Dem. Rep. Congo (Zaire)

  

Capital: Kinshasa
Population: 66,514,504 (est. 2008)
Area : 3,847 mi² (9,965 km²)
Bordering Countries: Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia
Languages Spoken: Swahili, French, Luba, Lingala, Ruanda, Kongo, Mongo
Religions Practiced: Roman Catholic (50%), Protestant (20%), Kimbanguist (10%), Muslim (10%), traditional beliefs (10%)
Random Fact: Formerly called Zaire
Top Exports: Diamonds, Cobalt, Copper, Coffee, Petroleum
Money Currency: Congolese franc

  

The Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) is situated in Central Africa and it crosses the equator in the north-central region. the third largest country in Africa, it is bordered with Central African Republic to the north, Sudan to the northeast, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to the east, Zambia to the south and southeast, Angola to the southwest, and Angola and the Congo Republic to the west. The 2,733 mile long Congo River lies mostly within the territory of the country. The enormous semicircular bend in the river delineates a central depression known as the cuvette, with an average altitude of 1,300 ft. Around this densely forested section, which covers nearly half the area of the country, a succession of plateaus rise gradually to height of over 5,000 ft in the northeast and southeast. The highest altitudes are found along the eastern fringe of the country, on the edge of the Great African Rift Valley, where dislocation of the strata has produced important volcanic and mountain masses, the most notable of which is Mt. Ruwenzori, with its peak rising to a level of 16,795 ft. Savannah and park forest vegetation predominate north and south of the equatorial forest belt; the southern savannah belt is far more extensive than the northern one. All major rivers are tributaries of the Zaire; these include the Lomani, the Aruwimi or Ituri, the Itimburi, the Mongala, the Ugangi, the Uélé, the Kasaim the Sankuru, the Lulua, the Kwango and the Kwilu. The largest lakes include Tanganyika, Albert, Edward, Kivu, Mweru, Leopols II and Tumba.

History

A wave of early peoples is identified in the Northern and North-Western parts of Central Africa during the second millennium BC. They produced food (pearl millet), maintained domestic livestock and developed a kind of arboriculture mainly based on the oil palm. From 1,550 BC to 50 BC, starting from a nucleus area in South Cameroon on both banks of the Sanaga River, the first Neolithic peopling of northern and western Central Africa can be followed south-eastwards and southwards. In D.R. Congo, the first villages in the vicinity of Mbandaka and the Lake Tumba are known as the ‘Imbonga Tradition’, from around 650 BC. In Lower Congo, north of the Angolan border, it is the ‘Ngovo Tradition’ around 350 BC that shows the arrival of the Neolithic wave of advance. In Kivu, across the country to the east, the ‘Urewe Tradition’ villages first appeared about 650 BC. The few archaeological sites known in Congo are a western extension of the ‘Urewe’ Culture which has been found chiefly in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Western Kenya and Tanzania. From the start of this tradition, the people knew iron smelting, as is evidenced by several iron-smelting furnaces excavated in Rwanda and Burundi. The earliest evidence further to the west is known in Cameroon and near to the small town of Bouar in Central Africa. Though further studies are needed to establish a better chronology for the start of iron production in Central Africa, the Cameroonian data places iron smelting north of the Equatorial Forest around 650 BC to 550 BC. This technology developed independently from the previous Neolithic expansion, some 900 years later. As fieldwork done by a German team shows, the Congo River network was slowly settled by food-producing villagers going upstream in the forest. Work from a Spanish project in the Ituri area further east suggests villages reached there only around 1,150 BC. The supposedly Bantu-speaking Neolithic and then iron-producing villagers added to and displaced the indigenous Pygmy populations (also known in the region as the “Batwa” or “Twa”) into secondary parts of the country. Subsequent migrations from the Darfur and Kordofan regions of Sudan into the north-east, as well as East Africans migrating into the eastern Congo, added to the mix of ethnic groups. The Bantu-speakers imported a mixed economy made up of agriculture, small-stock raising, fishing, fruit collecting, hunting and arboriculture before 3,500 BP; iron-working techniques, possibly from West Africa, a much later addition. The villagers established the Bantu language family as the primary set of tongues for the Congolese.

