Congo, Republic of the
Brazzaville • Pointe-Noire • Dolisie • Nkayi • Kindamba • Impfondo • Ouésso • Madingou • Owando • Sibiti • Loutété • Bouansa • Gamboma • Mossaka • Mindouli • Oyo • Makoua • Loudima • Mossendjo • Mouyondzi • Bétou • Djambala • Pokola • Ngo • Makabana • Kinkala • Ewo • Etoumbi • Boundji • Dongou • Komono • Kellé • Enyellé • Tchamba-Nzassi • Ollombo • Loukoléla • Sembé • Mbinda • Zanaga • Lekana •
|THE CONGO, REPUBLIC OF THE COAT OF ARMS|
Location of Republic of the Congo within the continent of Africa
Map of The Republic of the Congo
Flag Description of Republic of the Congo: divided diagonally from the lower hoist side by a yellow band; the upper triangle (hoist side) is green and the lower triangle is red; green symbolizes agriculture and forests, yellow the friendship and nobility of the people, red is unexplained but has been associated with the struggle for independence
Official name République du Congo (Republic of the Congo)
Form of government republic with two legislative houses (Senate ; National Assembly )
Head of state and government President2: Denis Sassou-Nguesso
Official language French3
Official religion none
Monetary unit CFA franc (CFAF)
Population (2013 est.) 4,324,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 132,047
Total area (sq km) 342,000
- Urban: (2011) 62.5%
- Rural: (2011) 37.5%
Life expectancy at birth
- Male: (2012) 54 years
- Female: (2012) 56.6 years
Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate
- Male: (2007) 92.1%
- Female: (2007) 81.7%
GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2013) 2,660
166 are indirectly elected.
2The post of prime minister, an extraconstitutional creation from January 2005, was abolished on Sept. 15, 2009.
3“Functional” national languages are Lingala and Monokutuba.
- 1 About The Republic of Congo
- 2 Geography of The Republic of Congo
- 3 Demography of The Republic of Congo
- 4 Government of The Republic of Congo
- 5 Cultural Life of The Republic of Congo
- 6 History of The Republic of Congo
- 7 Congo's First Free Elections Are a Model for Sub-Saharan Africa
- 8 Economy-Congo, Republic of the
- 9 Congo, Republic of the, River Facts
- 10 Congo, Republic of the in 2010
- 11 Disclaimer
About The Republic of Congo
Upon independence in 1960, the former French region of Middle Congo became the Republic of the Congo. A quarter century of experimentation with Marxism was abandoned in 1990 and a democratically elected government took office in 1992. A brief civil war in 1997 restored former Marxist President Denis SASSOU-Nguesso, and ushered in a period of ethnic and political unrest. Southern-based rebel groups agreed to a final peace accord in March 2003, but the calm is tenuous and refugees continue to present a humanitarian crisis. The Republic of Congo is one of Africa's largest petroleum producers, but with declining production it will need new offshore oil finds to sustain its oil earnings over the long term.
Republic of the Congo, country situated astride the Equator in west-central Africa. Officially known as the Republic of the Congo, the country is often called Congo (Brazzaville), with its capital added parenthetically, to distinguish it from neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is often referred to by its acronym, the DRC, or called Congo (Kinshasa).
Congo as a whole is sparsely inhabited, with more than half of its population living in the cities. The most populous city is the capital, Brazzaville, which is located in the southeastern corner of the country and is a major inland port on the Congo River.
Geography of The Republic of Congo
Congo is bounded to the northwest by Cameroon, to the north by the Central African Republic, to the east and south by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the southwest by the Angolan exclave of Cabinda, and to the west by Gabon. South of its border with Gabon, the country also has a 100-mile- (160-km-) long coastline along the Atlantic Ocean.
Along the Atlantic Ocean, a coastal plain 40 miles (64 km) wide stretches for about 100 miles (160 km) between Gabon and Cabinda. The plain rises gradually from the sea eastward to the Mayombé Massif, a low mountain range that parallels the coast. The Mayombé peaks are rugged and separated by deep river gorges. Among these, Mount Berongou rises to 2,963 feet (903 metres).
