Democratic Republic of the Congo

Country Code: 243
ISO Code: COD / CD

 

Democratic Republic of the Congo (in French: République démocratique du Congo, 3 in Kikongo: Repubilika and Kongo Demokratika, in Swahili: Jamhuri and Kidemokrasia and Kongo, 4 in Lingala: Republiki and Kɔngɔ Demokratiki, in chiluba: Ditunga day Kongu wa Mungalaata ), also popularly known as DR Congo, Congo Democratic, Congo-Kinsasa, 5 or Eastern Congo and called Zaire between 1971 and 1997, is one of the fifty-four countries that make up the African continent. Its capital and most populated city is Kinsasa.

Located in the equatorial region of Africa, it comprises a large part of the basin of the Congo River, extending to the region of the great lakes. It is the second largest country in the continent, after Algeria. It borders the Central African Republic and South Sudan to the north, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania to the east, Zambia and Angola to the south, and the Republic of the Congo to the west. It has access to the sea through a narrow strip of 37 km of coastline, following the Congo River to the Gulf of Guinea. The name Congo finds its origin in the Bakongo natives, settled on the banks of the Nzadi River or Zaire, renamed in Portuguese as Congo River.

The DRC has a rich and varied history that begins with the first Bantu immigrants who arrived in the area, which would become the epicenter of the great Kingdom of the Congo in the mid-fifteenth century.

The territory was claimed by the African International Association (owned by King Leopold II of Belgium) as a Free State of the Congo. The king applied a particularly brutal colonization, which left between five and ten million men, women and children killed as tragic. The colony of the Belgian Congo would reach independence in 1960, to become Zaire under the aegis of the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

During the government of Sese Seko the country was subjected to an authoritarian, violent and kleptocratic government, which ruined the economy of the Congo. The fall of the latter led to the start of a serious civil war that would degenerate into a continental conflagration, in which armed forces from more than seven countries intervened, leaving as tragic more than four million deaths. The result was the intervention of the UN with its peace forces organized in MONUC.

Between 2003 and 2007 the country experienced a tense calm, under the direction of a transitional government. At the end of 2006 there were elections in which he was elected for President Joseph Kabila, who until then exercised the functions interim.

HISTORY

From 2000 a. C. to 500 d. C. Massive migrations of Bantu people settled in what we know today as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (the term “Congo” is generally used to designate a region that groups the countries and areas neighboring Congo-Brazzaville) from the northwest, joining and displacing populations of Pygmy Indians to the southernmost regions of the modern state of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Subsequent migrations from the Darfur and Kordofan regions of Sudan to the northeast, from East Africa migrated to eastern Congo were added to the mix of ethnic groups. The Bantu imported agriculture and techniques to work the iron from West Africa to this area, establishing the Bantu linguistic family as one of the main languages in the Congo.

The process by which the Upemba societies were transformed into the Luba Kingdom was gradual and complex. This transition developed without interruption, with many different societies developing outside the Upemba culture, after the beginning of the Luba. Each one of these kingdoms was enriched thanks to the exploitation of the minerals of the region. Civilization began to develop and implement iron and copper technologies, along with trade in ivory and other goods.

The Luba established a strong commercial demand for their metal technologies and were able to create extensive trade network (the network stretched some 1500 kilometers, reaching the Indian Ocean). Around 1500 the kingdom had established a strong central government based on caciquismo. The Portuguese influence that radiated from the colony of Angola was very important, embracing their Catholicism and accepting many cultural elements. From the seventeenth century, after several civil wars and clashes with Dutch and Portuguese, went into decline, although it remained two centuries.

The Free State of the Congo or Independent State of the Congo was an African colonial domain, privately owned by King Leopold II of Belgium, established at the Berlin Conference in 1885, whose borders coincided with the current Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Congo was administered privately by King Leopold until his death in 1908, the year in which the territory was ceded to Belgium.

During this period, the Congo was subject to systematic and indiscriminate exploitation of its natural resources, especially ivory and rubber, for which indigenous labor was used in conditions of slavery. To maintain its control over the native population, the colonial administration established a regime of terror, in which mass killings and mutilations were frequent, resulting in a very high number of victims. Although exact calculations are impossible, most authors mention figures of between five and ten million dead.

From 1900, the European and American press began to report on the dramatic conditions in which the native population of the territory lived. The diplomatic maneuvers and the pressure of the public opinion obtained that the Belgian king renounced his personal dominion over the Congo, that happened to become a colony of Belgium, under the name of Belgian Congo.

Leopold II renounced these personal properties (the free state of the Congo), mainly because of the international pressure he received because of the brutality with which that territory reigned, slavery, torture and crimes against humanity, complaints were filed for violations to the human rights in the territories under their domain.