  

The process in which the original Upemba society transitioned into the Kingdom of Luba was gradual and complex. This transition ran without interruption, with several distinct societies developing out of the Upemba culture prior to the genesis of the Luba. Each of these kingdoms became very wealthy due mainly to the region’s mineral wealth, especially in ores. The civilization began to develop and implement iron and copper technology, in addition to trading in ivory and other goods. The Luba established a strong commercial demand for their metal technologies and were able to institute a long-range commercial net (the business connections extended over 1,500 kilometres (930 mi), all the way to the Indian Ocean). By the 16th century, the kingdom had an established strong central government based on chieftainship. The Eastern regions of the precolonial Congo were heavily disrupted by constant slave raiding, mainly from Arab/Zanzibari slave traders such as the infamous Tippu Tip. European exploration and administration took place from the 1870s until the 1920s. It was first led by Sir Henry Morton Stanley, who undertook his explorations under the sponsorship of King Leopold II of Belgium. Leopold had designs on what was to become the Congo as a colony. In a succession of negotiations, Leopold – professing humanitarian objectives in his capacity as chairman of the Association Internationale Africaine – played one European rival against another. Leopold formally acquired rights to the Congo territory at the Conference of Berlin in 1885 and made the land his private property and named it the Congo Free State. Leopold’s regime began various infrastructure projects, such as construction of the railway that ran from the coast to the capital of Leopoldville (now Kinshasa). It took years to complete. Nearly all such projects were aimed at increasing the capital which Leopold and his associates could extract from the colony, leading to exploitation of Africans.

  

In the Free State, colonists brutalized the local population to produce rubber, for which the spread of automobiles and development of rubber tires created a growing international market. The sale of rubber made a fortune for Leopold, who built several buildings in Brussels and Ostend to honor himself and his country. To enforce the rubber quotas, the army, the Force Publique (FP), was called in. The Force Publique made the practice of cutting off the limbs of the natives as a means of enforcing rubber quotas a matter of policy; this practice was widespread. During the period of 1885–1908, millions of Congolese died as a consequence of exploitation and disease. In some areas the population declined dramatically, it has been estimated that sleeping sickness and smallpox killed nearly half the population in the areas surrounding the lower Congo River. A government commission later concluded that the population of the Congo had been “reduced by half” during this period, but determining precisely how many people died is impossible as no accurate records exist. The actions of the Free State’s administration sparked international protests led by E. D. Morel and British diplomat/Irish rebel Roger Casement, whose 1904 report on the Congo condemned the practice. Famous writers such as Mark Twain and Arthur Conan Doyle also protested, and Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness was set in Congo Free State. In 1908, the Belgian parliament, despite initial reluctance, bowed to international pressure (especially that from Great Britain) and took over the Free State as a Belgian colony from the king. From then on, it was called the Belgian Congo and was under the rule of the elected Belgian government. In May 1960 in a growing nationalist movement, the Mouvement National Congolais or MNC Party, led by Patrice Lumumba, won the parliamentary elections. The party appointed Lumumba as Prime Minister. The parliament elected Joseph Kasavubu, of the Alliance des Bakongo (ABAKO) party as President. Other parties that emerged included the Parti Solidaire Africain (or PSA) led by Antoine Gizenga, and the Parti National du Peuple (or PNP) led by Albert Delvaux and Laurent Mbariko. The Belgian Congo achieved independence on 30 June 1960 under the name République du Congo (“Republic of Congo”).

