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, and the political opposition. 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.
Climate:KANANGA 5 88 S, 22 41 E, 2155 feet (657 meters) above sea level.
The population of D.R.C .was
estimated at 56 million in 2002 (by the D.R.C. National Institute for
Statistics). As many as 250 ethnic groups have been distinguished and named.
Some of the larger groupings of tribes 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, 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 has no schooling, 42.2% has primary schooling, 15.4% has secondary schooling, and 0.7% has 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.
Within the first year of independence, several events destabilized the country: the army mutinied; the governor of Katanga province attempted secession; a UN peacekeeping force was called in to restore order; Prime Minister Lumumba died under mysterious circumstances; and Col. Joseph Désiré Mobutu (later Mobutu Sese Seko) took over the government and ceded it again to President Kasavubu.
Unrest and rebellion plagued the government until 1965, when Lieutenant General Mobutu, by then commander in chief of the national army, again seized control of the country and declared himself president for 5 years. Mobutu quickly centralized power into his own hands and was elected unopposed as president in 1970. Embarking on a campaign of cultural awareness, Mobutu renamed the country the Republic of Zaire and required citizens to adopt African names. Relative peace and stability prevailed until 1977 and 1978 when Katangan rebels, staged in Angola, launched a series of invasions into the Katanga region. The rebels were driven out with the aid of Belgian paratroopers.
During the 1980s, Mobutu continued to enforce his one-party system of rule. Although Mobutu successfully maintained control during this period, opposition parties, most notably the Union pour la Democratie et le Progres Social (UDPS), were active. Mobutu's attempts to quell these groups drew significant international criticism.
As the Cold War came to a close, internal and external pressures on Mobutu increased. In late 1989 and early 1990, Mobutu was weakened by a series of domestic protests, by heightened international criticism of his regime's human rights practices, and by a faltering economy. In April 1990 Mobutu agreed to the principle of a multi-party system with elections and a constitution. As details of a reform package were delayed, soldiers in September 1991 began looting Kinshasa to protest their unpaid wages. Two thousand French and Belgian troops, some of whom were flown in on U.S. Air Force planes, arrived to evacuate the 20,000 endangered foreign nationals in Kinshasa.
In 1992, after previous similar attempts, the long-promised Sovereign National Conference was staged, encompassing more than 2,000 representatives from various political parties. The conference gave itself a legislative mandate and elected Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo as its chairman, along with Etienne Tshisekedi, leader of the UDPS, as prime minister. By the end of the year Mobutu had created a rival government with its own prime minister. The ensuing stalemate produced a compromise merger of the two governments into the High Council of Republic-Parliament of Transition (HCR-PT) in 1994, with Mobutu as head of state and Kengo Wa Dondo as prime minister. Although presidential and legislative elections were scheduled repeatedly over the next 2 years, they never took place.
By 1996, the war and genocide in neighboring Rwanda had spilled over to Zaire. Rwandan Hutu militia forces (Interahamwe), who fled Rwanda following the ascension of a Tutsi-led government, were using Hutu refugees camps in eastern Zaire as bases for incursions against Rwanda.
In October 1996, Rwandan troops (RPA) entered Zaire, simultaneously with the formation of an armed coalition led by Laurent-Desire Kabila known as the Alliance des Forces Democratiques pour la Liberation du Congo-Zaire (AFDL) . With the goal of forcibly ousting Mobutu, the AFDL, supported by Rwanda and Uganda, began a military campaign toward Kinshasa. Following failed peace talks between Mobutu and Kabila in May 1997, Mobutu left the country, and Kabila marched into Kinshasa on May 17, 1997. Kabila declared himself president, consolidated power around himself and the AFDL, and renamed the country the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.). Kabila’s Army Chief and the Secretary General of the AFDL were Rwandan, and RPA units continued to operate tangentially with the D.R.C.’s military, which was renamed the Forces Armees Congolaises (FAC).
Over the next year, relations between Kabila and his foreign backers deteriorated. In July 1998, Kabila ordered all foreign troops to leave the D.R.C. Most refused to leave. On August 2, fighting erupted throughout the D.R.C. as Rwandan troops in the D.R.C. “mutinied,” and fresh Rwandan and Ugandan troops entered the D.R.C. Two days later, Rwandan troops flew to Bas-Congo, with the intention of marching on Kinshasa, ousting Laurent Kabila, and replacing him with the newly formed Rwandan-backed rebel group called the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie (RCD). The Rwandan campaign was thwarted at the last minute when Angolan, Zimbabwean, and Namibian troops intervened on behalf of the D.R.C. Government. The Rwandans and the RCD withdrew to eastern D.R.C., where they established de facto control over portions of eastern D.R.C. and continued to fight the Congolese Army and its foreign allies.
In February 1999, Uganda backed the formation of a rebel group called the Mouvement pour la Liberation du Congo (MLC), which drew support from among ex-Mobutuists and ex-FAZ soldiers in Equateur province (Mobutu’s home province). Together, Uganda and the MLC established control over the northern third of the D.R.C.
At this stage, the D.R.C. was divided de facto into three segments, and the parties controlling each segment had reached military deadlock. In July 1999, a cease-fire was proposed in Lusaka, Zambia, which all parties signed by the end of August. The Lusaka Accord called for a cease-fire, the deployment of a UN peacekeeping operation, MONUC, the withdrawal of foreign troops, and the launching of an “Inter-Congolese Dialogue” to form a transitional government leading to elections. The parties to the Lusaka Accord failed to fully implement its provisions in 1999 and 2000. Laurent Kabila drew increasing international criticism for blocking full deployment of UN troops, hindering progress toward an Inter-Congolese Dialogue, and suppressing internal political activity.
On January 16, 2001, Laurent Kabila was assassinated and succeeded by his son, Joseph Kabila. Joseph Kabila reversed many of his father’s negative policies; over the next year, MONUC deployed throughout the country, and the Inter-Congolese Dialogue proceeded. By the end of 2002, all Angolan, Namibian, and Zimbabwean troops had withdrawn from the D.R.C. Following D.R.C.-Rwanda talks in South Africa that culminated in the Pretoria Accord in July 2002, Rwandan troops officially withdrew from the D.R.C. in October 2002, although there were continued, unconfirmed reports that Rwandan soldiers and military advisers remained integrated with RCD/G forces in eastern D.R.C. Ugandan troops officially withdrew from the D.R.C. in May 2003.
In October 2001, the Inter-Congolese Dialogue began in Addis Ababa under the auspices of Facilitator Ketumile Masire (former president of Botswana). The initial meetings made little progress and were adjourned. On February 25, 2002, the dialogue was reconvened in South Africa. It included representatives from the government, rebel groups, political opposition, civil society, and Mai-Mai (Congolese local defense militias). The talks ended inconclusively on April 19, 2002, when the government and the MLC brokered an agreement that was signed by the majority of delegates at the dialogue but left out the RCD/G and opposition UDPS party, among others.
This partial agreement was never implemented, and negotiations resumed in South Africa in October 2002. This time, the talks led to an all-inclusive powersharing agreement, which was signed by delegates in Pretoria on December 17, 2002, and formally ratified by all parties on April 2, 2003. Following nominations by each of the various signatory groups, President Kabila on June 30, 2003 issued a decree that formally announced the transitional government lineup. The four vice presidents took the oath of office on July 17, 2003, and most incoming ministers assumed their new functions within days thereafter. This transitional government is slated to last until elections--the first since 1960--are to be held in 2005 or 2006.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS:
Multi-party elections in the
D.R.C. have not been held since 1960. A transitional constitution was adopted on
April 4, 2003. Extensive executive, legislative, and military powers are vested
in the president and vice presidents. The legislature does not have the power to
overturn the government through a vote of no confidence. The judiciary is
independent; the president has the power to dismiss and appoint judges. The
president is head of a 35-member cabinet of ministers.
President Joseph Kabila has made significant progress in liberalizing domestic political activity, establishing a transitional government, and undertaking economic reforms in cooperation with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, serious human rights problems remain in the security services and justice system. The eastern part of the country is characterized by ongoing violence and armed conflict, which has created a humanitarian disaster and contributed to civilian deaths (more than 3 million, according to a prominent international NGO).
Principal Government Officials
Vice President--Jean-Pierre Bemba
Vice President--Arthur Z’ahidi Ngoma
Vice President--Azarias Ruberwa
Vice President--Abdoulaye Yerodia Ndombasi
Foreign Affairs--Antoine Ghonda Mangalibi
Defense--Jean Pierre Ondekane
Finance--Pierre Andre Futa
Justice--Honorius Ksimba Ngoy
Information and Press--Vital Kamerhe
Sparsely populated in relation
to its area, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to a vast potential of
natural resources and mineral wealth. Nevertheless, the D.R.C. is one of the
poorest countries in the world, with per capita annual income of about $90 in
2002. This is the result of years of mismanagement, corruption, and war.
In 2001, the Government of the D.R.C. under Joseph Kabila undertook a series of economic reforms to reverse this steep decline. Reforms were monitored by the IMF and included liberalization of petroleum prices and exchange rates and adoption of disciplined fiscal and monetary policies. The reform program reduced inflation from over 500% per year in 2000 to only about 18% at an annual rate in the last quarter of 2002. In June 2002, the World Bank and IMF approved new credits for the D.R.C. for the first time in over a decade. Bilateral donors, whose assistance has been almost entirely dedicated to humanitarian interventions in recent years, also are beginning to fund development projects in the D.R.C. In October 2003, the World Bank launched a multi-sector plan for development and reconstruction. The Paris Club also granted the D.R.C. Highly Indebted Poor Countrystatus in July 2003. This will help alleviate the D.R.C.’s external sovereign debt burden and potentially free funds for economic development.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the Congolese economy, accounting for 56.3% of GDP in 2002. The main cash crops include coffee, palm oil, rubber, cotton, sugar, tea, and cocoa. Food crops include cassava, plantains, maize, groundnuts, and rice. Industry, especially the mining sector, is underdeveloped relative to its potential in the D.R.C. In 2002, industry accounted for only 18.8% of GDP; with only 3.9% attributed to manufacturing. Services reached 24.9% of GDP. The Congo was the world's fourth-largest producer of industrial diamonds during the 1980s, and diamonds continue to dominate exports, accounting for about half of exports ($394 million) in 2002. The Congo's main copper and cobalt interests are dominated by Gecamines, the state-owned mining giant. Gecamines production has been severely affected by corruption, civil unrest, world market trends, and failure to reinvest.
For decades, corruption and misguided policy have created a dual economy in the D.R.C. Individuals and businesses in the formal sector operated with high costs under arbitrarily enforced laws. As a consequence, the informal sector now dominates the economy. In 2002, with the population of the D.R.C. estimated at 56 million, only 230,000 Congolese working in private enterprise in the formal sector were enrolled in the social security system. Approximately 600,000 Congolese were employed by the government.
In the past year, the Congolese Government has approved a new investment code and a new mining code and has designed a new commercial court. The goal of these initiatives is to attract investment by promising fair and transparent treatment to private business. The World Bank also is supporting efforts to restructure the D.R.C.'s large parastatal sector, including Gecamines, and to rehabilitate the D.R.C.’s neglected infrastructure, including the Inga Dam hydroelectric system.
The outbreak of war in the early days of August 1998 caused a major decline in economic activity. Economic growth, however, resumed in 2002 with a three percent growth rate. The country had been divided de facto into different territories by the war, and commerce between the territories had halted. With the installation of the transitional government in July 2003, the country has been “de jure” reunified, and economic and commercial links have begun to reconnect.
In June 2000, the United Nations established a Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Congolese Resources to examine links between the war and economic exploitation. Reports issued by the panel indicate that countries involved in the war in Congo have developed significant economic interests. These interests may complicate efforts by the government to better control its natural resources and to reform the mining sector. A final panel report for 2003 is scheduled for release at the end of October 2003.
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