/kong"goh/, n.
1. People's Republic of the, a republic in central Africa, W of the Democratic Republic of the Congo: formerly an overseas territory in French Equatorial Africa; now an independent member of the French Community. 2,583,198; 132,046 sq. mi. (341,999 sq. km). Cap.: Brazzaville. Formerly, French Congo, Middle Congo.
2. Democratic Republic of the. Formerly, Zaire (1971-97), Democratic Republic of the Congo (1960-71), Belgian Congo (1908-60), Congo Free State (1885-1908). a republic in central Africa: a former Belgian colony; gained independence 1960. 47,440,362; 905,568 sq. mi. (2,345,410 sq. km). Cap.: Kinshasa.
3. Also called Zaire. a river in central Africa, flowing in a great loop from SE Democratic Republic of the Congo to the Atlantic. ab. 3000 mi. (4800 km) long.
4. Kongo.

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Congo Congo:Geography Location: Western Africa, bordering the South Atlantic Ocean, between Angola and Gabon Map references: Africa Area: total area: 342,000 sq km land area: 341,500 sq km comparative area: slightly smaller than Montana Land boundaries: total 5,504 km, Angola 201 km, Cameroon 523 km, Central African Republic 467 km, Gabon 1,903 km, Zaire 2,410 km Coastline: 169 km Maritime claims: territorial sea: 200 nm International disputes: long segment of boundary with Zaire along the Congo River is indefinite (no division of the river or its islands has been made) Climate: tropical; rainy season (March to June); dry season (June to October); constantly high temperatures and humidity; particularly enervating climate astride the Equator Terrain: coastal plain, southern basin, central plateau, northern basin Natural resources: petroleum, timber, potash, lead, zinc, uranium, copper, phosphates, natural gas Land use: arable land: 2% permanent crops: 0% meadows and pastures: 29% forest and woodland: 62% other: 7% Irrigated land: 40 sq km (1989) Environment: current issues: air pollution from vehicle emissions; water pollution from the dumping of raw sewage; tap water is not potable; deforestation natural hazards: seasonal flooding international agreements: party to - Endangered Species, Ozone Layer Protection, Tropical Timber 83; signed, but not ratified - Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Law of the Sea, Tropical Timber 94 Note: about 70% of the population lives in Brazzaville, Pointe Noire, or along the railroad between them Congo:People Population: 2,504,996 (July 1995 est.) Age structure: 0-14 years: 44% (female 543,324; male 548,840) 15-64 years: 53% (female 682,927; male 645,045) 65 years and over: 3% (female 49,879; male 34,981) (July 1995 est.) Population growth rate: 2.32% (1995 est.) Birth rate: 39.86 births/1,000 population (1995 est.) Death rate: 16.7 deaths/1,000 population (1995 est.) Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1995 est.) Infant mortality rate: 109.4 deaths/1,000 live births (1995 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 47.09 years male: 45.23 years female: 49 years (1995 est.) Total fertility rate: 5.23 children born/woman (1995 est.) Nationality: noun: Congolese (singular and plural) adjective: Congolese or Congo Ethnic divisions: south: Kongo 48% north: Sangha 20%, M'Bochi 12% center: Teke 17%, Europeans 8,500 (mostly French) Religions: Christian 50%, animist 48%, Muslim 2% Languages: French (official), African languages (Lingala and Kikongo are the most widely used) Literacy: age 15 and over can read and write (1984) total population: 60% male: 71% female: 49% Labor force: 79,100 wage earners by occupation: agriculture 75%, commerce, industry, and government 25% Congo:Government Names: conventional long form: Republic of the Congo conventional short form: Congo local long form: Republique Populaire du Congo local short form: Congo former: Congo/Brazzaville Digraph: CF Type: republic Capital: Brazzaville Administrative divisions: 9 regions (regions, singular - region) and 1 commune*; Bouenza, Brazzaville*, Cuvette, Kouilou, Lekoumou, Likouala, Niari, Plateaux, Pool, Sangha Independence: 15 August 1960 (from France) National holiday: Congolese National Day, 15 August (1960) Constitution: new constitution approved by referendum March 1992 Legal system: based on French civil law system and customary law Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal Executive branch: chief of state: President Pascal LISSOUBA (since August 1992); election last held August 1992 (next to be held August 1997); results - President Pascal LISSOUBA won with 61% of the vote head of government: Prime Minister Jacques Joachim YHOMBI-OPANGO (since 23 June 1993) cabinet: Council of Ministers; named by the president Legislative branch: bicameral National Assembly (Assemblee Nationale): election last held 3 October 1993; results - percentage vote by party NA; seats - (125 total) UPADS 64, URD/PCT 58, others 3 Senate: election last held 26 July 1992 (next to be held July 1998); results - percent of vote by party NA; seats - (60 total) UPADS 23, MCDDI 14, RDD 8, RDPS 5, PCT 2, others 8 Judicial branch: Supreme Court (Cour Supreme) Political parties and leaders: Congolese Labor Party (PCT), Denis SASSOU-NGUESSO, president; Pan-African Union for Social Development (UPADS), Pascal LISSOUBA, leader; Association for Democracy and Development (RDD), Joachim Yhombi OPANGO, president; Congolese Movement for Democracy and Integral Development (MCDDI), Bernard KOLELAS, leader; Association for Democracy and Social Progress (RDPS), Jean-Pierre Thystere TCHICAYA, president; Union of Democratic Forces (UFD), David Charles GANAO, leader; Union for Development and Social Progress (UDPS), Jean-Michael BOKAMBA-YANGOUMA, leader note: Congo has many political parties of which these are among the most important Other political or pressure groups: Union of Congolese Socialist Youth (UJSC); Congolese Trade Union Congress (CSC); Revolutionary Union of Congolese Women (URFC); General Union of Congolese Pupils and Students (UGEEC) Member of: ACCT, ACP, AfDB, BDEAC, CCC, CEEAC, ECA, FAO, FZ, G-77, GATT, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, INTELSAT, INTERPOL, IOC, ITU, NAM, OAU, UDEAC, UN, UNAMIR, UNAVEM II, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO Diplomatic representation in US: chief of mission: Ambassador Pierre Damien BOUSSOUKOU-BOUMBA chancery: 4891 Colorado Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20011 telephone: [1] (202) 726-0825 FAX: [1] (202) 726-1860 US diplomatic representation: chief of mission: Ambassador William C. RAMSEY embassy: Avenue Amilcar Cabral, Brazzaville mailing address: B. P. 1015, Brazzaville telephone: [242] 83 20 70 FAX: [242] 83 63 38 Flag: red, divided diagonally from the lower hoist side by a yellow band; the upper triangle (hoist side) is green and the lower triangle is red; uses the popular pan-African colors of Ethiopia Economy Overview: Congo's economy is a mixture of village agriculture and handicrafts, an industrial sector based largely on oil, support services, and a government characterized by budget problems and overstaffing. A reform program, supported by the IMF and World Bank, ran into difficulties in 1990-91 because of problems in changing to a democratic political regime and a heavy debt-servicing burden. Oil has supplanted forestry as the mainstay of the economy, providing about two-thirds of government revenues and exports. In the early 1980s rapidly rising oil revenues enabled Congo to finance large-scale development projects with growth averaging 5% annually, one of the highest rates in Africa. Subsequently, growth has slowed to an average of roughly 1.5% annually, only two-thirds of the population growth rate. Political turmoil and misguided government investment have derailed economic reform programs sponsored by the IMF and World Bank. Even with these difficulties Congo enjoys one of the highest incomes per capita in sub-Saharan Africa National product: GDP - purchasing power parity - $6.7 billion (1993 est.) National product real growth rate: -2.1% (1993 est.) National product per capita: $2,820 (1994 est.) Inflation rate (consumer prices): 2.2% (1992 est.) Unemployment rate: NA% Budget: revenues: $765 million expenditures: $952 million, including capital expenditures of $65 million (1990) Exports: $1.1 billion (f.o.b., 1993) commodities: crude oil 83%, lumber, plywood, sugar, cocoa, coffee, diamonds partners: US, Italy, France, Spain, other EC countries Imports: $472 million (c.i.f., 1991) commodities: intermediate manufactures, capital equipment, construction materials, foodstuffs partners: France, US, Italy, Japan, other EC countries External debt: $4 billion (1993) Industrial production: growth rate 8% (1993 est.); accounts for 35% of GDP; includes petroleum Electricity: capacity: 120,000 kW production: 400 million kWh consumption per capita: 201 kWh (1993) Industries: petroleum, cement, lumbering, brewing, sugar milling, palm oil, soap, cigarette Agriculture: accounts for 12% of GDP (including fishing and forestry); cassava accounts for 90% of food output; other crops - rice, corn, peanuts, vegetables; cash crops include coffee and cocoa; forest products important export earner; imports over 90% of food needs Economic aid: recipient: US commitments, including Ex-Im (FY70-90), $63 million; Western (non-US) countries, ODA and OOF bilateral commitments (1970-90), $2.5 billion; OPEC bilateral aid (1979-89), $15 million; Communist countries (1970-89), $338 million Currency: 1 CFA franc (CFAF) = 100 centimes Exchange rates: Communaute Financiere Africaine francs (CFAF) per US$1 - 529.43 (January 1994), 555.20 (1994), 283.16 (1993), 264.69 (1992), 282.11 (1991), 272.26 (1990) note: beginning 12 January 1994, the CFA franc was devalued to CFAF 100 per French franc from CFAF 50 at which it had been fixed since 1948 Fiscal year: calendar year Congo:Transportation Railroads: total: 797 km (includes 285 km that are privately owned) narrow gauge: 797 km 1.067-m gauge Highways: total: 11,960 km paved: 560 km unpaved: gravel or crushed stone 850 km; improved earth 5,350 km; unimproved earth 5,200 km Inland waterways: the Congo and Ubangi (Oubangui) Rivers provide 1,120 km of commercially navigable water transport; the rest are used for local traffic only Pipelines: crude oil 25 km Ports: Brazzaville, Impfondo, Ouesso, Oyo, Pointe-Noire Merchant marine: none Airports: total: 41 with paved runways over 3,047 m: 1 with paved runways 1,524 to 2,437 m: 3 with paved runways under 914 m: 11 with unpaved runways 1,524 to 2,438 m: 8 with unpaved runways 914 to 1,523 m: 18 Congo:Communications Telephone system: 18,100 telephones; 7 telephones/1,000 persons; services adequate for government use; key centers are Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, and Loubomo local: NA intercity: primary network consists of microwave radio relay and coaxial cable international: 1 Atlantic Ocean INTELSAT earth station Radio: broadcast stations: AM 4, FM 1, shortwave 0 radios: NA Television: broadcast stations: 4 televisions: NA Congo:Defense Forces Branches: Army, Navy (includes Marines), Air Force, National Police Manpower availability: males age 15-49 568,663; males fit for military service 289,335; males reach military age (20) annually 24,749 (1995 est.) Defense expenditures: exchange rate conversion - $110 million, 3.8% of GDP (1993)

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(as used in expressions)
Benue Congo languages
Congo Republic of the
Congo Brazzaville
Niger Congo languages
Congo Democratic Republic of the
Congo Kinshasa

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▪ 1997

      A republic, Congo is in central Africa on the Atlantic Ocean. Area: 342,000 sq km (132,047 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 2,665,000. Cap.: Brazzaville. Monetary unit: CFA franc, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a par value of CFAF 100 to the French franc and a free rate of CFAF 518.24 to U.S. $1 (CFAF 816.38 = £ 1 sterling). President in 1996, Pascal Lissouba; prime ministers, Jacques Yhombi-Opango and, from September 2, David Charles Ganao.