Geography

The map of Democratic Republic of Congo from the CIA World Factbook Main article: Geography of the Democratic Republic of the Congo   The Congo is situated at the heart of sub-Saharan Africa and is bounded by (clockwise from the southwest) Angola, the South Atlantic Ocean, the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania across Lake Tanganyika, and Zambia. The country lies between latitudes 6°N and 14°S, and longitudes 12° and 32°E. It straddles the Equator, with one-third to the North and two-thirds to the South. The size of Congo, 2,345,408 square kilometres (905,567 sq mi), is slightly greater than the combined areas of Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, and Norway.   As a result of its equatorial location, the Congo experiences high precipitation and has the highest frequency of thunderstorms in the world. The annual rainfall can total upwards of 80 inches (2,000 mm) in some places, and the area sustains the Congo Rainforest, the second largest rain forest in the world (after that of the Amazon). This massive expanse of lush jungle covers most of the vast, low-lying central basin of the river, which slopes toward the Atlantic Ocean in the west. This area is surrounded by plateaus merging into savannas in the south and southwest, by mountainous terraces in the west, and dense grasslands extending beyond the Congo River in the north. High, glaciated mountains are found in the extreme eastern region (Rwenzori Mountains).   The tropical climate has also produced the Congo River system which dominates the region topographically along with the rainforest it flows through, though they are not mutually exclusive. The name for the Congo state is derived in part from the river. The river basin (meaning the Congo River and all of its myriad tributaries) occupies nearly the entire country and an area of nearly 1,000,000 km2 (390,000 sq mi). The river and its tributaries (major offshoots include the Kasai, Sangha, Ubangi, Aruwimi, and Lulonga) form the backbone of Congolese economics and transportation. They have a dramatic impact on the daily lives of the people. The sources of the Congo are in the Albertine Rift Mountains that flank the western branch of the East African Rift, as well as Lake Tanganyika and Lake Mweru. The river flows generally west from Kisangani just below Boyoma Falls, then gradually bends southwest, passing by Mbandaka, joining with the Ubangi River, and running into the Pool Malebo (Stanley Pool). Kinshasa and Brazzaville are on opposite sides of the river at the Pool (see NASA image).   Then the river narrows and falls through a number of cataracts in deep canyons (collectively known as the Livingstone Falls), and then running past Boma into the Atlantic Ocean. The river also has the second-largest flow and the second-largest watershed of any river in the world (trailing the Amazon in both respects). The river and a 45 km wide strip of land on its north bank provide the country’s only outlet to the Atlantic.   The previously mentioned Albertine Rift plays a key role in shaping the Congo’s geography. Not only is the northeastern section of the country much more mountainous, but due to the rift’s tectonic activities, this area also experiences volcanic activity, occasionally with loss of life. The geologic activity in this area also created the famous African Great Lakes, three of which lie on the Congo’s eastern frontier: Lake Albert (known previously as Lake Mobutu), Lake Edward, and Lake Tanganyika.   The Rift Valley has exposed an enormous amount of mineral wealth throughout the south and east of the Congo, making it accessible to mining. Cobalt, copper, cadmium, industrial and gem-quality diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, germanium, uranium, radium, bauxite, iron ore, and coal are all found in plentiful supply, especially in the Congo’s southeastern Katanga region. Salonga National Park On 17 January 2002 Mount Nyiragongo erupted in Congo, with the lava running out at 40 mph (64 km/h) and 50 yards (46 m) wide. One of the three streams of extremely fluid lava flowed through the nearby city of Goma, killing 45 and leaving 120,000 homeless. Four hundred thousand people were evacuated from the city during the eruption. The lava poisoned the water of Lake Kivu, killing fish. Only two planes left the local airport because of the possibility of the explosion of stored petrol. The lava passed the airport but ruined the runway, entrapping several airplanes. Six months after the 2002 eruption, nearby Mount Nyamulagira also erupted. Mount Nyamulagira also erupted in 2006 and again in January 2010.   World Wide Fund for Nature ecoregions located in the Congo include:  Central Congolian lowland forests – home to the rare bonobo primate  The Eastern Congolian swamp forests along the Congo River  The Northeastern Congolian lowland forests, with one of the richest concentrations of primates in the world  Southern Congolian forest-savanna mosaic  A large section of the Central Zambezian Miombo woodlands  The Albertine Rift montane forests region of high forest runs along the eastern borders of the country.   World Heritage Sites located in Democratic Republic of Congo are: Virunga National Park (1979), Garamba National Park (1980), Kahuzi-Biega National Park (1980), Salonga National Park (1984) and Okapi Wildlife Reserve (1996).

