroleum per day. For that year, domestic consumption and net exports came to 7,000 barrels per day and 14,100 barrels per day, respectively. However, the DROC had no refining capacity as of 1 January 2005, and must import refined petroleum products. In 2002, imports of refined petroleum products totaled 8,180 barrels per day. Oil product imports consist of gasoline, jet fuel, kerosene, aviation gas, fuel oil, and liquefied petroleum gas.

As of 1 January 2005, the DROC had natural gas reserves of 35 billion cu ft. However, for 2003 there was no domestic production or consumption of natural gas.

As of July 2005, the DROC is reported to have coal reserves of 97 million short tons. Domestic coal production and consumption in 2003 totaled 0.11 million short tons and 0.26 million shorts tons, respectively.


Manufacturing was nearly nonexistent in the DROC in 2003, and has remained so due to the war, foreign exchange problems, and a decline in local purchasing power due to hyperinflation (estimated at 357% in 2001 and 21.7% in 2005). Much of the DROC's industry is the processing of agricultural products (sugar, flour) and mineral-bearing ore (copper, zinc, petroleum, cement). The production of consumer goods (beer, soft drinks, textiles) plays a leading role in the sector, as does palm oil processing and cigarette making.

A five-year investment in the copper smelter in Shaba was completed in 1990. However, the center was severely damaged by political unrest in 199293. The Maluju steel mill was unprofitable and closed in 1986. The Société Congo-Italienne de Raffinage (SOCIR) refinery operated at 50% of capacity and produced 2 million barrels of refined petroleum products in 1994. The country's domestic crude oil has been too heavy to be processed by the refinery, although as of 2000 the refinery had resumed limited refining activity to process some imported crude oil.

Despite the war, reconstruction plans were underway during the 200305 period, including building construction, construction for pipelines, communication and power lines, highways, roads, airfields, and railways. Construction for plants, mining and manufacturing, and buildings related to the oil and gas industry was also being undertaken.


The General Commission on Atomic Energy, conducting research in peaceful application of atomic energy, is in Kinshasa, as are the Geographic Institute of Zaire, the Institute of Tropical Medicine, the National Institute for the Study of Agronomical Research, the Institute of Nature Conservation, the Center for Geological and Mineral Research, and France's Bureau of Geological and Mineral Research. The University of Kinshasa (founded in 1954) has faculties of sciences, polytechnic, medicine, and pharmacy. The University of Kisangani (founded in 1963) has faculties of science and medicine. The University of Lubumbashi (founded in 1955) has faculties of sciences, polytechnic, veterinary medicine, and medicine. In addition, five university-level institutes offer training in information science, agronomy, and medicine.


Decades of corruptions and poor economic policies, as well as political unrest, have led to a very poor domestic economy. By the mid-1990s, the government controlled 116 enterprises, of which 56 were fully publicly owned. Since the 1980s, a large underground market has also operated. However, since 2001, the government has embarked upon a series of economic reforms, including a new commercial court and a new investment code that focuses on encouraging foreign and domestic investment.

Kinshasa, connected by rail with Matadi, the main port of entry, is the principal general distribution center for mining equipment and the chief center for trade with Zambia and South Africa. Kisangani is a major distribution and marketing center for the northeast. Other commercial centers are Likasi, Kolwezi, Kananga, Mbandaka, and Matadi. High transportation costs and the lack of transportation systems in many areas have been prohibitive for domestic trade.

Gratuities are a part of almost every commercial transaction conducted. Tips and gifts are routinely expected, particularly in the public sector where salaries are low and often unpaid. Soldiers and officials typically extort money for agreeing not to impede with commerce.

Usual business hours are from 8 am to noon and from 2:30 to 5 pm, Monday through Friday, and 7:30 am to noon on Saturday. Most correspondence and advertising are in French. Most transactions are conducted with cash. Major credit cards are not widely accepted. Travelers checks have limited acceptance; however, high fees may be imposed for cashing them.


During his administration, which ended in 1997, President Mobutu routinely diverted much of the country's export revenues to special accounts held outside the country.

Foreign exchange earnings have traditionally been highly sensitive to changes in the world market prices for copper and cobalt, two of its principal exports. Other leading exports include crude oil, diamonds, and coffee. Principal imports are consumer goods, foodstuffs, mining and other machinery, transport equipment, and fuels. According to recent IMF estimates, the high world prices of oil and copper and rising diamond production boosted exports in 2005 to $2.2 billion, an increase of 21% on 2004. But it is also noted that imports have also risen by 19% to $2.4 billion.


Substantial illegal exports, imports, and transfers of capital and profits abroad are unrecorded; indeed, the central bank does not include adjustments for fraud of close to 100% for DROC's primary exports. In August 1991, the government permitted the zaire, the national currency, to float because the central bank had exhausted its foreign exchange reserves. By statute, the government no longer controls the import or export of capital or the foreign exchange markets. DROC has no external credit, almost no central bank reserves, and external financial operations are largely carried out by private entities. Large external payments arrears have not been cleared. In 2001, the external debt was estimated at $13.9 billion but had declined slightly to $10.98 billion by 2005.

The Economist Intelligence Unit reported that in 2005 the purchasing power parity of DROC's exports was $2.19 billion while imports totaled $2.35 billion resulting in a trade deficit of $164 million.


The Bank of Zaire serves as the country's central bank and bank of issue. In the mid-1990s, the commercial banks in the former Zaire included the Zairian Commercial Bank, the Union Banks of Zaire, Barclays Bank (Zaire), the Bank of Paris and the Low Countries, the Bank of Kinshasa, Citibank (Zaire), and Grindlays International Bank of Zaire. The only public savings banks were the People's Bank and the General Savings Fund of Zaire. There is also a state-owned National Fund of Savings and Real Estate Credit. An indication of the deterioration of economic life was a strong disinclination by the public to keep money in banks.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 1995, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $268.9 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $380.4 million. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 125%.

There are no securities exchanges in the DROC.


In 1959, there were eight insurance firms, each representing many foreign companies. Workers' compensation was the only form of compulsory insurance in the territory. In 1967, all private insurance companies were abolished and replaced by the state-owned National Society of Insurance (SONAS-La Société Nationale d'Assurance).


Public finance from the late 1970s to the 1990s was characterized by uncontrolled spending, poor tax collection, and large deficits, often covered by creating new money. Expenditures are almost entirely current. The state-owned copper mining company typically generates one-third of the government's revenue. In 2001, the government, under Joseph Kabila, undertook a program of economic reform to reverse the economy's steep decline. The program worked, reducing the inflation rate from over 500% in 2000 to about 10% by the end of 2001. In June 2002, the IMF and the World Bank approved new credits for the DROC for the first time in more than a decade.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2004 DROC's central government took in revenues of approximately $700 million and had expenditures of $750 million. Revenues

Revenue and Grants 158,395 100.0%
    Tax revenue 121,448 76.7%
    Social contributions
    Grants 6,047 3.8%
    Other revenue 30,901 19.5%
Expenditures 159,397 100.0%
    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.

minus expenditures totaled approximately -$50 million. Total external debt was $10.6 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2002, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were cf158,395 million and expenditures were cf159,397 million. The value of revenues in US dollars was us$457 million and expenditures us$461 million, based on a market exchange rate for 2002 of us$1 = cf346.485, as reported by the IMF.


In the mid-1990s, personal income was taxed progressively, with a 50% ceiling on total payable tax. The corporate tax rate was 50% of taxable profits. Profits of branches of foreign corporations were subject to the same rate of taxation. There was also a 330% sales tax on imports, exports, local manufactured goods, construction works, local services, and imported services. An employment tax of 33% was imposed on services by foreigners. Other taxes included an educational tax, property tax, and a transfer tax.


Congo adopted the Harmonized System in 1988. Most tariffs are ad valorem. The tariff rate system has four categories: 5% 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 (VAT) based on CIF (cost, insurance, freight) plus the duty. The DROC is associated with the EU countries through the Lomé Convention, which provides for the reduction of tariff barriers between the signatories and EU members.


Beginning in 1966, when the Mobutu government began to assert control over the economy, foreign firms with assets and operations predominantly based in the former Zaire were ordered to incorporate under national law and to transfer their headquarters to the country. For a time, a liberal investment code enacted in 1969 encouraged private investments. In 1973, however, Asians and Europeans were barred from any commercial activity in five of the country's eight regions. Shortly thereafter, a deliberate policy of Zairization of the retail sector was introduced. Under these measures, expatriates were barred from a wide range of business activities, mostly in the retail and service sectors. Foreigners affected by this policy were compelled to sell their interests to Zairian nationals, many of whom turned out to be officials of the national party. Many of the new owners had little or no business experience, and quite a few of them simply liquidated the stock and never repaid the low-interest loans extended by the government for acquisition of the businesses. More frequently, Zairization involved some form of mixed ownership, with the government usually the major shareholder but with management remaining in largely foreign hands.

Generally poor results brought new changes. The Congo's investment code of 1979, updated with World Bank advice in 1986, provides packages of tax breaks and duty exemptions for three categories of investment: General System ($200,000 to $10 million), Contractual System (above $10 million with extra incentives negotiated on a case-by-case basis), and Special Regimes (meeting various priorities at different times). The country's complex and arbitrary judicial system made implementation of this legal framework problematic at best.

The ending of the Mobutu regime in May 1997 has solved no problems as corruption and decay has been replaced by successive wars in the renamed Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC). In 2001, timber investments by firms from Zimbabwe (about $300 million), Germany, Malaysia, and China were reported, but for the most part looting of the country's wealth of natural resourcesdiamonds, gold, timber and tantalite deposits (used in mobile phones), particularlyby rival military groups had taken the place of investment. In June 2002, a three-year standby agreement was concluded with the IMF, but stabilization and welfare spending targets were missed because of the need for increased military spending.

The country stands in need of timely and sufficient foreign assistance, but the DROC was ranked third from the bottom of 140 countries on UNCTAD's Inward FDI Potential Index for 19982000 with a score of 8.5 out of a possible 100. With a semblance of peace some foreign direct investment has began to flow into the DROC once again. It is estimated that FDI of $352.6 million in 2003 and $241.6 million in 2004 was invested in the DROC, largely in the telecommunications sector.


The announced priorities of the Mobutu government were economic nationalism and the development of an infrastructure appropriate to an industrial economy. Infrastructural development would involve the extension of the country's hydroelectric potential, transportation network, harbor facilities, and oil-refining capability, as well as the development of basic industries such as iron and aluminum smelters and cement plants. Many development plans were poorly planned and mismanaged, however. Development expenditures were usually made year-by-year and despite occasional, vaguely conceived three-year plans, little progress was made over the years.

Since 1992, any semblance of economic planning and development management evaporated. In 1997, the overthrow of Mobutu by Laurent Kabila continued the destabilization, and civil war in 1998 further dashed the hopes for economic development. The fighting was fueled by the DROC's vast mineral wealth, with all parties using the anarchic climate to exploit the country's natural resources. Kabila was assassinated in January 2001, and his son Joseph Kabila became president. A cease-fire between the warring parties was signed in December 2002, and plans were made for a government of national unity. In June 2003, Kabila named an interim government, to include members of the political opposition and rebel groups.

The DROC negotiated a three-year $850 million Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) Arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in June 2002. The Kabila government undertook a number of economic reforms upon being installed in 2001, including implementing stringent fiscal and monetary policies, and an anti-inflationary program that reduced inflation from over 500% in 2000 to about 15.9% at an annual rate for the 20022005 period. In August of 2005, the IMF completed the delayed fifth review of performance under the $850 million poverty reduction and growth facility (PRGF) awarded to DROC in June 2002, triggering the release of a $39 million installment of the facility to the government in spite of the fact that several criteria were not fulfilled under the PRGF. The fifth review had originally been scheduled for completion in late 2004. At the same time as completing the fifth review, the IMF also extended the life of the PRGF from October 2005 to March 2006, to give enough time for the completion of a sixth and final review. Bilateral donors who previously directed their assistance solely to humanitarian needs, also began to fund development projects. Efforts are underway to encourage business activity in the country as a part of the peace process.


A social insurance program is in place for all employees providing pensions for old age, disability, and survivorship. Contributions are made by employers and employees, with the government providing an annual subsidy. Retirement is at age 65 for men and age 60 for women, unless the person is "prematurely aged." Survivorship ceases when the widow or widower remarries. Workers are entitled to medical, dental, surgical, and hospital care, as well as medicine, appliances, and transportation. There is a family allowance for employed persons with one or more children. However, large segments of the population are subsistence farmers and are therefore excluded from coverage under these programs.

Discrimination and violence against women is widespread and common. A married woman must obtain her husband's authorization before opening a bank account, accepting a job, obtaining a passport, or renting or selling real estate. Usually women are relegated to agricultural labor and household and child-rearing duties. The small percentage in the work force receive less pay than men for comparable work and remain severely underrepresented in management positions. Domestic abuse is pervasive. Widows are generally deprived of all possessions including dependent children. Children are forced into labor and military service.

Discrimination against ethnic Tutsi and indigenous Pygmies persists. The human rights situation is extremely poor, especially in rebel-held areas. Abuses include large scale killing, disappearances, torture, rape, dismemberment, extortion, robbery, arbitrary arrest and detention, and harassment of human rights workers and journalists.


The departure of large numbers of European medical personnel in mid-1960 left the country's health services greatly weakened. Not a single African doctor had been graduated at the time of independence. In 1960, 90 doctors of 28 nationalities recruited by the World Health Organization (WHO) were working in the country. The WHO's emphasis was on the training of national health workers, to prepare them to run their own health services. In 2004, there were an estimated 7 physicians, 44 nurses, and 1 dentist per 100,000 people. Most facilities are concentrated in the major cities.

The first Ebola hemorrhagic fever identified in 40 years occurred in 1995. Of the 317 cases reported, an extremely high mortality rate was observed (77%). Common diseases include malaria, trypanosomiasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, diarrheal diseases, tuberculosis, measles, leprosy, dysentery, typhoid, and hookworm.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo lies in the area of Africa with the highest number of cases of AIDS. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 4.20 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 1,100,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 100,000 deaths from AIDS in 2003.

Malnutrition is a serious health problem, especially among children; malnutrition was prevalent in an estimated 34% of all children under five years old in 2000. In 1999, there were 301 cases of tuberculosis reported per 100,000 people. In 1995, children up to one year old were immunized against tuberculosis (51%); diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus (35%); polio (36%); and measles (41%). Approximately 45% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 20% had adequate sanitation.

In 2003 the birth rate was 45.2 per 1,000 people with only an estimated 3% of married women (ages 15 to 49) using contraception. Average life expectancy was 51.10 years in 2005. In the same year, infant mortality was 90.66 per 1,000 live births. Maternal mortality was 870 per 100,000 live births and general mortality was 14.9 per 1,000 people.

In the mid-1990s, 1.1 million women, or 5% of the female population in the DROC, underwent female genital mutilation. The government has not published a policy opposing this procedure.


The massive urban influx that began after independence led to a fourfold increase in the population of Kinshasa, creating a massive housing problem that is still far from solved. Tens of thousands of squatters are crowded into squalid shantytowns on the outskirts of the capital. Other, more prosperous migrants have built themselves permanent dwellings. Unable to control the spread of unauthorized and generally substandard construction or to come up with adequate alternatives, the government tolerated what it could not prevent and began extending basic utilities to the new settlements.

Housing falls under the responsibility of the Department of Public Health and Social Affairs. Public housing and home-building loans sponsored by the National Housing Office still cover no more than a tiny fraction of the country's massive housing needs. At last estimate, more than half of housing units were traditional one-room adobe, straw, or mud structures, and less than half were modern houses of durable or semidurable material containing one or more rooms. About 61% of households were owner occupied at the last estimates.