East of the Mayombé Massif lies the Niari valley, a 125-mile- (200-km-) wide depression, which historically has served as an important passage between the inland plateaus and the coast. Toward the north the valley rises gradually to the Chaillu Massif, which reaches elevations of between 1,600 and 2,300 feet (490 and 700 metres) on the Gabon border; in the south the depression rises to the Cataractes Plateau.
Beyond the Niari valley is a series of plateaus about 1,600 feet (490 metres) above sea level, separated by the deeply eroded valleys of tributaries of the Congo River. The Bembe Plateau lies between the Niari valley and the Chaillu Massif, while the Batéké Plateau stretches northward along the Congo River from Brazzaville to Mpouya.
The northeast is part of the western Congo basin and is made up of a vast 60,000-square-mile (155,000-square-km) plain that slopes eastward from the western mountains and plateaus to the Congo River. Cut by numerous tributaries, the plain is swampy and floods annually.
The country’s drainage system is dominated by the Congo River. The Congo’s main northern tributary, the Ubangi River, flows southward from the Central African Republic and forms the country’s eastern border as far as the town of Liranga, where it joins the Congo proper. The main river continues southward to Malebo Pool, a shallow 300-square-mile (775-square-km) lake, and then on to Livingstone (Zongo) Falls before turning southwest through Congo (Kinshasa) to the Atlantic Ocean. The major right-bank tributaries of the Congo, all within the Congo Republic, include the Sangha, Likouala, Alima, Nkéni, Léfini, Djoué, and Foulakari rivers.
The coastal watershed is drained by the Kouilou River, which flows southwestward for about 450 miles (725 km) from its source in the plateau region to Kayes, where it empties into the Atlantic. From the Niari valley to Makabana, where it joins the Louessé River to form the Kouilou proper, it is called the Niari River. The stream is broken by numerous waterfalls; the banks are irregular; and the mouth is blocked to navigation by sandbars formed by the strong Benguela Current.
About two-thirds of the country is covered with coarse-grained soils that contain sand and gravel. Lateritic soils, with a high proportion of iron and aluminum sesquioxides, characterize low-lying areas. Because of the hot and humid climate, organic matter is decomposed by rapid bacterial action before it can accumulate into humus; moreover, topsoil is washed away by the heavy rains. In the savanna regions, the fertile alluvial soils are threatened with erosion by wind as well as rain. A diverse pattern of coarse- and fine-grained soils covers the plateaus and hills.
The country’s tropical climate is characterized by heavy precipitation and high temperatures and humidity. The Equator crosses the country just north of Liranga. In the north a dry season extends from November through March and a rainy season from April through October, whereas in the south the reverse is true. On both sides of the Equator, however, local climates exist with two dry and two wet seasons.
Annual precipitation is abundant throughout the country, but seasonal and regional variations are important. Precipitation averages more than 48 inches (1,200 mm) annually but often surpasses 80 inches (2,000 mm).
Temperatures are relatively stable, with little variation between seasons. More variation occurs between day and night, when the difference between the highs and lows averages about 27 °F (15 °C). Over most of the country, annual average temperatures range between the high 60s and low 80s F (low and high 20s C), although in the south the cooling effect of the Benguela Current may produce temperatures as low as the mid-50s F (low 10s C). The average daily humidity is about 80 percent.
- Plant and animal life
Much of the country is covered with tropical rainforest, although logging has cleared areas in the south. The dense growth of African oak, red cedar, walnut, softwood okoumé, or gaboon mahogany, and hardwood limba (Terminalia superba) remaining in some regions provides an evergreen canopy over the sparse undergrowth of leafy plants and vines. Coconut palms, mangrove forests, and tall grasses and reeds grow in the coastal regions and eastern swamps. The plateaus and the Niari valley are covered with grasses and scattered broad-leaved trees.
Several varieties of monkeys, chimpanzees, gorillas, elephants, okapis, wild boars, and buffaloes live in the forests. Wildlife in the savanna regions includes antelopes, jackals, wild dogs, hyenas, and cheetahs. On the plateaus, rhinoceroses and giraffes are numerous, but lions are scarce. Birdlife includes predatory eagles, hawks, and owls, scavenging vultures, and wading herons. Some one-sixth of Congolese territory is protected; national parks include Nouabalé-Ndoki, in which dwell more than 300 species of bird and more than 1,000 plant and tree species, and Odzala-Kokoua, which is an important elephant and gorilla sanctuary.
