The population of the DRC is estimated at 71 million in 2011. As many as 250 ethnic groups have been distinguished and named. Some of the larger groups are the Kongo, Luba, and Anamongo. Although 700 local languages and dialects are spoken, the linguistic variety is bridged both by the use of French and the national languages Kikongo, Tshiluba, Kiswahili, and Lingala.
About 70% of the Congolese population is Christian, predominantly Roman Catholic. Most of the non-Christians adhere to either traditional religions or syncretic sects.
Location: Central Africa. Bordering nations--Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia.
Area: 2.345 sq. km. (905,063 sq. mi.; about the size of the U.S. east of the Mississippi).
Type: Republic; highly centralized with executive power vested in the president.
Independence: June 30, 1960 (from Belgium).
010): $13.1 billion.
Annual GDP growth rate (2010): 6.1%.
Per capita GDP (2010): $189.
Natural resources: Copper, cobalt, diamonds, gold, other minerals; petroleum; wood; hydroelectric potential.
Currency: Congolese franc (FC). The U.S. dollar is also used as legal tender.
The area known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo was populated as early as 10,000 years ago and settled in the 7th and 8th centuries A.D. by Bantus from present-day Nigeria. The area was officially colonized in 1885 as a personal possession of Belgian King Leopold II as the Congo Free State.
In 1907, administration shifted to the Belgian Government, which renamed the country the Belgian Congo. Following a series of riots and unrest, the Belgian Congo gained its independence on June 30, 1960. Parliamentary elections in 1960 produced Patrice Lumumba as prime minister and Joseph Kasavubu as president of the renamed Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Prime Minister Lumumba died under mysterious circumstances; and Col. Joseph Desire Mobutu (later Mobutu Sese Seko) took over the government and ceded Kasavubu in 1970. Laurent-Desire Kabila marched into Kinshasa on May 17, 1997 and declared himself president after Mubotu left the country.
On January 16, 2001, Laurent Kabila was assassinated, allegedly by a member of his personal bodyguard corps who was in turn killed by an aide-de-camp. Kabila was succeeded by his son Joseph, who reversed many of his father's negative policies. Joseph is still in power. General elections in late November of this year may change this.
Beginning in late 1994, the war and genocide in neighboring Rwanda spilled over to Zaire (now DRC). Described by some as Africa’s first World War, the conflict in the DRC has actually involved seven nations.
- There have been a number of complex reasons, including conflicts over basic resources such as water, access and control over rich minerals and other resources as well as various political agendas.
- This has been fueled and supported by various national and international corporations and other regimes which have an interest in the outcome of the conflict.
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