      The year 1995 closed with the signing of another pact designed to end the continuing crisis over the disarmament of urban militiamen allied to Pres. Pascal Lissouba and their integration into the Congolese army. The program nearly collapsed when around 100 former militiamen, with the support of new recruits, mutinied in mid-February. Following the March 2 call of André Milongo, president of the National Assembly, for the government to restore order in the armed services, opposition members joined with the government to establish a peace committee. It met on March 19 and agreed to the integration of additional militiamen into the army. Also, a military tribunal was set up to investigate the cause of the February revolt. Despite these moves toward peace, about 200 armed men of former president Denis Sassou-Nguesso's private militia occupied the northern town of Mossaka for a week in late July.


      This article updates Congo, history of (Congo).

▪ 1996

      A republic, Congo is in central Africa on the Atlantic Ocean. Area: 342,000 sq km (132,047 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 2,590,000. Cap.: Brazzaville. Monetary unit: CFA franc, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a par value of CFAF 100 to the French franc and a free rate of CFAF 501.49 to U.S. $1 (CFAF 792.78 = £ 1 sterling). President in 1995, Pascal Lissouba; prime minister, Jacques Yhombi-Opango.

      Despite the peace accord between the government and opposition parties reached in August 1994, the problem of disarming the urban militias and restructuring the army dominated the political arena in 1995. In January the defense minister announced that only 2,000 of the estimated 3,000 militia members would be integrated into the army. In September the government announced that the army would become more representative of the population and was to be reorganized along ethnic and regional lines. The opposition charged that the plan was designed to give Pres. Pascal Lissouba control of the army.

      A general strike was called on February 19 by labour unions demanding the payment of months of salary arrears. Although an agreement was reached on March 1, civil servants refused to return to work, rejecting the agreement's provision of lower pay in exchange for shorter hours. Most of the discontent arose from the government's attempts to comply with the International Monetary Fund-imposed structural adjustment program, which had already reduced the civil service from 80,000 to 55,000. A student strike over unpaid grants led to escalating violence in June, while soldiers, demanding payment of food subsidies already 17 months in arrears, staged a three-day sit-down after the student strike ended.

      Despite cuts in civil service salaries, intensified exploitation of offshore oil reserves, and the sale of its share of the oil firm Elf-Congo, the government was virtually without cash. The economy's overall weak performance continued, and Congo remained one of the world's poorest and most debt-ridden countries. (NANCY ELLEN LAWLER)

      This updates the article Congo, history of (Congo).

▪ 1995

      A republic, Congo is in central Africa on the Atlantic Ocean. Area: 342,000 sq km (132,047 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 2,856,000. Cap.: Brazzaville. Monetary unit: CFA franc, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a par value of CFAF 100 to the French franc and a free rate of CFAF 526.67 to U.S. $1 (CFAF 837.67 = £ 1 sterling). President in 1994, Pascal Lissouba; prime minister, Jacques Yhombi-Opango.

      Clashes between supporters of the government and those opposed to it rocked Congo in 1994. Arising out of the opposition's challenge to the validity of the results of the 1993 legislative elections, the dispute escalated into armed confrontations. On January 14 soldiers in Brazzaville used artillery to counter machine-gun attacks by opposition militia. By the month's end more than 100 people had been reported killed in numerous encounters. In an attempt to control the situation, the army cordoned off two districts in the capital that were strongholds of Bernard Kolelas, the main opposition leader. A January 30 cease-fire agreement broke down.

      In February an international arbitration committee that had earlier rejected opposition appeals to annul the election did invalidate the results of the contests for nine seats. Disorders, including the cutting of the main railway line, continued until mid-March, when the legislature signed a new cease-fire agreement. Although sporadic skirmishing occurred after the cease-fire, the election of Kolelas as mayor of Brazzaville on July 16 was taken as a peace gesture. On August 6 a national reconciliation ceremony was held in Brazzaville.

      In February the government accepted International Monetary Fund terms for a resumption of structural adjustment aid, suspended in 1990 for nonpayment. The civil service was to be reduced by 9%. U.S., Italian, and British oil companies, eager to exploit Congo's reserves, agreed to increase royalties paid to Congo from 17% to 31% of profits, thereby pressuring the dominant French firm, Elf Oil, to offer the same terms. (NANCY ELLEN LAWLER)

      This updates the article Congo, history of (Congo).

▪ 1994

      A republic, Congo is in central Africa on the Atlantic Ocean. Area: 342,000 sq km (132,047 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 2,775,000. Cap.: Brazzaville. Monetary unit: CFA franc, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a par value of CFAF 50 to the French franc and a free rate of CFAF 283.25 to U.S. $1 (CFAF 429.12 = £ 1 sterling). President in 1993, Pascal Lissouba; prime ministers, Claude Antoine Dacosta and, from June 23, Jacques Yhombi-Opango.

      Political tensions increased in Congo after the May 2, 1993, legislative elections. Pres. Pascal Lissouba`s Pan-African Union for Social Democracy took 62 of the 125 seats. Violence erupted in June following a runoff election. Protesting Lissouba`s appointment of former military ruler Jacques Yhombi-Opango as prime minister, opposition leader Bernard Kolelas set up a rival government. Twenty were killed and many more injured in violent demonstrations early in July. Fears of a possible military coup intensified when Lissouba dismissed army chief Gen. Jean-Marie Mokoko on July 16 after the general reportedly called the new National Assembly an "illegal" government. Following a series of armed attacks on civilians by rival militia, a state of emergency was proclaimed. On July 29 government representatives met with opposition leaders in Libreville, Gabon, agreeing to ratify the results of the May elections and hold a runoff. Ethnic-tinged violence continued through the year's end, however, and 60 lives were lost in Brazzaville in mid-December. In addition to its electoral woes, the government remained nearly bankrupt. Congo's civil servants were to receive only seven months' pay in 1993.


      This updates the article Congo, history of (Congo).

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officially  Democratic Republic of the Congo,  also called  Congo Free State  or  Independent State of the Congo (1885–1908),  Belgian Congo (1908–60),  Republic of the Congo (1960–64),  or  Republic of Zaire (1971–97),  French  République Démocratique du Congo,  État Indépendant du Congo,  Congo Belge,  République du Congo,  or  République du Zaïre,  
Congo, flag of the Democratic Republic of the   country located in central Africa. It has a short 25-mile (40-kilometre) coastline on the Atlantic Ocean but is otherwise landlocked. It is the third largest country on the continent; only The Sudan (Sudan, The) and Algeria are larger. The capital, Kinshasa, is located on the Congo River at a distance of about 320 miles from its mouth and is the largest city in central Africa. It serves as the nation's administrative, economic, and cultural centre. The country is often called Congo (Kinshasa) to distinguish it from the other Congo republic, which is officially called the Republic of the Congo and is often called Congo (Brazzaville).

      Congo was known from 1971 to 1997 as Zaire, an attempt by then-ruler Mobutu Sese Seko to return to the source of the nation's identity and authenticity. After Mobutu's overthrow in 1997, however, the name of the country before 1971, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was restored. “Zaire” is a variation of traditional African names for great rivers and specifically the Congo River, whose basin lies almost entirely within the republic. The river was named during the colonial period for the kingdom of the Kongo people, who inhabit the area along the river's mouth on the Atlantic Ocean.

      Congo is a country rich in economic resources. Its minerals include vast deposits of industrial diamonds, cobalt, and copper; its forest reserves are possibly the largest in Africa; and its hydroelectric potential comprises half that of the African continent.

The land
  Congo is bounded to the north by the Central African Republic and The Sudan (Sudan, The); to the east by Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania; to the southeast by Zambia; to the southwest by Angola; and to the west by the Angolan exclave of Cabinda and by Congo (Brazzaville) (Congo).

      The country's major relief features include the coastal region, two major basins or depressions, high plateaus, and three mountain ranges. The narrow coastal region is composed of a fairly low plain that runs inland from the Atlantic Ocean to the Cristal Mountains, where a high escarpment rises above the plains.

      Most of the country is composed of the central (or Congo) basin, topographically a vast rolling plain with an average elevation of about 1,700 feet above sea level. Its lowest point of 1,109 feet (338 metres) occurs at Lake Mai-Ndombe (formerly Lake Léopold II), and the highest point of 2,296 feet (700 metres) occurs in the hill country of Mobayi-Mbongo and Zongo in the north. This basin may once have been an inland sea whose only remaining vestiges are now Lakes Tumba and Mai-Ndombe in the west-central part of the basin.

      A high longitudinal basin—the western arm of the East African Rift System—forms the country's eastern border. Along its Congo section, the depression contains Lakes Albert, Edward, Kivu, Tanganyika, and Mweru.

      The high plateaus border almost every side of the central basin. In the north the basin is protected by the Ubangi-Uele plateaus forming the divide between the drainage basins of the Nile and Congo rivers. Rising to between 3,000 and 4,000 feet, the plateaus also separate the central basin from the vast plains of the Lake Chad system. In the south the plateaus begin at the lower terraces of the Lulua and Lunda river valleys and rise gradually toward the east. In the southeast the ridges of the plateaus of Katanga (Shaba) province tower over the entire area; they include Kundelungu at 5,250 feet (1,600 metres), Mitumba at 4,921 feet (1,500 metres), and Hakansson at 3,609 feet (1,100 metres). The Katanga plateaus extend as far north as the Lukuga River and contain the Manika Plateau, the Kibara and the Bia mountains, and the high plains of Marungu.

      The northern escarpment of the Angola Plateau rises in the southwest. In the west there is a coastal plateau zone that includes the hill country of Mayumbe and the Cristal Mountains. Mount Ula at 3,446 feet (1,050 metres) is the highest point of the Cristal Mountains.

      The eastern part of the country is the highest and most rugged. It contains striking chains of mountains that are part of the East African Rift System. The Mitumba Mountains stretch along the Western Rift Valley, rising to an elevation of 9,800 feet above sea level. The snow-covered peaks of the Ruwenzori Range between Lakes Albert and Edward lie astride the Uganda border and contain Congo's highest elevation of 16,795 feet (5,119 metres) at Margherita Peak. The Virunga Mountains, to the north of Lake Kivu, form a volcanic range that stretches across the Rift Valley.

Drainage and soils
 The Congo River, including its 1,335,000-square-mile basin, constitutes the main system of drainage in the country. The river rises in the high Katanga plateaus and flows north and then south to cross the Equator twice in a great arc. The lower river flows southwestward to empty into the Atlantic Ocean below Matadi. Along its course the Congo passes through alluvial lands and swamps and is fed by the waters of many lakes and tributaries. The most important lakes are Mai-Ndombe and Tumba; the major tributaries are the Lomami, Aruwimi, and Ubangi rivers and those of the great Kasai River system. There is also a link to the Western Rift Valley via the Lukuga River.

      There are two types of soils: those of the equatorial areas and those of the drier savanna (grassland) regions. The equatorial soils occur in the warm, humid lowlands of the central basin, which receive abundant rainfall throughout the year and are covered mainly with thick forests. This soil is almost fixed in place because of the lack of erosive forces in the forests. In the shore areas, however, swamp vegetation has built up a remarkably thick soil that is constantly nourished by humus, the organic material resulting from the decomposition of plant or animal matter.

      Although in the savanna regions the soils are constantly endangered by erosion, the river valleys contain rich and fertile alluvial soils. Special note should be made of the highlands of eastern Congo in the Great Lakes region, which are partly covered with volcanic lava that has been transformed into exceptionally rich soil. This is the most productive agricultural area of the country.