The colonial system of education became notable for its failure to provide university training for Africans although the rate of elementary school attendance under the Belgians was one of the highest in Africa (56% in 1959). This figure was deceptive, however, since most elementary schooling was limited to the first two grades. Fewer than 10% of school-age children completed the sixyear elementary cycle. Understandably, one of the chief efforts of the successive governments of the DROC has been to push as many schoolchildren as possible beyond the threshold of the two-year cycle. This effort has accounted for a massive increase in elementary-school population since 1960.

Education is compulsory between ages 6 and 12. Primary school lasts for six years. General secondary school covers another six-year course of study; however, students may choose a six-year technical program or a five-year vocational program instead. The academic year runs from October to June. The primary language of instruction is French.

In 1998, there were about 4,022,000 students enrolled in primary school. In 1995, there were about 1,514,323 students enrolled in secondary school. It has been estimated that about 32.4% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was about 13:1 in 1995; the ratio for secondary school was about 26:1.

University education was virtually nonexistent in the Belgian Congo prior to the mid-1950s. Up to that time, only a handful of Africans had been permitted to enroll in Belgian universities. Teacher-training institutions, religious seminaries, and advanced technical training in medicine, agronomy, and public administration were available, but did not lead to recognized university degrees. The Catholic University of Lovanium at Kinshasa (affiliated with the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium) was organized in 1953. The State University of the Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi at Lubumbashi was set up in 1955. A third university was established at Kisangani under Protestant auspices in 1962. A number of specialized institutes of higher learning were also created following independence.

In August 1971, the existing institutes and the three universities were amalgamated into a single national university system, the National University of Zaire, organized into three separate campuses located in Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, and Kisangani. The three campuses were reorganized as separate universities in 1981. The DROC also has numerous university institutes, including ones specializing in agriculture, applied technology, business, and the arts. In 1998, about 60,000 students were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 65.3%, with 79.8% for men and 51.9% for women.


The National Library in Kinshasa holds 1.2 million volumes. The University of Kinshasa library holds 300,000 volumes. Smaller academic libraries are attached to various specialized university institutes. The Kinshasa Public Library has 24,000 volumes, and is a part of a national system with nine branches.

There are several museums in the capital, including the Anthropology Museum, the Fine Arts Museum, the Private Museum of Zoology, and museums on the campuses of the National University of Zaire and the University of Kinshasa. There are regional museums at locations throughout the country, including Butemo, Kananga, Kisangani, Lubumbashi, Mbandaka, and Mushenge.


The postal, telephone, and telegraph services are owned and operated by the government. In 2002 there were an estimated 10,000 mainline phones in use nationwide. In 2003 there were an estimated 19 cell phones in use for every 1,000 people.

State-controlled radio and television transmissions, operated under Radio-Television Nationale Congolaise (RTNC), are the prominent broadcasting stations, reaching the largest number of citizens. The RTNC radio broadcast of La Voix du Congo, is available in French, Swahili, Lingala, Tshiluba, and Kikongo. There are also many privately run broadcasting stations. In 2001, there were 3 AM and 11 FM radio stations and 4 television stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 385 radios and 2 television sets for every 1,000 people.

Major newspapers are only nominally privately owned. Journalists must be members of the state-controlled union to practice their profession. The press today is firmly under MPR control. The largest dailies are La Depeche (2002 circulation, 20,000), Courrier d'Afrique (15,000), and Salongo (10,000).

While the constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, the government has restricted this right in practice.


The Corps of Volunteers of the Republic (CVR), a semipolitical movement, including major student movements, directly under the control of then president Mobutu, was created in February 1966. Its objectives were to promote "national reconstruction" and to "awaken national consciousness." The relative lack of enthusiasm generated by the CVR led to its being taken over in April 1967 by the MPR, which created a youth section for the ruling partythe Young Popular Movement of the Revolution.

Mobutu's conflict with the Roman Catholic Church provided the government with an excuse to ban all independent youth associations (most of which were church-related) and to replace them with party-controlled organizations. Student associations were similarly disbanded and superseded by an MPR-affiliated agency. Sports organizations are sponsored by the African Confederation of Sports for All. Scouting programs exist for youth and there are active branches of the YMCA.

ANEZA, the national association of private enterprises, with nearly 1,000 members, has absorbed all chambers of commerce. The Coffee Board of the Democratic Republic of Congo promotes the coffee trade. The African Committee for Trade Union Coordination and Action Against Apartheid and Colonialism serves as an umbrella organization in support of labor unions and human rights.

Human rights organizations within the country include the Committee of Human Rights Observers, The Christian Network of Human Rights and Civic Education Organizations, and the African Association for the Defense of Human Rights. There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society, Caritas, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and Habitat for Humanity.


Virunga National Park in the Virunga Mountains is one of the best game preserves in Africa and is particularly noted for lions, elephants, and hippopotamuses. Kahuzi-Biega Park, west of Lake Kivu, is one of the last refuges of the endangered mountain gorilla. Kinshasa has two zoos and a presidential garden.

There were 35,141 tourist arrivals in 2003. In that year there were also 5,829 hotel rooms with 10,000 beds and a 50% occupancy rate. Visitors stayed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for an average of seven nights. Tourists and visitors are required to have a passport with a valid visa. A certificate of vaccination against yellow fever is required for entry.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Kinshasa at $289. Expenses were estimated at $134 in Goma and $135 in Bukavu.


In the period of the transition to independence, two Zairian political leaders emerged as national figures: Joseph Kasavubu (191769), head of the ABAKO party, became the first chief of state; Patrice Emery Lumumba (192661) became the new nation's first premier, and his subsequent murder made him a revolutionary martyr in Communist and many third-world countries. In 1960, Moïse Kapenda Tshombe (191969), who headed the government of Katanga Province, became prominent when he declared Katanga an independent state with himself as its president and maintained the secession until early 1963. Gen. Mobutu Sese Seko (JosephDésiré Mobutu, 193097), commander-in-chief of the Congolese National Army from 1961 to 1965, assumed the presidency after he deposed President Kasavubu on 25 November 1965. The MPR party congress promoted Mobutu to the rank of field marshal in December 1982. Laurent Désiré Kabila (19412001), seized power in May 1997 when he declared himself president and changed the name of the country back to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After Kabila's assassination in 2001, Kabila's son Joseph Kabila (b.1971) became president.


The DROC has no territories or colonies.


Background Notes: Congo. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2000.

Bobb, F. Scott. Historical Dictionary of Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire). Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1999.

Jennings, Christian. Across the Red River: Rwanda, Burundi, and the Heart of Darkness. London: Phoenix, 2001.

McElrath, Karen (ed.). HIV and AIDS: A Global View. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Mukenge, Tshilemalema. Culture and Customs of the Congo. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Nelson, Samuel Henry. Colonialism in the Congo Basin, 18801940. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Center for International Studies, 1994.

Nzongola-Ntalaja, Georges. The Congo from Leopold to Kabila: A People's History. New York: Zed Books, 2002.

O'Ballance, Edgar. The Congo-Zaire Experience, 196098. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.

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

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Congo, Democratic Republic of The




The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC; the country is often simply called the "Congo" or "Congo-Kinshasa" to distinguish it from the neighboring Republic of the Congo) is located in Central Africa. The Congo is the third-largest country in Africa. It shares borders with the Central African Republic (1,577 kilometers, or 980 miles), Sudan (628 kilometers, or 390 miles), Uganda (765 kilometers, or 475 miles), Rwanda (217 kilometers, or 135 miles), Burundi (233 kilometers, or 145 miles), Tanzania (473 kilometers, or 294 miles, all on Lake Tanganyika), Zambia (1,930 kilometers, or 1,199 miles), Angola (2,511 kilometers, or 1,560 miles), and the Republic of the Congo (2,410 kilometers, or 1,498 miles), and has a small coastline of 37 kilometers (23 miles) on the South Atlantic Ocean. The Congo is 2,345,410 square kilometers (905,563 square miles), slightly less than one-fourth the size of the United States.

Kinshasa is the capital of the Congo. The Congo's other major cities are Lubumbashi, Mbuji-Mayi, Kolwezi, Kisangani, and Matadi.


As of July 2000 the population of the Congo was estimated at 51,964,999, making it the third-most populous country in Africa. The birth rate was 46.44 per 1,000 persons and the death rate was 15.38 per 1,000 persons according to 2000 estimates. Congolese women on average bore 6.92 children in 2000. As of the year 2000, the Congo's estimated infant mortality rate was 101.71 deaths per 1,000 live births. Males have a life expectancy of 46.72 years while females have a life expectancy of 50.83 years. Some 48 percent of the population is under age 15, while only 3 percent of the population is older than 65 years.

The Congo is made up of more than 200 tribes. The 4 largest tribes in the Congo are the Mongo, Luba, Kongo, and Mangbetu-Azonde. Approximately 700 local languages and dialects are spoken in the Congo. The majority of Congolese speak one of the following languages: Kikongo, Lingala, Tshiluba, Swahili, and French. Most of the Congolese population lives in rural areas, while one-third of the population is urban.

About 80 percent of the Congolese population is Christian. Most non-Christians have traditional African religious beliefs.


The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, or the Congo) is a nation rich in natural resources, including diamonds, cobalt, and copper. The DRC also has vast onshore oil reserves which it has yet to exploit. Despite its potential wealth, however, the Congo's economy has drastically declined since the 1950s. Prior to a bitter war in 1998, the Congolese government had tightened fiscal policy and managed to curb the country's runaway inflation and the drastic depreciation of its currency. Most recently, however, those gains have been erased as a result of the war that began in the summer of 1998. The Congo's economic plight is exacerbated by the reduction of foreign business operations as a result of the war. The war, however, is not the only reason for the Congo's economic woes. The country's poor infrastructure , inoperative legal system, corruption, and lack of openness in economic policy and financial operations continue to be further obstacles to investment and growth. Although there have been a number of meetings between the Congolese government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to develop a coherent economic plan, most reforms are on hold.

During the Cold War, the Congo (then known as Zaire) was a key figure in the United States' African policy because of its strategic location in the center of the continent. Approximately half of all U.S. aid designated for Africa went to Zaire. Under the dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko, who controlled the country for more than 35 years, widespread corruption blossomed and the diversion of public resources for personal gain hindered economic growth. The United States supported Mobutu from the 1960s until 1990. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, however, the Congo declined in importance in U.S. policy and U.S. financial backing was greatly reduced.

Mobutu ran the Zairian economy like his personal piggy bank. From 1965 through 1997, Mobutu and his associates stole billions of dollars from the Zairian economy. Because of this kleptocracy (government institutionalized theft), Zaire's infrastructure crumbled. In 1971 Mobutu legalized his plunder of the Zairian economy under the guise of "Zairianization," a law which effectively turned over to Mobutu and his associates ownership of over 2,000 foreign-owned businesses. These businesses ranged from medium-sized grocery stores to huge billion-dollar mining conglomerates, and were the mainstay of the Zairian economy. As a result of inexperience and mismanagement, many of these nationalized companies became bankrupt, and the Zairian economy came to a halt. Realizing that the Zairian economy was in a tailspin, Mobutu returned many of the businesses to their rightful owners. The Zairian economy, however, never rebounded.

Mobutu and his associates further crippled the Zairian economy by openly flouting and discouraging the application of the rule of law (a term which refers to a broad system of laws and regulations that keep social and economic order). Instead of the rule of law, Mobutu installed a system of patronage which had at its pinnacle Mobutu and his family. Mobutu's system of patronage replaced the Zairian judicial system as the true arbiter of disputes. By 1997, at the time of his ouster, Mobutu's corrupt government and his system of patronage had laid waste Zaire's economy and social fabric.

Mobutu's regime began to crumble following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. Not only did the United States withdraw aid, but the Congo fared no better with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Both international aid organizations cut off aid to the Congo in early 1990. As a result, the country was incapable of servicing its external debt and by 1993 both the IMF and the World Bank suspended the country's borrowing rights. Further compounding the Congo's economic malaise was the promulgation (to make known by open declaration) of a new currency, the "new zaire." The new zaire was not only overvalued against foreign currencies, but inflation rose to a dizzying 9,000 percent by early 1994. In 1993, 5 new zaires could buy a British pound. Four years later, it took 200,000 new zaires to buy 1 pound. In 1997, following Mobutu's removal, a new currency called the France Congolese was introduced, but it too faced real instability. There were, in the late 1990s, many informal exchange rates in the country, and the only currencies of real value came from outside the country.

In May 1997 Laurent Kabila, an unknown rebel supported by Rwanda and Uganda, toppled the Mobutu regime. As the head of the Alliance des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo-Zaire (AFDL), Kabila renamed the country the Democratic Republic of Congo and made attempts to reform the tax system and the police force, and repair the decrepit road system. Unfortunately, President Kabila's attempts were too little and came too late to solve the Congo's economic and social problems.

By August 1998 the coalition of armed militias which had supported Kabila fell apart, plunging the nation into a bloody war that further damaged an already broken economy. Warring forces with ethnic ties to Uganda and Rwanda soon brought these and most of the remainder of Congo's neighbors into the conflict. Much of eastern Congo was a battleground for warring forces from these surrounding nations, some of whom are fighting against each other on Congolese soil. The country is now divided into regions under rebel control and regions ruled by the Kabila regime. Commerce between these regions has come to a halt.

In January of 2001 Laurent Kabila was assassinated by one of his bodyguards, but his son, Joseph Kabila, stepped in to continue his father's disastrous regime. Joseph Kabila has suggested that he would like to liberalize the economy, and hopes to capitalize on diminished fighting within the country. However, he has inherited a country whose major economic enginesthe mining companiesare held by powerful government-run agencies to whom Kabila owes his political power. Bringing these companies back into private hands, and bringing anything like normal economic order back to this shattered country, will be Kabila's great challenge.


On May 17, 1997, with the clandestine support of Rwanda, Uganda, and the United States, Laurent Kabila toppled President Mobutu. Mobutu had been at the helm of the Congo for more than 3 decades. For the most part, Zairians (as the Congolese were then called) welcomed Kabila and even embraced the idea of renaming Zaire the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Even so, peace in the Congo was fleeting.

Kabila imposed rule by decree. All governmental powers were vested in the executive branch, which even had the power to appoint and to dismiss members of the judiciary. Not surprisingly, Kabila filled his 26-member cabinet with loyalists from his political party, the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL). By Kabila's decree, the AFDL was the only political party that could engage in political activities.

At the inception of his rule, Kabila lowered the inflation rate and improved internal security. However, some armed groups remained beyond his control, including the Hutu/Interahamwe, Mai-Mai soldiers, and the Tutsi Banyamulenge. Upon taking command, Kabila promised reform. At first, Kabila claimed that his government was one of transition and would lead to a new constitution and elections by 1999. During his tenure in power, however, elections were never held and a 1998 constitution was not finalized. Although Kabila's stated aim in toppling the Mobutu regime was restoring democracy to the Congo, his rule resembled that of his predecessor more so than a democracy. When Kabila banned every political party save his own, protests grew both domestically and internationally.

In the summer of 1998, Kabila attempted to gain autonomy from Rwanda and Uganda, which led to war. Kabila's first move was to expel the Rwandan and Ugandan troops that helped him topple the Mobutu regime. This war eventually embroiled the rest of the countries in the region. On the one side fighting against the Kabila government were the Rally for Congolese Democracy and the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo, which are supported by Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi. Fighting on the side of the Kabila government were Angola, Namibia, Chad, Zimbabwe, the Congolese army, and the Interhamwe (the former Rwandan-Hutu army exiled in the Congo). All the belligerents in this war had their own separate reasons for intervening. Rwanda, Uganda, and Angola wanted to protect their borders. Zimbabwe wanted to maintain the balance of power in the region. But all of them wished to participate in the bounty of the Congo's vast riches.

