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