Flora and fauna

The rainforests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo contain great biodiversity, including many rare and endemic species, such as the common chimpanzee and the bonobo (formerly known as the Pygmy Chimpanzee), the forest elephant, mountain gorilla, okapi and white rhino. Five of the country’s national parks are listed as World Heritage Sites: the Garumba, Kahuzi-Biega, Salonga and Virunga National Parks, and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the most biodiverse African country. The civil war and resultant poor economic conditions have endangered much of this biodiversity. Many park wardens were either killed or could not afford to continue their work. All five sites are listed by UNESCO as World Heritage In Danger. The Democratic Republic of Congo is also supposedly home to some cryptids, such as Mokele mbembe.  Over the past century or so, the DRC has developed into the center of what has been called the Central African “bushmeat” problem, which is regarded by many as a major environmental as well as socio-economic crisis. “Bushmeat” is another word for the meat of wild animals. It is typically obtained through trapping, usually with wire snares, or otherwise with shotguns, poisoned arrows or arms originally intended for use in the DRC’s numerous military conflicts. The “bushmeat crisis” has emerged in the DRC mainly as a result of the poor living conditions of the Congolese people and a lack of education about the dangers of eating it. A rising population combined with deplorable economic conditions has forced many Congolese to become dependent on bushmeat, either as a means of acquiring income (hunting the meat and selling), or are dependent on it for food. Unemployment and urbanization throughout Central Africa have exacerbated the problem further by turning cities like the urban sprawl of Kinshasa into the prime market for commercial bushmeat. This combination has caused not only widespread endangerment of local fauna, but has forced humans to trudge deeper into the wilderness in search of the desired animal meat. This overhunting results in the deaths of more animals and makes resources even more scarce for humans. The hunting has also been facilitated by the extensive logging prevalent throughout the Congo’s rainforests (from corporate logging, in addition to farmers clearing out forest for agriculture), which allows hunters much easier access to previously unreachable jungle terrain, while simultaneously eroding away at the habitats of animals.Deforestation is accelerating in Central Africa.  A case that has particularly alarmed conservationists is that of primates. The Congo is inhabited by three distinct great ape species  — the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), the bonobo (Pan paniscus) and the gorilla. It is the only country in the world in which bonobos are found in the wild. The chimpanzee and bonobo are the closest living evolutionary relatives to humans.   Much concern has been raised about Great ape extinction. Because of hunting and habitat destruction, the chimpanzee and the gorilla, both of whose population once numbered in the millions, have now dwindled down to only about 200,000 gorillas, 100,000 chimpanzees and possibly only about 10,000 bonobos. Gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos are all classified as Endangered by the World Conservation Union, as well as the okapi, which is also native to the area geography.

Ethnic groups

Over 200 ethnic groups populate the Democratic Republic of the Congo, of which the majority are Bantu peoples. Together, Mongo, Luba and Kongo peoples (Bantu) and Hamitic Mangbetu-Azande peoples constitute around 45% of the population.  In 2009, the United Nations estimated the country’s population to be 66 million people,a rapid increase from 39.1 million in 1992 despite the ongoing war.As many as 250 ethnic groups have been identified and named. The most numerous people are the Kongo, Luba, and Mongo. About 600,000 Pygmies are the aboriginal people of the DR Congo. Although several hundred local languages and dialects are spoken, the linguistic variety is bridged both by widespread use of French and intermediary languages such as Kongo, Tshiluba, Swahili, and Lingala.