      The major part of Congo lies within the inner humid tropical, or equatorial, climatic region extending five degrees north and south of the Equator. Southern Congo and the extreme north have somewhat drier subequatorial climates.

      The seasonally migratory intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) is a major weather feature of Congo's climate. Along this zone the trade winds originating in the Northern and Southern hemispheres meet, forcing unstable tropical air aloft. The resulting cooling and condensation of the uplifted air produces prolonged and heavy rainfall. In July and August this zone of maximum rainfall occurs in the north. It passes into central Congo in September and October. From November to February the southern parts of the country receive their maximum precipitation. Moving northward, the ITCZ crosses central Congo again in March and April, so that this zone has two rainfall maxima. Only the extreme eastern highlands lie outside the path of the ITCZ and are subject to the influence of the southeastern trade winds alone. Elevation and proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and its maritime influences are additional factors of climatic differentiation.

      There are four major climatic regions in the country. In the area of the equatorial climate, temperatures are hot, and the average monthly temperature rarely drops below 75° F (24° C). Humidity is high, and it rains almost throughout the year. Annual precipitation at Eala averages 71 inches (1,800 millimetres). The tropical or subequatorial climate occurs to the north and south of the equatorial region. It is marked by distinct dry and rainy seasons. The dry season may last from four to seven months (usually April to October) of the year, depending largely on distance from the Equator. At Kananga about 62 inches of rain falls annually. In some areas and at indefinite periods, a short dry season of several weeks' duration may occur during the rainy season.

      The Atlantic climate is limited to the west coast. It is marked by the modifying influences of low altitude and the cold Benguela Current. At Banana the average annual temperature is 77° F (25° C), and rainfall averages about 30 inches yearly. The mountain climate occurs in the eastern high plateaus and mountains. At Bukavu the average annual temperature is 66° F (19° C), and annual precipitation measures about 52 inches.

Plant and animal life
 Plant life is profuse and follows climatic patterns. In the centre of the Congo basin is an intricate forest system, commonly known as the equatorial rainforest. There trees reach 130 to 160 feet in height, and many plant varieties and species can be found in a small area. In the tropical climate zone, grassland and woodland are characteristic, while in the west the coastal swamps and the mouth of the Congo are dominated by stands of mangrove. The eastern plateaus are covered by grasslands. Mountain forest, bamboo thickets, and Afro-Alpine vegetation occur on the highest mountains.

      The central basin is a vast reservoir of trees and plants that are native to the area. Among these, the mahogany, ebony, limba, wenge, agba, iroko, and sapele are sources of timber. Fibrous plants include raffia and sisal. There are also plants used in traditional medicine, including cinchona (the source of quinine) and rauwolfia (an emetic and antihypertensive), as well as copal, rubber, and palm trees. Many types of edible mushrooms grow wild; other wild edible vegetables grow in the forests, grasslands, and swamps. Eucalyptus trees have been imported and form important stands in the highlands; they are used for construction timber and poles.

      Animal life is also rich and diversified. Chimpanzees are found mostly in the equatorial forest, and gorillas occur in the eastern mountains around Lake Kivu. Elephants and various species of monkey and baboon are found in the forest and the savanna woodland. The short elephants are, however, exclusively forest-bound.

      In the primary forests of Uele, Aruwimi, and Ituri are the okapi, the giant wild boar, and the short antelope. The lion and leopard inhabit the grasslands, and the jackal, hyena, cheetah, wildcat, wild dog, buffalo, antelope, wild hog, and black and white rhinoceroses are found in the grasslands and savanna woods. Giraffes mainly inhabit the northeastern grasslands.

      Hippopotamuses and crocodiles are common in the rivers and lakes, and whales, dolphins, and lungfishes are found near the coast. Congolese rivers, lakes, and swamps are well stocked with a variety of fish, such as the capitaine from the Congo River and catfish, electric fish, eels, cichlids, and many others. There is also a good supply of jellyfish in Lake Tanganyika. Reptiles are common and include various snakes, such as pythons, vipers, and tree cobras, as well as lizards, chameleons, salamanders, frogs, and turtles.

      Birdlife includes the pelicans, parrots, and many species of sunbird, pigeon, duck, goose, eagle, vulture, cuckoo, owl, crane, stork, and swallow. The insects are innumerable. There are hundreds of species of butterfly; in the savanna woodlands the butterflies have their special season at the beginning of the rains, when they can be seen flying in great numbers, filling the sky and wandering over the blooming trees. There are also bees of all types, different species of grasshopper, and caterpillars, praying mantises, beetles, dragonflies, scorpions, mosquitoes, tsetse flies, ants, termites, spiders, centipedes, and millipedes.

      Much of the animal life has diminished as the result of hunting, which is now strictly regulated. Several national parks have been created, most in the eastern highlands. They include Garamba, near the Sudan border; Virunga, north of Lake Edward in the Virunga Mountains; Maiko, west of Lake Edward; Kahuzi-Biega, north of Bukavu; Upemba, north of the Manika Plateau; and Kundelungu, near the Zambian border northeast of Lubumbashi.

Settlement patterns
 The traditionally inhabited regions are the forests, savanna woodlands, and grasslands. People have worked these areas and have become specialized to their environment. The individuals who live in the forests, such as the Bambuti (Pygmies) of the Ituri Forest, have specialized mostly in hunting and fishing, while agriculture has remained secondary or is nonexistent.

      In the savanna woodlands the inhabitants combine cultivation with hunting and fishing. In some areas across the southern half of the country, the people are engaged in the raising of small livestock and poultry and traditionally mine copper, iron ore, and other minerals. In the grasslands inhabitants confine themselves almost solely to agriculture. In the eastern grasslands, however, agriculture is combined with the raising of large livestock.

      A large percentage of the Congolese population is rural, and most of the people live in scattered villages. The style of housing varies regionally, as does the general size of the villages. A village with 10 to 25 housing units is generally considered small, while one with 150 to 200 is considered large. The savanna woodlands of the south-central regions, and to some extent the coastal region, are the most populous areas, with the largest villages having 300 to 500 people. The eastern grassland areas have isolated farms and hamlets.

 Such trade and administrative centres as Banana, Vivi, and Boma were established with the arrival of the Europeans in the 16th century. Most towns, however, are of more recent origin. Kinshasa, until 1966 called Léopoldville, is the seat of national political, administrative, and judiciary institutions and is also an important commercial and industrial centre. It is the creator and propagator of fashions and of many traits of Congolese cultural life. The growth of Kinshasa typifies that of many of the country's cities. In 1889 it had a population of 5,000; in 1925, when it was recognized as a ville (urban centre), it had grown to 28,000. The city jumped to a population of 250,000 in 1950, 1,500,000 in 1971, and about 4,700,000 in the mid-1990s—an increase by a factor of 1,000 in a little more than a century.

      There are nine other major cities; all are administrative or commercial centres with the exception of Likasi, which is mainly an industrial and mining town. Kananga is the capital of Kasaï-Occidental (Western Kasai) province. Lubumbashi (formerly Élisabethville), the administrative headquarters of Katanga, is the heavily industrialized capital of the nation's copper-mining activities. Mbuji-Mayi is the capital of Kasaï-Oriental (Eastern Kasai) province and the country's diamond centre. Kisangani (formerly Stanleyville), the terminal point of navigation on the Congo River from Kinshasa, is the capital of Orientale province. Bukavu, the headquarters of Sud-Kivu province, is a major tourist centre; Kikwit, the former capital of Bandundu province, is the terminal port on the Kwilu River; and Matadi, the capital of Bas-Congo, is the country's main port. Mbandaka is a river port and the capital of Équateur province.

      All of these towns were developed during the colonial period, when there were separate sectors for the Europeans and the Africans. The European neighbourhoods were characterized by big houses with large yards, wide and paved streets, and adequate electricity. The crowded African areas had smaller houses and yards and poor, if any, electric supply. These characteristics still hold true, although the traditional European sectors include Africans of the upper income group.

The people (Congo)

Ethnic composition
      It is common for the modern African to prefer an identification as simply an African or as a citizen of a particular country. It is possible, however, to distinguish ethnic, linguistic, or cultural groups among the Congolese population.

      The Bantu peoples constitute a large majority of the country's population and occupy more than two-thirds of the national territory. They entered the region of modern Congo during the 10th to the 14th century from the west and north and established kingdoms that were flourishing at the time of European penetration after the 16th century. The major kingdoms were those of the Kongo, Teke (Bateke), Luba, Pende, Yaka, Lunda, Songe, Tetela, and Kuba peoples. Major cultural clusters today include the Mongo (in the centre), Kongo (west), Luba (south-central), Lunda (south), Bemba (southeast), and Kasai (southwest). Bantu tribes in the north and northeast include Ngala, Buja, Bira, Kuumu, and Lega (Rega).

      The Pygmies (Pygmy) are considered the earliest inhabitants of the Congo basin, having arrived possibly during the Upper Paleolithic Period. The remaining Pygmies—the Bambuti, Twa, and Babinga—inhabit the forests of Kibali and Ituri and the regions of Lakes Kivu and Tanganyika and the Lualaba, Tshuapa, Sankuru, and Ubangi rivers.

      There are other small non-Bantu African populations. The Sudanese groups who settled in the north include the Zande (Azande), Mangbetu, Banda, and Barambu (Abarambo). The Nilotic (Nilot) peoples live in the northeast; they include the Alur, Kakwa, Bari, Lugbara, and Logo. Hamitic peoples from North Africa and Rwanda are few; they include the Tutsi, who live in the lake region.

      The permanent European and Asian population comprises about half of the country's aliens. Most of them came to Congo for temporary employment. Much of the remaining alien population is composed of Africans of non-Congolese nationality.

Linguistic composition
      More than 200 languages and dialects are spoken in Congo. Communication between groups has been facilitated by four national languages: Swahili, Tshiluba (Kiluba), Lingala, and Kikongo. French is the only official language and the language of instruction, business, adminstration, and international communications. The four national languages are used in local trading and radio broadcasting. Lingala is growing rapidly; it is the official language of the military and is widely spoken in Kinshasa, where it is used in popular music.

      The traditional religious beliefs in a supreme being, the power of the ancestors, spirits of nature, and the efficacy of magic were torn apart or greatly disturbed with the introduction of Christianity. There is a sizable Christian population, including the local sect of the Church of Jesus Christ on Earth by the Prophet Simon Kimbangu (Kimbanguism). The rest of the African population continues to follow traditional beliefs or professes no religion. The foreign community includes a small Jewish population and some Hindus and Muslims.

The economy
      Located in the centre of the African continent, the Democratic Republic of the Congo—with its great size, population, and rich potential—is called upon to play an important regional and international economic role.

      The country's main economic resource is its mineral deposits. The abundance of minerals in Katanga (Shaba) province (Swahili shaba, “copper”) was a source of the desire of European powers to control the area. Minerals of Katanga include copper, cobalt, zinc, cassiterite (the chief source of metallic tin), manganese, coal, silver, cadmium, germanium (a brittle element used as a semiconductor), gold, palladium (a metallic element used as a catalyst and in alloys), and platinum.

      The region west of Lake Kivu contains cassiterite, columbotantalite, wolframite (a source of tungsten), beryl, gold, and monazite (a phosphate of the cerium metals and thorium). Lake Kivu has a vast reserve of methane, carbonic, and nitrogen natural gases. There are deposits of iron ore in south-central Congo. Industrial diamonds are found in the central regions, and gem-quality diamonds occur in the south-central part of the country.

