OFFICIAL NAME: Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly known as Zaire)
CAPITAL: Kinshasa
SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT: Transitional Government
AREA: 2,344,889 Sq Km (905,367 Sq Mi)
ESTIMATED 2000 POPULATION 51,263,800


Direct Link to Political MapDirect Link to Physical MapLOCATION & GEOGRAPHY: Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire) is located in South Central Africa with a narrow strip of land on the northern bank of the Zaire River. It is bound by the Republic of Congo and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Angola to the southwest, Zambia to the southeast, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda to the east, Sudan to the northeast and the Central African Republic to the north and northwest. The country is divided into four physical regions. (1.) The low lying central area which is a plateau that slopes to the west. (2.) Mountain terraces, plateaux and dense grasslands which surround the central plateau to the west, south, southeast and northwest. (3.) High mountains which include the Ngoma, Virunga, Ruwenzori, Blue, Kundelunga and Marungu Mountains that enclose the country to the north. (4.) The coastline of Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), which is also bordered by a tiny plain. The principal river is the Zaire which flows into the Atlantic Ocean and nearly drains the entire country. Major Cities (pop. est.); Kinshasa 4,655,300, Lubumbashi 851,400, Mbuji-Mayi 806,500, Kisangani 417,500, Kananga 393,000 (1994). Land Use; forested 77%, pastures 6.5%, agricultural-cultivated 3.5%, other 13% (1993).


CLIMATE: Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire) is crossed by the Equator and the seasons are reversed in the north and south. Both regions have two short wet seasons and two short dry seasons while the central area has an equatorial climate with an average annual precipitation of 1,700 mm (67 inches). In general, humidity remains high and winds are light while the coastal area has a tropical climate. Average temperature ranges in Kinshasa are from 18 degrees Celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit) to 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit).


PEOPLE: Over 99% of the population are Black Africans and there are around 200 tribes which are mostly of Bantu origin. The four principal tribes are the Mongo, Kongo, Luba and Mangbetu-Azande. Other ethnic aliens include Angolans, Sudanese, Zambians, Portuguese, Belgians, Italians, Greeks, Arabs, Lebanese, Pakistanis and Indians.


DEMOGRAPHIC/VITAL STATISTICS: Density; 15 persons per sq km (39 persons per sq mi) (1991). Urban-Rural; 44.2% urban, 55.8% rural (1985). Sex Distribution; 49.2% male, 50.8% female (1984). Life Expectancy at Birth; 50.3 years male, 53.7 years female (1990). Age Breakdown; 45% under 15, 26% 15 to 29, 15% 30 to 44, 9% 45 to 59, 4% 60 to 74, 1% 75 and over (1985). Birth Rate; 45.6 per 1,000 (1990). Death Rate; 14.2 per 1,000 (1990). Increase Rate; 31.4 per 1,000 (1990). Infant Mortality Rate; 83.0 per 1,000 live births (1990).


RELIGIONS: Mostly Christians with 48% of the population Roman Catholic while 29% are Protestant. The remainder follow local native tribal beliefs and 1% are Muslims.


LANGUAGES: The official language is French, although nearly all Zaireans speak Bantu languages of the Niger-Congo family of languages with Lingala, Swahili, Kikongo and Tshiluba the most important.


EDUCATION: Aged 25 or over and having attained: N/A. Literacy; literate population aged 15 or over 71.8% (1990).