Freshwater fish include perch, catfish, sunfish, and mudskippers. Crocodiles inhabit the Congo River. The numerous snakes include such poisonous varieties as cobra, green mamba, and puff adder, as well as species of python. The most dangerous insects are tsetse flies, which cause sleeping sickness in human beings and a similar disease, called nagana, in cattle; and mosquitoes, which carry malaria and yellow fever.
Demography of The Republic of Congo
- Ethnic groups
About half of Congo’s inhabitants identify with the Kongo peoples, whose major subgroups include the Sundi, Kongo, Lali, Kougni, Bembe, Kamba, Dondo, Vili, and Yombe. The Ubangi peoples include the Makoua, Kouyou, Mboshi, Likouala, Ngala, and Bonga. The Teke and the Sanga, or “Gabonese Bantu,” are also divided into subgroups. The Binga Pygmies live in small bands, usually as clients of surrounding farming peoples. Of the Europeans who remained in Congo prior to the civil strife of the late 1990s—many of whom were French and resided in the major cities—only a fraction remain.
Except for the Pygmies and the Adamawa-Ubangi speaking populations in the northeast, the indigenous peoples all speak Bantu languages. Intergroup communication and trade fostered the development of two trade languages, Lingala and Kituba (Mono kutuba). Lingala is spoken north of Brazzaville, and Kituba is common in the area between the capital and the coast. French is the official language and the medium of educational instruction, as well as the language of the upper classes.
About one-fourth of the population practices traditional African religions. Some three-fourths of the population is Christian, two-thirds of which is Roman Catholic. The Protestant community includes members of the Evangelical Church of the Congo. There are also independent African churches; the Kimbanguist Church, the largest independent church in Africa, is a member of the World Council of Churches. Other independent churches include the Matsouana Church and the Bougist Church. Most of the small Muslim community is made up of foreigners who reside in Brazzaville or Pointe-Noire.
- Settlement patterns
The country’s four main cultural regions developed from contact and exchange between neighbouring clusters of peoples. The southern region between Brazzaville and the coast is inhabited by the Kongo peoples. Also in the south, the Teke inhabit the Batéké Plateau region. In the north, the Ubangi peoples live in the Congo River basin to the west of Mossaka, while the Binga Pygmies and the Sanga are scattered through the northern basin. Precolonial trade between north and south stimulated both cooperation and competition, while French favouritism toward the peoples of the southwest and postindependence politics intensified ethnic and regional rivalries. Massive internal migration and urbanization since independence have reproduced these cleavages in the cities and towns.
Population distribution within the country is very uneven. The southwestern quarter of the country is home to the majority of the population, while in the north and northeast, population is sparse. In spite of the civil conflict of the late 1990s, which dampened the rate of urbanization, Congo nevertheless remains highly urbanized relative to the sub-Saharan African average, with more than one-half of the population living in cities. Because the urban growth rate far exceeds that of the country as a whole, urbanization continues to intensify. Since this growth has been chiefly the result of internal migration, most rural communities have ties to the larger national community and economy.
The major cities are Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire on the Atlantic coast, Nkayi (formerly Jacob) in the Niari valley, and Loubomo (formerly Dolisie) in the Mayombé region. Colonial creations by and large, the cities reflect French influence: a central administrative and commercial core is surrounded by residential areas. Before independence there was a marked separation between the spacious planned European neighbourhoods and the less-regimented, more populous African parts of town. Since 1960, however, greater social and economic mobility in the African population, attempts at urban renewal, and massive rural-to-urban migration have blurred these distinctions.
- Demographic trends
Like many African countries, Congo has a fast-growing, relatively young population: the birth rate is among the world’s highest, and more than two-fifths of the population is under 15 years of age. In the early portions of the 20th century, however, the country was part of the low-fertility belt, a region stretching from Gabon to Uganda where many societies experienced little or no population growth. Life expectancy, among the lowest on the continent prior to 1950, improved steadily in the last half of the 20th century, and by the early 2000s it had surpassed the average for sub-Saharan Africa. Urban in-migration has long been an important demographic trend. During the colonial era, the new colonial cities, and Brazzaville in particular, attracted African migrants. Congo has since become one of the most urban countries of sub-Saharan Africa.