The warring parties reached a cease-fire in Lusaka, Zambia, in July 1999. The parties memorialized the terms of their cease fire in the Lusaka Peace Accord, which called for a cessation of war, a peacekeeping force comprised of international troops mostly from Africa, and the commencement of a "national dialogue" on the Congo's future. Unfortunately, the Peace Accord was not implemented and only lip-service was devoted to the national dialogue.

President Laurent Kabila was assassinated on January 16, 2001, in Kinshasa by one of his own soldiers. His son, Major General Joseph Kabila, was appointed as interim president on January 26, 2001. At the beginning of his rule, Joseph Kabila made valiant efforts to rekindle the Lusaka Peace Accord, and Rwanda and Uganda have begun removing their troops from the Congo. In March 2001, the UN inserted peacekeeping troops in areas where Rwandan and Ugandan forces had withdrawn. It remains to be seen, however, if peace will come to the Congo and if Joseph Kabila will engage the country in a national dialogue.

During the rule of Laurent Kabila, U.S.-Congolese relations soured. In fact, the United States and other western nations largely blamed Kabila for the perpetuation of the war. However, relations between the Congo and the United States seem to be improving since Joseph Kabila has come to power, as demonstrated by the meeting between Joseph Kabila and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell early in the new Bush administration.

The government collects taxes primarily from businesses. Tax collection is arbitrary and many charge that harassment from tax authorities has lately reached unprecedented levels. Moreover, taxes have served to enrich corrupt government officials.


The Congo's infrastructure is virtually non-existent and is a major impediment to economic improvement. Though there are an estimated 157,000 kilometers (97,560 miles) of roads in the country, most of them are poorly maintained and there are no major paved roads connecting the regions of the country. Most goods are transported by air. The Congo has 6 major airports located in Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Kinsangani, Goma, Mbuji-Mai, and Gbadolite, and hundreds of small landing strips elsewhere in the country. There were 5,138 kilometers (3,193 miles) of railways in 1995, but most

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
Dem. Rep. of Congo 3 375 135 N/A 0 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
Nigeria 24 223 66 N/A 0 N/A 5.7 0.00 100
Sudan 27 271 87 N/A 0 0.6 1.9 0.00 5
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.

of these were destroyed or damaged during the wars of the late 1990s.

The production of electricity contributes merely 1 percent of the country's GDP. Yet, the Congo's hydro-electric potential is extraordinary. During the 1970s, Congolese and foreign investors, principally from the United States, invested heavily in the Inga-Shaba hydroelectric facility, but today the dam is operating at only a small fraction of its capacity. In 1998 the country produced 5.74 billion kilowatt-hours of total electric power, the vast majority of which was consumed domestically.

The Congo's telecommunications infrastructure, like its roads, is also virtually non-existent. There were 36,000 main lines and 10,000 cellular phones in use in 1995. There are only about 0.7 telephones for every 1,000 Congolese. Even the few telephones that exist are often inoperable because the telecommunications infrastructure is so poorly maintained. Cellular telephones, such as those provided by the American company TELECEL, are replacing wire-based telephone networks, and the numbers of cellular phones in use have risen dramatically in the last several years.


In 1997 agriculture represented about 58 percent of the Congo's GDP. The country's primary cash crops include coffee, palm oil, rubber, cotton, sugar, tea, and cocoa. The Congo's primary food crops include rice, groundnuts, maize, plantains, and cassava. Two-thirds of the Congo's labor force works in the agricultural sector.

In 1997, the industrial sector represented approximately 17 percent of GDP and employed 16 percent of the workforce. Industrial diamonds alone account for 52 percent of exports. The Congo's abundant reserves of copper and cobalt present enormous potential to its economy. However, this potential has not been met because the Congo's mining companies have failed to keep up with general improvements in mining technology. Also, the war has had a great effect on production in the industrial sector. Services account for just 25 percent of the economy and employ 19 percent of the workers.


The Congo's economy is largely based on subsistence agriculture. However, 99 percent of the Congo's land is not under cultivation. Nearly 70 percent of the population lives in the countryside and continues to cultivate individual tracts of land by traditional methods for personal consumption. Coffee, cocoa, sugar, palm oil products, rubber, tea, and quinquina are produced on plantations and by small farmers. Food crops include plantains, maize, cassava, groundnuts, and rice. The Congo's agricultural sector has declined since independence because the government has imposed low producer prices, encouraged the importation of cheap foodstuffs, implemented policies that hampered the access of credit to rural areas, and neglected the country's transportation and energy infrastructure. The Kabila governments promised, as part of their development policy, upgrades in rural roads and agricultural mechanization, so far without much success.

Although the Congo's agricultural sector is full of promise, the Congo still remains dependent on imports, despite having been a net exporter prior to its independence. In the 1980s, the Congo experienced a 2 percent growth in the agricultural sector. But since the early 1990s, the agricultural sector has been stagnant, experiencing zero or negative growth rates. Livestock production was decimated by fighting in 1996-97, and fish production on interior rivers has decreased dramatically. Finally, income from timber sales can hardly be considered part of the Congolese economy, as the timbered areas remain under rebel control in 2001.



Since the colonial era, mining has been and continues to be the Congo's main source of exports and foreign exchange. The Katanga region of the Congo contains some of the world's richest deposits of copper and cobalt. The national copper mining company, GECAMINES, which had been struggling in the 1980s, collapsed in 1991 and has had little success in expanding production since then, thanks again to the wars of the late 1990s. Recovery in this sector will occur only if the Congo enjoys sustained political stability and the mines receive massive technological improvements.

As recently as the 1980s, the DRC was the world's fourth leading producer of industrial diamonds. It also has an abundant reserve of gem-quality diamonds. The Congo exports its diamonds mainly to Belgium, Israel, and India. Two-thirds of the Congo's industrial diamond production is realized through artisanal (skilled worker) diamond diggers. In the 1990s the state granted to one company, IDI Diamonds, a monopoly on the sales and export of diamonds. This movemeant to bring order to the diamond industryin fact forced most diamond sales into the black market as artisanal diamond diggers sought the highest prices for their diamonds.

The Congo also produces gold. However, production has suffered as a result of both the current and previous wars. Currently, the Congo's main gold mines are in regions governed by rebel forces. Like industrial diamonds, gold production takes place mostly through artisanal panning and is not significant.


Compared to other sub-Saharan African oil producers, the Congo produces very little crude oil. However, offshore oil fields remained one of the government's few stable sources of revenue in the 1990s. The country produces about 22,000 barrels per day of oil. U.S.-owned Chevron and Mobil dominate the Congo's crude oil sector. SOCIR, the national refinery, is unable to process the country's crude oil so it must be processed externally, limiting the economic benefits of this natural resource.


The Congo's primary manufacturing regions are Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, and they produce batteries, tires, shoes, food products, plastics, beverages, autos, textiles, and other consumer goods . Agricultural processing is one of the few relatively healthy industries, thanks to its ability to benefit from the mass of Congolese who are involved with agriculture. Although the Congo's locally-produced goods are far more expensive than imports, local manufacturers have been able to withstand import competition ironically because of the Congo's poor transportation system.


The service sector represents one-fourth of GDP and employs 19 percent of the labor force. The primary services are banking, communications, government, and transportation, yet each of these subsectors are plagued by inefficiency, corruption, and the stresses from war. The public health and education systems are, in the words of the U.S. Department of State, "defunct" and most health and education services are now provided by international aid agencies. Transportation services are rudimentary and inefficient. The state-run transport firm Office National des Transports (ONATRA) has a difficult time competing with private transporters, the majority of whose activities go unreported in economic statistics. Tourism in the past decade has been virtually non-existent.

Congo's banking system includes the central bank, Banque Central du Congo, 10 commercial banks, and a development bank, as well as a variety of smaller financial institutions. In the 1990s, however, most of these banks were insolvent, their assets demolished by runaway inflation, massive defaults on loans, and the government's misuse of central bank funds. Most Congolese avoid formal banks and participate in a cash economy.


As with GDP, there is immense difficulty in determining accurate statistics for international trade for the Democratic Republic of Congo, thanks to the difficulty

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.

of assessing the contributions of the informal economy . The CIA World Factbook reports exports of US$530 million and imports of US$460 million in 1998. The World Bank estimated 1999 exports of US$1.94 billion and imports of US$549 million, comparable to the Banque National du Congo's most recent figures of US$1.546 billion in exports and US$936 million in imports in 1995.

According to the CIA World Factbook, the country's primary export partners in 1998 were the Benelux countries (52 percent), the United States (14 percent), South Africa (9 percent), and Finland (4 percent). The Congo's primary import partners in the same year were South Africa (25 percent), Benelux (14 percent), Nigeria (7 percent), Kenya (5 percent), and China.


The local currency in the Congo is the Congolese franc. The Congolese franc replaced the new zaire and was issued in 1997 for the first time. The official exchange rate, set by the Banque Central du Congo, was widely ignored as the value of the Congolese franc plummeted against every world currency. No foreign currency is available at the official exchange rate, so most foreign currency must be traded on the black market. The drop in the value of the currency has led to high inflation, which has been a chronic problem in the DRC. Inflation rates in the last decade were as high as 8,828 percent in 1993, dropping to 6 percent in 1997 before climbing again to 333 percent in 1999. Because wages have not kept up with inflation, most Congolese cannot afford many goods and resort to bartering to obtain basic necessities.


Independence from Belgium, gained with little trouble in 1960, has had the unintended effect of increasing the gap between rich and poor in the Congo. The Congo lacks a middle class. The wealthy Congoleseusually tied to those in power by patronagelive in the city in

Exchange rates: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Congolese francs per US$1
Jan 2001 50
2000 4.5
1999 4.02
1998 1.61
1997 1.31
1996 0.50
Note: On June 30, 1998 the Congolese franc was introduced, replacing the new zaire.
SOURCE : CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].
GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Dem. Rep. of Congo 392 313 293 247 127
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Nigeria 301 314 230 258 256
Sudan 237 229 210 198 296
SOURCE : United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

modern houses and apartment buildings and drive expensive cars. The urban poor, who make up the majority of the population, live in overcrowded slums lacking even the basics of life, such as running water and basic health care. Congolese who live in the rural parts of the country live in thatched huts and survive on subsistence agriculture. Though any estimates of income are questionable, it is estimated the per capita GDP is as low as US$100.

Since independence, the Congo has made efforts to provide its citizens with access to primary and secondary schooling. About 80 percent of the males and 65 percent of females aged 6 to 11 were enrolled in a mixture of state-and church-run primary schools in 1996. At higher levels of education, males greatly outnumber females. The country's elite continue to send their children abroad to be educated, primarily in Western Europe.

Taxes are very burdensome for Congolese, and rural dwellers are subjected to a variety of coercive measures by officials to extract payments, fines, and other financial penalties. The health care system, roads, and school system have virtually collapsed, and the government has focused its meager resources in the urban areas, leaving rural citizens with nothing but high taxes, low prices for their agricultural products, and much suffering.


The DRC has a sizable labor force of some 14.51 million workers, but working conditions for the average Congolese are abysmal. Most Congolese work in the agricultural sector. The average income of a Congolese worker does not provide a sufficient income to sustain a family. In fact, most Congolese earn less than $40 a month. Most workers supplement their income by doing odd jobs besides their usual work and depend heavily on the assistance of their extended families. The government has established minimum wage scales for workers, but wages have not kept pace with inflation, making such wage scales nearly meaningless.

The country created the 1967 Labor Code to provide guidelines for labor practices, including the employment of women and children, anti-discrimination laws, and restrictions on working conditions. The collapse of the economy and the corruption in the government have destroyed the enforcement of most such laws. Several of the limited number of larger employers, however, pay for benefits for their employees and may even provide roads, schools, and hospitals for the local community.

The employment of children of all ages is not uncommon in the informal sector and in subsistence agriculture, which are dominant portions of the economy. Such employment is often the only way a child or family can obtain money for food. Neither the Ministry of Labor, which is responsible for enforcement, nor the labor unions make an effort to enforce child labor laws.


1885. The Congo is colonized as a personal fiefdom of Belgian King Leopold II and is called the Congo Free State.

1907. The administration of the Congo Free State is transferred to the Belgian government, which renames the country the Belgian Congo.

1960. The Congo gains independence from Belgium. Shortly after, the army mutinies and the Katanga province secedes. The United Nations sends troops to protect Europeans and maintain order. Joseph Desire Mobutu, the army's chief of staff, intervenes militarily to resolve a power struggle between President Joseph Kasavubu and Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. Mobutu has Lumumba arrested.

1961. Mobutu returns power to President Kasavubu. Lumumba is handed over to Katanga rebels and soon murdered.

1964. The country is renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

1965. Mobutu stages a military coup amid a political crisis, appointing himself president for 5 years and canceling scheduled elections.

1970. Mobutu establishes his Popular Movement of the Revolution as the sole political party and all Congolese are forced to join the party. Mobutu is also reelected as president in a one-candidate election.

1971. Mobutu begins reform under his "Zairianization" policy. Under this policy he changes the country's name to the Republic of Zaire, and Zairians are forced to use their African names (as opposed to their Christian names) and adopt African dress.

1973. Under "Zairianization," the government appropriates over 2,000 foreign-owned businesses. These businesses are mostly distributed to Mobutu and his associates.

1977. Former Katangan secessionists invade Katanga from Angola, where they had been living in exile. Mobutu suppresses the rebellion with the help of Moroccan troops and military assistance from his Western allies.

1982. Dissidents of Mobutu's one-party rule form the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS). UDPS leaders are harassed and imprisoned.

1990. Mobutu announces the creation of a multiparty democratic system. However, a national multiparty conference to draft a new constitution is suspended. The United States, which had supplied Mobutu with hundreds of millions of dollars annually, ends direct military and economic aid because of corruption and human rights abuses by the Mobutu regime.

1991. As a result of mounting domestic and international pressure, Mobutu agrees to form a coalition government with UDPS leader Etienne Tshisekedi.

1992. The multiparty constitutional conference resumes amid squabbling and continued unrest. Conference members name Tshisekedi as Prime Minister to head a transitional government. Later, the Conference adopts a draft constitution to incorporate a bicameral parliament and a system of universal suffrage to elect a president.

1994. Rwandan ethnic Hutus massacre over 500,000 Rwandan ethnic Tutsis. Shortly thereafter, an outside Tutsi rebel force takes over Rwanda. Fearing retribution, over 1.3 million Rwandan Hutus flee into eastern Zaire. Accompanying these refugees are many of the Hutus responsible for the Tutsi massacre.

1996. Zairian Tutsi in eastern Zaire revolt because they are threatened with expulsion by Hutus. Uganda and Rwanda seize upon this revolt to secure their borders from the Hutus responsible for the massacre and select veteran guerrilla fighter Laurent Kabila to invade eastern Zaire. Hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees return to Rwanda.

1997. Kabila's army, composed mostly of Rwandans and Ugandans, takes Kinshasa, and Mobutu flees into exile. Kabila appoints himself as president and changes the country's name back to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

1998. Kabila kicks out his Rwandan supporters, which sparks a war supported by Rwanda and Uganda against him. Rebel activity unofficially divides the Congo into 3 regions.

1999. The Lusaka Peace Accord is signed by Kabila and representatives of Rwanda and Uganda. Pursuant to the Accord, the parties agree to a cease-fire, the installation of U.N. peacekeeping troops in the Congo, and a "national dialogue" to chart the country's future. All parties continue to violate the Accord.

2001. President Laurent Kabila is assassinated by one of his bodyguards. His son, Major General Joseph Kabila, is appointed as interim president. Rwanda and Uganda begin removing their troops and the U.N. sends peacekeeping forces.


The outbreak of war in August 1998 caused the collapse of the Congo's already frail economy. Since the outbreak of war, the country has been divided into Rwandan/Ugandan rebel-governed areas, and areas controlled by the government. Commerce between these regions has ceased and the Congo's economy has suffered even more.

As a result of this war, the Congolese government's revenues went from bad to dismal. Customs revenues have declined because the flow of imports has dried up. Tax revenues have also substantially declined because of the fall in business activity. Further compounding the problem is the fact that unpaid government bills owed to private businesses have increased to the point that some businesses have been forced to close.

On January 16, 2001, President Laurent Kabila was assassinated by one of his bodyguards. Ten days later Major General Joseph Kabila was appointed as interim president. At the inception of his presidency, Joseph Kabila has demonstrated a sincere interest in re-establishing peace in the Congo. Thus far, he has revived the Lusaka Peace Accord, and both Rwanda and Uganda have begun removing their troops from the Congo. Additionally, the U.N. began sending peacekeeping troops to the Congo. There are also signs that Joseph Kabila will adopt a less hard-line approach to governing the Congo than his father. He has already replaced his father's hard-line cabinet with appointees with a more liberal outlook on governance. Joseph Kabila has also engaged in extensive travel to meet heads of state of many of the Western nations to reintegrate the Congo into the international community. It remains to be seen how he intends to reinvigorate the Congo's decrepit economic state.


The Congo has no territories or colonies.


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

Leslie, Winsome J. Zaire: Continuity and Political Change in an Oppressive State. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993.

"Making a Mint From the Zaire Shambles." Electronic Mail and Guardian (Johannesburg, South Africa). <>. Accessed July 2001.

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

U.S. Department of State, Bureau of African Affairs. Background Notes: Democratic Republic of the Congo. <>. Accessed April 2001.

U.S. Department of State. 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Democratic Republic of the Congo. <>. Accessed April 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Democratic Republic of the Congo. <>. Accessed April 2001.

Michael David Nicoleau

Raynette Rose Gutrick




Congolese franc (FC). One Congolese franc equals 100 makuta. Due to the unstable nature of the currency it is impossible to predict which notes and coins are available in the country.


Diamonds, copper, coffee, cobalt, crude oil.


Foodstuffs, mining and other machinery, transport equipment, fuels.


US$35.7 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.). [Because most economic activity in the Democratic Republic of Congo is in the informal sector and difficult to track, different world agencies provide very different estimates of GDP. For example, the World Bank listed GDP in 1998 as US$7.0 billion, while the International Monetary Fund listed GDP as US$34.9 billion in the same year.]


Exports: US$530 million (f.o.b., 1998 est.). Imports: US$460 million (f.o.b., 1998 est.).

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Congo, Democratic Republic of the

Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaïre (zī´ēr, zäēr´), republic (2005 est. pop. 60,086,000), c.905,000 sq mi (2,344,000 sq km), central Africa. It borders on Angola in the southwest and west, on the Atlantic Ocean, Cabinda (an Angolan exclave), and the Republic of the Congo in the west, on the Central African Republic and South Sudan in the north, on Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania in the east, and on Zambia in the southeast. Kinshasa is its capital and largest city.

Land and People

Congo lies astride the equator, and virtually all of the country is part of the vast Congo River drainage basin. North central Congo is made up of a large plateau (average elevation: c.1,000 ft/300 m), which is covered with equatorial forest and has numerous swamps. The plateau is bordered on the east by mountains, which rise to the lofty Ruwenzori range (located on the border with Uganda). The Ruwenzori include Margherita Peak (16,763 ft/5,109 m), the country's highest point; they are situated in the western or Albertine branch of the Great Rift Valley, which runs along the entire eastern border of the country and also takes in lakes Albert, Edward, Kivu, and Tanganyika. In S Congo are highland plateaus (average elevation: c.3,000 ft/910 m; highest elevation: c.6,800 ft/2,070 m), which are covered with savanna. The high Mitumba Mts. in the southeast include Lake Mweru (situated on the border with Zambia). In addition to Kinshasa, the major urban areas include Boma, Bukavu, Kalemie, Kamina, Kananga, Kisangani, Kolwezi, Likasi, Lubumbashi, Matadi, Mbandaka, and Mbuji-Mayi.

The population of Congo comprises approximately 200 ethnic groups, the great majority of whom speak one of the Bantu languages. In addition, there are Nilotic speakers in the north near South Sudan and scattered groups of Pygmies (especially in the Ituri Forest in the northeast). The principal Bantu-speaking ethnic groups are the Kongo, Mongo, Luba, Bwaka, Kwango, Lulua, Lunda, and Kasai. The Alur are the main Nilotic speakers. In the 1990s, Congo also had an influx of immigrants, particularly refugees from neighboring countries. In 1985 over half the population was rural, but the country is becoming increasingly urbanized.

French is Congo's official language, but it is spoken by relatively few persons. Swahili is widely used in the east, and Lingala is spoken in the west; Tshilaba is also common. About 50% of the inhabitants are Roman Catholics and 20% are Protestants. A substantial number are adherents of Kimbanguism, an indigenous Christian church. Many also follow traditional religious beliefs, and about 10% are Muslims.


Congo's mineral wealth is the mainstay of the economy, but the development of the mining industry has occurred at the expense of commercial agriculture. The economy's growth spurted under Belgian control in the 1950s, slowed considerably during the country's postindependence troubles in the early 1960s, accelerated again in the late 1960s when political stability returned, and then generally declined beginning in the 1970s, when the nationalization of major industries resulted in a reduction of private investment. For a decade beginning in the early 1990s much of the economy was in a state of collapse, but with the end of most of civil warfare that devastated Congo, economic stability improved in the early 2000s and foreign investment is again occurring.

Although only 3% of the nation's land area is arable, a substantial part of the labor force is engaged as subsistence farmers. The principal food crops are cassava, bananas, root crops, corn, and fruits. Coffee, sugarcane, palm oil, rubber, tea, quinine, and cotton are produced commercially, primarily for export. Although agricultural production satisfied domestic demands before independence, Congo has become dependent on food imports. Goats, sheep, and cattle are raised.

Mining is centered in Katanga province; products include copper, cobalt, zinc, manganese, uranium, cassiterite (tin ore), coal, gold, and silver. Diamonds are mined in Kasai. There are major deposits of petroleum offshore near the mouth of the Congo River. About 75% of Congo is covered with forest containing ebony and teak as well as less valuable woods.

Kinshasa and Lubumbashi are the country's most important industrial centers. Industries produce processed copper, zinc, and cassiterite; refined petroleum; processed foods and beverages; and basic consumer goods such as clothing and footwear. The numerous rivers of Congo give it an immense potential for producing hydroelectricity, a small but significant percentage of which has been realized. The chief hydroelectric facilities are situated in Katanga and produce power for the mining industry; another major project is located at Inga, on the Congo River near Kinshasa.

Rivers form the backbone of the country's transportation network; unnavigable parts of the Congo River (e.g., Kinshasa-Matadi and Kisangani-Ubundi) are bridged by rail lines, but the rail and road network in Congo is both very limited for a nation of it's size and in disrepair as a result of the civil war. Matadi, Boma, and Banana can handle oceangoing vessels. E Congo is linked (via Lake Tanganyika) by rail with the seaport of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.

The country's export earnings come almost entirely from sales of primary products, which are vulnerable to sharp changes in world prices. Since 1994 diamonds have become the country's leading export as a result of a decline in the production of copper (once the leading mineral product in terms of value). Petroleum also accounts for a substantial portion of export earnings. Other important exports are coffee, cobalt, palm products, and rubber. The leading imports are foodstuffs, machinery, transport equipment, fuels, and consumer goods. The country's principal trade partners are Belgium, the United States, South Africa, and France.


The Democratic Republic of the Congo is governed under the constitution of 2006 as amended. The president, who is the head of state, is popularly elected and may serve two five-year terms. There is a bicameral legislature. The National Assembly has 500 members, who serve five-year terms; the majority (439) of the members are elected proportionally, the rest directly. The prime minister is chosen from the party or coalition that controls the assembly. The Senate has 108 indirectly elected members, who also serve for five years. Administratively, the country is divided into ten provinces (Bandundu, Bas-Congo, Équateur, Kasai-Occidental, Kasai-Oriental, Katanga, Maniema, Nord-Kivu, Orientale, and Sud-Kivu) and the federal district (which includes Kinshasa). Each province also has an elected assembly.


Early History

The indigenous inhabitants of the region of the Congo were probably Pygmies, who lived in small numbers in the equatorial forests of the north and northeast. By the end of the 1st millennium BC, small numbers of Bantu-speaking people had migrated into the area from the northwest (present-day Nigeria and Cameroon) and settled in the savanna regions of the south. Aided by their knowledge of iron technology and agriculture, the Bantu-speakers migrated to other parts of the Congo and Africa, at the same time developing new, related languages. From about AD 700 the copper deposits of S Katanga were worked by the Bantu and traded over wide areas.

By about 1000 the Bantu had settled most of the Congo, reducing the area occupied by the Pygmies. By the early 2d millennium the Bantu had increased considerably in number and were coalescing into states, some of which governed large areas and had complex administrative structures. Most of the states were ruled by a monarch, whose authority, although considerable, was checked by a council of high civil servants and elders. Notable among the states were the kingdom of Kongo (founded in the 14th cent.), centered in modern N Angola but including extreme W Congo and a Luba empire (founded in the early 16th cent.), centered around lakes Kisale and Upemba in central Katanga.

Also included among these states were the Lunda kingdom of Mwata Yamo (founded in the 15th cent.), centered in SW Congo; the Kuba kingdom of the Shongo people (established in the early 17th cent.), located in the region of the Kasai and Sankuru rivers in S Congo; and the Lunda kingdom of Mwata Kazembe (founded in the 18th cent.), located near the Luapula River (which forms part of the present Congo-Zambia boundary). Through intermarriage and other contacts the Luba transmitted political ideas to the Lunda, and numerous small Luba-Lunda states (in addition to those of Mwata Yamo and Mwata Kazembe) were established in S Congo. The Kuba kingdom was noted for its sculpture and decorative arts.

European and Arab Contacts

In 1482, Diogo Cão, a Portuguese navigator, became the first European to visit the Congo when he reached the mouth of the Congo River and sailed a few miles upstream. Soon thereafter the Portuguese established ties with the king of Kongo, and in the early 16th cent. they established themselves on parts of the coast of modern Angola, especially at the court of the king of Ndongo (a vassal state of Kongo). Portuguese trade with the African kingdoms including ivory and other goods and slaves. About four million slaves ultimately were shipped to the Americas, amounting to some 30 percent of the Atlantic slave trade. The Portuguese had little influence on the Congo until the late 18th cent., when the African and mulatto traders (called pombeiros), whom they backed, traveled far inland to the kingdom of Mwata Kazembe.

In the mid-19th cent., Arab, Swahili, and Nyamwezi traders from present-day Tanzania penetrated into E Congo, where they traded and raided for slaves and ivory. Some of the traders established states with considerable power. Msiri (a Nyamwezi) established himself near Mwata Kazembe in 1856, soon enlarged his holdings (mainly at the expense of Mwata Kazembe), and was a major force until 1891, when he was killed by the Belgians. From the 1860s to the early 1890s, Muhammad bin Hamad (known as Tippu Tib), a Swahili Arab trader from Zanzibar, who was also part Nyamwezi, ruled a large portion of E Congo NW of Lake Tanganyika. In the 1870s, on the eve of the scramble for African territory among the European powers, the territory of the Congo had no overall political unity.

The Congo Free State

Beginning in the late 1870s the territory was colonized by Leopold II, king of the Belgians (reigned 1865–1909). Leopold believed that Belgium needed colonies to ensure its prosperity, and sensing that the Belgians would not support colonial ventures, he privately set about establishing a colonial empire. Between 1874 and 1877, Henry M. Stanley made a journey across central Africa during which he found the course of the Congo River. Intrigued by Stanley's findings (especially that the region had considerable economic potential), Leopold engaged him in 1878 to establish the king's authority in the Congo basin. Between 1879 and 1884, Stanley founded a number of stations along the middle Congo River and signed treaties with several African rulers purportedly giving the king sovereignty in their areas.

At the Conference of Berlin (1884–85) the European powers recognized Leopold's claim to the Congo basin, and in a ceremony (1885) at Banana, the king announced the establishment of the Congo Free State, headed by himself. The announced boundaries were roughly the same as those of present-day Congo, but it was not until the mid-1890s that Leopold's control was established in most parts of the state. In 1891–92, Katanga was conquered, and between 1892 and 1894, E Congo was wrested from the control of E African Arab and Swahili traders (including Tippu Tib, who for a time had served as an administrator of the Congo).

Because he did not have sufficient funds to develop the Congo, Leopold sought and received loans from the Belgian parliament in 1889 and 1895, in return for which Belgium was given the right to annex the Congo in 1901. At the same time Leopold declared all unoccupied land (including cropland lying fallow) to be owned by the state, thereby gaining control of the lucrative trade in rubber and ivory. Much of the land was given to concessionaire companies, which in return were to build railroads or to occupy a specified part of the country or merely to give the state a percentage of their profits. In addition, Leopold maintained a large estate in the region of Lake Leopold II (NE of Kinshasa).

Private companies were also established to exploit the mineral wealth of Katanga and Kasai; a notable example was Union Minière du Haut-Katanga, chartered in 1905. The Belgian parliament did not exercise its right to annex the Congo in 1901, but reports starting in 1904 (particularly by Roger Casement and E. D. Morel) about the brutal treatment of Africans there (especially those forced to collect rubber for concessionaire companies) led to a popular campaign for Belgium to take over the state from Leopold. After exhaustive parliamentary debates, in 1908 Belgium annexed the Congo.

The Belgian Congo

Under Belgian rule the worst excesses (such as forced labor) of the Free State were gradually diminished, but the Congo was still regarded almost exclusively as a field for European investment, and little was done to give Africans a significant role in its government or economy. Economic development was furthered by the construction of railroads and other transportation facilities. European concerns established more large plantations, and vast mining operations were set up. Africans formed the labor pool for these operations, and Europeans were the managers. By the end of the 1920s, mining (especially of copper and diamonds) was the mainstay of the economy, having far outdistanced agriculture. Some of the mining companies built towns for their workers, and there was considerable movement of Africans from the countryside to urban areas, especially beginning in the 1930s.

Christian missionaries (the great majority of whom were Roman Catholic) were very active in the Congo, and they were the chief agents for raising the educational level of the Africans and for improving medical services. However, virtually no Africans were educated beyond the primary level until the mid-1950s, when two universities were opened. A noteworthy indigenous religious movement was that of Simon Kimbangu, who, educated by Protestant missionaries, around 1920 established himself as a prophet and healer. He soon gathered a large following and, although not explicitly anti-Belgian, was jailed in 1921 by the colonial government, which feared that his movement would undermine its authority. The Belgians outlawed Kimbangu's movement, but it continued clandestinely and became increasingly anti-European.

The Independence Movement

In 1955, when demands for independence were mounting throughout Africa, Antoine van Bilsen, a Belgian professor, published a "30-Year Plan" for granting the Congo increased self-government. The plan was accepted enthusiastically by most Belgians, who assumed that Belgian rule in the Congo would continue for a long period. Events proved otherwise.

Congolese nationalists, notably Joseph Kasavubu (who headed ABAKO, a party based among the Kongo people) and Patrice Lumumba (who led the leftist Mouvement National Congolais), became increasingly strident. They were impressed greatly by the visit in late 1958 of French president Charles de Gaulle to neighboring Middle Congo (now the Republic of the Congo), where he offered Africans the opportunity to vote in a referendum for continued association with France or for full independence. In Jan., 1959, there were serious nationalist riots in Kinshasa, and thereafter the Belgians steadily lost control of events in the Congo. At a roundtable conference (which included Congolese nationalists) at Brussels in Jan.–Feb., 1960, it was decided that the Belgian Congo would become fully independent on June 30, 1960.

Independence and Conflict

Following elections in June, Lumumba became prime minister and Kasavubu head of state. However, the Republic of the Congo (as the nation was then called) soon began to be pulled apart by ethnic and personal rivalries, often encouraged by Belgian interests. On July 4 the Congolese army mutinied, and on July 11 Moïse Tshombe declared Katanga, of which he was provisional president, to be independent. There were attacks on Belgian nationals living in the Congo, and Belgium sent troops to the country to protect its citizens and also its mining interests. Most Belgian civil servants left the country, thus crippling the government.

On July 14, the UN Security Council voted to send a force to the Congo to help establish order; the force was not allowed to intervene in internal affairs, however, and could not act against the Katangan secession. Therefore, Lumumba turned to the USSR for help against Katanga, but on Sept. 5 he was dismissed as prime minister by Kasavubu. On Sept. 14, Col. Joseph Mobutu (later Mobutu Sese Seko), the head of the army, seized power and dismissed Kasavubu. On Dec. 1, Lumumba, who probably had the largest national following of any Congo politician, was arrested by the army; he was murdered while allegedly trying to escape imprisonment in Katanga in mid-Feb., 1961.

By the end of 1960 the Congo was divided into four quasi-independent parts: Mobutu held the west, including Kinshasa (then called Léopoldville); Antoine Gizenga, the self-styled successor to Lumumba, controlled the east from Kisangani (then called Stanleyville); Albert Kalonji controlled S Kasai; and Tshombe headed Katanga, aided by Belgian and other foreign soldiers. The secession of Katanga, with its great mineral resources, particularly weakened the national government. In Apr., 1961, Tshombe was arrested by the central government (Kasavubu was back as head of state), but he was freed in June after agreeing to end the Katanga secession. By July, however, Tshombe was again proclaiming the independence of Katanga.

In August the UN forces began disarming Katangese soldiers, and in December UN and Katangese forces became engaged in battle. Throughout 1962, Tshombe maintained his independent position and in Dec., 1962, renewed UN-Katanga fighting broke out. Tshombe quickly was forced to give in, and in Jan., 1963, agreed to end Katanga's secession. However, the national scene remained confused, and there was considerable agitation by the followers of Lumumba.

At the end of June, 1964, the last UN troops were withdrawn from the country. In desperation, Kasavubu appointed Tshombe prime minister in July, 1964, but this move resulted in large-scale rebellions. With the help of U.S. arms, Belgian troops, and white mercenaries, the central government gradually regained control of the country. Nonetheless, national politics remained turbulent and were highlighted by a clash between Kasavubu and Tshombe. In mid-1965, Kasavubu appointed Evariste Kimba prime minister. In Nov., 1965, Mobutu again intervened, dismissing Kasavubu and proclaiming himself president; Tshombe fled to Spain. (In 1967, Tshombe was kidnapped and taken to Algeria; he died in 1969.) In 1966 and 1967 there were several short-lived rebellions (notably in Kisangani and Bukavu), and in 1966 an attempted coup by Kimba was defeated.

The Mobutu Regime

In late 1966, Mobutu abolished the office of prime minister, establishing a presidential form of government. Léopoldville, Stanleyville, and Elisabethville were given African names (Kinshasa, Kisangani, and Lubumbashi, respectively), thus in effect beginning the campaign for "African authenticity" that became a major policy of Mobutu in the early 1970s. (In 1971 the country was renamed Zaïre, as was the Congo River; in 1972, Katanga was renamed Shaba—largely in an attempt to destroy the region's past association with secession—and Mobutu dropped his Christian names and called himself Mobutu Sese Seko, while advising other Zaïreans to follow suit.) By the end of the 1960s, the country enjoyed political stability, although there was intermittent student unrest.

The government was firmly guided by Mobutu, who headed the sole (from 1970) political party, the Popular Movement of the Revolution (MPR). In 1970, Mobutu, the sole candidate, was elected to a seven-year term as president. In the early 1970s he centralized the administration of the nation, encouraged the participation of foreign firms in the economic development of the country, improved relations with neighboring independent countries, and maintained good relations with the West while establishing (1972) full diplomatic relations with China. In 1973, Mobutu nationalized many foreign-owned firms in the attempt to reduce unemployment; however, the nation remained dependent on volatile world copper prices. Mobutu forced European investors out of the country in 1974 but invited them back (unsuccessfully) in 1977.

In addition to economic decline in the 1970s, the government had to contend with increasingly active political opposition. Mobutu's policy of giving members of his own ethnic group (the Ngbanda) jurisdiction over security matters led to ethnic conflicts and a succession of coup attempts between 1975 and 1978. Opposition parties grew in number and in size; one of these, the Front Libération Nationale du Congo (FNLC), organized Katangese refugees forced out of the country by Mobutu. The FNLC, working from its base in Angola, launched a rebellion in the Katanga region but was repulsed after the intervention of French, Belgian, and Moroccan troops.

Promising political reforms, the government made superficial changes to satisfy foreign aid donors, but the detention of dissidents and violent clashes between soldiers and students continued. In the early 1980s opposition groups were organized in exile and formed alliances in the hopes of overthrowing Mobutu. In 1989 the country defaulted on a loan from Belgium, resulting in the cancellation of development programs and increased deterioration of the economy. In 1990, Mobutu announced an end to single-party rule and appointed a transitional government. However, he reserved for himself the position of head of state "above all political parties" and kept substantial power in his own hands.

Rebellion and Civil War

A loss of confidence in Zaïre's government and riots by unpaid soldiers in Kinshasa led Mobutu to agree to a coalition government with opposition leaders in 1991. He retained control of a far-reaching security apparatus and important government ministries, however, and engaged in a power struggle with opposition leaders. Economic collapse continued unabated, with the national infrastructure seriously deteriorating and civil servants, often unpaid for long periods, making money through bribery and theft of government property.

The nation's problems were compounded by an influx of hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees from Rwanda and a spillover of ethnic fighting between Hutus and Tutsis into Zaïre. In mid-1994, Kengo Wa Dondo, an advocate of austerity and free-market reform, was chosen prime minister by parliament, but he was dismissed in Mar., 1997. In 1996 and 1997, while Mobutu was in Europe being treated for cancer, rebels dependent on support from Rwandan and Ugandan forces captured much of E Zaïre. The insurgents, who also received aid from Zambia and Angola, met little resistance from the ragged Zaïrean army and entered Kinshasa on May 17, 1997. Rebel leader Laurent Kabila was sworn in as president on May 29 and changed the name of the country to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mobutu died in Morocco on Sept. 7, 1997.

Although Kabila promised that elections would be held in 1999, he banned all political opposition, and his regime soon became repressive. His failure to revive the economy and to prevent the attacks upon thousands of Congolese Tutsis by their Hutu neighbors in the mid-1990s, as well as the revelation that his forces had probably massacred thousands of Rwandan Hutu refugees during their march across the country in 1996–97, led to a fading of both internal and foreign support for his government. The eastern part of the country remained unstable, and in Aug., 1998, a group of ethnic Tutsi Congolese forces supported by Rwanda mutinied against Kabila's rule and began advancing toward Kinshasa. Although they were repulsed, the movement grew, attracting opposition politicians, former Mobutu supporters, and disaffected military leaders formerly allied with Kabila. It also threatened to widen into a regional conflict, as Zimbabwe, Angola, and Namibia sent troops to aid Kabila's government, while Rwanda and Uganda backed the rebels.

In July, 1999, following a peace conference in Lusaka, Zambia, the heads of the six governments involved signed a cease-fire agreement; the leaders of the two main Congolese rebel groups also subsequently signed the pact. Kabila and his allies controlled most of the east and south of the Congo, and the rebels and their supporters controlled much of the north and west. By the end of the year, however, implementation of the accord was stalled, due in part to intransigence on the part of Kabila's government, and the much-violated cease-fire was in the process of collapsing.

The United Nations approved a force to monitor the accord in Feb., 2000, but the situation in the Congo proved too unstable to permit the force to move in. Fighting erupted between Ugandan and Rwandan forces in Kisangani (as it had the year before), and Kabila's government launched an offensive in Équateur (NW Congo) and continued to resist cooperating with the United Nations and with African peace negotiators. A new agreement calling for the pullback of all forces was signed (without the participation of one of the rebel groups) in Dec., 2000.

In Jan., 2001, Kabila was assassinated, reportedly by a bodyguard, and his son, Maj. Gen. Joseph Kabila, was named his successor. Joseph Kabila's government resumed cooperating on peace negotiations, and ended the ban on political parties. Beginning in March the forces of foreign nations began pulling back from the front lines and, in some cases, pulling out from the Congo. Fighting largely ceased, although banditry by militias and fighting between tribal groups persisted in E Congo. Peace talks began tentatively in Oct., 2001, and in 2002 agreements were signed successively with one of the rebel groups, Rwanda, and Uganda, although no agreement was reached with the largest rebel force, the Rwandan-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy–Goma. By the end of Oct., 2002, most foreign troops had been withdrawn from the Congo. In 2010, a UN report on the years of civil war in Congo was leaked; the report accused multiple armies and militias of various serious crimes during the conflict, and indicated that the Rwandan army and its Congolese allies, Laurent Kabila's rebels, had massacred groups of civilian Rwandan and Congolese Hutus.

The government and both main rebel groups reached an accord in Apr., 2003, when they signed a peace agreement that called for a power-sharing government led by President Kabila, and an interim parliament. Despite the peace deal, fighting continued in parts of the Congo, especially between tribal groups in the east, and in June, 2003, the United Nations dispatched French-led peacekeepers to E Congo in an effort to restore order. In the same month the government and rebels agreed on the composition of the new government, which was formally established. Democratic elections were scheduled for 2005. By the time of the government's establishment it was estimated that 3.3 million people had died, directly or indirectly, as a result of the fighting that began in 1998.

The French-led peacekeepers were replaced by 10,000 UN soldiers beginning in Sept., 2003; the force was subsequently increased to 16,000. In the first half of 2004 there were two attempted coups in the country, and progress toward real peace continued to be slow during the year. By the end of 2004 rebel forces and the former Congolese army had been integrated into a unified force in name only. An uprising involving former rebels occurred in June at Bukavu in E Congo, although the rebels soon dispersed, and in December there was fighting in Nord-Kivu between former army and former rebel forces. The army forces had been sent into the area in response to threats by Rwanda to invade the region in order to attack Rwandan Hutu rebels based there. Congo accused Rwandan forces of invading and aiding the former Congolese rebels, a charge Rwanda denied, but a UN panel had accused (July, 2004) Rwanda and Uganda of maintaining armed units in E Congo and UN peacekeepers said that forces had entered Congo following Rwanda's threat to invade. The latter charge was called false, however, by a former UN employee in early 2005.

Fighting between militias and UN peacekeepers occurred in NE Congo during 2005, as the area remained unpacified and some of the militias resisted disarming. Militia forces in Katanga prov. also refused to disarm, leading to fighting there in late 2005 between them and the Congolese army. Because of the fighting and tensions within the government and logistical issues (a new constitution was not approved by the interim parliament until May, 2005) the elections scheduled to be held by June, 2005, were postponed into 2006. In Dec., 2005, however, voters approved the constitution, paving the way for electing a new government. The same month the International Court of Justice ruled that Congo was entitled to compensation from Uganda for looting by Ugandan forces during the recent civil war. The fighting in NE and E Congo continued off and on throughout 2006. The Ugandan army launched (Apr., 2006) a campaign against Ugandan rebels based in Congo and clashed with Congo's forces, prompting a protest from Congo.

At the end of July, 2006, Congo held elections for president and the national and provincial legislatures. Voting was largely peaceful, but the vote count was slow and marred by irregularities. Joseph Kabila won 44% of the presidential vote with a strong showing in E Congo, but failed to win the required majority; his party won 111 (out of 500) National Assembly seats and was able to form a governing coalition. The inconclusive presidential results sparked violence between Kabila's partisans and those of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, the former rebel and interim vice president who was the runner-up (with 20% of the vote) and did well in W Congo, and violence subsequently marred campaign leading up to the October runoff. The vote count was not completed until mid-November, but Kabila was elected, with 58% of the ballots, and again he ran strongly in E Congo. Bemba rejected the result and contested it in court, despite the assessment of the election by most observers as free and fair; Bemba's challenge was rejected, and Kabila's election confirmed.

Progess was made in disbanding a number of militias in E Congo in early 2007, but later in the year fighting broke out between army units that included former Tutsi militias and Rwandan Hutu militias based in the Congo. Subsequent the Congolese army moved against the renegade Tutsi units, and Nord-Kivu was torn by off-and-on fighting in the second half of 2007. Meanwhile, in March deadly fighting erupted in Kinshasa between the army and Bemba's remaining forces, who had resisted disbanding. Bemba was accused of treason, while he accused the government of trying to kill him; he sought refuge in the South African embassy. In April, Bemba was allowed to leave the country for Portugal, in order to seek medical treatment. (In May, 2008, Bemba was arrested in Belgium on an International Criminal Court warrant that accused him with war crimes arising from the actions of his forces in 2002 in the Central African Republic, where they were aiding President Ange-Félix Patassé. He was extradited in July to the Netherlands to face trial, and formally charged in Jan., 2009.)

In Aug., 2007, a border clash between Congolese and Ugandan forces occurred near the disputed Rukwanzi Island in Lake Albert; in September the nations agreed to demilitarize the island. A cease-fire agreement was signed by some of the groups in E Congo in Jan., 2008, but conflicts between some of the many armed militias there continued. In Aug., 2008, government forces attacked Congolese Tutsi positions in E Congo, and ongoing fighting led the Tutsis to withdraw from the cease-fire agreement in October. After Tutsi successes against government forces, the government accused Rwanda of sending its troops into the Congo, a charge Rwanda denied; there was evidence, however, of Rwandan support for Congolese Tutsis. Rwanda and Congolese Tutsis countercharged that the government had allied itself with Rwandan Hutu militias accused of genocide. By the end of October Tutsi forces had advanced to Goma, the capital of Nord-Kivu. Peace negotiations, mediated by Olusegun Obasanjo, the former president of Nigeria, began in Dec., 2008.

Meanwhile, in early 2008 there was violence between police forces and a religio-political sect (Bundu dia Kongo) in Bas-Congo prov.; the sect was banned in March. In Dec., 2008, after Ugandan rebels led by Joseph Kony, based in and around Garamba National Park, Orientale prov., in extreme NE Congo, failed to sign a peace agreement with Uganda. Ugandan, Congolese, and South Sudanese forces mounted a joint campaign against the rebels' bases that continued until Mar., 2009. The operation was only partially successful. Ugandan rebels continued to attack Congolese civilians in subsequent years, and the Ugandan military also continued small-scale operations in Congo against the group. Congo troops were included in a planned Ugandan-led four-nation African Union military force to capture Kony that was announced in 2012.

A joint Rwandan-Congolese operation (Feb.–Mar., 2009) captured Laurent Nkunda, the Congolese Tutsi leader, which led to his forces integration in the Congolese army and a peace accord between the government and the Tutsi. Local militia groups also signed integration agreements, but in 2010 some former rebels accused the government of failing to honor the accords. Some rebels in Nord-Kivu and Sud-Kivu did not integrate, and remained a problem in subsequent months. The troops were less successful against the Rwandan Hutu militia, who resumed their attacks against civilians after the operation's end; the Hutu forces were the target of UN-supported Congolese operations in subsequent months. Both government and rebel forces were accused of criminal behavior and human-rights abuses in the conflict. The UN ended its support for Congolese government operations in Dec., 2009, amid criticism from aid agencies for heavy civilian casualties and from a UN panel for a lack of permanent results against Hutu forces, but a new UN and government offensive against the Hutu rebels began in early 2010. In Oct., 2009, ethnic fighting began in Equateur prov., and by Jan., 2010, some 120,000 had fled the area, most to the neighboring Republic of Congo.

Constitutional amendments approved in Jan., 2011, generally strengthened the president's powers, and the elimination of a presidential runoff was seen as designed to aid Kabila's reelection. Kabila was declared the winner of the subsequent election, in Dec., 2011, but the vote was marred by logistical shortcomings and other irregularities and by statistically evident fraud. The second place finisher, Étienne Tshisekedi, denounced the results and declared himself the winner, while observers declared that the election lacked credibility and that the real winner was unknown. In the parliamentary elections, Kabila's party lost a significant number of seats but remained the largest bloc; his coalition retained an overall majority.

In Apr., 2012, Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, who was accused of war crimes and threatened with arrest, mutinied in Nord-Kivu with his former ethnic Tutsi rebels and established a new rebel force, M23. Facing relatively weak government resistance, the group advanced through several towns until by July it was threatening Goma, the provincial capital. Congo, the United Nations, and independent groups accused Rwanda of aiding the rebels, a charge Rwanda denied, but the United States and others called on Rwanda to end aid to the M23 rebels. In November the rebels took Goma, but withdrew after regional nations called on them to pull back. Divisions in M23 led in Mar., 2013, to Ntaganda's ouster; he fled to the U.S. embassy in Rwanda, and was turned over to the International Criminal Court. Also in March the United Nations approved the creation of a UN Intervention Brigade for the Congo with a broader mandate to actively enforce the peace.

In mid-2013 there was renewed fighting between the army and M23, and beginning in August the UN's Intervention Brigade supported army forces against M23. During the first half of 2013 there also were a number of clashes between the army and local militias in E Congo. M23 suffered of a serious of defeats in Oct.–Nov., 2013, and declared an end to their rebellion; a peace agreement was signed in December. Also in December, government and UN forces began operations against Rwandan Hutu rebels based in E Congo, and the government crushed attacks in Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, and Kolwezi by supporters of a self-styled religious prophet, Joseph Mukungubila. In Apr., 2014, the government claimed that the number of rebel groups in the east had been reduced by joint UN-Congolese offensives; operations continued into 2015.


See C. Young, Politics in the Congo (1965); R. Anstey, King Leopold's Legacy: The Congo under Belgian Rule, 1908–1960 (1966); R. W. Harms, River of Wealth, River of Sorrow: The Central Zaïre Basin in the Era of the Slave and Ivory Trade (1981); T. M. Callaghy, The State-Society Struggle: Zaïre in Comparative Perspective (1984); F. S. Bobb, Historical Dictionary of Zaïre (1988); D. Northrup, Beyond the Bend in the River: African Labor in Eastern Zaïre, 1865–1940 (1988); J. M. Elliot and M. M. Mervyn, Mobutu Sese Seko: People, Politics, and Policy (1989); A. Hochschild, King Leopold's Ghost (1998); G. Prunier, Africa's World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe (2008); S. Autesserre, The Trouble with the Congo (2010); J. K. Stearns, Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa (2011); D. Van Reybrouck, Congo: The Epic History of a People (2014).

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Congo, Democratic Republic of

Congo, Democratic Republic of (DRC)


2,344,885sq km (905,365 sq mi)



capital (population):

Kinshasa (6,301,100)


Single-party republic

ethnic groups:

Luba 18%, Kongo 16%, Mongo 14%, Rwanda 10%, Azande 6%, Bandi and Ngale 6%, Rundi 4%, Teke, Boa, Chokwe, Lugbara, Banda


French (official)


Christianity (Roman Catholic 48%, Protestant 29%, indigenous Christian churches 17%), traditional beliefs 3%, Islam 1%


Congolese franc = 100 centimes

Republic in central-west Africa. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the third-largest country in Africa. It is dominated by the River Congo, whose basin is the world's second-largest drainage system. On the opposite bank of the Congo from Brazzaville, lies Congo's capital, Kinshasa. North-central Congo consists of a high plateau, 1000–1400m (3300–4600ft) high, and includes the city of Kisangani. In the e, the plateau rises to 5109m (16,762ft) in the Ruwenzori mountains. Lakes Albert and Edward form much of Congo's ne border with Uganda. Lake Kivu lies along its border with Rwanda. Lake Tanganyika forms the entire border with Tanzania. All the lakes lie in an arm of the Great Rift Valley. The s highland province of Shaba (Katanga) includes Congo's second-largest city, Lubumbashi.

Climate and Vegetation

Much of Congo has an equatorial climate with high temperatures and heavy rainfall throughout the year. The s has a more subtropical climate. Dense equatorial rainforests grow in the n. The s plateau comprises savanna and swamps.


By 1000, Bantu-speakers had largely displaced the native pygmy population. From the 14th century, large Bantu kingdoms emerged. In 1482, a Portuguese navigator became the first European to reach the mouth of the Congo. In the 19th century, traders in slaves and ivory formed powerful states. Henry Morton Stanley's explorations (1874–77) established the route of the Congo. In 1878, King Leopold II of Belgium employed Stanley to found colonies along the Congo. In 1885, Leopold established the Congo Free State. Leopold's personal empire gradually grew, and concessionaires gained control of the lucrative rubber trade. The trade received international criticism after Sir Roger Casement denounced its exploitation of the native population. In 1908, Belgium responded by establishing direct control as the colony of Belgium Congo. European companies exploited African labour to develop the copper and diamond mines. In 1958, France offered the Congo a free vote on independence. Nationalists in Belgium Congo demanded similar elections.

In June 1960, the Republic of the Congo gained independence and Patrice Lumumba became prime minister. Belgium had not properly secured institutional changes and the state rapidly fractured. The mineral-rich province of Katanga demanded independence. UN troops replaced Belgian troops, sent to protect its citizens and mining interests. In September 1960, Joseph Mobutu, commander in chief of the Congolese National Army, seized power. Lumumba was imprisoned and later murdered. In 1963, UN and government forces combined to force Katanga to drop its demands for secession. In 1964, after the withdrawal of UN troops, Belgium Congo again plunged into civil war and Belgian troops once more intervened. In 1965, Mobutu proclaimed himself president. Mobutu began a campaign of ‘Africanization’: Leopoldsville became Kinshasa (1966); the country and river renamed Zaïre (1971); Katanga became Shaba (1972); and Mobutu adopted the name Mobutu Sese Seko. Zaïre became a one-party state. Mobutu was re-elected unopposed in 1974 and 1977. Political repression and endemic corruption led to renewed civil war in Shaba (1977–78). Mobutu, once more with European assistance, defeated secessionist forces. An ailing Mobutu, with a personal fortune of US$5 billion, was pressured into accepting opposition parties in 1990. Elections were repeatedly deferred and a succession of governments remained under Mobutu's control. In 1995, millions of Hutus fled from Rwanda into e Zaïre, to escape possible Tutsi reprisals. In 1996 rebels, led by Laurent Kabila, overthrew Mobuto, who fled into exile. Zaïre became the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 1998, Congo descended into civil war between government forces, supported by Zimbabwe, and the Tutsi-dominated Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) backed by Rwanda. The Lusaka Peace Agreement (1999) brought a cease-fire and the deployment of 5500 UN peacekeeping troops, but fighting continued. By 2001 the civil war had claimed more than 2.5 million lives. In 2001, Laurent Kabila was assassinated and his son, Joseph Kabila succeeded as President. In 2002 a volcanic eruption devastated the city of Goma.


Congo is a low-income developing country (2000 GDP per capita, US$600). It is the world's leading producer of cobalt and the second-largest producer of diamonds (after Australia). Copper is the major export. Congo has potential for hydroelectricity. A major problem is an inadequate infrastructure, especially the poor standard of the roads. Agriculture employs 71% of the workforce, mainly at subsistence level. Palm oil is the most vital cash crop. Other cash crops include cocoa, coffee, cotton, and tea. Food crops include bananas, cassava, maize, and rice. Corruption and hyperinflation are major obstacles to economic growth.

Political map

Physical map


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Congo,Democratic Republic of the

Democratic Republic of the


The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC) was formerly known as Zaire. This chapter begins with an overview article on the people of the DROC (the Congolese). Six ethnic groups account for more than 69 percent of the population. One of these groups, the Azande, is profiled in this chapter. Other African groups living in the DROC and profiled elsewhere include the Tutsi (see the chapter on Burundi in this volume) and the Hutu (see the chapter on Uganda in Volume 9). Another group, the Bakongo, is profiled in the chapter on Republic of Congo in this volume. In the densely forested center of the country (the cuvette) are about 80,000100,000 Pygmies, including the Efe and Mbuti profiled in this chapter. Non-Africans living in the DROC number around 200,000 and include Belgians, Greeks, Lebanese, and Asian Indians.

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Democratic Republic of the Congo

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Culture Name


Alternative Names

Congo (Kinshasa)which distinguishes this country from the other Congo, which is often called Congo (Brazzaville). Formerly: Zaire, Zairians, Belgian Congo, Congo (Léopoldville).


Identification. Named after the enormous Congo River and the large ethnic group living at its mouth, the Kongo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo first had its borders drawn at the Berlin Conference of 18841885. During this conference, Africa was arbitrarily divided in ways that benefitted the European colonial powers, with no regard for existing tribal systems and linguistic groups. In some instances, these new borders separated families, while other people without previous contact suddenly became part of one nation. Many of Congo's leaders have favored certain ethnic groups and areas over others, exacerbating differences between ethnic groups. The future of the Congo depends upon average citizens transcending the political rhetoric of hatred and uniting within an African-style democracy.

Location and Geography. Located in Central Africa, the Congo shares an extremely long border with the Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, and Angola. Largely landlocked, the DRC depends on the mighty Congo River for transportation and livelihood. Second in power only to the Amazon River, the Congo River is said to have enough hydroelectric power to light up every home in all of southern Africa. The regular flow of the river is due to its various tributaries, which feed from both sides of the equator.

As Africa's third largest country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo boasts 905,356 square miles (2,344,872 square kilometers), including deep forests, the famous Ruwenzori mountain range, the Central Basin, the Highland Plateau, beautiful rivers, cities, villages, and mining towns.

Kinshasa is the capital and largest city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Formerly known as Léopoldville, after King Leopold II of Belgium, Kinshasa is a vibrant and modern town of over 5 million people located on the Congo River. Other cities include the southern diamond-mining center, Lubumbashi (850,000 inhabitants), river-oriented Kolwezi (417,810), Kisangani (600,000), Mbuji-Mayi (810,000) and Matadi (172,730), the country's primary seaport. Various communities throughout the nation's interior make their livelihoods by fishing, hunting, and working the soil.

Demography. With an estimated population of nearly 52 million in 2000, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to over two hundred different ethnic and linguistic groups. In the far north of the country, near the Sudanese border, live people with ethnic and linguistic backgrounds similar to that of Saharans. Their culture is strongly influenced by Arabic- and Berber-speaking people of the Middle East. People of Bantu origin populate most of the rest of the country, including Lunda, Luba, Kuba, Kongo, and Mongo, groups. In addition, some 240,000 people are temporary residents, as neighboring wars have led to huge migrations into the region. The vast population of the DRC is divided into ten administrative regions.

The copper industry in eastern Zaire created several urban areas that sprang up around the mines. Currently, 60 percent of the population lives in rural areas, although many people migrated to the cities during the 1980s and 1990s in the hopes of finding food and work. Rapid urbanization has increased the squalor of shantytowns located outside city centers, where many families have to share space, water, and food.

Linguistic Affiliation. Most Congolese speak several languages; it is not uncommon for someone to fluently speak four or more languages. French, introduced by Belgian colonists, is still used by the government and in radio broadcasts as Congo's official language. Other major languages include Swahili, Lingala, Kikongo, and Tshiluba. Used by the colonial military in the 1800s as the language of trade and travel, Lingala remains the lingua franca of the region. It is the most popular language for communicating across ethnic lines, and the majority of popular music heard on the radio is sung in Lingala.

The flight of many Congolese to cities and mining towns outside linguistic boundaries has caused new varieties of language to arise. Such dialects are often a synthesis of several languages that formed as people from different backgrounds learned to speak with one another. Migration and modernization has also led to changes within specific language groups. For example, the Swahili taught during the colonial era in missionary schools has evolved into a new dialect called Kingwana. Language choice carries inherent political overtones. For example, the use of French in conversation implies an official tone.

Symbolism. National holidays include Independence Day, Constitution Day, and Armed Forces Day, indicating that the ruling party wishes to solidify feelings of nationalism and remind the nation of its freedom from a colonial past.

The country's flag has a light blue background with six stars on the left-hand side and one large yellow star in the center. Because the current president wanted to honor the Congo's first freely elected president, Patrice Lumumba, he chose the same flag that Lumumba used in 1960. Originally, the six stars represented the six administrative districts; though there are currently ten such provinces, the president selected this older version out of respect for the nation's hero.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Throughout Congo's prehistory, most ethnic groups were isolated from one another by the thick forests that engulf the country. For several hundred years before the arrival of Europeans in the late fifteenth century, many kingdoms were highly organized and efficient administrators of health, education, and trade. Regions located along the Congo River were most easily accessible to outside traders. Therefore, they were the first to open themselves up to Christianization and the Portuguese slave trade in the 1480s. Throughout the sixteenth century, the worldwide demand for slaves increased, triggering violence between ethnic groups as European slave traders kidnapped people and encouraged African men to capture members of other ethnic groups for money. Even missionaries, who thought of themselves as bringing the "pure light" of Europe to shine on the Congolese "darkness," sometimes participated in the lucrative business of slavery.

In the 1885 scramble for Africa, King Leopold II of Belgium declared himself the dictator and sole proprietor of the new Congo Free State. Leopold garnered public support at home by publicly announcing his intent to Christianize and modernize the Congolese population, all the while planning the forced labor of men, women, and children for the lucrative ivory and rubber business. When people did not meet the king's quotas, his army killed them or cut off their hands. The overall population of the country greatly diminished during the early twentieth century due to such cruelty and to the susceptibility of many Congolese to new European diseases.

Mounting international criticism forced Leopold to sell his colony to Belgium in 1908. The Belgians, unfortunately, failed to contain his blood-thirsty troops, who were responsible for managing the rubber trade that caused over five million people to perish. From 1890 to 1910, between 5 and 8 million people perished as a direct result of the rubber trade.

By 1903, the economy for rubber in the Congo had collapsed, so the new Belgian colony focused on exploiting the Katanga province for copper, diamonds, and oil. So-called "vacant land" could be used by businesses from many countries willing to exploit one of the world's richest areas. Both forced labor and high taxes continued the horrors of Leopold. Families were split as many men went far away from their villages to the mines to work, nearly destroying the fabric of traditional society.

During the 1930s and 1940s, the Belgian colonial government tried to enforce mass cultivation standards, but without proper transportation mechanisms in place, large amounts of food lay wasted and unsold. The demand for copper grew during the World War II era, creating peripheral markets for household goods such as soap and sugar. Though economic growth increased and education improved during this time, the Belgians remained staunchly authoritarian. Local chiefs were used as pawns of the government; often they were removed from power if rumored to be anticolonialist.

