Established as a Belgian colony in 1908, the Republic of the Congo gained its independence in 1960, but its early years were marred by political and social instability. Col. Joseph MOBUTU seized power and declared himself president in a November 1965 coup. He subsequently changed his name - to MOBUTU Sese Seko - as well as that of the country - to Zaire. MOBUTU retained his position for 32 years through several sham elections, as well as through the use of brutal force. Ethnic strife and civil war, touched off by a massive inflow of refugees in 1994 from fighting in Rwanda and Burundi, led in May 1997 to the toppling of the MOBUTU regime by a rebellion backed by Rwanda and Uganda and fronted by Laurent KABILA. He renamed the country the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), but in August 1998 his regime was itself challenged by a second insurrection again backed by Rwanda and Uganda. Troops from Angola, Chad, Namibia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe intervened to support KABILA's regime. A cease-fire was signed in July 1999 by the DRC, Congolese armed rebel groups, Angola, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zimbabwe but sporadic fighting continued. Laurent KABILA was assassinated in January 2001 and his son, Joseph KABILA, was named head of state. In October 2002, the new president was successful in negotiating the withdrawal of Rwandan forces occupying eastern Congo; two months later, the Pretoria Accord was signed by all remaining warring parties to end the fighting and establish a government of national unity. A transitional government was set up in July 2003. Joseph KABILA as president and four vice presidents represented the former government, former rebel groups, the political opposition, and civil society. The transitional government held a successful constitutional referendum in December 2005 and elections for the presidency, National Assembly, and provincial legislatures in 2006. KABILA was inaugurated president in December 2006. The National Assembly was installed in September 2006. Its president, Vital KAMERHE, was chosen in December. Provincial assemblies were constituted in early 2007, and elected governors and national senators in January 2007.
A wave of early peoples is identified in the Northern and North-Western parts of Central Africa during the second millennium BC. They were food producing (pearl millet), with some domestic stock, and developed a kind of arboriculture mainly based on the oil palm. Several centuries later, around 2,500 BC, bananas were known to some in south Cameroon.
From 3,500 BC to 2,000 BC, starting from a nucleus area in South Cameroon on both banks of the Sanaga River, the first Neolithic peopling of northern and western Central Africa can be followed south-eastwards and southwards. In D.R. Congo the first villages in the vicinity of Mbandaka and the Tumba Lake are known as the 'Imbonga Tradition', from around 2,600 BC. In Lower Congo, north of the Angolan border, it is the 'Ngovo Tradition' around 2,300 BC that shows the arrival of the Neolithic wave of advance.
In Kivu, across the country to the east, the 'Urewe Tradition' villages first show up around 2,600 BC. The few archaeological sites known in Congo are a western extension of the 'Urewe' Culture which is mainly known in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Western Kenya and Tanzania. From the start of this tradition, the people knew iron smelting, as is evidenced by several iron smelting furnaces excavated in Rwanda and Burundi.
The earliest evidence further to the west is known in Cameroon, and near to the small town of Bouar in Central Africa. Though an ongoing discussion will ultimately give us a better chronology for the start of iron production in Central Africa, the Cameroonian data places iron smelting north of the Equatorial Forest around 2,600 BC to 2,500 BC . This technology developed independently from the previous Neolithic expansion some 900 years later. As fieldwork done by a German team shows, the Congo river network was slowly settled by food-producing villagers going upstream in the forest. Work from a Spanish project in the Ituri area further east suggests villages reached there only around 800 BC.
The supposedly Bantu-speaking Neolithic, and then iron-producing, villagers added to and displaced the indigenous Pygmy populations (also known in the region as the "Bitwa" or "Twa") into secondary parts of the country. Subsequent migrations from the Darfur and Kordofan regions of Sudan into the north-east, as well as East Africans migrating into the eastern Congo added to the mix of ethnic groups. The Bantus imported a mixed economy made up of agriculture, small stock raising, fishing, fruit collecting, hunting and arboriculture before 3,500 BC; iron-working techniques, possibly from West Africa, are a much later addition. The villagers established the Bantu language family as the primary set of tongues for the Congolese.Historical nation-states of present-day
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Kingdom of Kongo (1395-1914)
Luba Empire (1585-1889)
Lunda Empire (c. 1665-1887)
Yeke Kingdom (1856-1891)
Congo Free State (1885-1908)
Belgian Congo (1908-1960)
Republic of the Congo (1960-1964)
Democratic Republic of the Congo (1964-1971)
Republic of Zaire (1971-1997)
Democratic Republic of the Congo (1997-present)
In the fifth century, a society began to develop in a region that initially encompassed only a 200 kilometer (125 mi) area along the banks of the Lualaba River in the modern day Katanga Province. This culture, known as the Upemba, would eventually evolve into the more significant Luba kingdom.
The Congo Free State (1877 – 1908)
Clearing tropical forests ate away at profit margins. However, ample plots of cleared land were already available. Above, a Congolese farming village (Baringa, Equateur) is emptied and levelled to make way for a rubber plantation.
Main articles: Colonisation of the Congo, Congo Free State, and Belgian Congo
European exploration and administration took place from the 1870s until the 1920s — first by Sir Henry Morton Stanley who undertook his explorations mainly under the sponsorship of King Leopold II of Belgium, who desired what was to become the Congo as a colony. In a succession of negotiations, Leopold, professing humanitarian objectives in his capacity as chairman of the Association Internationale Africaine, played one European rival against the other. The Congo territory was acquired formally by Leopold at the Conference of Berlin in 1885. He made the land his private property and named it the Congo Free State. Leopold's regime began undertaking various projects, such as the railway that ran from the coast to Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) which took years to complete. Nearly all these projects were aimed at increasing the capital Leopold and his associates could extract from the colony, leading to exploitation of Africans. In the Free State, the local population was brutalized in exchange for rubber, a growing market with the development of rubber tires. The selling of the rubber made a fortune for Leopold, who built several buildings in Brussels and Ostend to honour himself and his country. To enforce the rubber quotas, the Force Publique (FP) was called in. The FP was an army, but its aim was not to defend the country, but to terrorise the local population. The Force Publique made the practice of cutting off the limbs of the natives as a means of enforcing rubber quotas a matter of policy; this practice was widespread. During the period between 1885 and 1908, between five and 15 (the commonly accepted figure is about ten) million Congolese died as a consequence of exploitation and diseases. A government commission later concluded that the population of the Congo had been "reduced by half" during this brutal period.The actions of the Free State's administration sparked international protests led by E. D. Morel and British diplomat/Irish patriot Roger Casement, whose 1904 report on the Congo condemned the practice, as well as famous writers such as Mark Twain. Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness also takes place in Congo Free State. In 1908, the Belgian parliament, which was at first reluctant, bowed to international pressure (especially from Great Britain) by taking over the Free State from the king as a Belgian colony. From then on, it became the Belgian Congo, under the rule of the elected Belgian government.
The Belgian administration: Belgian Congo (1908 – 1960)
Conditions in the Congo improved following the Belgian government's takeover. Select Bantu languages were taught in primary schools, a rare occurrence in colonial education. Colonial doctors were to greatly reduce the spread of African trypanosomiasis, commonly known as sleeping sickness. The colonial administration implemented a variety of economic reforms that focused on the improvement of infrastructure: railways, ports, roads, mines, plantations and industrial areas. The Congolese people, however, lacked political power and faced legal discrimination. All colonial policies were decided in Brussels and Leopoldville. The Belgian Colony-secretary and Governor-general, neither of whom was elected by the Congolese people, wielded absolute power. Among the Congolese people, resistance against their undemocratic regime grew over time. In 1955, the Congolese upper class (the so-called "évolués"), many of whom had been educated in Europe, initiated a campaign to end the inequality.
During World War I, the Congolese Force Nationale successfully attacked, invaded and occupied German East Africa, which included the present-day Rwanda and Burundi. Belgium continued to administer these colonies under League of Nations mandates after the war, instituting racial policies that set the stage for the Rwandan genocide of 1994.
During World War II, the small Congolese army achieved several victories against the Italians in North Africa. The Belgian Congo, which was also rich in uranium deposits, supplied the uranium that was used by the United States to build the atomic weapons that were used in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
Political crises (1960 – 1965)
In May 1960, the MNC party or Mouvement National Congolais, led by Patrice Lumumba, won the parliamentary elections, and Lumumba was appointed Prime Minister. Joseph Kasavubu, of the ABAKO (Alliance des Bakongo) party, was elected President by the parliament. Other parties that emerged include the Parti Solidaire Africain (or PSA, led by Antoine Gizenga) and the Parti National du Peuple (or PNP led by Albert Delvaux and Laurent Mbariko). (Congo 1960,dossiers du CRISP,Belgium) The Belgian Congo achieved independence on June 30, 1960 under the name "Republic of Congo" or "Republic of the Congo" ("République du Congo"). As the French colony of Middle Congo (Moyen Congo) also chose the name "Republic of Congo" upon receiving its independence, the two countries were more commonly known as "Congo-Léopoldville" and "Congo-Brazzaville", after their capital cities. In 1966, Joseph Mobutu changed the country's official name to "Democratic Republic of the Congo", and in 1971 it was changed again to "Republic of Zaïre". (in the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz- Michela Wrong) Shortly after independence, the provinces of Katanga (with Moise Tshombe) and South Kasai engaged in secessionist struggles against the new leadership.
Subsequent events led to a crisis between President Kasavubu and Prime Minister Lumumba. On September 5, 1960, Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba from office. Lumumba declared Kasavubu's action "unconstitutional" and a crisis between the two leaders developed. (Secession au Katanga- J.Gerald-Libois.-Brussels-CRISP) Lumumba had previously appointed Joseph Mobutu chief of staff of the new Congo army, Armee Nationale Congolaise (ANC). Taking advantage of the leadership crisis between Kasavubu and Lumumba, Mobutu garnered enough support within the army to create sentiment sufficient to inspire mutinous action. With financial support from the United States and Belgium, Mobutu made payments to his soldiers in order to generate their loyalty. The aversion of Western powers towards communism and leftist ideology in general influenced their decision to finance Mobutu's quest to maintain "order" in the new state by neutralizing Kasavubu and Lumumba in a coup by proxy.
On January 17, 1961, Katangan forces and Belgian paratroops, supported by foreign interests intent on copper and diamond mines in Katanga and South Kasai, kidnapped and executed Patrice Lumumba. Amidst widespread confusion and chaos, a temporary government led by technicians (College des Commissaires) with Evariste Kimba, and several short governments Joseph Ileo, Cyrille Adoula, Moise Tshombe took over in quick succession. See the book The Assassination of Lumumba by Ludo de Witte. The execution is known to have been witnessed by at least one CIA observer.
Zaire (1971 – 1997)
Following five years of extreme instability and civil unrest, Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, now Lieutenant General, overthrew Kasavubu in a 1965 coup. He had the support of the United States on account of his staunch opposition to Communism, which would presumably make him a roadblock to Communist schemes in Africa. It is also argued that the Western support for Mobutu was also related to his allowing businesses to export the many natural resources of Zaire without worrying about environmental, labour, or other regulations. A one-party system was established, and Mobutu declared himself head of state. He would periodically hold elections in which he was the only candidate.
Relative peace and stability was achieved; however, Mobutu's government was guilty of severe human rights violations, political repression, a cult of personality (every Congolese bank note displayed his image, his portrait was displayed in all public buildings, most businesses, and on billboards, and it was common for ordinary people to wear his likeness on their clothing), and excessive corruption. Corruption became so prevalent the term "le mal Zairois" or "Zairean Sickness" was coined, reportedly by Mobutu himself. As soon as 1984, he was said to have $4 billion (USD), an amount close to the country's national debt, deposited in a personal Swiss bank account. International aid, most often in the form of loans, enriched Mobutu while national infrastructure such as roads deteriorated to as little as one-fourth of what had existed in 1960. The term "kleptocracy" was in fact coined to describe Mobutu's embezzlement of government funds.
In a campaign to identify himself with African nationalism, starting on June 1, 1966, Mobutu renamed the nation's cities (Léopoldville became Kinshasa [the country was now Democratic Republic of The Congo – Kinshasa], Stanleyville became Kisangani, and Elisabethville became Lubumbashi). This renaming campaign was completed in the 1970s. In 1971, he renamed the country the Republic of Zaire, its fourth name change in 11 years and its sixth overall. The Congo River became the Zaire River. In 1972, Mobutu renamed himself Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. relations with Kinshasa cooled, as Mobutu was no longer deemed necessary as a Cold War ally, and his opponents within Zaire stepped up demands for reform. This atmosphere contributed to Mobutu's declaring the Third Republic in 1990, whose constitution was supposed to pave the way for democratic reform. The reforms turned out to be largely cosmetic, and Mobutu's rule continued until conflict forced him to flee Zaire in 1997. The name of the nation was returned to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as the name Zaire carried strong connections to the rule of Mobutu.
Conflict and transition (1994 – present)
Since 1994, the Congo has been wrought by ethnic strife and civil war, touched off by a massive inflow of refugees fleeing the Rwandan Genocide. The government of Mobutu Sese Seko was toppled by a rebellion led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila in May 1997; he changed the country's name back to Democratic Republic of The Congo-Kinshasa (the capital of Congo/Zaire). His former allies soon turned against him, however, and his regime was challenged by a Rwandan and Ugandan-backed rebellion in August 1998. Troops from Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Chad, and Sudan intervened to support the new regime in Kinshasa. See Foreign relations of Congo and First Congo War.
UN peacekeepers (from Pakistan) to the DRC in 2005
A cease-fire was signed on July 10, 1999; nevertheless, fighting continued apace especially in the eastern part of the country, financed by revenues from the illegal extraction of minerals such as coltan, cassiterite and diamonds. Kabila was assassinated in January 2001 and his son Joseph Kabila was named head of state. The new president quickly began overtures to end the war and an accord was signed in South Africa in 2002. By late 2003, a fragile peace prevailed as the Transitional Government was formed. Kabila appointed four vice presidents, two of whom had been fighting to oust him until July 2003. Much of the east of the country remains insecure, primarily due to the Ituri conflict and the continued activity of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda in the Kivus.
This period of conflict has been the bloodiest in history since World War II. Almost 5 million people have died as a result of the fighting. The United Nations is concerned that 1000 people a day are still dying as a result of the conflict and described 2006 as a "make or break point" for the continuing humanitarian crisis.
On July 30, 2006, the Congo held its first multi-party elections since independence in 1960. After this Joseph Kabila took 45% of the votes and his main opponent Jean-Pierre Bemba took 20%. That was the origin of a two-day fight between the two factions from August 20, 2006 in the streets of the capital, Kinshasa. Sixteen people died before police and the UN mission, MONUC, took control of the city and stopped the violence
A second round of elections between the two leading candidates, Kabila and Bemba, was held on 29 October, 2006. Rioters destroyed polling stations in Congo's east and electoral officials organized a revolt over burned ballots in the north. Despite that, the presidential vote was called a success. Both Kabila and Bemba assured that they would respect the result, but Bemba's militants have begun riots against the the Supreme Court's decision that will legitimise Kabila's 58%-42% winning result in the run-off.
Bemba has argued for his supporters to stop fighting the government and vowed to take his seat as an official opposition leader. But despite successful elections held in the second half of 2006 and an overall increase in the level of stability, over a million people remained internally displaced in the east of the country, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.
On July 30, 2007, a report by Yakin Erturk, special rapporteur for the United Nations Human Rights Council on violence against women, found extreme sexual violence against women is pervasive in the DRC and local authorities do little to stop it or prosecute those responsible. Her report also found 'women are gang raped, often in front of their families and communities. In numerous cases, male relatives are forced at gun point to rape their own daughters, mothers or sisters.' Survivors told Ertuck that after rape, many women are held as slaves by the gangs and forced to eat excrement or the flesh of their murdered relatives.
Finally, a peace deal was signed on 23 January 2008 to end the Kivu conflict, including provisions for an immediate ceasefire, the phased withdrawal of all rebel forces in North Kivu province, the resettlement of thousands of villagers, and immunity for rebel forces. This formally ended all conflicts in the D.R. of the Congo.
Location: Central Africa, northeast of Angola
Geographic coordinates: 0 00 N, 25 00 E
Map references: Africa
Area: total: 2,345,410 sq km
land: 2,267,600 sq km
water: 77,810 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly less than one-fourth the size of the US
Land boundaries: total: 10,730 km
border countries: Angola 2,511 km (of which 225 km is the boundary of Angola's discontiguous Cabinda Province), Burundi 233 km, Central African Republic 1,577 km, Republic of the Congo 2,410 km, Rwanda 217 km, Sudan 628 km, Tanzania 459 km, Uganda 765 km, Zambia 1,930 km
Coastline: 37 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: boundaries with neighbors
Climate: tropical; hot and humid in equatorial river basin; cooler and drier in southern highlands; cooler and wetter in eastern highlands; north of Equator - wet season (April to October), dry season (December to February); south of Equator - wet season (November to March), dry season (April to October)
Terrain: vast central basin is a low-lying plateau; mountains in east
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Pic Marguerite on Mont Ngaliema (Mount Stanley) 5,110 m
Natural resources: cobalt, copper, niobium, tantalum, petroleum, industrial and gem diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, uranium, coal, hydropower, timber
Land use: arable land: 2.86%
permanent crops: 0.47%
other: 96.67% (2005)
Irrigated land: 110 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 1,283 cu km (2001)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.36 cu km/yr (53%/17%/31%)
per capita: 6 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: periodic droughts in south; Congo River floods (seasonal); in the east, in the Great Rift Valley, there are active volcanoes
Environment - current issues: poaching threatens wildlife populations; water pollution; deforestation; refugees responsible for significant deforestation, soil erosion, and wildlife poaching; mining of minerals (coltan - a mineral used in creating capacitors, diamonds, and gold) causing environmental damage
Environment - international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification
Geography - note: straddles equator; has very narrow strip of land that controls the lower Congo River and is only outlet to South Atlantic Ocean; dense tropical rain forest in central river basin and eastern highlands
After 4 years of interim between two constitutions that established different political institution at the various levels of all branches of government, as well as different administrative divisions of the country, politics in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are settling into a stable presidential democratic republic.
The transitional constitution established a system composed of a bicameral legislature with a Senate and a National Assembly. The Senate has, among other things, the charge of drafting the new constitution of the country. The executive branch is vested in a 60-member cabinet, headed by a pentarchy of a President, and four vice presidents. The President is also the Commander-in Chief of the Armed forces. The unusual organization of the executive — considering the large number of vice presidents — has earned it the very official nickname of "The 1 + 4".
The transition constitution also established a relatively independent judiciary, headed by a Supreme Court with constitutional interpretation powers.
The 2006 constitution, also known as the Constitution of the Third Republic, came into effect in February 2006. It has concurrent authority, however, with the transitional constitution until the inauguration of the elected officials who will emerge from the July 2006 elections. Under this constitution, the legislature will remain bicameral; the executive will be concomitantly undertaken by a President and the government; and the latter will be led by a Prime Minister, appointed from the party with the majority at the National Assembly. The government – not the President – is responsible to the Parliament.
The provincial governments will gain new powers, under the new decentralized model, with the creation of provincial parliaments, with oversight over the Governor, head of the provincial government, whom they elect.
The new constitution also sees the disappearance of the Supreme Court, which is divided into three new institutions. The constitutional interpretation prerogative of the Supreme Court will be held by the Constitutional Court.
note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 47.6% (male 15,718,614/female 15,557,058)
15-64 years: 49.9% (male 16,224,734/female 16,571,549)
65 years and over: 2.6% (male 680,313/female 999,244) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 16.1 years
male: 15.8 years
female: 16.4 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 3.39% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 42.96 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 10.34 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 1.28 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.979 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.681 male(s)/female
total population: 0.985 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 65.52 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 71.55 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 59.32 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 57.2 years
male: 54.97 years
female: 59.5 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 6.37 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 4.2% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 1.1 million (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 100,000 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: malaria, plague, and African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness)
water contact disease: schistosomiasis
animal contact disease: rabies (2008)
Nationality: noun: Congolese (singular and plural)
adjective: Congolese or Congo
Ethnic groups: over 200 African ethnic groups of which the majority are Bantu; the four largest tribes - Mongo, Luba, Kongo (all Bantu), and the Mangbetu-Azande (Hamitic) make up about 45% of the population
Religions: Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 20%, Kimbanguist 10%, Muslim 10%, other (includes syncretic sects and indigenous beliefs) 10%
Languages: French (official), Lingala (a lingua franca trade language), Kingwana (a dialect of Kiswahili or Swahili), Kikongo, Tshiluba
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write French, Lingala, Kingwana, or Tshiluba
total population: 65.5%
female: 55.1% (2003 est.)
Country name: conventional long form: Democratic Republic of the Congo
conventional short form: none
local long form: Republique Democratique du Congo
local short form: none
former: Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, Congo/Leopoldville, Congo/Kinshasa, Zaire
Government type: republic
Capital: name: Kinshasa
geographic coordinates: 4 19 S, 15 18 E
time difference: UTC+1 (six hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: 10 provinces (provinces, singular - province) and 1 city* (ville); Bandundu, Bas-Congo, Equateur, Kasai-Occidental, Kasai-Oriental, Katanga, Kinshasa*, Maniema, Nord-Kivu, Orientale, Sud-Kivu
note: according to the Constitution adopted in December 2005, the current administrative divisions will be subdivided into 26 new provinces by 2009
Independence: 30 June 1960 (from Belgium)
National holiday: Independence Day, 30 June (1960)
Constitution: 18 February 2006
Legal system: a new constitution was adopted by referendum 18 December 2005; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal and compulsory
Executive branch: chief of state: President Joseph KABILA (since 17 January 2001); note - following the assassination of his father, Joseph KABILA succeeded to the presidency which he retained through the 2003-2006 transition; he was subsequently elected president in October 2006
head of government: Prime Minister Antoine GIZENGA (since 30 December 2006);
cabinet: Ministers of State appointed by the president
elections: under the new constitution the president is elected by popular vote to a five-year term (eligible for a second term); elections last held 30 July 2006 with a second round held on 29 October 2006 (next to be held in 2011); prime minister appointed by the president
election results: results of 29 October 2006 elections (second round); Joseph KABILA 58%, Jean-Pierre BEMBA Gombo 42%
note: Joseph KABILA succeeded his father, Laurent Desire KABILA, following the latter's assassination in January 2001; negotiations with rebel leaders led to the establishment of a transitional government in July 2003 with free elections held on 30 July 2006 and 29 October 2006 confirming Joseph KABILA as president
Legislative branch: bicameral legislature consists of a National Assembly (500 seats; 61 members elected by majority vote in single-member constituencies, 439 members elected by open list proportional-representation in multi-member constituencies; to serve five-year terms) and a Senate (108 seats; members elected by provincial assemblies to serve five-year terms)
elections: National Assembly - last held 30 July 2006 (next to be held in 2011); Senate - last held 19 January 2007 (next to be held by 2012)
election results: National Assembly - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PPRD 111, MLC 64, PALU 34, MSR 27, FR 26, RCD 15, independents 63, others 160 (includes 63 political parties that won 10 or fewer seats); Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PPRD 22, MLC 14, FR 7, RCD 7, PDC 6, CDC 3, MSR 3, PALU 2, independents 26, others 18 (political parties that won a single seat)
Judicial branch: Constitutional Court; Appeals Court or Cour de Cassation; Council of State; High Military Court; plus civil and military courts and tribunals
Political parties and leaders: Christian Democrat Party or PDC [Jose ENDUNDO]; Congolese Rally for Democracy or RCD [Azarias RUBERWA]; Convention of Christian Democrats or CDC; Forces of Renewal or FR [Mbusa NYAMWISI]; Movement for the Liberation of the Congo or MLC [Jean-Pierre BEMBA]; People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy or PPRD [Joseph KABILA]; Social Movement for Renewal or MSR [Pierre LUMBI]; Unified Lumumbist Party or PALU [Antoine GIZENGA]; Union for Democracy and Social Progress or UDPS [Etienne TSHISEKEDI]; Union of Mobutuist Democrats or UDEMO [MOBUTU Nzanga]
Political pressure groups and leaders: NA
International organization participation: ACCT, ACP, AfDB, AU, CEPGL, COMESA, FAO, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO (suspended), ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, NAM, OIF, OPCW, PCA, SADC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Faida MITIFU
chancery: 1800 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009: note - Consular Office at 1726 M Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20036
telephone:  (202) 234-7690, 7691
FAX:  (202) 234-2609
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador William GARVELINK
embassy: 310 Avenue des Aviateurs, Kinshasa
mailing address: Unit 31550, APO AE 09828
telephone:  (81) 556-0151
FAX:  (81) 556-0175