Demographic trends have also been linked to local and neighbouring patterns of conflict. More than one-third of the population was estimated to have been displaced as a result of the civil conflict of the late 1990s; many returned to their homes in 2000. In addition, refugees fleeing conflict in neighbouring countries—particularly the Democratic Republic of the Congo but also Rwanda, Angola, and elsewhere—have sought shelter in Congo.
Government of The Republic of Congo
- Constitutional framework
Under the constitution of 2002, Congo is a republic. The executive branch of the government is headed by the president, who is popularly elected to a maximum of two seven-year terms and serves as both chief of state and head of government. The president appoints the Council of Ministers. The legislative branch is bicameral and consists of the Senate and the National Assembly; members are elected to serve six-year and five-year terms, respectively.
- Local government
For administrative purposes, Congo is divided into regions and districts. Brazzaville has the status of a capital district.
The constitution guarantees the independence of the judiciary. Congo’s judicial system includes the Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal, and the Constitutional Court. The president heads a Higher Council of Magistrates and nominates Supreme Court judges at the suggestion of that council. Supreme Court judges may not be removed.
- Political process
Since becoming a multiparty state in 1990, Congo has had more than 100 political parties. Among the most active are the Congolese Labour Party (Parti Congolais du Travail; PCT), the Congolese Movement for Democracy and Integral Development (Mouvement Congolais pour la Démocratie et le Développement Intégral; MCDDI), the Pan-African Union for Social Development (Union Panafricaine pour la Démocratie Sociale; UPADS), Rally for Democracy and Social Progress (Rassemblement pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social; RDPS), and the Union for Democracy and Republic (Union pour la Démocratie et la République; UDR).
Although ethnic discrimination is proscribed by law, in practice the prohibition is not well enforced. Divisions along ethnic lines continue, and although those outside the dominant groups participate effectively in the government, the president’s group and those related to it factor prominently in the political process. Women have served in various government posts, including the National Assembly, the Senate, and the Council of Ministers.
Congo’s defense apparatus consists of an army, a navy, an air force, a gendarmerie, and a special presidential security force, among which the army is the largest contingent. Service is on a voluntary basis and lasts for two years.
- Health and welfare
The most common health problems are respiratory diseases, malaria, tuberculosis, and intestinal parasites—all preventable maladies. Other diseases include trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), yellow fever, leprosy, yaws, and HIV/AIDS. Although the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Congo is below the average for sub-Saharan Africa, it nevertheless remains substantially higher than the global average.
Disease control is difficult because most water sources are polluted and sanitation is poor, even in the cities. Two of the largest hospitals are in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire. Other health facilities include regional health centres, infirmaries, dispensaries, maternal and child-care centres, and private clinics. Mobile health units combat communicable diseases in remote areas.
Education is free and compulsory for students between ages 6 and 16. Primary education, which begins at age six and lasts for six years, includes instruction in agriculture, manual skills, and domestic science. Secondary-level education is made up of two cycles of four and three years, respectively; courses are offered in vocational training, academic and technical training, general education, and teacher training. Institutions of higher learning include Marien Ngouabi University (1961; present name assumed in 1977) in Brazzaville and colleges and centres for specialized and technical training. Congo enjoys a literacy rate that is significantly higher than most countries in sub-Saharan Africa for both men and women, although a notable gap in literacy between the genders remains.
Cultural Life of The Republic of Congo
Precolonial artistic expression emphasized ceremonial music, dance, sculpture, and oral literature. Christianity and colonialism had a great impact on these art forms. The carving of ritual objects became commercialized, and music and dance altered as a result of the introduction of Western instruments and musical styles. In the 1980s the Brazzaville region, along with Kinshasa, across the river in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, became a vital centre for the production of contemporary African music, known as Congolese music or rumba. The genre, which mixes traditional African rhythms and instruments with those borrowed from other cultures, enjoys widespread popularity throughout Africa as well as around the world.
