Congo DRC, Africa
République Démocratique du Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Quick Facts About the Country
Capital - Kinshasa
Government - Republic
Currency - Congolese franc (CDF)
Area total: 2,345,410 km2
water: 77,810 km2
land: 2,267,600 km2
Population - 55,225,478
Language - French (official), Lingala (a lingua franca trade language), Kingwana (a dialect of Kiswahili or Swahili), Kikongo, Tshiluba
Religion - Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 20%, Kimbanguist 10%, Muslim 10%, other syncretic sects and indigenous beliefs 10%
Electricity - 220V/50Hz (European plug)
Calling Code +243
Internet TLD .cd
Time Zone UTC+1 - UTC+2
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (French: République Démocratique du Congo), also often referred to as DRC, RDC, DR Congo, Congo or Congo-Kinshasa, and formerly as Zaire (or Zaïre in French), is a nation in Central Africa and is Africa’s third largest country (after Sudan and Algeria).
It borders the Central African Republic and Sudan on the north, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania on the east, Zambia and Angola on the south, and the Republic of the Congo on the west. The country enjoys access to the sea through a narrow forty kilometre stretch, following the Congo river into the Gulf of Guinea. The name "Congo" (meaning "hunter") is coined after the Bakongo ethnic group, living in the Congo river basin.
Formerly the Belgian colony of the Belgian Congo, the country's post-independence name was changed in 1971, from Congo-Kinshasa (after its capital, to distinguish it from the Republic of Congo, or Congo-Brazzaville) to Zaire, until 1997. Since 1998, the country has suffered greatly from the devastating Second Congo War (sometimes referred to as the African World War ), the world's deadliest conflict since World War II.
(Wikimedia Foundation, Inc)
Weather and Climate
Except in the high elevations, the country’s climate is very hot and humid. The average annual temperature in the low central area is about 27°C (about 80°F). Temperatures are considerably higher in February, the hottest month. At altitudes above about 1,500 m (about 5,000 ft) the average annual temperature is about 19°C (about 66°F).
Average annual rainfall is about 1,500 mm (about 60 in) in the north and about 1,300 mm (about 50 in) in the south. Frequent heavy rains occur from April to November north of the equator and from October through May south of the equator. In the center of the country, rainfall is relatively evenly distributed throughout the year. These extreme conditions have limited settlement and development to areas along rivers and at higher altitudes.
(Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003)
Major Travel and Tourism Info (Country Travel Guide)
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly known as Zaire) has had a tumultuous recent history. Congolese politics have been dominated by the civil war in neighbouring Rwanda, with the influx of refugees from that conflict adding to the factional disputes following Mobutu's overthrow. Active civil war has been taking place on Congolese territory since approximately 1998. Joseph Kabila has established a government of national unity, however bitter divisions still exist nationwide.
Major Travel and Tourism Destinations
Several parks are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Virunga National Park
Kahuzi-Biega National Park
Garamba National Park
Salonga National Park
Okapi Wildlife Reserve
Traveling by plane
From Africa: South African Airways and Kenyan Airways serve Kinshasa three times a week each.
From Europe: Air France and SN Brussels have 8 flights per week.
Local airlines will transport you inland, mainly with Russian planes.
Passenger and VIP ferries operate daily between Brazzaville and Kinshasa roughly every two hours between 8am and 3pm. Prices for the ferries are: 15 US$ for the passenger and US$20 for the VIP ferry. The VIP ferry is recommended as these are brand new boats and not cramped. A valid visa for both countries is required in either direction. The bureaucracy at either end require some time. Entry and exit procedures in Brazzaville are "easy" and straight forward and people are very helpful in assisting to get through without troubles. In contrast, these procedures are a bit difficult in Kinshasa and depend much on whether you are an individual traveller or assisted by an organisation or an official government representative. There are also speed boats to hire, either in a group or alone (price!), however, it is not advisable to book them as they really speed across the river along the rapids.
Air France flies into and out of Kinshasa from Paris on Tuesdays and Thursdays (daytime flight from Paris to Kinshasa, nighttime flight arriving the next morning--Wednesday or Sunday--on the way back).
Sabena Belgian Airlines goes to and from Paris on Mondays (down during the day, and return overnight arriving Tuesday)
The Democratic Republic of the Congo should be considered a high-risk destination, particularly outside Kinshasa, Goma and Kisangani. Certain regions are controlled by rebel forces and cease fire agreements are weak. Several countries (e.g. Germany) have issued a travel warning.
Public transport is also unreliable at best, predominantly due to a lack of safety eqipment.
Congo is a malaria region, so please use insect repellent and take necessary precautions. It is advised that you should seek advice from a physician before visiting. The hygienic condition is not good, so beware of food and catering. It is dangerous to go to the local hospitals in towns since they are not hygienic and are often without a registered doctor. The needles are also unsafe because of the lack of sterilization. Ebola outbreaks have recently been reported in some areas. If you need emergency medical assistance, it is advised that you go to your nation's embassy. The embassy doctors are normally willing and skilled enough to help.
When government motorcades pass, all vehicular traffic is expected to provide a clear path. Photography of these motorcades is illegal. Also illegal is photography of or near government buildings.