Flag description: sky blue field divided diagonally from the lower hoist corner to upper fly corner by a red stripe bordered by two narrow yellow stripes; a yellow, five-pointed star appears in the upper hoist corner
The culture of the Democratic Republic of the Congo reflects the diversity of its hundreds of ethnic groups and their differing ways of life throughout the country — from the mouth of the River Congo on the coast, upriver through the rainforest and savanna in its centre, to the more densely populated mountains in the far east. Since the late 19th century, traditional ways of life have undergone changes brought about by colonialism, the struggle for independence, the stagnation of the Mobutu era, and most recently, the First and Second Congo Wars. Despite these pressures, the customs and cultures of the Congo have retained much of their individuality. The country's 60 million inhabitants are mainly rural. The 30 percent who live in urban areas have been the most open to Western influences.
Another notable feature in Congo culture is its sui generis music. The DROC has blended its ethnic musical sources with Cuban rumba, and meringue to give birth to soukous. Influential figures of soukous and its offshoots (n'dombolo, rumba rock...) are Franco Luambo, Tabu Ley, Lutumba Simaro, Papa Wemba, Koffi Olomide, Kanda Bongo, Ray Lema, Mpongo Love, Abeti Masikini, Reddy Amisi,[Pasnas] Pepe Kalle and Nyoka Longo. Africa produces music genres which are direct derivatives of Congolese soukous. Some of the African bands sing in Lingala, the main language in the DRC. The same Congolese soukous, under the guidance of "le sapeur", has set up the tone for a generation of young guys always dressed up in expensive designer's clothes.
Economy - overview: The economy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo - a nation endowed with vast potential wealth - is slowly recovering from two decades of decline. Conflict, which began in August 1998, dramatically reduced national output and government revenue, increased external debt, and resulted in the deaths of more than 3.5 million people from violence, famine, and disease. Foreign businesses curtailed operations due to uncertainty about the outcome of the conflict, lack of infrastructure, and the difficult operating environment. Conditions began to improve in late 2002 with the withdrawal of a large portion of the invading foreign troops. The transitional government reopened relations with international financial institutions and international donors, and President KABILA has begun implementing reforms, although progress is slow and the International Monetary Fund curtailed their program for the DRC at the end of March 2006 because of fiscal overruns. Much economic activity still occurs in the informal sector, and is not reflected in GDP data. Renewed activity in the mining sector, the source of most export income, boosted Kinshasa's fiscal position and GDP growth. Government reforms and improved security may lead to increased government revenues, outside budget assistance, and foreign direct investment, although an uncertain legal framework, corruption, and a lack of transparency in government policy are continuing long-term problems.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $19.07 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $9.85 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 7% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $300 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 55%
services: 34% (2000 est.)
Labor force: 15 million (2006 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: NA%
Unemployment rate: NA%
Population below poverty line: NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 18.2% (2006 est.)
Budget: revenues: $700 million
expenditures: $2 billion (2006 est.)
Agriculture - products: coffee, sugar, palm oil, rubber, tea, quinine, cassava (tapioca), palm oil, bananas, root crops, corn, fruits; wood products
Industries: mining (diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt, coltan zinc), mineral processing, consumer products (including textiles, footwear, cigarettes, processed foods and beverages), cement, commercial ship repair
Industrial production growth rate: NA%
Electricity - production: 352 million kWh (2005)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 1.8%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption: 572 million kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports: 418 million kWh (2005)
Oil - production: 235,900 bbl/day (2005)
Oil - consumption: 11,000 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports: 20,750 bbl/day (2004 est.)