      There are gold, coal, and iron-ore deposits in northeastern Congo, and there are prospective deposits of gold, monazite, and diamonds in the northwestern regions. The diamond deposits in the western region are insignificant for industrial exploitation. Coastal Congo contains bauxite, gold, and offshore deposits of petroleum. The limestone deposits that occur throughout the country are considered to be among the richest in Africa.

      Congo's forest reserves cover more than half of the country and are considered to be the largest in Africa. The wide variety of wild game supplements the local diet and contributes to a certain extent to local commerce. The rivers, lakes, swamps, and ocean contain a vast reserve of fish.

      The country's hydroelectric resources have an estimated potential of 13 percent of the world's capacity and 50 percent of Africa's potential capacity. This tremendous potential is derived from the many rapids along the rivers of the Congo system. Thermal energy can be derived from the forests and coal and petroleum deposits, as well as the uranium deposits in Katanga.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
      Domestic agriculture is the main source of food supply and cash income for the majority of the population. Although the country is rich in agricultural potential, the deterioration of the transportation network and agricultural services since independence have led to a regrowth of subsistence agriculture and a collapse of market production. Foodstuffs such as cereals and fish must be imported in increasing amounts. Coffee is the chief agricultural export; palm oil, rubber, and cotton, once mainstays of the export economy, have become almost negligible.

 In the humid equatorial region, cassava (manioc) and rice are the basic food crops. Peanuts (groundnuts), oil palms, and fruit trees are also important, while robusta coffee is the main cash crop. In the eastern highlands, yams, beans, and sweet potatoes are used as food crops, while arabica coffee and tea are export commodities. On the southern plateaus, corn (maize) is of major importance for the urban populations of Katanga. Vegetable growing is widespread throughout Congo.

      Livestock and poultry are kept in every province. Cattle are raised mainly in the eastern and southern regions. Pigs are kept in the west and sheep in the eastern highlands. Other farm animals include chickens, geese, pigeons, and rabbits. Commercial meat production is limited, however, and the country depends upon imports to fulfill most of its requirements.

      A small part of the yearly production of timber is exported for veneering or plywood; most, however, is used locally for fuel. There is some commercial freshwater and ocean fishing. Local hunting and fishing for private consumption are not ordinarily reported in official statistics and are difficult to measure.

      Mining produces more than half of the national budget and more than 80 percent of total exports. Congo is a leading producer of industrial diamonds, accounting for about one-third of the world's total production. It also produces about half of the world's cobalt. It is a major producer of copper and tin. Coal production is low, however, because of mining difficulties and the increasing production of hydroelectricity. Other minerals mined include cadmium, silver, manganese, gold, wolframite, columbotantalite, beryl, and monazite. The most important mining company is the state-owned Générale des Carrières et des Mines (Gécamines).

      Manufacturing industries can be classified into two main categories. Consumption industries produce processed foods, beverages, cigarettes, cloth, printed material, hosiery, shoes and leather, metallic fabrics, and such chemical products as soap, paints, rubber, and plastics. The supply and equipment industries include spinning and weaving plants, chemical factories, and facilities to produce machinery, transport materials, nonmetallic minerals, and wood products. A petroleum refinery near Moanda was established in 1968.

 The heaviest concentration of hydroelectric consumption is in the mining areas and in Kinshasa. The hydroelectric dam completed in 1972 on the lower Congo River at Inga Falls began initially to supply 300,000 kilowatts of electricity. After the completion of the second stage in 1982, Inga's capacity rose to 2,300,000 kilowatts. The dam has a theoretical potential estimated at 30,000,000 kilowatts. Congo exports electricity to Zambia, Burundi, Congo (Brazzaville), and Angola. There are thermal power plants in almost every major city that cannot be served by hydroelectric stations.

Finance and trade
      The national central bank, the Bank of Congo, is located in Kinshasa, as are numerous commercial, savings, and development banks. Most of these banks maintain branch offices in the regional capitals and major cities. There are also mortgage and credit banking institutions. Totally foreign-owned banks include U.S., British, and French institutions as well as the International Bank for Africa in Congo.

      Congo has a favourable balance of trade. Mineral products account for most of total exports. The second most valuable exports are agricultural products; exported manufactures are of limited value and volume. Imports consist of consumer goods, machinery (largely mining and transport equipment), construction materials, leather and textiles, fuel, chemical products, metal products, and increasing amounts of foodstuffs.

      The organization of the transportation network is of the most crucial importance to Congo, a country of continental dimensions and rich economic resources. The country's generally poor transportation infrastructure is a major factor in the underdevelopment and stagnation of the economy. The Congo River, the spinal cord of the country, and its tributaries serve as the main transport arteries. The rivers are supplemented by rail, road, and air services.

      Navigation is possible throughout the year on sections of the Congo River. It is navigable from Banana to Matadi, Kinshasa to Kisangani, from Obundu to Kindu, and from Kongolo to Bukama for a total of 1,428 miles. Its tributaries add at least another 8,750 miles of navigable rivers. The main port for maritime shipping is Matadi near the mouth of the Congo River.

      The agricultural region of Mayumbe is served by the Boma-Tshela railway. Other lines connect the Uele with the Itimbiri River and Lake Tanganyika with the Lualaba River, and two railways serve the rich southern regions.

      There are four major routes that combine water and rail transport. The only such route to lie wholly within Congo runs by rail from Katanga to Ilebo, by boat along the Kasai and Congo rivers to Kinshasa, and by rail to Matadi. The international routes run across Lake Tanganyika and Tanzania to the Indian Ocean port of Dar es Salaam; through Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique to Beira, also on the Indian Ocean; and through Angola to the Atlantic Ocean port of Lobito. The Angolan route and the system to Beira have been unusable for years, however, because of ongoing civil wars in Angola and Mozambique. The heavy traffic that would normally follow these routes is sent via Zimbabwe to ports in South Africa. In an effort to lessen its dependence upon its neighbours, the government plans a railway to connect Katanga directly with its Atlantic Ocean ports by linking Ilebo with Kinshasa.

Ntsomo Payanzo Bernd Michael Wiese

Administration and social conditions

 Congo's civil war (1998–2003) was essentially ended by a power-sharing agreement that created the transitional constitution of 2003, which provided for a transitional government that consisted of representatives from various rebel groups, the previous government, the political opposition, and civil society organizations. A new, formal constitution, approved by referendum in 2005 and promulgated in 2006, significantly devolved power to provincial administrations. Under it, the president is to be elected to no more than two five-year terms and must share power with the prime minister, who is to be named from the legislature's largest party. The legislature is bicameral, consisting of the National Assembly and the Senate.

      The Popular Movement of the Revolution (Mouvement Populaire de la Révolution; MPR) was the sole legal political party from 1970 until 1990. It was presided over by then-president Mobutu Sese Seko and had branches at every administrative level throughout the country. The MPR splintered into factions after Mobutu was overthrown in 1997.

      At the time of the transitional government, some of the most prominent political parties were the People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (Parti du Peuple pour la Reconstruction et la Démocratie; PPRD); Union for Democracy and Social Progress (Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social; UDPS); Democratic Social Christian Party (Parti Démocrate Social Chrétien; PDSC); Popular Movement of the Revolution–Fait Privé (Mouvement Populaire de la Révolution–Fait Privé; MPR-FP), a faction of Mobutu's original party; Congolese National Movement–Lumumba (Mouvement National Congolais–Lumumba; MNC-L); Forces for Renovation for Union and Solidarity (Forces Novatrices pour l'Union et la Solidarite; FONUS); Congolese Rally for Democracy (Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie; RCD); and Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (Mouvement pour la Libération du Congo; MLC). The latter two parties represented former rebel groups.

      For administrative purposes, the country has long been divided into a varying number of regions or provinces. After the overthrow of Mobutu's regime in 1997, the country was organized into 10 provinces and the ville (city) of Kinshasa. The provinces are presided over by governors. The 2006 constitution provides for an increase in the number of provinces from 10 to 26, though the new provincial structure was not immediately implemented.

Ntsomo Payanzo Bernd Michael Wiese Ed.

      For many years, the Supreme Court (located in Kinshasa) and the Courts of Appeal stood at the centre of Congo's judicial system, but, after the promulgation of the 2006 constitution, they were slated to be superseded by the new judicial structure. The 2006 constitution provides for an independent judiciary consisting of the Constitutional Court, the Court of Cassation, the Council of State (a federal administrative court), the Military High Court, and lower courts and tribunals throughout the country.

      Since independence, public authorities have recognized the value of education and have given it greater attention. Primary education is compulsory, although it is difficult for the country to meet this pledge because of warfare, the lack of facilities, and an inadequate number of teachers.

      Congo is served by universities in Kinshasa, Kisangani, and Lubumbashi. There are university institutes in the three university towns and at Buvaku and two arts academies in Kinshasa.

Health and welfare
      In general, individuals build their own houses according to their needs and means. The government established a department that builds and rents houses and also sells condominiums. In the cities, however, the sales and rental of housing is largely a function of the private sector.

      In 1960 Congo inherited a difficult medical situation, for there were no Congolese doctors. The colonial administration had trained some highly qualified medical technicians and nurses while confining medical practice to European doctors and missionaries. By the late 1970s, however, most of the doctors were Congolese. For the country's first decade, experienced medical assistants, technicians, and nurses filled the vacuum left by the shortage of doctors. By 1990 there was a meagre one doctor for every 15,500 persons.

      Despite great efforts in the 1970s and '80s, the country suffered from ever-declining health care standards in the 1990s and 2000s because of the protracted civil war. Diseases such as AIDS, sleeping sickness, and various types of hemorrhagic fever went largely unchecked, often at epidemic levels. At the war's end, millions of people were left homeless and suffered from starvation and disease.

Cultural life
   Congo's many ethnic groups and regions have developed a mosaic of traditional arts, including painting, sculpture, music, and dance. There has been a tendency to classify sculpture and carving according to the styles of the areas from which they originate. The South-West Group is represented by the Kongo people and is known for stone and nail-studded statues; the Yaka, also of this group but from the region of the Kwango and Kwilu rivers, produce masks and figurines. The Kuba art form, the Southern Central Group, deals with human themes; there is a tendency to create statues representative of the Kuba royal court. The South-East Group is composed mainly of Luba art, which reflects the strong influence of women in the society through a multitude of statuettes relating to motherhood. North of the Luba region is the area where the Lega masks and ivories are produced. The North Group includes Zande and Mangbetu art; Zande art is characterized by cult statuettes, spear or bow shafts, and anthropomorphic pottery, while Mangbetu art is characterized by stylized elongated heads.

      The cities, especially Kinshasa, have become the greatest creators, propagators, and promoters of national cultural life and arts. The Academy of Fine Arts in Kinshasa offers training programs in painting, sculpture, carving, architecture, and ceramics. The National Institute of the Arts offers training in classical and some traditional music and drama. The writing of poetry, plays, and novels has been developing rapidly; they are usually written in Lingala and French, but other local languages are also used. The development of scientific literature is supported by the universities, various scientific organizations, and the government. Several publishing houses have been established throughout the country.

 Surviving national folk traditions are evident in pottery and the weaving of raffia, in ceremonial dress or costumes, in dancing styles, and in songs.

      Sports include football (soccer), swimming, boxing, basketball, and riverboat racing. Congo's unique popular music results from a mixture of traditional rhythms and instruments borrowed from other cultures, civilizations, and continents. This music, popular all over Africa, has given birth to the great variety of specific dance steps and styles known as the Congolese dance.