National Identity. Increased poverty and aggravation over colonial rule united this extremely large country, despite its lack of roads, telephones, and newspapers. Under the administration of the Belgians, for example, Congolese were not permitted to travel without a permit and were not allowed to drink hard liquor. Such inequality fed the flames of desire for independence, as did the news of neighboring countries achieving freedom from colonial rule. Liberation movements from around the country began to cooperate and consolidate their power against the Belgians. Religious movements formed, strongly espousing antiwhite, anticolonialist rule. Massive strikes and retaliatory massacres helped motivate opposition groups in the extremely large and ethnically diverse country.

When the Belgians abruptly left the Congo and independence was declared on 30 June 1960, there was only one trained Congolese lawyer, no Congolese physicians or officers, and only five men otherwise trained as administrators in the whole country. This small group suddenly had to run the third largest nation in Africa. Between 1960 and 1964, Congo was convulsed by a series of coups, mercenary-led rebellions, the arrival of United Nations (UN) peacekeeping forces, and secessionist movements. The most telltale event was the outcome of Congo's first free and fair election in May of 1960: because of his charismatic qualities, Patrice Lumumba and his party, the MNC (Mouvement National Congolais) won the most parliamentary seats. While other parties traditionally were based along ethnic lines, Lumumba enjoyed popular support across racial divisions. His goal for the new country was gradual Africanization and development. After the Americans refused to assist the new president, Lumumba sought a small token of support from the Soviet Union. This caused the United States, caught up in the Cold War, to fear the Congo's newest leader. In addition, some U.S. business leaders wondered if Lumumba would be receptive to U.S. business interests. These factors led to an alledged U.S.-backed plot against President Lumumba, ending in his death on January 17, 1961. The United States had engineered his demise and execution after less than a year in office.

The United States was preparing Joseph Mobutu, an army strongman, for leadership. Mobutu remained in power for twenty-three years, until 1997. Mobutu proceeded to declare all political parties illegal, except for his party, the Mouvement Populaire de la Revolution, or MPR. He also abolished the parliament.

President Mobutu asked that everyone drop his or her missionary-given, Christian names in an effort to re-Africanize the nation. He changed his own name to Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga, "The warrior who dares and cannot know defeat because of his will and is all powerful, leaving fire in his wake as he goes from conquest to conquest." In addition, he changed the country's name to Zaire, and several city names as well. Many people were executed within Mobutu's circles and in the business community for allegedly planning coups, and most business operations were overrun by government officials and eventually collapsed. Mobutu did what Leopold had done: he enslaved his people, got extremely wealthy at their expense, and watched as everyone outside of his small circle endured an ever-increasing cycle of poverty and repression. After over fifty university students, rumored to be part of a demonstration against the government, were murdered in their beds by Mobutu's guard, the international community began to take notice of the brutality of the regime, and some countries withdrew their financial support from Zaire.

Mobutu's personal fortune at his death was estimated to be $5 billion. His name became synonymous with corruption around the world. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Congo economy suffered because of Mobutu's excessive expenses, the fall of copper on the world market, extremely high inflation and a simultaneous devaluation of the currency, the government defaulting on International Monetary Fund and World Bank payments, and the near ubiquitous nationalization of businesses.

Ethnic Relations. Laurent Kabila's ascension to power culminated on 16 May 1997, when he was named the head of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kabila, originally from the Katanga province, was the leader of rebel troops who, fed up with Mobutu's rule, marched across the country capturing each town along the way. When Kabila took the capital, Mobutu fled into exile in Europe where he died a few months later, in September 1997. The initial celebrations gave way to an internal conflict that as of 2000 involved five other African nations.

Nearly one year after Mobutu's death, Kabila announced war against the Tutsi. Ironically, they were the ethnic group that most supported his campaign to overthrow the Mobutu regime. Because of the lack of civil rights and equality in the Congo, ethnic Tutsis have never had citizenship, even those born in the country. Their goal was to overthrow Kabila in favor of a more democratic regime.

Forty years after independence, the political struggle for power still continues as this war has claimed over one million lives. Inspired by decades of colonialism, Leopold's Rule, and the multinational push to control the Congo's natural resources, this war is about more than ethnic rivalries; intertwined is a complex history, broken allegiances and promises, Mobutu's policy of divide and conquer and billions of dollars of natural resources hanging in the balance.

The conflict is not confined to Rwanda and the Congo, however; Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola, and Uganda have each taken their sides, creating what some have called "Africa's World War I."

The future of the region remains uncertain, especially in the light of President Laurent Kabila's assassination by one of his bodyguards on January 16, 2001. The late president's son Joseph Kabila was sworn in as the country's new president on January 26. The new Kabila has promised that free and fair elections would take place in the near future.

Urbanism,Architecture, and the Use of Space

In rural areas, several round or rectangular mud huts enclosed in an area comprise a family's homestead. The frame is built by tying vines around sticks and palm frond stems. A mixture of sand, water, and often cement is then used to fill in the structure and a grass roof completes the home. Families often move their homestead to be near their new fields, or if termites have destroyed their roof. At times, new homes are built on top of the old field, so that after several years, the newly fertilized land can be used again. Each hut serves a different purpose: some are for cooking, others are for storage, and there are guest huts and separate rooms for the male and female children, who usually sleep on handwoven raffia mats placed upon the ground. Traditional homesteads are as diverse as their owners. They may be large or small, extremely clean or left in neglect.

In the areas surrounding cities, large shantytowns have emerged. Usually the small homes are made of corrugated iron in these areas. Given the extreme heat during most of the year, these homes are often swelteringly hot. In general, the quality of life in the urban shanties is lower than that of the rural areas. In some urban areas, however, better homes or apartments are available for the rich who drive Western automobiles and wear suits. Large government buildings made of modern materials symbolize the wealth of the politically powerful.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Unfortunately, for many in the Congo, food is not necessarily a part of daily life. And, when food is available, it usually does not contain the vitamins and minerals required to help ward off disease and maintain proper health. The primary staple, pasty white fufu (manioc tubers, pounded into the texture of oatmeal), is eaten out of a communal bowl. This chunky carbohydrate is accompanied by varying side dishes, depending on wealth, season, and availability. Examples include sweet potatoes, perch, bananas, and plantains. For many rural people, meat is a delicacy reserved for special days or when the family can afford the luxury. Only the right hand is used in eating because it is an insult to conduct any transaction with the left hand, which is used only for bathroom purposes. In the traditional way of eating, the women first serve the men, who usually sit on the chairs in the home. After the men are finished eating, the women and children usually sit on the floor and share the remaining items, resulting in poorer nutrition. In some areas, however, the women first set aside good morsels of meat for the children and themselves, resulting in better child nutrition rates in these regions.

Fish is a primary food source for many, depending on their proximity to rivers and streams. Some families build their own ponds by diverting small rivers to an area, using bamboo for pipes. Manure, bits of food, and other materials are used as compost in the bottom of the pond to promote the growth of plankton. Fish are then harvested after six months of feeding. Often the women fry or salt the fish that the family did not consume for sale in markets throughout the year.

Many edible treats abound from the palm tree, including wine, oil, fruits, and nuts. Youth learn early to climb high into the trees for nuts, process them by boiling and pounding the nut to make oil, and to tap the base of the tree for wine. This wine starts out not very potent, but as it sits, the alcohol content greatly increases. The palm fruits can also be used for cosmetic purposes.

Riverboats are seen throughout the country, as the river acts as a vital artery for trade and transportation along the populated river banks. On the riverboats, large communal kitchens serve tea and bread for breakfast and rice and beans for lunch and dinner. Urban life has changed many traditional customs, and a thriving restaurant culture exists in Kinshasa. Usually catering to business people and the rich, these expensive places offer French, Chinese, Greek, and Tunisian food as well as traditional chicken cooked in oil with rice.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. A tradition ingrained into the villager's lifestyle is to be extremely generous and giving to all people. Starting with a family's closest kin, members share with one another and especially with the most needy in the community, even when their own health suffers from lack of food. Lavish gifts are bestowed upon visitors, guests, and distant cousins alike. A family's only chicken or goat is often slaughtered for holiday celebrations, funerals, and weddings, and to celebrate births. Traditional beer and palm wine is brewed for these special occasions, which usually involve singing and dancing. Above the drums, singing, and stomping of feet, women ululate shrilly to express their excitement. This encourages the dancers, who then begin to move with a renewed vigor.

Basic Economy. The per capita gross national product (GNP) of the country stands as the world's third lowest, according to a 1998 report. In 2000, as the government continues printing money to fund the war, the inflation rate of the Congolese franc continued to rise (standing at 84 percent in May 2000), and hopes for a healthy national economy dwindled. Congolese industry was operating at only about 10 percent of its capacity.

Land Tenure and Property. In the past, the chief or village headman had authority over village land and ownership, but the European notion of individual land ownership led to a law in 1966 stating that the government owned all land, creating two simultaneous legal systems. Both laws exist side by side, and the unclear status of land ownership is usually "solved" by postponing land dispute investigations with bribes. Some people want to officially own the land they and their ancestors have been tending for centuries so that they can use the property as collateral for a loan. This legal issue caused by the parallel legal systems, however, prevents many from obtaining such a loan, making it difficult for would-be entrepreneurs to finance a new business. In addition, women cannot own land without their husband's consent.

Commercial Activities. People are forced to find food for themselves and their families by any means necessary. Since the Congo fails to perform the functions of a state, has a very ineffective administrative system, fails to uphold civil rights, and often neglects to pay even its few salaried workers, Congolese citizens must find a way to carry on with their lives to survive. The origin of this problem lies in the Belgian colonial days and the subsequent Mobutu era, in which the real function of the regime was to consolidate wealth in the hands of the few at the expense of the rest.

It is estimated that the total economy of the DRC is three times larger than the official gross domestic product. The unofficial economy is not a backseat player; it is the real economy on the ground. This is because the vast majority of economic activity takes place behind the official system. Rather than go through the excessive bureaucratic formalities (a single export alone requires thirty-nine separate administrative procedures), people take the matter of survival into their own hands. Exports such as copper, diamonds, gold, and coffee are bound for Europe, South Africa, and Angola. People bicycle in common goods from neighboring countries to sell in the DRC for less. The consistently overvalued price of items in the official economy prevents everyone but the excessively rich from buying even the most basic necessities, and forces more people to operate within the black market. In fact, the primary reason to obtain a "regular job" (such as, teacher or police officer) is to use the new job as a springboard to new connections that enhance the operations of the work that takes place outside the traditional sector. Women have especially taken advantage of the booming informal sector, thereby avoiding official requirements for licensing, since they would normally need their husband's permission to open any sort of bank account or to obtain a trading permit. Tenacious entrepreneurs even continue their business under the extremely difficult conditions inside refugee camps. Hair salons, discos, bars, wrestling arenas, and shops selling basic goods have sprung up inside these camps.

Major Industries. Subsistence agriculture accounts for a vast majority of the industry in the Congo. People farm corn, manioc, potatoes, beans, and rice for their personal use. Textiles, food products, cement, and plastic shoes are manufactured.

Powerful players from around the world compete for access to the DRC's rich natural resources, which include diamonds, cobalt, copper, gold, and oil. In order to pass customs, traders may eat gold pellets or hide illegal goods in the spaces of a car engine in order to successfully make it through a border, where they then sell these items on the black market.

Trade. One of the most severe hindrances to trade and marketing in the Congo is the lack of adequate internal transportation. Most roads through the country's vast interior are not paved, and its 1,550 miles (2,500 kilometers) of paved roads remain in serious disrepair. Rain damages the terrain, creating huge potholes which make transport across the country virtually impossible. Estimates in the early 1990s suggested that it could take up to six months to travel from the east to the west of the country over the deeply rutted dirt tracks, even with a car in excellent condition. In addition, airline services are unreliable. Therefore, the most effective method of transport in the country is by river barge. These boats float down the Congo River, carrying large numbers of people and their goods on deck.

Division of Labor. Rural children learn from a young age to tend fields, carry water, cook, and clean the homestead. Everyone, regardless of talent, ability, or age, is involved in work for the family's survival.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Congo's richest people primarily live in Kinshasa. Referred to as Kinois, these government officials and Western businessmen are few in number. Non-Congolese expatriates businesspeople of higher wealth and class from West Africa, Greece, Asia, the United States, and Japanenjoy a higher standard of living than the majority of the population. Missionaries and foreign aid workers are socially fragmented into their respective groups and each attend separate schools, churches, and social clubs. Some Western workers, however, do live in rural areas, without the comforts of an elite lifestyle. The urban subbourgeoisiethose seen by the majority of the very poor as rich, but not enjoying much actual income since they are rarely paidinclude teachers, clerks, and low-level bureaucrats. This disgruntled group is dependent on the state for their salaries. Teachers often bribe their students with threats of failure in order to survive. The rest of the city-dwelling population includes soft drink vendors, shoe repairmen, taxi drivers, salespeople, artisans, smugglers, and prostitutes, all of whom survive in the urban sprawl by operating in the unofficial economy.

Congolese are known for their extreme tenacity and ability to weather difficult situations. Rural peasants are hardest hit by the economic collapse, since state officials collect 50 percent of the peasants' income through taxation. In rural areas, respect and authority comes from being old and/or male. Many communities have chiefs, and most of them still wield a considerable amount of power in their villages.

Symbols of Social Stratification. With the introduction of Western imports and a monetary system, life in the Congo became increasingly stratified and based upon material acquisition. In the traditional sense, being rich meant owning lots of cattle or having many children. The idea of acquiring goods, trinkets, and other material things, however, is seen as the way to move forward in this modern age.

Some of the youth, fascinated with European styles and envisioning Europe as a place with an almost magical quality, are greatly influenced by the few people who have traveled abroad. A few men, concerned with their outward appearance, spend all their money on expensive, fashionable brand-name clothes, often while living in unhealthy conditions. This phenomenon is widely observed in male youth in Kinshasa, who believe, if they dress well, that more doors will open to them socially, politically, and economically. The desire for foreign clothes still fascinates the rich few, who are seen in the cities in designer clothes, driving Mercedes and talking on cellular phones.

Rural women often wear scarves on their heads, carry their babies on their backs, and wear light, brightly colored clothes. The tattered clothes of the majority of shoeless, rural and urban poor are outward signs of the poverty they endure.

Political Life

Government. Leopold's rule, Belgian colonialism, and Mobutu laid the framework for the current form of government. Mobutu established what some have called a "kleptocratic" dictatorship, in which the constitution and separate executive, legislative, and judicial branches existed on paper only, and the primary role of the government was extracting money from the land and people. On paper, Kabila answered to a bicameral parliament including a Senate, Chamber of Representatives, and an independent judiciary. In reality, he allowed himself to operate the entire country with the help of only twelve men, who comprised his interim assembly, citing civil war as a deterrent to democratic rule. Kabila's rhetoric included the goal of transferring power to the people through the use of People's Power Committees, which were slated to begin operations in each province sometime in the future. Kabila dissolved his own party, the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL) in January 1999, and subsequently engaged in fighting several armed factions opposed to his rule. Allegiances to a political party or faction are usually based along ethnic and clan lines.

Leadership and Political Officials. Everyone in the path of the president is ordered to stand perfectly still when he marches through Kinshasa's city streets. When an average citizen happens to meet a government official, the citizen will usually try to avoid conflict by conceding to the official's demands, and by keeping overall contact to a minimum. Those who spoke negatively of the Kabila regime faced probable prison, torture, and execution.