Holidays observed in Congo include those celebrated by Christians around the world, such as Good Friday, Easter, and Christmas. Labour Day and Independence Day are observed on May 1 and August 15, respectively. There are a number of libraries in Brazzaville, including the national library. The Marien Ngouabi Museum in Brazzaville has an excellent collection of indigenous masks from groups throughout the Congo River basin, particularly those of the Kongo people, who trace their ancestry back to the Kongo kingdom that ruled parts of both modern-day Congo and Angola.
- Sports and recreation
Football (soccer) is very popular in Congo. The Congolese Football Federation was founded in 1962 and affiliated with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) that same year. The men’s national team, nicknamed the Diables Rouges (“Red Devils”), won the opening African Games tournament at home in 1965 and won their first African Cup of Nations in 1972. Besides football, men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball are popular. Congo first competed in the Olympic Games at the 1964 Tokyo Games.
- Media and publishing
Radio and television programs are broadcast on both state-owned and private stations in a variety of languages. The majority of Congolese receive their news through broadcast media and, in rural areas, particularly by means of state-run radio. Although the constitution provides for freedom of speech, some actions, including those that incite ethnic strife or civil war, are punishable by law. Both the government-owned and private broadcast media tend to be pro-government, and journalists often practice self-censorship.
The majority of print media are circulated in the urban centres of Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire. Important periodicals include the French-language weeklies Le Choc, Les Echos du Congo (pro-government), L’Observateur (independent), and Le Semaine Africaine (Roman Catholic).
History of The Republic of Congo
In precolonial times, the region now called the Republic of Congo was dominated by three kingdoms: Kongo (originating about 1000), the Loango (flourishing in the 17th century), and Tio. After the Portuguese located the Congo River in 1482, commerce was carried on with the tribes, especially the slave trade.
The Frenchman Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza signed a treaty with Makoko, ruler of the Bateke people, in 1880, thus establishing French control. It was first called French Congo, and after 1905 Middle Congo. With Gabon and Ubangi-Shari, it became the colony of French Equatorial Africa in 1910. Abuse of laborers led to public outcry against the French colonialists as well as rebellions among the Congolese, but the exploitation of the native workers continued until 1930. During World War II, the colony joined Chad in supporting the Free French cause against the Vichy government. The Congo proclaimed its independence without leaving the French Community in 1960, calling itself the Republic of Congo.
The Congo's second president, Alphonse Massemba-Débat, instituted a Marxist-Leninist government. In 1968, Maj. Marien Ngouabi overthrew him but kept the Congo on a Socialist course. He was sworn in for a second five-year term in 1975. A four-man commando squad assassinated Ngouabi on March 18, 1977. Col. Joachim Yhombi-Opango, army chief of staff, assumed the presidency on April 4. Yhombi-Opango resigned on Feb. 4, 1979, and was replaced by Col. Denis Sassou-Nguesso.
- Early History
Human habitation of the Congo basin came relatively late in the Sangoan era (100,000 to 40,000 bce; see Sangoan industry), perhaps because of the dense forest. The people who used the large-core bifacial Sangoan tools probably subsisted by gathering food and digging up roots; they were not hunters.
Refined versions of this tradition continued through the Lupemban (40,000 to 25,000 bce; see Lupemban industry) and Tshitolian eras. The early inhabitants of these eras were farmer-trappers, fishing peoples, and Pygmy hunters. People lived in households that included kin and unrelated individuals; at the centre of the household was a “big man,” who represented the group. Mobility—of individuals, groups, goods, and ideas—figured prominently and created a common social environment. Such intercommunication is evident from the closely related Bantu languages of the region. Speakers of Adamawa-Ubangi languages lived in the north but maintained ties with their forest neighbours. Research now suggests that agriculture emerged among the western Bantu of the savannas adjacent to the lower Congo River in the 1st millennium bce—much earlier than previously thought.
Larger-scale societies based on clans whose members lived in different villages, village clusters with chiefs, and small forest principalities emerged between 1000 and 1500 ce. Chiefdoms on the southern fringes became more complex, and three kingdoms eventually developed: Loango, at the mouth of the Kouilou River on the Atlantic coast; Kongo, in the far southwest; and Tio (Anziku), which grew out of small chiefdoms on the plains north of Malebo Pool. Rulers derived power from control over spirit cults, but trade eventually became a second pillar of power.