      There are museums and public libraries in most large cities, with national museums in Kananga, Mbandaka, and Lubumbashi. The capital city houses the national archives and the National Theatrical Troupe. There are libraries at all three universities.

Ntsomo Payanzo Bernd Michael Wiese

      The country that began as a king's private domain (the Congo Free State), evolved into a colony (the Belgian Congo), and came to be known at the time of independence in 1960 as the Republic of the Congo and later as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zaire, and again the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the product of a complex concatenation of historical forces. Some are traceable to the precolonial past, others to the legacy of colonial rule, others still to the political convulsions that followed in the wake of independence. All, in one way or another, have left their imprint on Congolese societies.

Precolonial perspectives
      Before experiencing the radical social transformations of the colonial era, Congolese societies had already suffered major disruptions. From the 15th to the 17th century several important state systems came into existence in the savanna region in the southern half of the area. The most important were the Kongo kingdom (Kongo) in the west and the Luba and Lunda empires in the east. All three developed fairly elaborate political structures, buttressed by the symbolic force of kingship as well as by military force. Typically, power emanated from the capital city to the outlying areas through the intermediation of appointed chiefs or local clan heads. Competition for the kingship often led to civil strife, however, and the development of slave-trading activities injected a new source of instability into regional politics. The history of the Kongo peoples in the 16th century is largely the story of how the Atlantic slave trade created powerful vested interests among provincial chiefs, in time greatly lessening the capacity of the kingdom to resist the encroachments of its neighbours. Thus, in the late 16th century, the kingdom had all but succumbed to the attacks of the Jaga, a group of warriors from the east. Two centuries later the Lunda and Luba peoples underwent a similar process of internal fragmentation followed by attacks from various interlopers, including Arabs and mestizos, eager to control the trade in slaves and ivory. On the eve of the European conquest their political institutions were both fractious and oppressive.

      In the tropical rainforest the radically different ecological conditions raised formidable obstacles in the way of state-building. Small-scale segmentary societies, organized into village communities, were the rule. Corporate groups that combined social and economic functions among small numbers of related and unrelated people formed the dominant mode of organization. Among such corporate groups, exchange took place through trading activities and reciprocal gift-giving. Social interactions in time produced a measure of cultural homogeneity among otherwise distinctive communities, as among Bantu (Bantu peoples) and Pygmy. Bantu communities absorbed and intermarried with their Pygmy clients, who brought their skills and crafts into the culture. The element of continuity discernible in the persistence of house and village organization stands in sharp contrast to the more centralized state structures characteristic of the savanna kingdoms. Nonetheless, on the eve of the Belgian conquest, most Congolese societies had reached a degree of internal decomposition that greatly lessened their capacity to resist a full-scale invasion.

      Resistance to outside forces in the savanna region was hampered by the devastating raids and civil wars that followed in the wake of the slave trade, by the improved capacity of Africans to destroy each other through the use of firearms, and ultimately by the all-too-familiar divisions between collaborators and resisters. The relative ease with which Congolese societies yielded to the European conquest bears testimony to the profound internal dislocations most of them had experienced in the course of previous centuries.

      King Leopold II of the Belgians was the catalyst for organizing the conquest of the huge domain that was to become his personal fief. His thinly veiled colonial ambitions paved the way for the Berlin West Africa Conference (1884–85), which granted him possession of the area of the Congo River basin to be known as the Congo Free State (1885–1908). Thus armed with a mandate of international legitimacy, and under the guise of his African International Association (Association Internationale Africaine)'s humanitarian mission of ending slavery and bringing religion and the benefits of modern life to the Congolese, Leopold created a coercive instrument of colonial hegemony. The name “Congo Free State” is most readily associated with the extraordinary hardships and atrocities visited upon the Congolese masses by Leopold's rule.

      “Without the railroad,” said Leopold's agent, the British explorer and journalist Henry Morton Stanley (Stanley, Sir Henry Morton), “the Congo is not worth a penny.” But also of great importance were the area's natural resources, primarily its wild rubber trees and ivory. Without recourse to forced labour, however, the railroad could not be built and rubber could not be collected in amounts large enough to be profitable; nor could African resistance in the east be overcome without a massive recruitment of indigenous troops. Greed and economic considerations led Leopold to transform his nascent administrative system into an infernal machine designed to extract a maximum output of labour from the people and natural resources from the land. In order to secure the labour necessary to accomplish Leopold's goals, his agents employed such methods as kidnapping the families of Congolese men, who were forced to meet often unrealistic work quotas to secure their families' release. Those who tried to rebel were dealt with by Leopold's private army, the Force Publique—a band of African soldiers led by European officers—who burned the villages and slaughtered the families of rebels. The Force Publique troops were also known for cutting off the hands of the Congolese, including children; the mutilations served to further terrorize the Congolese into submission.

      Efforts to reveal the truth about Leopold's brutal regime were led by the Congo Reform Association, considered by many to be the world's first large-scale human rights movement, whose revelations generated a flood of criticism from around the globe. In response to international pressure, in 1908 the Belgian Parliament voted to annex the Congo Free State—essentially purchasing the area from King Leopold, thus placing what was once the king's personal holding under Belgian rule.

      The destructive impact of the Free State on the African populations outlived its relatively brief life span. The widespread social disruption not only complicated the establishment of a viable system of administration; it also left a legacy of anti-Western sentiment on which subsequent generations of nationalists were able to capitalize.

Belgian paternalism and the politics of decolonization
      Belgian colonial rule bore traces of its Leopoldian pedigree: the irreducible tendency to treat Africans as childlike creatures and a firm commitment to political control and compulsion—on which Belgian paternalism was based—were both characteristic features of Leopoldian rule. The elimination of the more brutal aspects of the Congo Free State notwithstanding, Belgian rule remained conspicuously unreceptive to political reform. By placing the inculcation of Western moral principles above political education and welfare benefits above the apprenticeship of social responsibility, Belgian policies virtually ruled out all initiatives designed to foster political experience and responsibility among Africans.

      Not until 1957, with the introduction of a major local government reform (the so-called statut des villes), were Africans given their first taste of democracy. By then the impact of social change had become apparent in the rise of a class of Westernized Africans (évolués) anxious to exercise their political rights beyond the urban arenas; the heavy demands made upon the rural masses during the years of the two World Wars, coupled with the profound psychological impact of the postwar constitutional reforms introduced in neighbouring French-speaking territories, created a climate of social unrest suited for the development of nationalist sentiment and activity. The precipitating factor behind the political awakening of the Congolese masses was the publication in 1956 of a political manifesto calling for immediate independence. Penned by a group of Bakongo évolués affiliated to the Alliance des Bakongo (ABAKO), an association based in Léopoldville (now Kinshasa), the manifesto was the response of ABAKO to the ideas set forth by a young Belgian professor of colonial legislation, A.A.J. van Bilsen, in his “Thirty-Year Plan for the Political Emancipation of Belgian Africa.” Far more impatient in tone, the ABAKO manifesto stated: “Rather than postponing emancipation for another thirty years, we should be granted self-government today.”

 Under the leadership of Joseph Kasavubu (Kasavubu, Joseph), ABAKO transformed itself into a major vehicle of anticolonial protest; the ferment of nationalist sentiment quickly spread through the lower Congo region, and, in time, the nationalist (nationalism) contagion reached the rest of the colony. Scores of self-styled nationalist movements mushroomed almost overnight in each province. In the welter of political parties brought into existence by the statut des villes, the Congolese National Movement (Mouvement National Congolais; MNC) stood out as the most powerful vector of territorial nationalism. Although the MNC never disavowed its commitment to national unity (unlike ABAKO, whose appeal was limited to Bakongo elements), not until the arrival of Patrice Lumumba (Lumumba, Patrice) in Léopoldville, in 1958, did the party enter its militant phase.

      The turning point in the process of decolonization came on January 4, 1959, when anti-European rioting erupted in Léopoldville, resulting in the death of scores of Africans at the hands of the security forces. On January 13 the Belgian government formally recognized independence as the ultimate goal of its policies—a goal to be reached “without fatal procrastination, yet without fatal haste.” By then, however, nationalist agitation had reached a threshold of intensity that made it virtually impossible for the Belgian administration to effectively control the course of events. To this growing turbulence the Belgian government responded by convening a Round Table Conference in Brussels, in January 1960, involving the participation of a broad spectrum of nationalist organizations. The aim was to work out the conditions of a viable transfer of power; the result, however, was an experiment in instant decolonization. Six months later, on June 30, the Congo formally acceded to independence, hurtling toward a self-induced apocalypse.

The Congo crisis
      The triggering element behind the “Congo crisis” was the mutiny of the army (the so-called Force Publique) near Léopoldville on July 5, immediately followed by the intervention of Belgian paratroopers, ostensibly to protect the lives of Belgian citizens. Adding to the confusion created by the collapse of the Force Publique, the constitutional impasse arising from the opposition between the president and the prime minister brought the machinery of government to a halt. President Kasavubu revoked Prime Minister Lumumba from his functions; Lumumba responded by dismissing Kasavubu. Meanwhile, on July 11, the country's richest province, Katanga, declared itself independent under the leadership of Moise Tshombe (Tshombe, Moise). The support given by Belgium to the Katanga secession gave a measure of credibility to Lumumba's claims that Brussels was trying to reimpose its authority on its former colony, and on July 12 he and Kasavubu appealed to United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold for UN security assistance.

      While intended to pave the way for the restoration of peace and order, the arrival of the UN peacekeeping force (United Nations Peacekeeping Forces) added yet another source of tension between President Kasavubu and Prime Minister Lumumba. The latter's insistence that the United Nations use force if necessary to bring Katanga back into the fold of the central government met with categorical opposition from Kasavubu. Lumumba then turned to the Soviet Union for logistic assistance to send troops to the Katanga, at which point the Congo crisis became inextricably bound up with East-West issues.

 As the process of fragmentation set in motion by the Katanga secession reached its peak, resulting in the breakup of the country into four separate fragments (Katanga, Kasai, Orientale Province, and Léopoldville), Chief of Staff Joseph Mobutu (later Mobutu Sese Seko) announced on September 14, 1960, that the army would henceforth rule with the help of a caretaker government. The threat posed to the new regime by the Lumumbist forces was substantially lessened by the capture of Lumumba in December 1960, after his dramatic escape from Léopoldville, and by his subsequent execution at the hands of the Tshombe government. Although Kasavubu's surrender of Lumumba to the Katanga secessionists was intended to pave the way for a reintegration of the province into the fold of the central government, not until January 1963, and only after a violent showdown between the European-trained Katanga gendarmerie and the UN forces, was the secession decisively crushed. It would take another year for the last bastion of secessionism, the pro-Lumumba Stanleyville government, to be brought to heel. Meanwhile, following the convening of parliament in Léopoldville (Kinshasa), a new civilian government headed by Cyrille Adoula came to power on August 2, 1961.

      Even more than his inability to deal effectively with the Katanga secession, Adoula's decision to dissolve parliament in September 1963 brought his popularity to its lowest ebb. His move contributed directly to the outbreak of rural insurgencies, which, from January to August 1964, engulfed 5 provinces out of 21 and suddenly raised the ominous prospect of a total collapse of the central government. Because of its poor leadership and fragmented bases of support, the rebellion failed to translate its early military successes into an effective power apparatus; even more important in turning the tide against the insurgents was the decisive contribution made by European mercenaries (mercenary) in helping the central government regain control over rebel-held areas. For this, much of the credit goes to Tshombe, who by July 10 had replaced Adoula as prime minister. Ironically, a year and a half after his defeat at the hands of the UN forces, the most vocal advocate of secessionism had suddenly emerged as the providential leader of a besieged central government.

