Congo

Info

Capital

Brazzaville

Population

4,492,689 (July 2013 est.)

Climate

Equatorial

Currency

511.4 XAF = 1 USD (Dec. 2012 est.)

Important Cities

Poite Noire, Madingou, Owando

Area

342,000 sq.km.

People

Nationality

Congolese

Major Peoples

Beembe, Kongo, Punu, Yombe

Religion

Christian 50%, African religion 48%, Muslim 2%

Literacy

83.8%

Principal Language

Lingala, Kikongo, Teke, Monokutuba

Official Language

French

Politics

Head Of State

President Denis SASSOU-NGUESSO (since 25 October 1997)

Type of Government

Republic

Date of Independence

August 15, 1960

Major Exports

Wood, Petroleum, Sugar, Cocoa, Coffee, Diamonds

Precolonial History

Bantu-speaking peoples settled in the Congo Basin during the early first millennium CE. Powerful kingdoms—particularly the Kongo, Loango, and Teke—were established in the 14th—15th centuries, and the Kongo Kingdom became the dominant political force. Portuguese explorer Diogo Cão reached the Congo River in 1484, and the Kongo Kingdom soon established diplomatic relations and a slave trade with Portugal. In a treaty negotiated by French-Italian explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza in the early 1880s, the ruler of the Teke Kingdom ceded the region of Middle Congo to France. Middle Congo became part of French Equatorial Africa in 1910. After World War II, General Charles de Gaulle promised colonial reforms and a decentralization of power in French Africa at the Brazzaville Conference of 1944. French Equatorial Africa was dissolved in 1958.

Postcolonial History

Middle Congo became the Republic of the Congo and was granted full independence from France in 1960. Fulbert Youlou became the country’s first president, but he was deposed by rioters and rival political parties in 1963. Alphonse Massamba-Débat was elected under a new constitution, but his term ended in a military coup d’état in 1968. Captain Marien Ngouabi came to power and proclaimed Africa’s first “people’s republic.” He was assassinated during a military coup in 1977. Denis Sassou-Nguesso was elected president, followed by ongoing periods of ethnic and political unrest. In 2004, the European Commission provided Congo with two million euros to finance the disarmament and reintegration of rebels (also known as “Ninjas” or the Conseil national de la résistance (CNR)) within the Pool region. Between 1998 and 2002, an estimated 100,000 to 148,000 people fled the Pool region due to rebel violence. Congolese refugees remain a pressing humanitarian crisis. In 2006, the World Bank provided 17 million USD for the disarmament and reintegration of 30,000 rebels, resulting in the ceremonial destruction of nearly 100,000 pieces of weaponry at Brazzaville under the auspices of Sassou-Nguesso and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. In 2007, the government and CNR signed an agreement to destroy weapons owned by the former rebel faction, now known as the Conseil Nationale des Républicains (CNRe), integrating 250 of its members into the armed forces and appointing its leader, Frédéric Bintsamou (also known as Pastor Ntumi) as delegate-general to the president. In 2010, Ntumi ran for office in the National Assembly but failed to receive sufficient votes. The same year, France opened an investigation into Sassou-Nguesso’s accumulation of wealth.

Recommended Sources:

Jamie Stokes, ed., Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Africa and the Middle East (New York: Infobase Learning, Facts on File, 2009).

John F. Clark and Samuel Decalo, The Historical Dictionary of Republic of Congo (Lanham, Toronto, and Plymouth, UK: The Scarecrow Press, 2012).

John Henrik Clarke, “The Kongo Nation and Kingdom” (http://www.africafederation.net/Kongo_History.htm).