Congo Brazzaville, Africa
République du Congo
Republic of the Congo
Quick Facts About the Country
Capital - Brazzaville
Government - Republic
Currency - Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XAF)
Area total: 342,000 km2
water: 500 km2
land: 341,500 km2
Population - 2,958,448
Language - French (official), Lingala and Monokutuba (lingua franca trade languages), many local languages and dialects (of which Kikongo has the most users)
Religion - Christian 50%, animist 48%, Muslim 2%
Electricity - 220V/50Hz (European plug)
Calling Code +242
Internet TLD .cg
Time Zone - UTC+1
The Republic of the Congo, also known as Congo-Brazzaville (locally as Congo-Brazza), and Congo (but not to be confused with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire, which was also at one time known as the Republic of the Congo), is a former French colony of west-central Africa. Its borders are Gabon, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola and the Gulf of Guinea. Upon independence in 1960, the former French region of Middle Congo became the Republic of the Congo. A quarter century of Marxism was abandoned in 1990 and a democratically elected government installed in 1992. A brief civil war in 1997 restored former Marxist President Denis Sassou-Nguesso.
(Wikimedia Foundation, Inc)
Weather and Climate
The climate is tropical, with mostly high heat and humidity. While the Mayumbe Mountains experience a long dry season, parts of the Congo Basin receive more than 2,500 mm (more than 100 in) of rainfall annually. Average temperatures in Brazzaville are 26°C (78°F) in January and 23°C (73°F) in July, with an annual rainfall of about 1,500 mm (about 60 in). Temperatures along the coast are slightly cooler.
(Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003)
Major Travel and Tourism Info (Travel Guide)
A passport, visa and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required for entry. Additional information on entry requirements may be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of Congo.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
As a result of past conflicts, there is extensive damage to the infrastructure in Brazzaville and in the southern part of the country, and the government is working to reconstruct roads and buildings. Fighting broke out in March and June of 2002 when rebel groups launched attacks first in the Pool region, and later, at the Brazzaville airport. The fighting in Brazzaville was quickly contained and the rebels were repulsed. In March 2003, the rebels and the government signed a cease-fire accord, which remains in effect, although there was some violence in Brazzaville in December 2003.
Tensions in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo have led to insecurity in border areas in the north of the Republic of the Congo along the Ubangui River. Travel to these regions is not recommended. Night travel outside of town and cities should be avoided.
In the Congo, petty street crime targeting foreigners is rare. Muggings and pickpocketings happen frequently near the ports in Pointe Noire and Brazzaville, and sometimes in the Congolese neighborhoods surrounding Brazzaville's city center.
Criminal elements are known to target middle-class and affluent residences without 24-hour guards for burglary. Perpetrators often carry firearms and are not deterred by risk of confrontation with occupants. They usually operate in groups of two to four and may be gratuitously violent.
Police resources are limited and response to emergency calls is often too slow (15 minutes or longer). Travelers should note that in the case of theft and robbery, legal recourse is limited and therefore, they may wish to leave all valuable items at home.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical facilities are extremely limited. Some medicines are in short supply, particularly outside the larger cities. Travelers should carry their own supply of properly labeled medications.
Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. Plasmodium falciparum malaria, the type that predominates in the Congo, is resistant to the antimalarial drug chloroquine. Because travelers to the Congo are at high risk for contracting malaria, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that travelers should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: mefloquine (Lariam - TM), doxycycline, or atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone -TM).
Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what antimalarials they have been taking.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
Road conditions differ significantly from those in the developed countries. Road conditions are generally poor and deteriorate significantly during the rainy season, November-May. Maintenance of the few paved roads is limited. Overland travel off the main roads requires a four-wheel drive vehicle. Poorly marked checkpoints, sometimes manned by undisciplined soldiers, exist in many areas of the countryside.
Ferry service between Brazzaville and Kinshasa normally operates from 8 A.M to 4 P.M Monday through Friday, but it may close completely with minimal notice. A special exit permit from the Republic of the Congo’s Immigration Service and a visa from the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s embassy/consulate are required to cross the Congo River from Brazzaville to Kinshasa.
Passenger travel on the railroad is discouraged, as there are frequent reports of extortion by undisciplined security forces and robberies by criminal elements along the route.
The Congo is primarily a cash economy and uses the Central African Franc (CFA), a common currency with Gabon, Chad, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, and Equatorial Guinea. U.S dollars and other major currencies may be exchanged for local currency. Traveler’s checks can be cashed for a fee at some hotels and banks. Two hotels in Brazzaville, and several in Pointe Noire, accept major credit cards, but prefer payment in cash. Prices are usually quoted in CFA or Euros. Other businesses do not normally accept credit cards. Personal checks drawn on foreign accounts are not accepted. Western Union has offices in Brazzaville and Pointe Noire, and one bank in Brazzaville has an ATM.