Mobutu's regime
      Mobutu's second coup, on November 24, 1965, occurred in circumstances strikingly similar to those that led to the first—a struggle for power between the incumbent president, Kasavubu, and his prime minister, Tshombe. Unlike Lumumba, however, Tshombe managed to leave the country unharmed—and determined to regain power. Rumours that the ousted prime minister was plotting a comeback from his Spanish retreat hardened into certainty when in July 1966 some 2,000 of Tshombe's former Katanga gendarmes, led by mercenaries, mutinied in Kisangani (formerly Stanleyville). Exactly a year after the crushing of the first mutiny, another broke out, again in Kisangani, apparently triggered by the news that Tshombe's airplane had been hijacked over the Mediterranean and forced to land in Algiers, where he was held prisoner. Led by a Belgian settler named Jean Schramme and involving approximately 100 former Katanga gendarmes and about 1,000 Katangese, the mutineers held their ground against the 32,000-man Congolese National Army (Armée Nationale Congolaise; ANC) until November 1967, when Schramme and his mercenaries crossed the border into Rwanda and surrendered to the local authorities. The country settled into a semblance of political stability for the next several years, allowing Mobutu to focus on his unsuccessful strategies for economic progress. In 1971 Mobutu renamed the country Zaire as part of his “authenticity” campaign—his effort to emphasize the country's cultural identity.

      The fragility of Mobutu's power base was again demonstrated in 1977 and 1978, when the country's main opposition movement, the Congolese National Liberation Front (Front de la Libération Nationale Congolaise; FLNC), operating from Angola, instigated two major invasions into Shaba (which Katanga was called from 1972 to 1997). On both occasions external intervention from friendly governments—mostly from Morocco in 1977 and from France in 1978—saved the day, but at the price of untold casualties among Africans and Europeans. After the capture of Kolwezi in May 1978, an estimated 100 Europeans lost their lives, partly at the hands of the rebels and partly at the hands of the ANC. At any rate, and quite aside from the part played by the FLNC in spearheading the invasions, the sharp deterioration of the Zairian economy after 1975, coupled with the rapid growth of anti-Mobutu sentiment among the poor and the unemployed, were crucial elements in the background of the Shaba invasions.

      The timing of the first Shaba invasion, 11 years after the creation of the Popular Movement of the Revolution (Mouvement Populaire de la Révolution; MPR), made plain the shortcomings of the single-party state as an agent of national integration and of Mobutism as a legitimizing formula. Officially described as “the nation politically organized,” the MPR may be better seen as a weakly articulated patronage system. Mobutu's effort to extol the virtues of Zairian “authenticity” did little to lend respectability either to the concept or to the brand of leadership for which it stood. As befit his chiefly image, Mobutu's rule was based on bonds of personal loyalty between himself and his entourage. His hegemony was absolute, however, and extended to every level of the government. Mobutu's decision in April 1990 to lift the ban on opposition parties was followed in May by the brutal repression of student protests at the University of Lubumbashi—resulting in the deaths of anywhere from 50 to 150 students, according to Amnesty International. Mobutu grudgingly relinquished some power (1991) and agreed to the government reforms set forth in the Transitional Constitutional Act (1994), but real reforms and promised elections never took place.

      Finally, after more than 30 years, Mobutu's hold on the country began to crumble. In late 1996, rebels led by Laurent Kabila (Kabila, Laurent) launched an insurgency to overthrow Mobutu. The rebels quickly advanced from the east, and, as they approached Kinshasa in May 1997, Mobutu relinquished authority and left the country.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo
      Following Mobutu's departure, Kabila assumed the presidency and restored the country's previous name, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kabila initially was able to attract foreign aid and provided some order and relief to the country's decimated economy. He also initiated the drafting of a new constitution for the country. The outward appearance of moving toward democracy and progress conflicted with the reality of the situation: Kabila held the bulk of power and did not tolerate criticism or opposition. Political parties and public demonstrations were banned almost immediately following Kabila's takeover of the government, and his administration was accused of human rights abuse.

      In August 1998 the new leader himself was plagued by a rebellion in the country's eastern provinces—supported by some of Kabila's former allies—at the start of what was to become a devastating five-year civil war that would draw in several countries. By the end of the year, the rebels, backed by the Ugandan and Rwandan governments, controlled roughly one-third of the country; Kabila's government received support from the Angolan, Namibian, and Zimbabwean governments in their fight against the rebels. A cease-fire and the deployment of UN peacekeeping forces were among the provisions of the 1999 Lusaka Peace Accord, an agreement intended to end the hostilities. Although it was eventually signed by most parties involved in the conflict, the accord was not fully implemented and fighting continued. Meanwhile, long-standing ethnic tensions between the Hema and the Lendu people erupted into violence in the Ituri district in the eastern part of the country; this was further complicated by rebel involvement and other political and economic factors, spawning an additional conflict in a region already mired in the civil war.

 Kabila was assassinated in January 2001. He was succeeded by his son, Joseph, who immediately declared his commitment to finding a peaceful end to the war. Soon after Joseph Kabila assumed power, the Rwandan and Ugandan governments and the rebels agreed to a UN-proposed pull-out plan, but it was never fully actualized. Finally, in December 2002, an agreement reached in Pretoria, South Africa, provided for the establishment of a power-sharing transitional government and an end to the war; this agreement was ratified in April 2003. A transitional constitution was also adopted that month, and an interim government was inaugurated in July, with Kabila as president. UN peacekeeping troops continued to maintain a presence in the country.

      Although the civil war was technically over, the country was devastated. More than three million people were estimated to have been killed; those who survived were left to struggle with homelessness, starvation, and disease. The new government was fragile, the economy was in shambles, and societal infrastructure was destroyed. With international assistance, Kabila was able to make considerable progress toward reforming the economy and began the work of rebuilding the country. However, his government was not able to exercise any real control of much of the country and had to cope with fighting that remained in the east, as well as two failed coup attempts in 2004. Nevertheless, a new, formal constitution was promulgated in 2006, and Kabila was victorious in presidential elections held later that year. In January 2008 a peace agreement aimed at ending the fighting in the eastern part of the country was signed by the government and more than 20 rebel groups. The fragile truce was broken later that year when rebels led by Laurent Nkunda renewed their attacks, displacing tens of thousands of residents and international aid workers.

René Lemarchand Ed.

Additional Reading

Irving Kaplan (ed.), Zaïre: A Country Study, 3rd ed. (1979); Georges Laclavère (ed.), Atlas de la République du Zaïre (1978); and Bernd Wiese, Zaire: Landesnatur, Bevölkerung, Wirtschaft (1980), are useful introductions. J. Vanderlinden (ed.), Du Congo au Zaïre, 1960–1980: essai de bilan (1980), reports on all aspects of the country. Lucien Cahen, Géologie du Congo Belge (1954), is a thorough study of the country's geology, rock formation, and mineralogy. Franz Bultot, Atlas climatique du bassin Congolais, 4 vol. (1971–77), offers a detailed study of meteorologic conditions. Ethnographic and sociological studies include Jan Vansina, Introduction à l'ethnographie du Congo (1966); Jean-Luc Vellut, Femmes coloniales au Congo Belge (1987); and Valdo Pons, Stanleyville: An African Urban Community Under Belgian Administration (1969), a minor classic of social anthropology. Michael G. Schatzberg, Politics and Class in Zaire (1980), analyzes the linkages between class formation and development. Studies of Congolese politics include Daniel Biebuyck and Mary Douglas, Congo: Tribes and Parties (1961); and Herbert F. Weiss, Political Protest in the Congo (1967). Joseph Cornet, Art of Africa: Treasures from the Congo, trans. from French (1971), is a remarkable attempt to uncover the cultural explanation and meaning of Congolese art. Michel Lonoh (Lonoh Malangi Bokolenge), Essai de commentaire de la musique congolaise moderne (1969), provides a comprehensive essay on the development of Congolese popular music.Bernd Michael Wiese

Ruth Slade, English-speaking Missions in the Congo Independent State (1878–1908) (1959), analyses Baptist missionary activity in the lower Congo. Slade's book King Leopold's Congo (1962, reprinted 1974); Roger Anstey, King Leopold's Legacy: The Congo Under Belgian Rule, 1908–1960 (1966); and Neal Ascherson, The King Incorporated (1963), provide excellent coverage of the Congo Free State. Wm. Roger Louis and Jean Stengers (eds.), E.D. Morel's History of the Congo Reform Movement (1968), is an important study of the merchant criticism of Leopold's Congo and the role of Robert Casement. The most useful account of colonial rule is the classic by Crawford Young, Politics in the Congo (1965), to which must be added René Lemarchand, Political Awakening in the Belgian Congo (1964, reprinted 1982). Selected aspects of the Congo crisis are discussed in Alan P. Merriam, Congo: Background of Conflict (1961); Ernest W. Lefever, Crisis in the Congo (1965); Jules Gérard-Libois, Katanga Secession, trans. from French (1966); Rajeshwar Dayal, Mission for Hammarskjöld (1976); and Madeleine Kalb, The Congo Cables (1982). Benoît Verhaegen, Rébellions au Congo, 2 vol. (1966–69), is a documentary study of the postindependence rebellions. Thomas Kanza, The Rise and Fall of Patrice Lumumba: Conflict in the Congo, expanded ed. (1977), is a personal account by a participant driven to exile. Postindependence politics in Zaire are meticulously dissected by Michael G. Schatzberg, The Dialectics of Oppression in Zaire (1988); Jean-Claude Willame, Patrimonialism and Political Change in the Congo (1972); and Crawford Young and Thomas Turner, The Rise and Decline of the Zairian State (1985). Nzongola-Ntalaja (ed.), The Crisis in Zaire: Myths and Realities (1986), collects essays by international experts on postcolonial Zaire.René Lemarchand

officially  Republic of the Congo,  French  République du Congo,  
Congo, flag of the Republic of the   country lying astride the Equator in west-central Africa. It is bordered to the west by Gabon, to the northwest by Cameroon, to the north by the Central African Republic, and to the east and south by the Democratic Republic of the Congo. To the southwest it shares a border with the Angolan enclave of Cabinda; the republic also has a coastline 100 miles (160 kilometres) long on the Atlantic Ocean. The Congo is sparsely inhabited, with somewhat more than half of its population concentrated in the towns. The national capital of Brazzaville is an important inland port on the Congo River. The country is often called Congo (Brazzaville) to distinguish it from the other Congo republic, which is called Congo (Kinshasa).

The land


      The country is fringed by a narrow coastal plain 40 miles (64 kilometres) wide, which stretches for about 100 miles between Gabon and Cabinda. The plain rises gradually from the sea to the Mayombé Massif, a low mountain range that parallels the coast. The Mayombé peaks are quite sharp and are separated by deep river gorges. At the southern end of the range, Mount Foungouti attains 3,051 feet (930 metres). The northern peaks are lower; among them, Mount Moguindou rises to 2,132 feet (650 metres).

      East of the Mayombé Massif lies the Niari valley, a 125-mile-wide depression. Toward the north the terrain rises gradually to the Chaillu Massif, which reaches elevations between 1,600 and 2,300 feet on the Gabon border; toward the south the depression rises to the Cataractes Plateau. The valley is an important passage route between the inland plateaus and the coast.

      Beyond the Niari valley is a series of plateaus about 1,600 feet above sea level, separated by the deeply eroded valleys of tributaries of the Congo River. The Bembe Plateau lies between the Niari valley and the Chaillu Massif, while the Batéké Plateau stretches northward along the Congo River from Brazzaville to Mpouya.