In 1483 the Portuguese landed in Kongo. Initially, relations between the Kongolese and Portuguese rulers were good. Characterized by the exchange of representatives and the sojourn of Kongolese students in Portugal, this period was a harbinger of late 20th-century technical assistance. Unfortunately, the need of Portuguese planters on São Tomé for slaves had undermined this amicable arrangement by the 1530s.
Between 1600 and 1800, the slave trade expanded enormously. Local leaders challenged state control; among the Tio, the western chiefs became more autonomous. Contact with Europeans also introduced New World food crops; corn (maize) and cassava (manioc) allowed greater population densities. This, along with the emergence of a “market” for foodstuffs, led to greater use of slaves, intensified women’s work, and changed the division of labour between the sexes.
- The colonial era
By the early 19th century, the Congo River had become a major avenue of commerce between the coast and the interior. Henry Morton Stanley, a British journalist, explored the river in 1877, but France acquired jurisdiction in 1880 when Pierre de Brazza signed a treaty with the Tio ruler. The formal proclamation of the colony of French Congo came in 1891. Early French efforts to exploit their possession led to ruthless treatment of the local people and the subjection of the territory to extreme exploitation by concessionary companies. Brazza returned in 1905 to lead an inquiry into these excesses. In 1910 the French joined Congo with neighbouring colonies, creating a federation of French Equatorial Africa, with its capital at Brazzaville.
- Congo since independence
Two major parties existed at independence: the African Socialist Movement (Mouvement Socialiste Africain; MSA) and the Democratic Union for the Defense of African Interests (Union Démocratique pour la Défense des Intérêts Africains; UDDIA). The two parties pitted the north against the south, an opposition that stemmed from the privileged place occupied by the southern Kongo and Vili in the colonial era. The two parties also had different political philosophies. The MSA favoured a powerful state and a partially publicly owned economy; the UDDIA advocated private ownership and close ties with France. UDDIA leader Fulbert Youlou formed the first parliamentary government in 1958; in 1959 he became premier and president.
Corruption, incompetence, mass disapproval, general strikes, and lack of French support led to Youlou’s ouster in 1963. His successor, Alphonse Massamba-Débat, shifted policies to the left, notably by founding the National Revolutionary Movement (Mouvement National de la Révolution; MNR) as the sole party. The country sought assistance from the Soviet Union and China and voted with the more radical African states in world forums. Regionally, Congo extended concrete support and offered a geographic base for the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the Marxist movement that won independence for that country. Congo also offered asylum to the Patrice Lumumba followers who fled the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (from 1971 to 1997 called Zaire).
Regionalism and policy failures led the military to replace Massamba-Débat with Maj. Marien Ngouabi in 1968. Ngouabi maintained a socialist line, renaming the country the People’s Republic of the Congo on Dec. 31, 1969; the Congolese Labour Party (Parti Congolais du Travail; PCT) replaced the MNR as sole ruling party at the same time. Ngouabi was a northerner, and his regime shifted control of the country away from the south. Such moves created opposition among workers and students in the highly politicized environment of Brazzaville and other southern urban centres. Ngouabi was assassinated in March 1977. His successor, the more conservative Col. Joachim Yhombi-Opango, soon clashed with the PCT, and Col. Denis Sassou-Nguesso replaced Yhombi-Opango in 1979.
Although Sassou-Nguesso represented the more militant wing of the PCT—and immediately introduced a new constitution intended as a first step toward building a Marxist-Leninist society—he paradoxically improved relations with France and other Western countries. The regime’s political language became more moderate, but inefficient state enterprises created by earlier socialist policies remained in operation in the early 1980s. In the 1970s they had been subsidized by petroleum production, but the subsequent drop in oil and other raw material prices led to economic crisis. The external debt surpassed $1.5 billion in 1985, and debt service consumed 45 percent of state revenue. Negotiations with the International Monetary Fund the following year led to an agreement to help the national economy in exchange for cuts in public spending and in the state bureaucracy.
