Democratic Republic of Congo

Democratic Republic of Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (French: Rpublique dmocratique du Congo), is a country in central Africa with a small length of Atlantic coastline. It is the third largest country (by area) in Africa. The name "Congo" refers to the river Congo, also known as the river Zaire. Though it is located in the Central African UN sub region, the nation is economically and regionally affiliated with Southern Africa as a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Background History

Established as a Belgian colony in 1908, the then-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 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. The National Assembly was installed in September 2006 and Kabila was inaugurated president in December 2006. Provincial assemblies were constituted in early 2007, and elected governors and national senators in January 2007. The most recent national elections were held on 28 November 2011.


Country Name:

  • conventional long form: Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • conventional short form: DRC
  • local long form: Republique Democratique du Congo
  • local short form: RDC
  • former: Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, Congo/Leopoldville, Congo/Kinshasa, Zaire


  • name: Kinshasa
  • population: 8,401,000
  • geographic coordinates: 4 19 S, 15 18 E
  • time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)


  • 30 June 1960 (from Belgium)

Government Type:

  • republic

Executive Branch:

  • chief of state: President Joseph Kabila (since 17 January 2001)
  • head of government: Prime Minister Adolphe Muzito (since 10 October 2008)
  • cabinet: Ministers of State appointed by the president
  • elections: under the new constitution the president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); elections last held on 30 July 2006 and on 29 October 2006 (next to be held on 27 November 2011); prime minister appointed by the president

Legislative Branch:

  • structure: bicameral legislature consists of a Senate and a National Assembly

Judicial Branch:

  • structure: Constitutional Court; Appeals Court; Council of State; High Military Court

People & Society


  • 73,599,190 (global rank: 19)
  • growth rate: 2.579% (global rank: 25)


  • noun: Congolese (singular and plural)
  • adjective: Congolese or Congo

Major Cities:

  • Kinshasa (capital) 8.401 million; Lubumbashi 1.543 million; Mbuji-Mayi 1.488 million; Kananga 878,000; Kisangani 812,000

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


  • Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 20%, Kimbanguist 10%, Muslim 10%, other (includes syncretic sects and indigenous beliefs) 10%


  • French (official), Lingala (a lingua franca trade language), Kingwana (a dialect of Kiswahili or Swahili), Kikongo, Tshiluba

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 55.74 years (global rank: 198)
  • male: 54.28 years
  • female: 57.23 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 76.63 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 13)
  • male: 80.36 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 72.79 deaths/1,000 live births


  • adult prevalence rate: NA
  • people living with AIDS: NA


  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 67.2%
  • male: 80.9%
  • female: 54.1%


The economy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo - a nation endowed with vast potential wealth - is slowly recovering from decades of decline. Systemic corruption since independence in 1960 and conflict that began in May 1997 has dramatically reduced national output and government revenue, increased external debt, and resulted in the deaths of more than 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 began implementing reforms. Progress has been 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 from 2006-08, however, the government's review of mining contracts that began in 2006, combined with a fall in world market prices for the DRC's key mineral exports temporarily weakened output in 2009, leading to a balance of payments crisis. The recovery in mineral prices beginning in mid 2009 boosted mineral exports, and emergency funds from the IMF boosted foreign reserves. An uncertain legal framework, corruption, and a lack of transparency in government policy are long-term problems for the mining sector and for the economy as a whole. The global recession cut economic growth in 2009 to less than half its 2008 level, but growth returned to 6-7% in 2010-11. The DRC signed a Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility with the IMF in 2009 and received $12 billion in multilateral and bilateral debt relief in 2010.

Gross Domestic Product:

  • GDP (PPP): $25.19 billion (global rank: 115)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $300 (global rank: 224)
  • real growth rate: 6.5% (global rank: 30)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 37.5%, industry: 27.6%, services: 35%


  • currency: Congolese Francs (CDF)
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 1,000


  • population below poverty line: NA
  • unemployment rate: NA

Agricultural Products:

  • coffee, sugar, palm oil, rubber, tea, cotton, cocoa, quinine, cassava (tapioca), manioc, bananas, plantains, peanuts, root crops, corn, fruits; wood products


  • mining (diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt, coltan, zinc, tin, diamonds), mineral processing, consumer products (including textiles, plastics, footwear, cigarettes, metal products, processed foods and beverages), timber, cement, commercial ship repair

Exports Commodities:

  • diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt, wood products, crude oil, coffee

Imports Commodities:

  • foodstuffs, mining and other machinery, transport equipment, fuels



  • Central Africa, northeast of Angola


  • total: 2,344,858 sq km (global rank: 11)
  • land: 2,267,048 sq km
  • water: 77,810 sq km
  • comparative: slightly less than one-fourth the size of the US


  • 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)

Land Use:

  • arable land: 2.86%
  • permanent crops: 0.47%
  • other: 96.67%

Natural Resources:

  • cobalt, copper, niobium, tantalum, petroleum, industrial and gem diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, uranium, coal, hydropower, timber

Current Environmental 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

Transnational Issues

  • international disputes: heads of the Great Lakes states and UN pledged in 2004 to abate tribal, rebel, and militia fighting in the region, including northeast Congo, where the UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), organized in 1999, maintains over 16,500 uniformed peacekeepers; members of Uganda's Lords Resistance Army forces continue to seek refuge in Congo's Garamba National Park as peace talks with the Uganda government evolve; 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; Uganda and DRC dispute Rukwanzi island in Lake Albert and other areas on the Semliki River with hydrocarbon potential; boundary commission continues discussions over Congolese-administered triangle of land on the right bank of the Lunkinda river claimed by Zambia near the DRC village of Pweto; DRC accuses Angola of shifting monuments
  • refugees (country of origin): 132,295 (Angola); 37,313 (Rwanda); 17,777 (Burundi); 13,904 (Uganda); 6,181 (Sudan); 5,243 (Republic of Congo)
  • internally displaced persons: 1.4 million (fighting between government forces and rebels since mid-1990s; most IDPs are in eastern provinces)
  • human trafficking: Democratic Republic of the Congo is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking for the purposes of forced labor and forced prostitution; the majority of this trafficking is internal, and much of it is perpetrated by armed groups and government forces outside government control within the country's unstable eastern provinces; Congolese women and children are exploited in forced prostitution, domestic servitude, and forced agricultural labor in Angola, South Africa, Republic of the Congo, as well as East African, Middle Eastern, and European nations

Published: Friday, February 13, 2009