Congo, Democratic Republic

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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 subsequent 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 led by Laurent KABILA. He renamed the country the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), but in August 1998 his regime was itself challenged by an insurrection backed by Rwanda and Uganda. Troops from Angola, Chad, Namibia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe intervened to support the Kinshasa 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 remains as president and is joined by four vice presidents representing the former government, former rebel groups, and the political opposition. The transitional government held a successful constitutional referendum in December 2005, and plans to hold a series of elections in 2006 to determine the presidency and National Assembly seats.


Central Africa, northeast of Angola

Geographic coordinates:

0 00 N, 25 00 E


total: 2,345,410 sq km
land: 2,267,600 sq km
water: 77,810 sq km

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


37 km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: boundaries with neighbors


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)


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)

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

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


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 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 47.4% (male 14,906,488/female 14,798,210)
15-64 years: 50.1% (male 15,597,353/female 15,793,350)
65 years and over: 2.5% (male 632,143/female 933,007) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 16.2 years
male: 16 years
female: 16.4 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

3.07% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

43.69 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

13.27 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

0.23 migrant(s)/1,000 population
note: fighting between the Congolese Government and Uganda- and Rwanda-backed Congolese rebels spawned a regional war in DRC in August 1998, which left 2.33 million Congolese internally displaced and caused 412,000 Congolese refugees to flee to surrounding countries (2006 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.68 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 88.62 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 96.9 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 80.1 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 51.46 years
male: 50.01 years
female: 52.94 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

6.45 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

4.2% (2003 est.)

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) are high risks in some locations
water contact disease: schistosomiasis (2005)


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


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


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


definition: age 15 and over can read and write French, Lingala, Kingwana, or Tshiluba
total population: 65.5%
male: 76.2%
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
abbreviation: DRC

Government type:

transitional government



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


30 June 1960 (from Belgium)

National holiday:

Independence Day, 30 June (1960)


18 February 2006

Legal system:

a new constitution was adopted by referendum 18 December 2005; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations


18 years of age; universal and compulsory

Legislative branch:

a 500-member National Assembly and a 120-seat Senate established in June 2003
elections: NA; members of the National Assembly were appointed by leaders in the factions integrated into the new government

Judicial branch:

Supreme Court or Cour Supreme

Economy - overview:

The economy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo - a nation endowed with vast potential wealth - has declined drastically since the mid-1980s. The war, which began in August 1998, dramatically reduced national output and government revenue, increased external debt, and resulted in the deaths of perhaps 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 improved in late 2002 with the withdrawal of a large portion of the invading foreign troops. The transitional government has reopened relations with international financial institutions and international donors, and President KABILA has begun implementing reforms. Much economic activity lies outside the GDP data. Economic stability improved in 2003-05, although an uncertain legal framework, corruption, and a lack of openness in government policy continues to hamper growth. In 2005, renewed activity in the mining sector, the source of most exports, boosted Kinshasa's fiscal position and GDP growth. Business and economic prospects are expected to improve once a new government is installed after elections.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$46.37 billion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$7.358 billion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

6.5% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$800 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 55%
industry: 11%
services: 34% (2000 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

9% (2004 est.)


revenues: $700 million
expenditures: $750 million; including capital expenditures of $24 million (2004 est.)

Agriculture - products:

coffee, sugar, palm oil, rubber, tea, quinine, cassava (tapioca), palm oil, bananas, root crops, corn, fruits; wood products


mining (diamonds, copper, zinc), mineral processing, consumer products (including textiles, footwear, cigarettes, processed foods and beverages), cement, commercial ship repair

Electricity - production:

6.036 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - consumption:

4.324 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - exports:

1.3 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - imports:

10 million kWh (2003)

Oil - production:

22,000 bbl/day (2003)

Oil - consumption:

8,300 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Oil - proved reserves:

1.538 billion bbl (1 January 2002)

Natural gas - proved reserves:

991.1 million cu m (1 January 2002)


$1.108 billion f.o.b. (2004 est.)

Exports - commodities:

diamonds, copper, crude oil, coffee, cobalt

Exports - partners:

Belgium 47.5%, Finland 20.8%, US 10.9%, China 7.5% (2004)


$1.319 billion f.o.b. (2004 est.)

Imports - commodities:

foodstuffs, mining and other machinery, transport equipment, fuels

Imports - partners:

South Africa 17.1%, Belgium 14.4%, France 10%, Zambia 8.4%, Kenya 5.9%, US 5.5%, Germany 5.4% (2004)

Debt - external:

$10.6 billion (2003 est.)

Economic aid - recipient:

$2.2 billion (FY03/04)

Currency (code):

Congolese franc (CDF)

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:

10,000 (2002)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

1 million (2003)

Telephone system:

general assessment: poor
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)

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 3, FM 11, shortwave 2 (2001)

Television broadcast stations:

4 (2001)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

188 (2005)

Internet users:

50,000 (2002)


232 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 25
over 3,047 m: 4
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 16
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 1 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 207
1,524 to 2,437 m: 18
914 to 1,523 m: 92
under 914 m: 97 (2005)


gas 54 km; oil 71 km (2004)


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 (2004)


total: 157,000 km (including 30 km of expressways) (1999)


15,000 km (2005)

Ports and terminals:

Banana, Boma, Bukavu, Bumba, Goma, Kalemie, Kindu, Kinshasa, Kisangani, Matadi, Mbandaka

Military branches:

Army, Navy, Air Force

Disputes - international:

heads of the Great Lakes states and UN pledge to end conflict but unchecked tribal, rebel, and militia fighting continues unabated in the northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, drawing in the neighboring states of Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda; the UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) has maintained over 14,000 peacekeepers in the region since 1999; thousands of Ituri refugees from the Congo continue to flee the fighting primarily into Uganda; 90,000 Angolan refugees were repatriated by 2004 with the remainder in the DRC expected to return in 2005; in 2005, DRC and Rwanda established a border verification mechanism to address accusations of Rwandan military supporting Congolese rebels and the DRC providing rebel Rwandan "Interhamwe" forces the means and bases to attack Rwandan forces; 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): 5,277 (Republic of Congo) 11,816 (Rwanda) 18,953 (Uganda) 19,400 (Burundi) 45,226 (Sudan) 98,383 (Angola)
IDPs: 2.33 million (fighting between government forces and rebels since mid-1990s; most IDPs are in eastern provinces) (2005)

Illicit drugs:

illicit producer of cannabis, 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