- Dennis D. Cordell
In 1991 a new constitution was drafted, and it was adopted by referendum in March 1992. Pascal Lissouba defeated Bernard Kolélas and Sassou-Nguesso and acceded to the presidency following elections that August. A period of shaky parliamentary government ensued. Competing politicians built followings by politicizing ethnic differences and sponsoring militias such as the Cocoye, Cobra, and Ninja groups (aligned with Lissouba, Sassou-Nguesso, and Kolélas, respectively), which led to civil conflict in 1994 and 1997. With the support of France and Angola—whose government was troubled by Lissouba’s support for the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola; UNITA) and other rebels fighting for the independence of the exclave of Cabinda—Sassou-Nguesso led a successful insurrection against the government in 1997 and reclaimed the presidency late in the year. However, violence spiraled beyond the control of the leaders who instigated it. A devastating civil war raged for the next two years, in which forces loyal to Kolélas and to the ousted Lissouba—both of whom had since left the country—battled government troops for control. A truce was signed between the warring parties in late 1999 in an attempt to reopen a national dialogue. Additional talks held in early 2000 were positive, and by the end of the year the government was able to focus on drafting a new constitution and planning the country’s future.
The new constitution was promulgated in January 2002, and Sassou-Nguesso was reelected president in March; around the same time, rebels resumed fighting in southern Congo, displacing tens of thousands of Congolese by late May. Legislative elections held that month were marred by violence and allegations of fraud. The violence and fighting continued throughout the summer, primarily in the southern part of the country, and finally ceased when a peace agreement was reached in early 2003. Congo’s newfound peace provided stability and cultivated the opportunity for progress, and the country enjoyed an improved economic and political climate. Despite these promising steps, sporadic instability continued—especially in the south, in the Pool region in particular—and civilians again faced displacement.
The 2009 presidential election, held on July 12, was boycotted by the main opposition candidates, and Sassou-Nguesso was reelected by a wide margin of victory. Although the opposition and some organizations claimed that there were incidents of fraud and intimidation, international observers from the African Union declared the election free and fair.
Congo's First Free Elections Are a Model for Sub-Saharan Africa
In July 1990, the leaders of the ruling party voted to end the one-party system. A national political conference, hailed as a model for sub-Saharan Africa, renounced Marxism in 1991 and scheduled the country's first free elections for 1992. Pascal Lissouba became the country's first democratically elected president.
Political and ethnic tensions intensified in 1993 after legislative elections, when the opposition's rejection of the results developed into violence. A peace agreement was signed between the government and the opposition in Aug. 1994. A four-month civil war (June 5–Oct. 15, 1997) devastated Brazzaville, the capital. Buttressed by military aid from Angola, former Marxist dictator Denis Sassou-Nguesso overthrew President Lissouba. In late 1999 a peace agreement was signed between Sassou-Nguesso, who comes from the north, and the rebels representing the populous south. The postwar period has been traumatic for the desperately poor country.
In March 2002, President Sassou-Nguesso was reelected with 89.4% of the vote. His opponents were either barred from the country or withdrew from the election.
The so-called Ninja rebels continued to battle government forces, each attempting to gain or maintain control of the country's rich oil reserves and each seemingly unconcerned about the toll this new outbreak of violence took on civilians. In May 2003, the government and Ninja rebels signed an agreement to end hostilities.
Sassou-Nguesso was reelected to another 7-year term in July 2009. The opposition boycotted the election.
Congo lies astride the equator, and virtually all of the country is part of the vast Congo River drainage basin. North central Congo is made up of a large plateau (average elevation: c.1,000 ft/300 m), which is covered with equatorial forest and has numerous swamps. The plateau is bordered on the east by mountains, which rise to the lofty Ruwenzori range (located on the border with Uganda). The Ruwenzori include Margherita Peak (16,763 ft/5,109 m), the country's highest point; they are situated in the western or Albertine branch of the Great Rift Valley, which runs along the entire eastern border of the country and also takes in lakes Albert, Edward, Kivu, and Tanganyika. In S Congo are highland plateaus (average elevation: c.3,000 ft/910 m; highest elevation: c.6,800 ft/2,070 m), which are covered with savanna. The high Mitumba Mts. in the southeast include Lake Mweru (situated on the border with Zambia). In addition to Kinshasa, the major urban areas include Boma, Bukavu, Kalemie, Kamina, Kananga, Kisangani, Kolwezi, Likasi, Lubumbashi, Matadi, Mbandaka, and Mbuji-Mayi.