Airport police and customs officials routinely inspect incoming and outgoing luggage, even for internal travel.
Local security forces in areas outside Brazzaville and Pointe Noire may detain foreigners to solicit bribes. It is advised to carry a copy of your passport at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity is readily available. If detained or arrested its advised to always ask to be allowed to contact your country’s embassy in Congo.
In general there are no restrictions on photography; however photographs of government buildings or military installations, port facilities or the airport should not be taken. When photographing human beings in remote areas where populations adhere to traditional beliefs, it is best to request permission first. If permission is refused, the photo should not be taken.
(Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State)
History in Brief: Summary
The earliest inhabitants of the area were Pygmy peoples. They were largely replaced and absorbed by Bantu tribes during Bantu migrations.
The Bakongo (people of Congo) are comprised of Bantu groups that also occupied parts of present-day Angola, Gabon, and Democratic Republic of the Congo, forming the basis for ethnic affinities and rivalries among those states. Several Bantu kingdoms—notably those of the Kongo, the Loango, and the Teke—built trade links leading into the Congo River basin.
The first European contacts came in the late 15th century, and commercial relationships were quickly established with the kingdoms—trading for slaves captured in the interior. The coastal area was a major source for the transatlantic slave trade, and when that commerce ended in the early 19th century, the power of the Bantu kingdoms eroded.
The area came under French sovereignty in the 1880s (declared colony with the name of French Congo in 1891) as part of AEF, the French Equatorial Africa (modern-day Gabon, Chad, Central African Republic, and Republic of Congo). Economic development during the first fifty years of colonial rule in Congo centered on natural resource extraction by private companies. In 1924–34, the Congo-Ocean Railway (CFCO) was built at a considerable human and financial cost, opening the way for growth of the ocean port of Pointe-Noire and towns along its route.
During World War II, Brazzaville became the symbolic capital of Free France during 1940–43. The Brazzaville Conference of 1944 heralded a period of major reform in French colonial policy, including the abolition of forced labor, granting of French citizenship to colonial subjects, decentralization of certain powers, and election of local advisory assemblies. Congo benefited from the postwar expansion of colonial administrative and infrastructural spending as a result of its central geographic location within AEF and the federal capital at Brazzaville.
Following independence as the Congo Republic on August 15, 1960, Fulbert Youlou ruled as the country's first president until labor elements and rival political parties instigated a three-day uprising that ousted him. The Congolese military took charge of the country briefly and installed a civilian provisional government headed by Alphonse Massamba-Débat.
Under the 1963 constitution, Massamba-Débat was elected President for a five-year term but it was ended abruptly with an August 1968 coup d'état. Capt. Marien Ngouabi, who had participated in the coup, assumed the presidency on December 31, 1968. One year later, President Ngouabi proclaimed Congo to be Africa's first "people's republic" and announced the decision of the National Revolutionary Movement to change its name to the Congolese Labor Party (PCT). On March 16, 1977, President Ngouabi was assassinated. An 11-member Military Committee of the Party (CMP) was named to head an interim government with Col. (later Gen.) Joachim Yhombi-Opango to serve as President of the Republic.
After decades of turbulent politics bolstered by Marxist-Leninist rhetoric, and with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Congo completed a transition to multi-party democracy with elections in August 1992. Denis Sassou-Nguesso conceded defeat and Congo's new president, Prof. Pascal Lissouba, was inaugurated on August 31, 1992.
However, Congo's democratic progress was derailed in 1997. As presidential elections scheduled for July 1997 approached, tensions between the Lissouba and Sassou camps mounted. On June 5, President Lissouba's government forces surrounded Sassou's compound in Brazzaville and Sassou ordered his militia to resist.
Thus began a four-month conflict that destroyed or damaged much of Brazzaville. In early October, Angolan troops invaded Congo on the side of Sassou and, in mid-October, the Lissouba government fell. Soon thereafter, Sassou declared himself President.
Elections in 2002 saw Sassou win with almost 90% of the vote. His two main rivals Lissouba and Bernard Kolelas were prevented from competing and the only remaining credible rival, Andre Milongo, advised his supporters to boycott the elections and then withdrew from the race. A new constitution was agreed upon in January 2002 which granted the president new powers and also extended his term to seven years as well as introducing a new bicameral assembly.
(Wikimedia Foundation, Inc)
Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003
The World Factbook 2006
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc