|General background: Since 1997 the Democratic
Republic of the Congo (DROC; formerly called Zaire)
has been rent by ethnic strife and civil war, touched
off by a massive inflow in 1994 of refugees from the
fighting in Rwanda and Burundi. The government of former
president MOBUTU Sese Seko was toppled by a rebellion
led by Laurent KABILA in May 1997; his regime was subsequently
challenged by a Rwanda- and Uganda-backed rebellion
in August 1998. Troops from Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia,
Chad, and Sudan intervened to support the Kinshasa regime.
A cease-fire was signed on 10 July 1999 by the DROC,
Zimbabwe, Angola, Uganda, Namibia, Rwanda, and Congolese
armed rebel groups RCD-G and MLC, but sporadic fighting
continued. KABILA was assassinated on 16 January 2001
and his son Joseph KABILA was named head of state on
26 January 2001. Despite taking a radically different
approach than his father, the new president has been
equally unsuccessful in ending the war.
Area comparative: Slightly less than one-fourth
the size of the US
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.
Terrain: Vast central basin is a low-lying
plateau; mountains in east
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.
Religions: Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant
20%, Kimbanguist 10%, Muslim 10%, other syncretic
sects and indigenous beliefs 10%
Language: French (official), Lingala (a lingua
franca trade language), Kingwana (a dialect of Kiswahili
or Swahili), Kikongo, Tshiluba.
Government type: Dictatorship; presumably
undergoing a transition to representative government.
Legal system: Based on Belgian civil law system
and tribal law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction.
Economic 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,
has dramatically reduced national output and government
revenue and has increased external debt. Foreign businesses
have curtailed operations due to uncertainty about
the outcome of the conflict, lack of infrastructure,
and the difficult operating environment. The war has
intensified the impact of such basic problems as an
uncertain legal framework, corruption, raging inflation,
and lack of openness in government economic policy
and financial operations. A number of IMF and World
Bank missions have met with the government to help
it develop a coherent economic plan, and President
KABILA has begun implementing reforms.
Communication/Telephone system: Poor
Places of interest:
Travel tips: The Democratic Republic of the
Congo is still no-go for travellers, at least for
the time being.