Democratic Republic of the Congo Travel Information

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Kahuzi-Biéga National Park
Parc National Des Virunga

Facts About the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Background: Since 1994 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 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, but sporadic fighting continued. KABILA was assassinated in January 2001 and his son Joseph KABILA was named head of state. The new president quickly began overtures to end the war.
Government type: dictatorship; presumably undergoing a transition to representative government
Capital: Kinshasa
Currency: Congolese franc (CF)

Geography of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Location: Central Africa, northeast of Angola
Geographic coordinates: 0 00 N, 25 00 E
Area:
total: 2,345,410 sq km
land: 2,267,600 sq km
water: 77,810 sq km
Land boundaries:
total: 10,744 km
border countries: Angola 2,511 km, Burundi 233 km, Central African Republic 1,577 km, Republic of the Congo 2,410 km, Rwanda 217 km, Sudan 628 km, Tanzania 473 km, Uganda 765 km, Zambia 1,930 km
Coastline: 37 km
Maritime claims:
exclusive economic zone: boundaries with neighbors
territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: 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
Terrain: 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, cadmium, petroleum, industrial and gem diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, germanium, uranium, radium, bauxite, iron ore, coal, hydropower, timber
Land use:
arable land: 3%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 7%
forests and woodland: 77%
other: 13% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 100 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: periodic droughts in south; volcanic activity
Environment - current issues: poaching threatens wildlife populations; water pollution; deforestation; refugees who arrived in mid-1994 were responsible for significant deforestation, soil erosion, and wildlife poaching in the eastern part of the country (most of those refugees were repatriated in November and December 1996).
Environment - international agreements:
party to:  Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification
Geography - note: straddles Equator; 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.

People of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The population of DROC was estimated at 46.7 million in 1997. As many as 250 ethnic groups have been distinguished and named. The most numerous people are the Kongo, Luba, and Mongo. Although 700 local languages and dialects are spoken, the linguistic variety is bridged both by the use of French and the intermediary languages Kikongo, Tshiluba, Swahili, and Lingala.

About 80% of the Congolese population are Christian, predominantly Roman Catholic. Most of the non-Christians adhere to either traditional religions or syncretic sects. Traditional religions embody such concepts as monotheism, animism, vitalism, spirit and ancestor worship, witchcraft, and sorcery and vary widely among ethnic groups; none is formalized. The syncretic sects often merge Christianity with traditional beliefs and rituals. The most popular of these sects, Kimbanguism, was seen as a threat to the colonial regime and was banned by the Belgians. Kimbanguism, officially "the church of Christ on Earth by the prophet Simon Kimbangu," now has about 3 million members, primarily among the Bakongo of Bas-Congo and Kinshasa. In 1969, it was the first independent African church admitted to the World Council of Churches.

Before independence, education was largely in the hands of religious groups. The primary school system was well-developed at independence; however, the secondary school system was limited, and higher education was almost nonexistent in most regions of the country. The principal objective of this system was to train low-level administrators and clerks. Since independence, efforts have been made to increase access to education, and secondary and higher education have been made available to many more Congolese. Despite the deterioration of the state-run educational system in recent years, about 80% of the males and 65% of females, ages 6-11, were enrolled in a mixture of state- and church-run primary schools in 1996. At higher levels of education, males greatly outnumber females. The elite continues to send their children abroad to be educated, primarily in Western Europe.

Population: 60,085,804  (July 2005 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years:  48.24% 
15-64 years:  49.21% 
65 years and over:  2.55%
Population growth rate: 3.1% 
Birth rate: 46.02 births/1,000 population 
Death rate: 15.15 deaths/1,000 population 
Net migration rate: 0.14 migrant(s)/1,000 population 
note:  one million refugees fled into Zaire (now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo or DROC) in 1994 to escape the fighting between the Hutus and the Tutsis; fighting in the DROC between rebels and government forces in October 1996 caused 875,000 refugees to return to Rwanda in late 1996 and early 1997; an additional 173,000 Rwandan refugees disappeared in early 1997 and are assumed to have been killed by Zairian forces; fighting between the Congolese government and Uganda- and Rwanda-backed Congolese rebels spawned a regional war in DROC in August 1998, which left 1.8 million Congolese displaced in DROC and caused 300,000 Congolese refugees to flee to surrounding countries.
Infant mortality rate: 99.88 deaths/1,000 live births 
Life expectancy at birth:
total population:  48.94 years
male:  46.96 years
female:  50.98 years 
Total fertility rate: 6.84 children born/woman 
Nationality:
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.
Religions: Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 20%, Kimbanguist 10%, Muslim 10%, other syncretic sects and indigenous beliefs 10%
Languages: French (official), Lingala (a lingua franca trade language), Kingwana (a dialect of Kiswahili or Swahili), Kikongo, Tshiluba
Literacy:
definition: age 15 and over can read and write French, Lingala, Kingwana, or Tshiluba
total population: 77.3%
male: 86.6%
female: 67.7% (1995 est.)

SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Congo Map Economy History