Oil - imports: 8,220 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil - proved reserves: 187 million bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 0 cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 950.5 million cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Exports: $1.587 billion f.o.b. (2006)
Exports - commodities: diamonds, copper, crude oil, coffee, cobalt
Exports - partners: Belgium 29.4%, China 21.1%, Brazil 12.3%, Chile 7.8%, Finland 7.2%, US 4.9% (2006)
Imports: $2.263 billion f.o.b. (2006)
Imports - commodities: foodstuffs, mining and other machinery, transport equipment, fuels
Imports - partners: South Africa 17.7%, Belgium 10.9%, France 8.5%, Zimbabwe 8.1%, Zambia 6.9%, Kenya 6.8%, Cote d'Ivoire 4.4% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient: $1.828 billion (2005)
Debt - external: $10 billion (2006 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $NA
Currency (code): Congolese franc (CDF)
Currency code: CDF
Exchange rates: Congolese francs per US dollar - NA (2007), 464.69 (2006), 437.86 (2005), 401.04 (2004), 405.34 (2003)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Telephones - main lines in use: 9,700 (2006)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 4.415 million (2006)
Telephone system: general assessment: Inadequate; state-owned fixed-line operator has been unable to expand fixed-line connections and there are now fewer than 10,000 connections; given the backdrop of a wholly inadequate fixed-line infrastructure, the use of cellular services has surged and subscribership now exceeds 4 million - roughly 7 per 100 persons
domestic: barely adequate wire and microwave radio relay service in and between urban areas; domestic satellite system with 14 earth stations
international: country code - 243; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2007)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 3, FM 11, shortwave 2 (2001)
Radios: 18.03 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 4 (2001)
Televisions: 6.478 million (1997)
Internet country code: .cd
Internet hosts: 2,209 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2001)
Internet users: 180,000 (2006)
Airports: 237 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 26
over 3,047 m: 4
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 17
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 1 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 211
1,524 to 2,437 m: 17
914 to 1,523 m: 95
under 914 m: 99 (2007)
Pipelines: gas 62 km; oil 71 km (2007)
Railways: total: 5,138 km
narrow gauge: 3,987 km 1.067-m gauge (858 km electrified); 125 km 1.000-m gauge; 1,026 km 0.600-m gauge (2006)
Roadways: total: 153,497 km
paved: 2,794 km
unpaved: 150,703 km (2004)
Waterways: 15,000 km (2005)
Merchant marine: total: 1 ship (1000 GRT or over) 1,004 GRT/1,640 DWT
by type: petroleum tanker 1
foreign-owned: 1 (Congo, Republic of the 1) (2007)
Ports and terminals: Banana, Boma, Bukavu, Bumba, Goma, Kalemie, Kindu, Kinshasa, Kisangani, Matadi, Mbandaka
Military branches: Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC): Army, Navy, Congolese Air Force (Force Aerienne Congolaise, FAC) (2008)
Military service age and obligation: 18-45 years of age for military service
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 11,365,610 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 18-49: 6,464,223 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 2.5% (2006)
Disputes - international: heads of the Great Lakes states and UN pledge to abate tribal, rebel, and militia fighting in the northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC); in 2006, the UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) maintained over 18,000 uniformed peacekeepers in the region, first deployed in 1999; despite significant repatriation efforts by governments and international organizations, in 2006, Angolans, Rwandans, Sudanese, and residents of other neighboring states reside as refugees in the DROC; members of Uganda's Lords Resistance Army forces take refuge in DROC's Garamba National Park; the location of the boundary in the broad Congo River with the Republic of the Congo is indefinite except in the Pool Malebo/Stanley Pool area
Refugees and internally displaced persons: refugees (country of origin): 106,772 (Angola), 42,360 (Rwanda), 19,032 (Burundi), 18,954 (Uganda), 11,723 (Sudan), 5,243 (Republic of Congo)
IDPs: 1.1 million (fighting between government forces and rebels since mid-1990s; most IDPs are in eastern provinces) (2006)
Illicit drugs: one of Africa's biggest producers of cannabis, but mostly for domestic consumption; while rampant corruption and inadequate supervision leaves the banking system vulnerable to money laundering, the lack of a well-developed financial system limits the country's utility as a money-laundering center