||Source: US Department of State
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Location: Central Africa. Bordering nations--Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia.
Area: 2.345 sq. km. (905,063 sq. mi.; about the size of the U.S. east of the Mississippi).
Cities: Capital--Kinshasa (pop. 8 million). Regional capitals--Bandundu, Bukavu, Goma, Kananga, Kindu, Kisangani, Lubumbashi, Matadi, Mbandaka, Mbuji-Mayi.
Terrain: Varies from tropical rainforests to mountainous terraces, plateaus, savannas, dense grasslands, and mountains.
Climate: Equatorial; ranges from tropical rainforest in the Congo River basin, hot and humid in much of the north and west, cooler and drier in the south central area and the east.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Congolese.
Population (2008 est.): 66 million.
Annual growth rate (2008 est.): 3.24%.
Ethnic groups: More than 200 African ethnic groups; the Luba, Kongo, and Anamongo are some of the larger groupings of tribes.
Religions: Christian 70% (Catholic 50%, Protestant 20%); Kimbanguist 10%; other sects and traditional beliefs 10%; Muslim 10%.
Language: Official--French. National languages--Lingala, Swahili, Kikongo, Tshiluba.
Education: Literacy (2004 est.)--65.5% in French or local language. Schooling (2000 est.)--none 41.7%, primary 42.2%, secondary 15.4%, university 0.7%.
Health (2006 est.): Infant mortality rate--129/1,000 live births. Life expectancy--46.1 yrs.
Type: Republic; highly centralized with executive power vested in the president.
Independence: June 30, 1960 (from Belgium).
Constitution: June 24, 1967; amended August 1974; revised February 15, 1978; amended April 1990; transitional constitution promulgated April 1994; Constitutional Act promulgated May 1997; draft constitution proposed but not finalized March 1998; transitional constitution adopted on April 2, 2003. A new constitution was passed by the transitional parliament on May 2005. The D.R.C. held a constitutional referendum on December 18-19, 2005. Official results indicated that 84% of voters approved the constitution. The new constitution was promulgated in a ceremony on February 18, 2006.
Branches: Executive--President is head of state. Cabinet is appointed by the ruling party in the parliament. Prime minister is elected by the parliament. Legislative--The 500-member lower house of parliament was elected in July 30, 2006 national elections. Provincial Assemblies elected the Senate in October 29, 2006 elections. The Senate elected provincial governors. Judicial--Supreme Court (Cour Supreme).
Administrative subdivisions: Ten provinces and the capital city, Kinshasa.
Political parties: President Joseph Kabila's party is Parti du Peuple pour la Reconstruction et le Développement (PPRD). Two main coalitions represent President Kabila and his presidential run-off challenger, former Transitional Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba. Other opposition parties include Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social (UDPS), Forces du Futur (FDF), Forces Novatrices pour l'Union et la Solidarite (FONUS), Parti Democrate Social Chrétien (PDSC), Mouvement Social Démocratie et Développement (MSDD), Mouvement Populaire de la Révolution--Fait Prive (MPR-FP), Union des Nationalistes et des Fédéralistes Congolais (UNAFEC), and Mouvement National Congolais/ Lumumba (MNC/L). Former rebel movements-turned-political parties include the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD), Mouvement pour la Libération du Congo (MLC), and independent splinter groups of the RCD (RCD/ML, RCD/N, RCD/G).
Suffrage: 18 years of age and universal.
GDP (2007): $9.85 billion.
Annual GDP growth rate (2007): 7%.
Per capita GDP (2007): $300.
Natural resources: Copper, cobalt, diamonds, gold, other minerals; petroleum; wood; hydroelectric potential.
Agriculture: Cash crops--coffee, rubber, palm oil, cotton, cocoa, sugar, tea. Food crops--manioc, corn, legumes, plantains, peanuts.
Land use: Agriculture 3%; pasture 7%; forest/woodland 77%; other 13%.
Industry: Types--processed and unprocessed minerals; consumer products, including textiles, plastics, footwear, cigarettes, metal products; processed foods and beverages, cement, timber.
Currency: Congolese franc (FC).
Trade: Exports (2006)--$1.587 billion. Products--diamonds, cobalt, copper, coffee, petroleum. Partners--EU, Japan, South Africa, U.S., China. Imports (2006)--$2.263 billion. Products--consumer goods (food, textiles), capital equipment, refined petroleum products. Partners--EU, China, South Africa, U.S.
Total external debt (2006): $11 billion.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (D.R.C.) includes the greater part of the Congo River basin, which covers an area of almost 1 million square kilometers (400,000 sq. mi.). The country's only outlet to the Atlantic Ocean is a narrow strip of land on the north bank of the Congo River.
The vast, low-lying central area is a basin-shaped plateau sloping toward the west and covered by tropical rainforest. This area is surrounded by mountainous terraces in the west, plateaus merging into savannas in the south and southwest, and dense grasslands extending beyond the Congo River in the north. High mountains are found in the extreme eastern region.
D.R.C. lies on the Equator, with one-third of the country to the north and two-thirds to the south. The climate is hot and humid in the river basin and cool and dry in the southern highlands. South of the Equator, the rainy season lasts from October to May and north of the Equator, from April to November. Along the Equator, rainfall is fairly regular throughout the year. During the wet season, thunderstorms often are violent but seldom last more than a few hours. The average rainfall for the entire country is about 107 centimeters (42 in.).
The population of D.R.C. was estimated at 66 million in 2008. As many as 250 ethnic groups have been distinguished and named. Some of the larger groups are the Kongo, Luba, and Anamongo. Although 700 local languages and dialects are spoken, the linguistic variety is bridged both by the use of French and the intermediary languages Kikongo, Tshiluba, Swahili, and Lingala.
About 70% of the Congolese population is Christian, predominantly Roman Catholic. Most of the non-Christians adhere to either traditional religions or syncretic sects. Traditional religions include concepts such as monotheism, animism, vitalism, spirit and ancestor worship, witchcraft, and sorcery and vary widely among ethnic groups; none is formalized. The syncretic sects often merge Christianity with traditional beliefs and rituals. The most popular of these sects, Kimbanguism, was seen as a threat to the colonial regime and was banned by the Belgians. Kimbanguism, officially "the church of Christ on Earth by the prophet Simon Kimbangu," now claims about 3 million members, primarily among the Bakongo tribe of Bas-Congo and Kinshasa. In 1969, it was the first independent African church admitted to the World Council of Churches.
Before independence in 1960, education was largely in the hands of religious groups. The primary school system was well developed at independence; however, the secondary school system was limited, and higher education was almost nonexistent in most regions of the country. The principal objective of this system was to train low-level administrators and clerks. Since independence, efforts have been made to increase access to education, and secondary and higher education have been made available to many more Congolese. According to estimates made in 2000, 41.7% of the population had no schooling, 42.2% had primary schooling, 15.4% had secondary schooling, and 0.7% had university schooling. At all levels of education, males greatly outnumber females. The largest state-run universities are the University of Kinshasa, the University of Lubumbashi, and the University of Kisangani. The elite continue to send their children abroad to be educated, primarily in Western Europe.
The area known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo was populated as early as 10,000 years ago and settled in the 7th and 8th centuries A.D. by Bantus from present-day Nigeria. Discovered in 1482 by Portuguese navigator Diego Cao and later explored by English journalist Henry Morton Stanley, the area was officially colonized in 1885 as a personal possession of Belgian King Leopold II as the Congo Free State. In 1907, administration shifted to the Belgian Government, which renamed the country the Belgian Congo. Following a series of riots and unrest, the Belgian Congo was granted its independence on June 30, 1960. Parliamentary elections in 1960 produced Patrice Lumumba as prime minister and Joseph Kasavubu as president of the renamed Democratic Republic of the Congo.