      The northeast is composed of the western reaches of the Congo basin; from the western mountains and plateaus a vast 60,000-square-mile plain slopes eastward to the Congo River. Cut by numerous Congo tributaries, the plain is swampy and floods annually.

Drainage and soils
 The country's drainage system is dominated by the Congo River. The Congo's main tributary, the Ubangi (Ubangi River) (Oubangui) River, flows southward from the Central African Republic and forms the country's eastern border until it reaches the town of Liranga, where it joins the Congo proper. The main river continues southward to Malebo (Malebo Pool) (Stanley) Pool, a shallow 300-square-mile lake, and on to Livingstone Falls before turning southwest through Congo (Kinshasa) to enter the Atlantic Ocean. The major right-bank tributaries of the Congo, all within the republic, include the Sangha, Likouala, Alima, Nkéni, Léfini, Djoué, and Foulakari rivers.

      The coastal watershed is formed by the Kouilou River, which flows southwestward for about 450 miles from its source in the plateau region to Kayes, where it empties into the Atlantic. Through the Niari valley to Makabana, where it joins the Louessé River to form the Kouilou proper, it is called the Niari River. The stream is broken by numerous waterfalls, and the banks are irregular. The mouth is blocked to navigation by sandspits formed by the strong Benguela Current.

      About two-thirds of the country is covered with coarse-grained soils that contain sand and gravel. Lateritic soils, with a high proportion of iron and aluminum sesquioxides, characterize low-lying areas. Because of the hot and humid climate, organic matter is decomposed by rapid bacterial action before it can accumulate into humus; moreover, topsoil is washed away by the heavy rains. In the savanna regions, the fertile alluvial soils are threatened with erosion by wind as well as rain. A diverse pattern of coarse- and fine-grained soils covers the plateaus and hills.

      The tropical climate is characterized by heavy rainfall and high temperatures and humidity. The Equator passes across the country just north of Liranga. In the north the dry season extends from November through March and the rainy season from April through October, whereas in the south the contrary is true. On both sides of the Equator, however, local climates with two dry and two wet seasons may be found.

      Annual rainfall is abundant throughout the country, but seasonal and regional variations are important. Precipitation averages more than 48 inches (1,200 millimetres) annually and often surpasses 80 inches.

      Temperatures are relatively stable with little variation between seasons. Much greater variation occurs between day and night, when the difference between the high and low readings averages about 27° F (15° C). Over most of the country, annual average temperatures range between 68° and 81° F (20° and 27° C), although in the south the cooling effect of the Benguela Current may produce readings as low as 54° F (12° C). The average daily humidity is about 80 percent.

Plant and animal life
      Nearly two-thirds of the country is covered with tropical rainforest. The dense growth of African oak, red cedar, walnut, softwood okoume, or gaboon mahogany, and hardwood limba (Terminalia superba) provides an evergreen canopy over the sparse undergrowth of leafy plants and vines. The coast and the swampy areas contain coconut palms, mangrove forests, and tall grasses and reeds. The plateau areas and the Niari valley are covered with grasses and widely spaced broad-leaved trees.

      The forests contain several varieties of monkey, chimpanzee, gorilla, elephant, okapi, wild boar, and buffalo. Wildlife in the savanna regions includes several varieties of antelope, jackal, wild dog, hyena, and cheetah. On the plateaus, rhinoceroses and giraffes are numerous, but lions are scarce. Birdlife includes the predatory eagle, hawk, and owl, the scavenging vulture, and the wading heron.

      Freshwater fish include perch, catfish, sunfish, and mudskippers. Crocodiles live throughout the Congo River. The numerous snakes include such poisonous varieties as cobra, green mamba, and puff adder, as well as species of python. Among the insects, the most dangerous are the tsetse fly, which causes sleeping sickness in human beings and a similar disease, called nagana, in cattle, and the mosquito, which carries malaria and yellow fever.

Settlement patterns
      The country's four main regions developed around the historical concentrations of the main ethnic clusters. The southern region between Brazzaville and the coast is inhabited by the Kongo peoples. Also in the south, the Teke inhabit the Batéké Plateau region. In the north, the Ubangi groups inhabit the Congo River basin to the west of Mossaka, while the Binga Pygmies and the Sanga are scattered through the northern Congo basin. Precolonial trade between north and south stimulated both cooperation and competition, while French favouritism toward the peoples of the southwest enhanced interregional rivalries. Massive internal migration and urbanization following independence has, however, attenuated such conflicts.

      Settlement of the Congo landscape is very uneven. The southwestern quarter of the country is home to 70 percent of the population. In the north and northeast, population is sparse. Congo is also highly urbanized by African standards; a majority of the population lives in cities, and because the urban growth rate far exceeds that of the country as a whole, urbanization continues to intensify. Since this growth has been chiefly the result of internal migration, most rural communities have ties to the larger national community and economy of the cities.

      The major cities are Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire on the Atlantic coast, Nkayi (formerly Jacob) in the Niari valley, and Loubomo (formerly Dolisie) in the Mayombé region. Colonial creations by and large, the cities reflect French influence: a central administrative and commercial core is surrounded by residential areas. Before independence there was a marked difference between the spacious, planned European neighbourhoods and the less regimented, more populous African parts of town. Since 1960, however, greater social and economic mobility in the African population, attempts at urban renewal, and massive rural-to-urban migration have blurred these distinctions.

The people

Ethnic and linguistic composition
      About half of the Congo's (Congo) inhabitants belong to the Kongo peoples, whose major subgroups include the Sundi, Kongo, Lali, Kougni, Bembe, Kamba, Dondo, Vili, and Yombe. The Ubangi people include the Makoua, Kouyou, Mboshi, Likouala, Ngala, and Bonga. The Teke and the Sanga, or Gabonese Bantu, are also divided into various subgroups. The Binga Pygmies live in small bands, usually as clients of surrounding peoples. Most of the Europeans in the Congo are French who live in the main cities. There are also small populations of foreign Africans, Portuguese, and Chinese.

      Except for the Pygmies, all the indigenous peoples speak their own Bantu languages. Intergroup communication and trade fostered the development of two trade languages, Lingala (Lingala language) and Monokutuba. Lingala is spoken north of Brazzaville, and Monokutuba is common in the area between the capital and the coast. French is the official language and the medium of school instruction at all levels, as well as the language of the African upper class and the European community.

      About half of the population practices classical African religions. The Christian community is composed of about two-thirds Roman Catholics and one-third Protestants, including members of the Evangelical Church of the Congo. There are also independent African churches: the Church of Jesus Christ on Earth by the Prophet Simon Kimbangu, the largest independent church in Africa, is a member of the World Council of Churches. Other independent churches include the Matsouana Church and the Bougist Church. Most of the small Muslim community is made up of foreigners who reside in Brazzaville or Pointe-Noire.

Demographic trends
      Like many African countries, Congo has a fast-growing, relatively young population. Earlier in the 20th century, however, the country was part of the low fertility belt, a region stretching from Gabon to Uganda where many societies experienced little or no population growth. Life expectancy, among the lowest on the continent prior to 1950, has improved steadily in the last half of the 20th century and is now about average for mainland sub-Saharan Africa. Urban in-migration has long been an important demographic trend. During the colonial era, the new colonial cities, and Brazzaville in particular, attracted African migrants. Congo is today among the most urban countries of sub-Saharan Africa.

The economy
      Petroleum and mining are the major export industries, followed by forestry and commercial agriculture. Light manufacturing (mostly shoes), sugar processing, and assembly industries also assumed greater importance in the 1980s. These activities, however, employed only a small fraction of the labour force, most of which was engaged in agriculture and the non-salaried informal urban economy.

      In the late 1980s, following a fall in world oil prices, Congo experienced a major financial crisis. Negotiations for aid from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank produced agreements to privatize portions of the national economy and to reduce the national bureaucracy. Such agreements may have improved the ability of Congo to compete in the international economy; at the same time, they did little to ameliorate the poverty of much of the population, despite an upswing in petroleum revenues in the late 1990s.

      Important resources include petroleum and natural gas. Large reserves of potash (potassium chloride) are found at Tchitondi (Holle), 30 miles northeast of Pointe-Noire. Iron ore is found in the south and in the western Sangha basin. Minor deposits of gold and diamonds are located in the Kouilou valley, and there are copper and lead deposits west of Brazzaville. Oil reserves are found in the coastal zone. There are also deposits of zinc, tin, uranium, bauxite, and titanium (a metallic element used in alloys).

      Forests of both softwoods and hardwoods cover nearly two-thirds of the country. The rivers and lakes are home to important fish resources. Power resources consist of petroleum, wood, charcoal, and the hydroelectric potential of Congo's rivers, which generate nearly all of the country's electricity.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
      For the most part, agriculture is subsistence in nature and occupies about three-fifths of the work force. Poor soil and the lack of fertilizers produce low yields; the country is not self-sufficient in food production. Most of the cultivated land is in family holdings that are too small for mechanized farming; international development strategies, which are shaped by reliance on large-scale production, have yet to devise plans to reach such small-scale cultivators. In the savanna, land is cleared by burning, and women work the fields with hand tools. Cassava (manioc) is the basic food crop everywhere but in the south, where bananas and plantains are prevalent. Rice is grown in the Niari valley and in the north around Djambala. The diet is supplemented with yams, taros, sweet potatoes, corn (maize), peanuts (groundnuts), and fruit. Livestock consists of sheep, goats, pigs, and poultry. The government has sponsored the raising of cattle since the introduction in the 1960s of n'dama cattle—a breed resistant to the tsetse fly.

      The major cash crops are cacao, coffee, peanuts, palm kernels, tobacco, and sugarcane. All are grown in modest amounts. Other cash crops include rice, bananas, and cotton. Commercial agriculture, including cattle ranching, is concentrated in the Niari valley.

      Forestry products accounted for more than 60 percent of the total exports in the late 1960s. Twenty years later, petroleum made up more than 90 percent of exports. Although forest reserves are extensive, inadequate transportation and flood conditions limit exploitation in the north; hence forestry operations are concentrated in the south. Congo is the world's largest producer of limba and (after Gabon) the second largest producer of okoume. Products include logs, sawn wood, and veneers. Forestry was largely under French control until the 1960s, when African participation began to increase.

      Commercial marine fishing is conducted off Pointe-Noire. The catch includes tuna, bass, soles, and sardines. Freshwater fishing on the rivers, lakes, and swamps is largely a subsistence activity.

      Potash is mined, and petroleum is the most important export. Copper, zinc, lead, and iron ore are also extracted on a small scale.

      The small manufacturing sector is hampered by limited domestic markets, dependence upon foreign investment, and the lack of skilled labour. Most factories are located in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, Kayes, Loubomo, and cities in the Niari valley. Products include processed foods, beverages, cigarettes, textiles and clothing, footwear, processed wood and paper, chemicals, cement and bricks, glassware, and metal goods such as nails and metal furniture. The first petroleum refinery went into operation in 1976 at Pointe-Noire. Handicrafts produced by individual artisans include carvings, pottery, needlework, tiles, and bricks.

      The road system is most developed in the south. Major routes link Brazzaville with Pointe-Noire and Loubomo with the Gabon border. Many roads are impassable during the rainy season.

      Railways are also concentrated in the south. The major Congo-Ocean Railway line runs for about 320 miles from Brazzaville west through Nkayi and Loubomo to Pointe-Noire. There is also a 175-mile branch line from Favre north to Mbinda on the Gabon border. These railways offer important transshipment services for neighbouring countries, contributing significant revenues. They are also important to mining and industrial development, for most industrial towns are located along them.