Social Problems and Control. With political parties officially banned and demonstrations outlawed, it is not difficult to imagine the social problems in the country. Rather than a government, a military, and a police force protecting its citizens, the ordinary people going about their daily life are harassed, stolen from, and lied to by the very people who are supposed to protect them. Journalists such as Kalala Kalaos, who was awarded the International Freedom of the Press Award in 1995, have endured countless prison sentences and torture for openly criticizing the government. Years of colonialism, brutality, and the general misunderstanding of the role of government will take more than a few years to overcome. It would be difficult for any new government, given this history, to come in and change things overnight since much of the illegal activity is promoted by the rich and powerful.

Problems of all sorts are solved in local courts, in which issues are discussed and resolved through legal or religious ceremonial actions such as purification and consecration. Traditional systems remain the primary method for solving disputes.

Military Activity. The role of the unpaid Congo Military is to set up numerous roadblocks in order to earn their money from the bribes of road-weary travelers. Soldiers rape women, inflict arbitrary fines on citizens, and pillage and harass the villagers. Most of the rest of the military is involved in fighting to protect Kabila's regime against several factions that wish to overthrow the government.

Social Welfare and Change Programs. Since less than 1 percent of the GNP is devoted to the health care of the citizens, little is being done by the government to assist its population. The few people in large cities who are salaried and are actually receiving pay also enjoy social security and pension benefits, but this does little for the vast majority of the population, which receives no support from the government.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

International relief organizations fly food in to refugees and people displaced because of the war. At times the food does not reach the innocent masses; rather, it often falls into the hands of the military, who can then strengthen themselves for more fighting.

As an institution, the Roman Catholic Church has been a major player in the Congo throughout modern history, often condemning state-sponsored human rights violations. In 1993 Catholic leaders sent a memo to Mobutu denouncing state-sponsored terrorism and asking him to stop torturing and executing political prisoners. The church has served an important role throughout Congo's history as an intermediary to the state.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Most political, economic, and religious institutions have male leadership. Historically, Congolese men have been treated with respect and have been given positions of authority more often than Congolese women. The way a woman is treated in the Congo depends on her immediate environment and racial background. It has been argued that lower-class urban women enjoy fewer freedoms than their rural counterparts. Because women in cities are often more dependent on their husbands and other males for their livelihoods, the rural lifestyle may sound appealing to some; rural women find some independence through gardening, preparing meals, and generating small crafts for sale. These women spend so much time with their daily work, however, that they have little opportunity to organize for social change. Women living in Kinshasa are more able to form groups that collectively challenge the notion of male superiority.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Though many ethnic groups in the Congo practice matrilineal succession, in which inheritance is passed through the mother's side of the family, women are regarded as lower than males on the scale of social hierarchy. There is a high degree of societal pressure placed upon young women to marry, and an urban single woman is regarded as a prostitute, regardless of her professional status. In many cases, women must detail everything they purchase for their husband, while the male usually does not have to account for his own expenses. The goal is to keep women dependent on and subservient to men.

Women often band together in groups to resist unfair treatment or taxation. Some led popular efforts against Mobutu, such as organizing prayer groups in Kinshasa to mobilize efforts for his removal; many women continue to play a prominent role in challenging traditional roles of authority.

Marriage,Family, and Kinship

Marriage. In the past, single women in the Congo belonged to their fathers, and, upon marriage, their ownership would be transferred to the husband. The man's father would give gifts such as knives, food, or slaves to the new wife's father, in exchange for his loss of precious labor and kinship.

In rural areas it is common for men to have many wives. Village chiefs or headmen usually have more than one wife. The goal is to have many children who survive until adulthood, providing the household with enough hands to complete the many chores necessary for survival. At times, however, the women married to one man compete amongst each other for kitchens, food, affection, and children.

Domestic Unit. Women are responsible for the majority of the day-to-day survival tasks, such as cutting wood for cooking fires; hauling on their heads large buckets of water for cooking; cleaning clothes; reaping; sowing, and harvesting the fields; collecting palm fruits; cooking, pounding, and sifting the local cassava root; child rearing; and making baskets and pottery for sale at local markets. Traditionally, men went off on hunts for several days, using traps, spears, and bows and arrows to kill animals large and small. Now there are fewer animals to hunt, but the work of women does not diminish by proportion. In fact, the responsibility of the household falls more squarely on their shoulders, as the society becomes ever more dependent on farming. Many women have recently flocked to urban areas in the hopes of selling their handiwork, becoming hairstylists, or participating in the underground economy. Often the woman is the family's principal breadwinner. Many women have hopes that their children will advance out of poverty, and they are therefore burdened with the additional responsibility of paying school fees. Male children typically advance further in school than their female counterparts, since men are the head of the household and make financial decisions on behalf of the entire family and will benefit more from the education.

Kin Groups. In the traditional African model of kinship rules, there is a clear delineation of power, starting with the male head of the family. Chiefs come to rule based on their popularity within the village, their personal charisma, and their overall prestige. Whatever elders command is adhered to unconditionally, out of respect. Respect for elders, chiefs, and ancestors is an extremely important facet of daily life in the Congo.

Methods of solving problems must be based on traditional practices. For example, in the case of the Ebola virus, discovered in Kikwit in 1995, an immediate plan of action was necessary in order to ensure that this airborne and extremely deadly disease did not cause a local, and perhaps worldwide, pandemic. It was local elders who were responsible for stemming the deadly virus. Since these elders are the most respected men in their community, they were summoned by health-care workers to explain the severity of the disease. Workers persuaded each elder to share with each head of the family the vital information required to stop the disease from spreading; the family heads in turn informed their kin. The elders persuaded the entire community not to touch or kiss their dead, as was common burial practice. Because the traditional way of disseminating information was followed, the disease was eliminated.


Infant Care. It is common to see women carrying their babies on their backs as they work in the field, care for other children, carry water, cook, gather firewood, and clean their clothes and homes. Young girls learn from a very young age to take care of their younger siblings. Babies are seen on the backs of girls as young as five years of age.

Child Rearing and Education. Some authors argue that there really is no period of life called "childhood" in the Congo, at least in the Western sense of the concept. From the time babies are able to walk, they are thrust into the realm of adult responsibilities. Youth learn from their parents and elders how to manage the homestead. Young girls, especially, are expected to do lots of work for the family and are usually the ones found endlessly pounding cassava roots with a large mortar and pestle. Good children treat their elders with utmost respect and perform chores without complaint.

Traditionally, male children go to an initiation camp away from their villages for one year. Culminating in a festival and circumcision, this rite of passage into adulthood provides an opportunity for boys to learn to hunt, make handicrafts, and perfect their singing and dancing. The festival usually culminates in a dance ceremony where one dancer gets to wear an elaborate secret mask the village-maskmaker has worked all year to create. After this induction into adulthood, the boys travel back to their communities as men.

The Catholic Church has several mission schools for children that enjoy great popularity, since many national schools have understaffed classrooms. In state schools, the teachers' salaries are often unpaid, forcing many to bribe students for a high test score. Some male teachers solicit sexual acts from female students, offering a good grade or money in exchange. Such obstacles usually do not deter most females from pursuing education and a better life.

Some Africanists have questioned the role that school-based education has played in the rural communities, suggesting that youth may learn more about survival, farming, and raising a homestead from their parents. They argue that students waste precious hours each day learning useless facts in schools, rather than spending time inheriting wisdom from their elders.

Higher Education. The Congo has four universities. Two are located in Kinshasa with one each in Lubumbashi and Kisangani. There are also a number of other technical and teacher-training schools scattered around the country.

Some college applicants feel frustrated with the national policy of regional affirmative action in which a disproportionate number of students from remote areas are accepted into a university, leaving students with better scores and a higher level of education fewer available spots. Discouraged and angry, some students claim that the overall level of education in the universities declines because of this policy. This policy, however, is intended to give students from all parts of the country the chance to attend an institution of higher learning.


Casual clothes are permitted, but unwritten rule is that the nicer one looks, the more respect one will receive. Most local Congolese dress in clean, crisp clothes and colorful outfits. Women wear long skirts, never pants.

Taking pictures is highly sensitive and should be avoided, especially around military areas, checkpoints, and border controls. Greetings are very important in Congolese life; saying hello and inquiring about the other person's situation must be attended to before other matters are discussed. Special respect is given when greeting elders or village headmen, especially if the person who approaches is younger than the other.


Religious Beliefs. The missionaries in the colonial past greatly influenced the Congo's society, and most Congolese profess Christianity as their primary religion. The Roman Catholic Church is extremely prominent, both as a religion and organized group. Over half of the population is Roman Catholic, owing to the large number of missions, schools, hospitals, and foundations run by the church. The Catholics have the most extensive social network of schools, hospitals, and churches in the country.

Traditional beliefs pervade nearly every aspect of life, even for churchgoing Christians. Several syncretic sects have combined traditional ancestral worship and ancient beliefs with Christianity to create new faiths, such as Kimbanguism. Started in 1902 by Simon Kimbangu, who claimed to receive visions of Moses healing, this faith combines anti-European sentiment with traditional African religion. Other Christian based-faiths include the Jamaa, the Kitawala, and the Protestant Church of Christ. There are also a small number of Muslims, who were converted by the influence of Zanzibari slave traders in the 1870s.

People in the Congo who still primarily adhere to traditional African religions believe in the presence of a supreme being who is best accessed through ancestors rather than by direct prayer. Traditional beliefs hold that divine spirits inhabit inanimate objects, and that god can be found as a rock, a tree, or any other object. Having respect and reverence for one's ancestors is part of daily life in the Congo, and people hold a continual dialogue with their ancestors. Angry ancestral spirits looming around villages are offered sacrifices and gifts to placate them. People prayerfully ask the ancestors to bring them good harvests, and ceremonies are held specifically for that purpose.

Illnesses, poor harvests, impotence, and death may arise because of a number of causes. Problems may be attributed to the will of god, angry ancestors, enemies, or witches, depending on the circumstance. Many Congolese fear witches, which are believed to bring all sorts of destruction to communities. People may pay village diviners, known to have special powers including healing and intuition, to find out the cause of the problem. Once the cause has been determined, the solution is remedied according to the healer's knowledge.

Religious Practitioners. Spiritual healers, often called ngangas, use sacred medicines made of a variety of herbs to cure patients. Someone seeking advice or a cure may go to a healer to remedy a headache, skin disease, or AIDS; to ask for good crops or to become pregnant; or to be told the future. During certain rituals inside the healer's home, specific rules must be followed, depending on the consultation. This usually involves killing chickens, eating special herbs, uttering specific phrases, and consulting the nkisi. The nkisi may be a box, bag, or gourd with medicines inside. It is thought to be a force raised from the dead that has chosen to submit itself to human control during rituals. Ngangas wear around their waist the nkisi and small bags with herbs. Often the patient is told to come back for his or her solution in the morning, so the nganga can wait for ideas to arise through dreams and communications with ancestors. These healers, who are paid for their services, pass on to one of their children their knowledge of herbs and of divination through the throwing of bones, and their other talents. Many politicians regularly consult diviners and traditional healers.

Rituals and Holy Places. Most Congolese mix their indigenous practices with the Christian faith, depending on circumstances and desired outcomes. When someone falls ill, the whole community works together to help the patient. First, it must be determined whether the illness comes "from God," or if it is of natural or human causes. If it is determined that a witch or enemy caused the sickness, then traditional healing methods and beliefs are used, such as offering sacrifices to God and the ancestors. If, however, the disease seems to be from God, members of the community will most likely go to church to pray for the person.

Death and the Afterlife. Many Congolese believe that the spirits of people who have died remain with the family in very obvious ways. Ancestors are very much alive and remain active in the life of the family for generations. People communicate with their ancestors, who act as intermediaries between humans and God. People often ask their ancestors for rain, health, good crops, or the solution to a difficult problem. White cloth is tied around trees to welcome these ancestral spirits. When someone dies, small gifts are placed around the corpse so the person will have these items when he or she enters the spirit world. The body is then buried in a shroud. Women wear white paint on their faces to symbolize both their mourning and strength in overcoming difficulties.

Medicine and Health Care

Since many people drink, bathe, wash their clothes, and defecate in the same river, most water that is accessible to the population carries a host of diseases. Only 14 percent of the population has access to safe drinking water. Standards of living are even lower in refugee camps, where disease spreads much faster because of squalid living conditions and high the population density. Other problems in the Congo relate to the wartime conditions, which have led to the closure of some hospitals and to the government not paying some nurses and doctors.

Some common ailments affecting the Congolese include malaria, parasites, tuberculosis, schistosomiasis, diarrhea, AIDS, and malnutrition. The increasing problem of AIDS has led to education programs targeting youth. In addition, there has been a strong shift in Congolese health care toward rediscovery of ancient methods, especially after many Western doctors and clinics shut their doors. A health survey, conducted in the Mobutu era, was coordinated to find common ground between Western and traditional medicine, so that all health-care practitioners could use their specific knowledge for the greater good of the whole community.

Secular Celebrations

National holidays include New Year's Day, 1 January; Commemoration of the Martyrs of Independence, 4 January; Labor Day, 1 May; Anniversary of the New Constitution, 24 June; Independence Day, 30 June; Parents' Day, 1 August; Youth Day, 14 October; Armed Forces Day, 17 November; Christmas, 25 December. Celebrations often include parades, singing, dancing, and feasting on large animals.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Government support for the arts has been limited to those who bolster the political agendas of the ruling party. Therefore, many artists also farm, fish, or engage in underground commercial activity to supplement their income. Informal groups of artists have been established to serve as moral support for the numerous artisans who display their works on city streets.

Literature. Congolese writers have focused on issues of identity in relation to their colonial past, the differences and similarities between ethnic groups, and conflicts between old and new ways. Some popular poets, playwrights, and novelists include Elebe ma Ekonzo, Valerin Mutombo-Diba, Paul Lomami-Tshibamba, Lisembe Elebe, and Mwilambwe Kibawa.

Graphic Arts. Introduced by the Portuguese missionaries of the late fifteenth century, the Ingot Cross continues to be a symbol of both religion and wealth in the Congo. Similar in shape to the square Christian cross, local metalworkers cast these objects from a copper mold. People still use Ingot Crosses as currency and in bride-wealth transactions, especially in the Katanga region.

A large copper industry in the southern Katanga province has sparked a new artistic form in which portraits are sketched into a copper sheet, which is then covered with clay for unique color and texture. Many famous African heads-of-state have had their likenesses imprinted on copper. This art form is gradually gaining recognition in Europe and around the world.

In large towns and cities, tourists can buy handcrafted art, including wood carvings, paintings, baskets, jewelry, and masks. In addition, clothing and mats are popular wares, which are often made from the ubiquitous raffia palm tree.

Postindependence paintings depict exploitation, poverty, and inequality. Such paintings give voice to a Congolese interpretation of history separate from the colonial mind-set pervasive in schools.

Performance Arts. Kwasa-kwasa can be heard in circles throughout Africa. This extremely popular dance music originated in Kinshasa, considered by many to be the African music capital. Congolese music and dance of all types can be heard on radios and seen on televisions throughout the world. Congo jazz and soukous, played on a guitar, are popular varieties for such dances. Traditional instruments, such as the thumb piano and various drums, are often used to accompany singers and dancers, who may be singing about anything from love and gender roles to issues of power abuse and government. When artists are afraid to discuss such controversial topics openly, they hint about them through the poetry of song.

The Mbuti people are renowned for a vocal style in which many voices simultaneously sing different, independent melodies. Most types of artistic talent are learned from family members or village elders.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Museums in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi and an Academy of Fine Arts in Kinshasa contribute to the understanding of Congo history. Universities, government offices, and many nongovernmental organizations maintain libraries. Ethnographers, scientists, and those studying the humanities find these institutions valuable places to conduct their research.


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Jennifer J. Ziemke

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