MODERN HISTORY - WWII TO 1993: During the 1950's political parties began to demand independence from Belgium and in 1959 riots broke out in the capital. In June 1960 the Belgian Congo gained independence and was renamed the Republic of Congo with Joseph Kasavubu as its first President and Patrice Lumumba as its first Prime Minister. After gaining independence violence erupted after a secessionist group in Katanga province led by Moise Tshombe declared their independence and at the request of the government UN troops were sent in to restore order. In Sept. 1960 Pres. Kasavubu, with the army, dismissed Lumumba and in Jan. 1961 delivered him to the secessionists in Katanga province who executed him. From 1961 and until 1964, when Belgian paratroopers finally restored order, there was internal fighting between rival secessionist groups which forced Tshombe into exile. In Apr. 1965 Tshombe, who had returned from exile, won parliamentary elections only to be ousted by Pres. Kasavubu in Oct. 1965, who in turn was ousted by Gen. Joseph-Desire Mobutu during the ensuing confusion. In 1966 Gen. Mobutu Africanized the country's place names and in 1970 Mobutu was elected President. In 1971 Pres. Mobutu officially changed the country's name to Zaire and in 1972 decreed that all personal names be Africanized. Between 1977 and 1978 Katanga rebels invaded Zaire from Angola, although they were defeated when French and Belgian troops intervened. In 1982 there was an attempt to form a second political party, although it was immediately repressed by Pres. Mobutu. In 1984 insurgences were crushed and in 1989 student protests escalated into widespread riots, in which 27 students were killed by the military. In Feb. 1990 Pres. Mobutu allowed the formation of two other political parties and promised free multiparty elections. During 1991 there were demands for Pres. Mobutu's resignation by opposition opponents calling for the establishment of a democracy. On Feb. 17, 1991 some 200,000 democracy supporters held demonstrations in Kinshasa demanding the government establish a national conference to draft a new constitution. Also in Feb. 1991 Pres. Mobutu announced an amnesty for all exiles if they returned by the close of the year. In April 1991 a Mobutu planned national conference resulted in widespread demonstrations and clashes throughout the country as well as the postponement of the conference until August. On June 17, 1991 a demonstration was dispersed by Security Forces with Pres. Mobutu's two main opponents, Etienne Tshisekedi wa Malumba and Nguza Karl-I-Bond, being detained briefly. In Sept. 1991 troops mutinied after not being paid which resulted in widespread riots as well as looting by the rebellious troops. In the same month the US suspended all foreign aid to Zaire citing humans rights violations and the lack of any sensible economic plans. On Sept. 29, 1991 Tshisekedi was appointed as the new Prime Minister and on Oct. 21, 1991 Pres. Mobutu dismissed his Prime Minister and replaced him with Mungul Diaka which resulted in an insurgence of fresh riots. On Nov. 25, 1991 Prime Minister Diaka was succeeded by Karl-I-Bond, who later announced his intention to run for Presidential elections. On Jan. 19, 1992 the national conference on constitution reform was suspended by Prime Minister Karl-I-Bond which led to a small group of soldiers occupying Kinshasa's radio station, although troops loyal to Mobutu put down the mutiny. On Feb. 16, 1992 a demonstration led by Roman Catholic clergy in protest to the suspension of the national conference resulted in security forces opening fire on the protesters killing and injuring several. On April 17, 1992 the national conference resumed with Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya as the chairman. In June 1992 Archbishop Monsengwo announced a transitional government would be formed by August in the lead up to proposed elections. On July 23, 1992 an agreement was reached between Pres. Mobutu and the national conference for the establishment of a High Council of the Republic (HCR) to oversee the implementation of the conference's decisions. In Aug. 1992 the conference elected Tshisekedi to succeed Karl-I-Bond as Prime Minister which led to violent ethnic riots between the two leaders supporters. On Dec. 6, 1992 the national conference ended following the election of Archbishop Monsengwo as President of the High Council, however, on Dec. 10, Pres. Mobtutu suspended the Council and order his troops to occupy the Prime Minister's office. On Jan. 15, 1993 opposition groups led by the Sacred Union coalition called for general strike that brought the capital to a standstill. Following which troops mutinied and began rioting and looting the capital for more than a week over the continued lack of wages. Pres. Mobutu responded by sending in his loyal guard troops to crush the revolt and restore order. On Feb. 3, 1993 a joint call from the US, France and Belgium requested Mobutu relinquish his power to Tshisekedi who had been elected by the national council in Aug. 1992. On Feb. 24, 1993 unpaid troops demonstrated in the streets calling on the HCR and Prime Minister Tshisekedi to officially recognize the 5 million zaire notes paid by Pres. Mobutu. On March 9, 1993 a conference was called by Mobutu to resolve the conflict, which the Sacred Union boycotted stating they would only attend a conference organized by the HCR. Pres. Mobutu responded by appointing his own prime minister, Faustin Birindwa while the HCR denounced the appointment insisting Tshisekedi was Prime Minister. The Sacred Union, renamed to Innovative Forces of the Sacred Union (FONUS), organized a one-day strike in protest to Mobutu's prime ministerial appointment of Birindwa. In May 1993, Birindwa announced that a constitutional referendum would be held July 30 with general elections within 3 months of the referendum. The HCR and Tshisekedi immediately called for a boycott of the planned referendum. On July 5, 1993 Pres. Mobutu banned Prime Minister Tshisekedi's Union for Democracy and Social Progress party. On Sept 5, 1993 Tshisekedi was appointed as the leader of a new opposition group called the Democratic Forces of Congo-Kinshasa. In the same month further ethnic violence escalated in the southeast following a local campaign in Tshisekedi's home Shaba province to displace thousands of Kasai tribes people. On Oct. 21, 1993 the government introduced a new currency.


CURRENCY: The official currency is the New Zaire (NZ) divided into 100 Makuta (singular; Likuta) and 10,000 Sengi.


ECONOMY: Gross National Product; USD $8,123,000,000 (1991). Public Debt; USD $9,151,000,000 (1991). Imports; USD $382,000,000 (1994). Exports; USD $419,000,000 (1994). Tourism Receipts; USD $6,000,000 (1993). Balance of Trade; USD 37,000,000 (1994). Economically Active Population; 13,848,000 or 35.9% of total population (1991). Unemployed; N/A.


MAIN TRADING PARTNERS: Its main trading partners are Belgium, Luxembourg, France, the USA, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and the UK.

MAIN PRIMARY PRODUCTS: Bananas, Cassava, Cobalt, Cocoa, Coffee, Copper, Cotton, Diamonds, Ground Nuts, Gold, Maize, Oil and Natural Gas, Plantains, Palm Oil and Kernels, Rubber, Sugar Cane, Tea, Timber, Tin.

MAJOR INDUSTRIES: Agriculture, Clothing, Foodstuffs, Forestry, Mining, Oil Refining, Textiles.

MAIN EXPORTS: Cobalt, Coffee, Copper, Diamonds.


TRANSPORT: Railroads; route length 5,138 km (3,193 mi) (1989), passenger-km 260,000,000 (161,556,000 passenger-mi) (1989), cargo ton-km 1,732,000,000 (1,186,000,000 short ton-mi) (1989). Roads; length 146,500 km (91,031 mi) (1988). Vehicles; cars 24,253 (1985), trucks and buses 60,528 (1985). Merchant Marine; vessels 30 (1990), deadweight tonnage 75,932 (1990). Air Transport; passenger-km 487,399,000 (302,856,000 passenger-mi) (1990), cargo ton-km 52,066,000 (35,660,000 short ton-mi) (1990).


COMMUNICATIONS: Daily Newspapers; total of 9 with a total circulation of 112,000 (1992). Radio; receivers 3,480,000 (1994). Television; receivers 22,000 (1994). Telephones; lines 36,000 (1993).


MILITARY: 28,100 (1995) total active duty personnel with 89.0% army, 4.6% navy and 6.4% air force while military expenditure accounts for 2.6% (1988) of the Gross National Product (GNP).


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