      Water transportation has long linked Congo, Chad, and the Central African Republic. The rivers, however, are often broken by rapids and are subject to seasonal variations in flow. Brazzaville is the most important inland port. Linked to Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, by ferry, it is there also that passengers and freight traveling downriver from Bangui, in the Central African Republic, are transshipped overland by rail to the ocean port of Pointe-Noire. This seaport is the major transshipment centre for these three countries as well as western Cameroon.

Administration and social conditions

      Under the constitution of 2002, Congo is a republic. The executive branch of the government is represented by the president, who is popularly elected to a seven-year term and serves as both chief of state and head of government. The president appoints the Council of Ministers. The legislative branch is bicameral and consists of the Senate and the National Assembly; members are elected to serve six-year and five-year terms, respectively. Congo's judicial system includes the Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal, and the Constitutional Court. For administrative purposes, Congo is divided into 11 départements and six communes. Brazzaville, the capital of Congo, has status as both a commune and a department.

      Since becoming a multiparty state in 1990, Congo has had more than 100 political parties. Among the most active are the Democratic and Patriotic Forces (FDP), the Congolese Movement for Democracy and Integral Development (MCDDI), the Pan-African Union for Social Development (UPADS), Rally for Democracy and Social Progress (RDPS), the Union for Democracy and Republic (UDR), and the Union of Democratic Forces (UFD).

      Education is free and compulsory for students between the ages of 6 and 16. The six-year primary education course includes instruction in agriculture, manual skills, and domestic science. On the secondary level courses are offered in vocational training, academic and technical training, general education, and teacher training. Institutions of higher learning include the Marien Ngouabi University in Brazzaville and colleges and centres for specialized and technical learning. Congo enjoys a literacy rate much higher than most countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Health and welfare
      The most common health problems are respiratory diseases, malaria, tuberculosis, and intestinal parasites—all preventable maladies. Other diseases include trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), yellow fever, leprosy, yaws, and AIDS. Disease control is difficult because most water sources are polluted and sanitation is poor, even in the cities. The country's two largest hospitals are in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire. Other health facilities include regional health centres, infirmaries, dispensaries, maternal and child-care centres, and private clinics. Mobile health units combat communicable diseases in remote areas.

      Welfare services provided by the government, the labour union, and employers are largely limited to wage earners in the formal sector and their families. Benefits include old-age pensions, life insurance, worker's compensation, and family-allowance payments. Government-sponsored social workers operate among the poor.

Cultural life
      Precolonial artistic expression emphasized ceremonial music, dance, sculpture, and oral literature. Christianity and colonialism had a great impact on these art forms. The carving of ritual objects became commercialized, and music and dance altered as a result of the introduction of Western instruments and musical styles. In the 1980s the Brazzaville region, along with Kinshasa, across the river in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, became a vital centre of contemporary African music. There are two libraries in Brazzaville, and a national museum contains collections of prehistoric objects as well as precolonial and contemporary art.

André Fu-Kiau kia Bunseki-L Dennis D. Cordell


Early history
      Human habitation of the Congo basin came relatively late in the Sangoan era (100,000 to 40,000 BP), perhaps because of the dense forest. The people who used the large-core, bifacial Sangoan tools probably subsisted by food gathering and digging up roots; they were not hunters. Refined versions of this tradition continued through the Lupemban (40,000 to 25,000 BP) and Tshitolian eras. Only late in the first millennium did agriculture emerge in the savanna adjacent to the lower Congo River.

      The early inhabitants were farmer-trappers, fishing peoples, and Pygmy hunters. People lived in households including kin and unrelated individuals; at the centre of the household was a “big man,” who represented the group. Mobility—of individuals, groups, goods, and ideas—figured prominently and created a common social environment. Such intercommunication is evident from the closely related Bantu languages of the region. Speakers of the Eastern (Ubangian) languages lived in the north but maintained ties with their forest neighbours.

      Larger-scale societies emerged between AD 1000 and 1500; they were based on clans whose members lived in different villages, village clusters with chiefs, and small forest principalities. Chiefdoms on the southern fringes became more complex; three kingdoms eventually developed: Loango (Loango, Kingdom of), at the mouth of the Kouilou River on the Atlantic coast; Kongo, which had its beginnings in the first millennium, in the far southwest; and Tio, which grew out of small chiefdoms on the plains north of Malebo (Stanley) Pool. Rulers derived power from control over spirit cults, but trade eventually became a second pillar of power.

      In 1483 the Portuguese landed in Kongo. Initially, relations between the Kongolese and Portuguese rulers were good. Characterized by the exchange of representatives and the sojourn of Kongolese students in Portugal, this period was a harbinger of late 20th-century technical assistance. Unfortunately, the need of Portuguese planters on São Tomé for slaves undermined this amicable arrangement by the 1530s.

      Between 1600 and 1800, the slave trade expanded. Local leaders challenged state control. Among the Tio the western chiefs became more autonomous. Contact with Europeans also introduced New World food crops. Corn (maize) and cassava allowed greater population densities. This, along with the emergence of a “market” for foodstuffs, led to greater use of slaves, intensified women's work, and changed the sexual division of labour.

The colonial era
      By the early 19th century the Congo River had become a major avenue of commerce between the coast and the interior. Henry Morton Stanley, a British journalist, explored the river in 1877, but France acquired jurisdiction in 1880 when Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza (Brazza, Pierre de) signed a treaty with the Tio ruler. The formal proclamation of the colony of French Congo came in 1891. Early French efforts to exploit their possession led to ruthless treatment of the local people, and Brazza returned in 1905 to lead an inquiry. In 1910 the French joined Congo with neighbouring colonies as the federation of French Equatorial Africa, with its capital at Brazzaville.

      The French were preoccupied with acquiring labour. Forced labour, head taxes, compulsory production of cash crops, and draconian labour contracts forced Africans to build infrastructure and to participate in the colonial economy. No project was more costly in African lives than the Congo-Ocean Railway, built between 1921 and 1934 from Pointe-Noire to Brazzaville; between 15,000 and 20,000 Africans died.

      In 1940 Congo rallied to the Free French forces. Charles de Gaulle, Governor-General Félix Eboué, and African leaders held a conference in Brazzaville in 1944 to announce more liberal policies. In 1946 Congo became an overseas territory of France with representatives in the French Parliament and an elected Territorial Assembly. Ten years later, the loi cadre (enabling act) endowed the colony with an elected government. Congo became a republic within the French Community in 1958 and acquired complete political independence in August 1960.

Congo since independence
      Two major parties existed at independence: the African Socialist Movement (Mouvement Socialiste Africain; MSA) and the Democratic Union for the Defense of African Interests (Union Démocratique pour la Défense des Intérêts Africains; UDDIA). The two parties pitted the north against the south, an opposition that stemmed from the privileged place occupied by the southern Kongo and Vili in the colonial era. The two parties also had different political philosophies. The MSA favoured a powerful state and a partially publicly owned economy; the UDDIA advocated private ownership and close ties with France. UDDIA leader Fulbert Youlou formed the first parliamentary government in 1958; in 1959 he became premier and president.

      Corruption, incompetence, mass disapproval, general strikes, and lack of French support led to Youlou's ouster in 1963. His successor, Alphonse Massamba-Débat, shifted policies to the left, notably by founding the National Revolutionary Movement (Mouvement National de la Révolution; MNR) as the sole party. The country sought assistance from the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China and voted with the more radical African states in world forums. Regionally, Congo extended concrete support and offered a geographic base for the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the Marxist movement that won independence for that country. Congo also offered asylum to the Patrice Lumumba followers who fled the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (from 1971 to 1997 called Zaire) and plotted for a return to power there.

      Regionalism and policy failures led the military to replace Massamba-Débat with Major Marien Ngouabi in 1968. Ngouabi maintained a socialist line, renaming the country the People's Republic of the Congo on December 31, 1969; the Congolese Labour Party (PCT) replaced the MNR at the same time. Ngouabi was a northerner, and his regime shifted control of the country away from the south. Such moves created opposition among workers and students in the highly politicized environment of Brazzaville and other southern urban centres. Ngouabi was assassinated in March 1977. His successor, the more conservative Colonel Joachim Yhombi-Opango, soon clashed with the PCT, and Colonel Denis Sassou-Nguesso (Sassou-Nguesso, Denis) replaced Yhombi-Opango in 1979.

      Although Sassou-Nguesso represented the more militant wing of the PCT—and immediately introduced a new constitution intended as a first step toward building a Marxist-Leninist society—he improved relations with the Western nations and with France. The regime's political language became more moderate, but the inefficient state enterprises created by earlier socialist policies remained in place in the early 1980s. They had been subsidized by petroleum production, but the drop in oil and other raw material prices led to economic crisis. The external debt surpassed $1.5 billion in 1985, and debt service consumed 45 percent of state revenue. Negotiations with the International Monetary Fund the following year led to an agreement to help the national economy in exchange for cuts in public spending and the state bureaucracy. At the end of the 1980s, however, the debt had tripled in size and the economic crisis continued.

Dennis D. Cordell
      In 1991 a new constitution was drafted, which included dropping the word “People's” from the country's official name; it was adopted by referendum in March 1992. Pascal Lissouba succeeded Sassou-Nguesso following elections that August. A period of shaky parliamentary government ensued, which ended when Sassou-Nguesso led a successful insurrection against the government in 1997 and reinstated himself as president late in the year. A devastating civil war raged for the next two years, in which forces loyal to the ousted Lissouba battled government troops for control of the country. A truce was signed between the warring parties in late 1999 in an attempt to reopen a national dialogue. Additional talks held in early 2000 were positive, and by the end of the year the government was able to focus on drafting a new constitution and planning for the country's future.

      The new constitution was promulgated in January 2002 and Sassou-Nguesso was reelected president in March; around the same time, rebels resumed fighting in southern Congo. Legislative elections were held soon after, although they were marred by violence and allegations of fraud. The violence and fighting continued throughout the summer, primarily in the southern part of the country, and finally ceased when a peace agreement was reached in early 2003. Congo's newfound peace provided stability and cultivated the opportunity for progress, and the country enjoyed an improved economic and political climate.


Additional Reading
Pierre Vennetier (ed.), Atlas de la République Populaire du Congo (1977), graphically presents many aspects of the country. Pierre Vennetier, Les Hommes et leurs activités dans le nord du Congo-Brazzaville (1965), is an ethnographic study. René Gauze, The Politics of Congo-Brazzaville (1973), examines politics and government. Marcel Soret, Histoire du Congo: capitale Brazzaville (1978), although a bit dated, remains the only book-length history of the country. Georges Dupré, Un Ordre et sa destruction (1982), is an encyclopaedic effort to show the effect of colonialism and capitalist penetration on a Congolese society, the Nzabi. Jan Vansina, The Tio Kingdom of the Middle Congo, 1880–1892 (1973), provides a micro-level study of Tio villages and traditions paired with a macro-level analysis of the place of the Tio kingdom in the early years of colonial conquest and administration. William J. Samarin, The Black Man's Burden (1989), discusses colonial labour on the Congo and Ubangi rivers during 1880–1900. Dennis D. Cordell, “Extracting People from Precapitalist Production: French Equatorial Africa from the 1890s to the 1930s,” in Dennis D. Cordell and Joel W. Gregory (eds.), African Population and Capitalism: Historical Perspectives (1987), pp. 137–152, includes a separate section on the demographic impact of the Congo-Ocean Railway.Dennis D. Cordell

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Universalium. 2010.

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