Democratic Republic of the Congo

Info

Capital

Kinshasa (kin-sha-sa)

Population

75,507,308

Climate

Equatorial

Currency

920 Congolese Francs (CF) = 1 USD (2012 est.)

Important Cities

Kisingani, Lubumbashi, Kolwesi

Area

2,344,858 sq.km.

People

Nationality

Congolese

Major Peoples

Bangubangu, Bembe, Bushoong, Chokwe, Hemba, Holoholo, Kongo, Kuba, Kusu, Lega, Luba, Luluwa, Lunda, Lwalwa, Mangbetu, Manja, Mbole, Ngbaka, Nkanu, Pende, Songye, Suku, Tabwa, Woyo, Yaka, Yombe

Religion

Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 20%, Kimbanguist 10%, Muslim 10%, African 10%

Literacy

66.8%

Principal Language

Lingala, Azande, Chokwe, Kongo, Luba

Official Language

French

Politics

Head Of State

Joseph Kabila

Type of Government

Republic

Date of Independence

June 30, 1960

Major Exports

Copper, Cobalt, Diamonds, Crude Oil, Coffee

Precolonial History

Bantu-speaking peoples migrated from Nigeria to the Congo region during the 7th-8th centuries CE. Centralized chiefdoms and Arab trading communities developed, and the Kongo Kingdom expanded in the area from the 14th to 17th centuries. The Luba Empire, where artists and free-verse poets were held in high esteem, occupied the country’s southern territories from the 16th to 19th centuries and ruled according to the doctrine of divine kingship. The Kuba Kingdom developed as an agricultural and trading state in the 17th century, and the Kazembe Kingdom, founded in the mid-18th century, remains influential today. The Portuguese arrived in the 1480s and soon engaged in the slave trade through Kongo intermediaries until the 17th century, joined by the British, Dutch, and French. In the 1870s, King Léopold II of Belgium initiated a private venture to colonize the area. Léopold claimed the Congo Free State in 1885, which included the entire area of the present country. He relinquished control in 1908 due to an international scandal over the Belgian colonial officials’ atrocious treatment of the native population. The Belgian parliament annexed the colony, but granted its independence in 1960 after a series of nationalist riots in Leopoldville and Stanleyville.

Postcolonial History

Joseph Kasavubu became the first president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with independence leader Patrice Lumumba as prime minister. That same year, Colonel Joseph Mobutu (Mobutu Sese Seko) overthrew the government and arrested Lumumba, who was later executed. Mobutu seized power in a second coup in 1965 and changed the country’s name to Zaïre. Supported by Belgium and the United States because of his anti-communist stance, Mobutu reigned as a notoriously wealthy and corrupt dictator for over three decades. He was overthrown by Laurent-Désiré Kabila, who proclaimed the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1997. He was assassinated in 2001 and his son, Joseph Kabila, ascended to the presidency, joined by four vice-presidents representing the political factions and former rebel groups. Kabila was re-elected by popular vote in 2008. By that time, civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had caused more deaths—over four million—than any conflict since World War II. Kabila was re-elected in 2012. His opponent, Mobutu's former prime minister Étienne Tshisekedi, contested the results and declared himself president. The international community recognized Kabila’s presidency despite reports of difficult voting conditions and delays due to violence.

Recommended Sources:

Emizet François Kisangani and F. Scott Bobb, Historical Dictionary of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Lanham, Toronto, and Plymouth, UK: The Scarecrow Press, 2010).

Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/).

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