The population of Congo comprises approximately 200 ethnic groups, the great majority of whom speak one of the Bantu languages. In addition, there are Nilotic speakers in the north near South Sudan and scattered groups of Pygmies (especially in the Ituri Forest in the northeast). The principal Bantu-speaking ethnic groups are the Kongo, Mongo, Luba, Bwaka, Kwango, Lulua, Lunda, and Kasai. The Alur are the main Nilotic speakers. In the 1990s, Congo also had an influx of immigrants, particularly refugees from neighboring countries. In 1985 over half the population was rural, but the country is becoming increasingly urbanized.
French is Congo's official language, but it is spoken by relatively few persons. Swahili is widely used in the east, and Lingala is spoken in the west; Tshilaba is also common. About 50% of the inhabitants are Roman Catholics and 20% are Protestants. A substantial number are adherents of Kimbanguism, an indigenous Christian church. Many also follow traditional religious beliefs, and about 10% are Muslims.
Economy-Congo, Republic of the
Congo's mineral wealth is the mainstay of the economy, but the development of the mining industry has occurred at the expense of commercial agriculture. The economy's growth spurted under Belgian control in the 1950s, slowed considerably during the country's postindependence troubles in the early 1960s, accelerated again in the late 1960s when political stability returned, and then generally declined beginning in the 1970s, when the nationalization of major industries resulted in a reduction of private investment. For a decade beginning in the early 1990s much of the economy was in a state of collapse, but with the end of most of civil warfare that devastated Congo, economic stability improved in the early 2000s and foreign investment is again occurring.
Although only 3% of the nation's land area is arable, a substantial part of the labor force is engaged as subsistence farmers. The principal food crops are cassava, bananas, root crops, corn, and fruits. Coffee, sugarcane, palm oil, rubber, tea, quinine, and cotton are produced commercially, primarily for export. Although agricultural production satisfied domestic demands before independence, Congo has become dependent on food imports. Goats, sheep, and cattle are raised.
Mining is centered in Katanga province; products include copper, cobalt, zinc, manganese, uranium, cassiterite (tin ore), coal, gold, and silver. Diamonds are mined in Kasai. There are major deposits of petroleum offshore near the mouth of the Congo River. About 75% of Congo is covered with forest containing ebony and teak as well as less valuable woods.
Kinshasa and Lubumbashi are the country's most important industrial centers. Industries produce processed copper, zinc, and cassiterite; refined petroleum; processed foods and beverages; and basic consumer goods such as clothing and footwear. The numerous rivers of Congo give it an immense potential for producing hydroelectricity, a small but significant percentage of which has been realized. The chief hydroelectric facilities are situated in Katanga and produce power for the mining industry; another major project is located at Inga, on the Congo River near Kinshasa.
Rivers form the backbone of the country's transportation network; unnavigable parts of the Congo River (e.g., Kinshasa-Matadi and Kisangani-Ubundi) are bridged by rail lines, but the rail and road network in Congo is both very limited for a nation of it's size and in disrepair as a result of the civil war. Matadi, Boma, and Banana can handle oceangoing vessels. E Congo is linked (via Lake Tanganyika) by rail with the seaport of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.
The country's export earnings come almost entirely from sales of primary products, which are vulnerable to sharp changes in world prices. Since 1994 diamonds have become the country's leading export as a result of a decline in the production of copper (once the leading mineral product in terms of value). Petroleum also accounts for a substantial portion of export earnings. Other important exports are coffee, cobalt, palm products, and rubber. The leading imports are foodstuffs, machinery, transport equipment, fuels, and consumern goods. The country's principal trade partners are Belgium, the United States, South Africa, and France.
Petroleum and mining are the major export industries, followed by forestry and commercial agriculture. Light manufacturing (mostly shoes), sugar processing, and assembly industries assumed greater importance in the 1980s. These activities, however, employed only a small fraction of the labour force, most of which worked in agriculture and the nonsalaried informal urban economy.--->>>>>Read More.<<<<
Congo, Republic of the Area: 342,000 sq km (132,047 sq mi) Population (2010 est.): 3,932,000 Capital: Brazzaville Head of state and government: President Denis Sassou-Nguesso On Aug. 15, 2010, UN ...>>>Read On<<<
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