Religion

Church in Kindu, DRC. Christianity is the majority religion in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, followed by about 95% of the population. Animism accounts for about 1%.   Of a population of 71 million, there are about 35 million Catholics in the country, representing about half of the total population.There are six archdioceses and 41 dioceses.The impact of the Roman Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo is difficult to overestimate. Schatzberg has called it the country’s “only truly national institution apart from the state. Its schools have educated over 60 percent of the nation’s primary school students and more than 40 percent of its secondary students. The church owns and manages an extensive network of hospitals, schools, and clinics, as well as many diocesan economic enterprises, including farms, ranches, stores, and artisans’ shops.   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 three million members,primarily among the Bakongo of Bas-Congo and Kinshasa.   Sixty-two of the Protestant denominations in the country are federated under the umbrella of the Church of Christ in Congo or CCC (in French, Église du Christ au Congo or ECC). It is often simply referred to as ‘The Protestant Church’, since it covers most of the 35% of the population who are Protestants.   Islam is the faith of 1.5% of the population.[84] Islam was introduced and mainly spread by Arab traders/merchants.The first members of the Baha’i Faith to live in the country came from Uganda in 1953. Four years later the first local administrative council was elected. In 1970 the National Spiritual Assembly (national administrative council) was first elected. Though the religion was banned in the 1970s and 80s, due to misrepresentations of foreign governments, the ban was lifted by the end of the 1980s. In 2012 plans were announced to build a national Baha’i House of Worship in the country.   Traditional religions embody such concepts as monotheism, animism, vitalism, spirit and ancestor worship, witchcraft, and sorcery and vary widely among ethnic groups. The syncretic sects often merge elements of Christianity with traditional beliefs and rituals and are not recognized by mainstream churches as part of Christianity.[citation needed] Under the weight of poverty, new and disturbing variants on ancient beliefs have become widespread, lead by US inspired Pentecostal churches which have been in the forefront of witchcraft accusations particularly against children and the elderly.In these practices of children being accused of witchcraft and sent away from homes and family often to live on the street. The usual term for these children is enfants sorciers (child witches) or enfants dits sorciers (children accused of witchcraft) and can lead to physical violence against these children.Non-denominational church organizations have been formed to capitalize on this belief by charging exorbitant fees for exorcisms. Though recently outlawed, children have been subjected to often-violent abuse at the hands of self-proclaimed prophets and priests.

Languages

Major Bantu languages in the Congo Main article: Languages of the Democratic Republic of the Congo   French is the official language of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is meant to be an ethnically neutral language, to ease communication among the many different ethnic groups of the Congo.   There are an estimated total of 242 languages spoken in the country. Out of these, only four have the status of national languages: Kikongo (Kituba), Lingala, Tshiluba and Swahili. Although some people speak these regional, or trade languages, as first languages, most of the population speak them as a second language after their own tribal language. Primary education tends to be in the national Bantu language of the region, and secondary education, and beyond, tends to be in French.   Lingala was made the official language of the colonial army, the “Force Publique” under Belgian colonial rule. But since the recent rebellions, a good part of the army in the East also uses Swahili where it is prevalent.   When the country was a Belgian colony, it had already instituted teaching and use of the four national languages in primary schools, making it one of the few African nations to have had literacy in local languages during the European colonial period. During the colonial period both Dutch and French were the official languages but French was by far the most important.   About 24,320,000 people of DRC speak French either as a first or second language.

Culture

The culture of the Democratic Republic of the Congo reflects the diversity of its hundreds of ethnic groups and their differing ways of life throughout the country  — from the mouth of the River Congo on the coast, upriver through the rainforest and savanna in its centre, to the more densely populated mountains in the far east. Since the late 19th century, traditional ways of life have undergone changes brought about by colonialism, the struggle for independence, the stagnation of the Mobutu era, and most recently, the First and Second Congo Wars. Despite these pressures, the customs and cultures of the Congo have retained much of their individuality. The country’s 60 million inhabitants are mainly rural. The 30 percent who live in urban areas have been the most open to Western influences. The DROC has blended its ethnic musical sources with Cuban rumba, and merengue to give birth to soukous. Influential figures of soukous and its offshoots: N’dombolo and Rumba rock, are Grand Kalle, Dr. Nico, Franco Luambo, Tabu Ley, Lutumba Simaro, King Kester Emeneya, Tshala Muana Koffi Olomide, JB Mpiana, Werrason, Kanda Bongo, Ray Lema, Mpongo Love, Abeti Masikini, Reddy Amisi, [Pasnas] Pepe Kalle, Fally Ipupa, Awilo Longomba, Gatho Buvens, Ferre Gola and Nyoka Longo.   Other African nations produce music genres that are derived from Congolese soukous. Some of the African bands sing in Lingala, one of the main languages in the DRC. The same Congolese soukous, under the guidance of “le sapeur”, Papa Wemba, has set the tone for a generation of young men always dressed up in expensive designers’ clothes’, they became to be known as the 4th generation of the congolese music and they mostly come from the former well known band Wenge Musica.   The Congo is also known for its art. Traditional art includes masks and wooden statues. Notable contemporary artists and fashion designers are Odette Maniema Krempin, Lema Kusa, Henri Kalama Akulez, Nshole, Mavinga, Claudy Khan et Chéri Samba.

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