At approximately 6AM and 6PM daily, the national flag is raised and lowered. All traffic and pedestrians are required to stop for this ceremony, with reports indicating that those who do not are detained by security personnel.
(Wikimedia Foundation, Inc)
History in Brief: Summary
Post independence - Political crises years (1960-1965)
Established as a Belgian colony in 1908, the Republic of the Congo gained its independence in 1960, but its early years were marred by political and social instability.
In 1959, Patrice Lumumba, with the MNC party or Mouvement National Congolais, won the first free legislative elections and was appointed Prime Minister. Joseph Kasavubu, of the ABAKO (Alliance des Bakongo) party, was elected President by the parliament. Other parties that emerged include the Parti Solidaire Africain (or PSA, led by Antoine Gizenga) and the Parti National du Peuple (or PNP led by Albert Delvaux and Laurent Mbariko). Shortly after independence, the provinces of Katanga (with Moise Tshombe) and South Kasai engaged in secessionist struggles against the new leadership.
Subsequent events led to a crisis between President Kasavubu and Prime Minister Lumumba. On September 5, 1960, Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba from office. Lumumba declared Kasavubu's action "unconstitutional" and a crisis between the two leaders developed.
Lumumba had previously appointed Joseph Mobutu chief of staff of the new Congo army, Armee Nationale Congolaise (ANC). Taking advantage of the leadership crisis between Kasavubu and Lumumba, Mobutu garnered enough support within the army to create sentiment sufficient to inspire mutinous action. With financial support from the United States and Belgium, Mobutu made payments to his soldiers in order to generate their loyalty. The aversion of Western powers towards communism and leftist ideology in general influenced their decision to finance Mobutu's quest to maintain "order" in the new state by neutralizing Kasavubu and Lumumba in a coup by proxy.
On January 17, 1961, Katangan forces, supported by the Belgian government's desire to retain rights to mine for copper and diamonds in Katanga and South Kasai, assassinated Patrice Lumumba. Amidst widespread confusion and chaos, several governments led by technicians (College des Commissaires), Joseph Ileo, Cyrille Adoula, Moise Tshombe, and Evariste Kimba, took over in quick succession.
Mobutu’s Empire and Renaming to Zaire (1971–1997)
Following five years of extreme instability and civil unrest, Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, now Lieutenant General, overthrew Kasavubu in a 1965 coup d'état. He had the support of the US because of his staunch opposition to Communism, which would presumably make him a roadblock to Communist schemes in Africa. A one-party system was established, and Mobutu declared himself head of state. He would occasionally hold elections in which he was the only candidate.
Relative peace and stability was achieved, but Mobutu's government was accused of human rights violations, repression, a cult of personality (every Congolese bank note displayed his image, his portrait was displayed in all public buildings, most businesses, and on billboards, and it was common for ordinary people to wear his likeness on their clothing) and excessive corruption — in 1984 he was said to have four billion U.S. dollars, an amount close to the country's national debt, stashed away in personal Swiss bank accounts.
In an effort to spread African national awareness, starting on June 1, 1966, Mobutu renamed the nation's cities (Leopoldville became Kinshasa [the country was now Democratic Republic of The Congo–Kinshasa], Stanleyville became Kisangani, and Elisabethville became Lubumbashi). This city-renaming campaign was completed in the 1970s. In 1971, he renamed the country the Republic of Zaire, its fourth name change in eleven years and its sixth overall. The Congo River became the Zaire River. In 1972, Mobutu renamed himself Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. relations with Kinshasa cooled, as Mobutu was no longer deemed a necessary Cold War ally, and his opponents within Zaire stepped up demands for reform. This atmosphere contributed to Mobutu declaring the Third Republic in 1990, whose constitution was supposed to pave the way for democratic reform. The reforms turned out to be largely cosmetic, and Mobutu's rule continued until conflict forced him to flee Zaire in 1997.
Conflict and transition - Mobutu’s exit and Renaiming to Congo (1996–present)
Since 1994, the Congo has been rent by ethnic strife and civil war, touched off by a massive inflow of refugees fleeing the Rwandan Genocide. The government of Mobutu Sese Seko was toppled by a rebellion led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila in May, 1997; he changed the country's name back to Democratic Republic of The Congo-Kinshasa.
But his former allies soon turned against him, and his regime was challenged by a Rwandan and Ugandan-backed rebellion in August 1998. Troops from Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Chad, and Sudan intervened to support the new regime in Kinshasa. See Foreign relations of Congo and First Congo War.
UN peacekeepers to the DRC in 2005A cease-fire was signed on July 10, 1999; nevertheless, fighting continued apace especially in the eastern part of the country, financed by revenues from the illegal extraction of minerals such as coltan, cassiterite and diamonds
. Kabila was assassinated in January 2001 and his son Joseph Kabila was named head of state. The new president quickly began overtures to end the war and an accord was signed in South Africa in 2002. By late 2003, a fragile peace prevailed as the Transitional Government was formed. Kabila appointed four vice-presidents, two who had been fighting to oust him until July 2003. Much of the east of the country remains insecure, primarily due to the Ituri conflict and the continued activity of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda in the Kivus.
This period of conflict has been the bloodiest in history since World War II. Almost four million people have died as a result of the fighting
(Wikimedia Foundation, Inc)
Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003
The World Factbook 2006
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc