Democratic Republic of the Congo

« Back to Glossary Index

**Historical Overview and Early Civilization**:
– The region was inhabited by Mbuti peoples before Bantu expansion.
– The Kingdom of Kongo ruled from the 14th to 19th centuries.
– It was colonized by Belgium and named the Congo Free State in 1885.
– Achieved independence in 1960, facing secessionist movements and coups.
– Endured the First and Second Congo Wars, resulting in millions of casualties.
– The Bantu peoples arrived in Central Africa in the first millennium BC.
– Adoption of pastoralism and Iron Age techniques accelerated Bantu propagation.
– Metal tools revolutionized agriculture and displaced hunter-gatherer groups.

**Political History and Governance**:
– Mobutu Sese Seko imposed a dictatorship from 1965 to 1997.
– Overthrown in 1997, the country was renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
– President Kabila governed from 2001 to 2019, succeeded by Félix Tshisekedi.
– Ongoing human rights abuses, conflicts, and displacement.
– Member of various international organizations like the UN and African Union.
– Lumumba era marked by independence, Soviet Union ties, and political crisis.
– Mobutu’s autocracy characterized by US support, single-party rule, and corruption.
– Zaire known for rampant corruption and mismanagement under Mobutu.

**Geography and Natural Resources**:
– The DRC is the second-largest country in Africa and the 11th largest globally.
– Rich in natural resources, mainly exporting raw minerals.
– Ongoing military conflict in Eastern DR Congo since 2015.
– Located in central sub-Saharan Africa with high precipitation.
– Home to the Congo rainforest, the second-largest in the world.
– Congo River system dominates the region topographically.
– Rich in mineral wealth like cobalt, copper, and gold.
– Significant mineral resources accessible for mining, especially in the Katanga region.

**Economic Challenges and Humanitarian Crisis**:
– Capital Kinshasa is the economic center, exporting raw minerals with China as the top importer.
– Political instability, lack of infrastructure, and corruption hinder development.
– Classified as a least developed country by the UN, with a low Human Development Index ranking.
– Reports of widespread disease, famine, and high death rates.
– Extensive human rights violations including rape and killings.
– Armed troops killed civilians and kidnapped people.
– UN peacekeeping efforts faced challenges due to cost-cutting measures.

**Recent Developments and International Relations**:
– General election held in 2018, with Félix Tshisekedi announced as the winner.
– Tshisekedi sworn in as president in 2019 amid suspicions of rigged results.
– Measles outbreak in 2019 causing nearly 5,000 deaths, followed by Ebola outbreaks.
– COVID-19 pandemic reaching DRC in March 2020.
– Agreements with Kenya in April 2021 to increase international trade and security.
– Tshisekedi re-elected in 2023 with 73% of the vote.
– Attempted coup led by Christian Malanga in May 2024.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as Congo-Kinshasa, Congo-Zaire, Congo DR, DR Congo, DRC, or simply either Congo or the Congo, is a country in Central Africa. By land area, the DRC is the second-largest country in Africa and the 11th-largest in the world. With a population of around 105 million, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the most populous Francophone country in the world, and the fourth-largest in Africa. The national capital and largest city is Kinshasa, which is also the economic center. The country is bordered by the Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania (across Lake Tanganyika), Zambia, Angola, the Cabinda exclave of Angola, and the South Atlantic Ocean.

Democratic Republic of the Congo
République démocratique du Congo (French)
Motto: "Justice – Paix – Travail" (French)
"Justice – Peace – Work"
Anthem: Debout Congolais (French)
"Arise, Congolese"
and largest city
4°19′S 15°19′E / 4.317°S 15.317°E / -4.317; 15.317
Official languagesFrench
Recognised national languages
GovernmentUnitary semi-presidential republic
• President
Félix Tshisekedi
Sama Lukonde (acting)
National Assembly
• Colonised
17 November 1879
1 July 1885
15 November 1908
30 June 1960
20 September 1960
• Democratic Republic
1 August 1964
27 October 1971
17 May 1997
18 February 2006
• Total
2,345,409 km2 (905,567 sq mi) (11th)
• Water (%)
• 2024 estimate
Increase 105,061,492 (15th)
• Density
46.3/km2 (119.9/sq mi)
GDP (PPP)2023 estimate
• Total
Increase $150.883 billion (90th)
• Per capita
Increase $1,509 (188th)
GDP (nominal)2023 estimate
• Total
Increase $67.512 billion (86th)
• Per capita
Decrease $675 (190th)
Gini (2012)Positive decrease 42.1
HDI (2022)Increase 0.481
low (180th)
CurrencyCongolese franc (CDF)
Time zoneUTC+1 to +2 (WAT and CAT)
Date formatdd/mm/yyyy
Driving sideright

Centered on the Congo Basin, the territory of the DRC was first inhabited by Central African foragers around 90,000 years ago and was reached by the Bantu expansion about 3,000 years ago. In the west, the Kingdom of Kongo ruled around the mouth of the Congo River from the 14th to 19th centuries. In the northeast, center, and east, the kingdoms of Azande, Luba, and Lunda ruled from the 16th and 17th centuries to the 19th century. King Leopold II of Belgium formally acquired rights to the Congo territory from the colonial nations of Europe in 1885 and declared the land his private property, naming it the Congo Free State. From 1885 to 1908, his colonial military forced the local population to produce rubber and committed widespread atrocities. In 1908, Leopold ceded the territory, which thus became a Belgian colony.

Congo achieved independence from Belgium on 30 June 1960 and was immediately confronted by a series of secessionist movements, the assassination of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, and the seizure of power by Mobutu Sese Seko in a 1965 coup d'état. Mobutu renamed the country Zaire in 1971 and imposed a harsh personalist dictatorship until his overthrow in 1997 by the First Congo War. The country then had its name changed back and was confronted by the Second Congo War from 1998 to 2003, which resulted in the deaths of 5.4 million people. The war ended under President Joseph Kabila, who governed the country from 2001 to 2019 and under whom human rights in the country remained poor and included frequent abuses such as forced disappearances, torture, arbitrary imprisonment and restrictions on civil liberties. Following the 2018 general election, in the country's first peaceful transition of power since independence, Kabila was succeeded as president by Félix Tshisekedi, who has served as president since. Since 2015, the Eastern DR Congo has been the site of an ongoing military conflict in Kivu.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is extremely rich in natural resources but has suffered from political instability, a lack of infrastructure, corruption, and centuries of both commercial and colonial extraction and exploitation, followed by more than 60 years of independence, with little widespread development. Besides the capital Kinshasa, the two next largest cities, Lubumbashi and Mbuji-Mayi, are both mining communities. The DRC's largest export is raw minerals, with China accepting over 50% of its exports in 2019. In 2021, DR Congo's level of human development was ranked 179th out of 191 countries by the Human Development Index and is classed as a least developed country by the UN. As of 2018, following two decades of various civil wars and continued internal conflicts, around 600,000 Congolese refugees were still living in neighbouring countries. Two million children risk starvation, and the fighting has displaced 4.5 million people. The country is a member of the United Nations, Non-Aligned Movement, African Union, COMESA, Southern African Development Community, Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, and Economic Community of Central African States.

« Back to Glossary Index