The annexation of the territory to Belgium was formalized by means of a treaty signed on November 15, 1908, which was approved by the Belgian Parliament in August and by the King in October 1909. The colony was administered by a Governor General based on Boma, helped by several vice-governors general.

In Brussels there was a colonial minister who presided over the Colonial Council composed of fourteen members, of which eight were appointed by the king, three were chosen by the Senate and three by the Chamber of Deputies (lower house). The colony was divided into fifteen administrative districts. The colonial budget was analyzed and approved annually by the Belgian Parliament.

When the Belgian government took over the administration from King Leopold II, the situation in the Congo improved significantly, although it continued to maintain, legally, a type of “apartheid” that limited and restricted the rights and freedoms of the Congolese, slavery and mistreatment against the population. Economic and social changes transformed the Congo into what Europe called a “model colony.” [citation needed] Primary and secondary schools were built, as well as hospitals, and some Congolese had access to them.

In some schools, local languages were taught, a rarity in colonial education at the time. Doctors achieved great victories against sleeping sickness, to the point of eradicating the disease. There was a medical post in each village, and in larger cities people had access to well-equipped hospitals. The administration continued with economic reforms through the construction of railways, ports, roads, mines, plantations and industrial areas, among others.

The Belgian administration has been characterized as a paternalistic colonialism, a form of authoritarianism with sentimental elements and free concessions, such as teaching in local languages, since the system in general was dominated by the Catholic Church and, in some rare cases, by Protestant churches, but in any of them the curricula reflected the Christian religion and Belgian values. For example, in 1948, 99.6% of educational establishments were controlled by Christian missions. The teaching given to the natives were mainly religious. The children learned to read and write and certain notions of mathematics, but that was all. Belgian paternalism is very well represented in the Tintin comic in the Congo.

The political administration came under full control of the “mother country.” There were no local democratic institutions. The position of Head of State was exercised by the King of Belgium, who by that time had no political influence in the country. The Belgian government controlled the country, but the actions of the day-to-day government were carried out by the governor general, who was appointed as a colonial administrator by the Belgian government.

But the paternalism of the “model colony” would burst. In 1952, Governor General Léon Antoine Marie Petillon wrote to the Colonial Secretary stating that, if measures were not taken to improve the situation in the Congo, Belgium would lose its richest colony. It proposed giving the native population greater civil rights, including the right to vote.

The Belgian government opposed this proposal, claiming that “it would only destabilize the region.” In Belgium, some deputies wanted to incorporate the Congo into the Kingdom of Belgium. In this way the Congolese natives would become Belgian citizens and, therefore, would have full civil rights in Belgium.

However, Belgium was not interested in its colony, and the government never had a long-term strategic vision about the Congo. However, some internal political changes were introduced, but these were complicated by ethnic rivalries among the native population.

The Belgian Congo was one of the largest exporters of uranium to the United States during World War II and the Cold War, the largest amount extracted especially from the Shinkolobwe mine.

It is noteworthy that forced labor, slavery and abuses against the population in the Congo still existed in the 1950s, and life expectancy did not reach 40 years of age.

Even so, the Congolese natives had no power, everything was decided in Leopoldville and Brussels. The secretariat of the Belgian Congo and the Governor General, the leader of the colony, had absolute control, while the population had none. The discomfort with this lack of democracy grew among the Congolese population. In 1955, the upper class of Congolese society, the so-called “évolués” (evolved) began a campaign to end injustice.

During the Second World War, the small Congolese army won numerous victories against the Italians in North Africa. The Belgian Congo, which was rich in uranium deposits, supplied the material used by the United States to build the atomic bomb8 launched on the Japanese town of Hiroshima, which ended the Second World War

LANGUAGES

It is estimated that there are 242 languages spoken in the R.D. of the Congo. Of these, only four have the status of a national language: Kikongo, Lingala, Tshiluba and Swahili.

Lingala was established as the official language of the army under the Mobutu dictatorship, but, since the army rebelled, Swahili is also used in the east.

French is the official language of the country. It is intended to be used as a neutral language among ethnic groups.

During the Belgian colonial period, the four national languages were taught in primary schools, which made the country one of the few to possess literature in their local language during European occupation in Africa.

RELIGION

Christianity is the majority religion in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, followed by about 80% of the population. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the only African nation that appears among the 10 countries with the most Catholics in the world. It is estimated that it has 31,210,000 Catholics, which represent 47.3% of the country’s total population and 2.9% of the world total.12 Protestants reach 20% and Kimbanguistas reach 10%. Kimbanguism was seen as a threat to the colonial regime and was banned by the Belgians.

62 of the Protestant denominations in the country are federated within the framework of the Church of Christ in the Congo or CCC. It is often referred to as “The Protestant Church” and covers more than 20% of the population. The largest concentration of Christian followers of William Branham is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where his followers estimate that there are up to 2,000,000 followers (April 2009).

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