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The Republic of the Congo ( ; ; ), also known as Congo-Brazzaville or the Congo, is a country in Central Africa. It is bordered by Gabonmarker, Cameroonmarker, the Central African Republicmarker, the Democratic Republic of the Congomarker (formerly known as Zairemarker), the Angolanmarker exclave province of Cabindamarker, and the Gulf of Guineamarker.

The region was dominated by Bantu tribes, who built trade links leading into the Congo Rivermarker basin. The republic is a former Frenchmarker colony. Upon independence in 1960, the former French region of Middle Congo became the Republic of the Congo. The People's Republic of the Congo was a Marxist-Leninist single-party state from 1970 to 1991. Multiparty elections have been held since 1992, although a democratically-elected government was ousted in a 1997 civil war.


The earliest inhabitants of the region were Pygmy people, who later were largely displaced and absorbed by Bantu tribes during the Bantu expansions. The Bakongo are a Bantu ethnicity that also occupied parts of present-day Angolamarker, Gabonmarker, and Democratic Republic of the Congomarker, forming the basis for ethnic affinities and rivalries among those countries. Several Bantu kingdoms—notably those of the Kongo, the Loango, and the Teke—built trade links leading into the Congo Rivermarker basin.

The inhabitants of the Congo rivermarker delta first came into contact with Europeans in the late 15th century with Portuguese expeditions charting the African coastline. Commercial relationships were quickly established between the inland Bantu kingdoms and European merchants who traded various commodities, manufactured goods, and slaves captured from the hinterlands. For centuries, the Congo river delta was a major commercial hub for transatlantic trade. However, when direct European colonization of the African continent began in the late 19th century, the power of the Bantu societies in the region eroded. The area came under French sovereignty in the 1880s. In 1908, France organized French Equatorial Africa (AEF), comprising its colonies of Middle Congo (modern Congo), Gabon, Chad, and Oubangui-Chari (modern Central African Republic). Brazzavillemarker was selected as the federal capital. Economic development during the first 50 years of colonial rule in Congo centered on natural resource extraction. Conference of 1944 heralded a period of major reform in French colonial policy. Congo benefited from the postwar expansion of colonial administrative and infrastructure spending as a result of its central geographic location within AEF and the federal capital at Brazzaville.

Following independence as the Congo Republic on August 15, 1960, Fulbert Youlou ruled as the country's first president until labour elements and rival political parties instigated a three-day uprising that ousted him. The Congolese military took charge of the country briefly and installed a civilian provisional government headed by Alphonse Massamba-Débat. Under the 1963 constitution, Massamba-Débat was elected President for a five-year term. The regime adopted "scientific socialism" as the country's constitutional ideology. In 1965, Congo established relations with the Soviet Unionmarker, the People's Republic of Chinamarker, North Koreamarker and North Vietnam. Massamba-Débat was unable to reconcile various institutional and ideological factions and his regime was ended abruptly with an August 1968 coup d'état. Marien Ngouabi, who had participated in the coup, assumed the presidency on December 31, 1968. One year later, President Ngouabi proclaimed Congo to be Africa's first "people's republic" and announced the decision of the National Revolutionary Movement to change its name to the Congolese Labour Party (PCT). On March 16, 1977, President Ngouabi was assassinated. An 11-member Military Committee of the Party (CMP) was named to head an interim government with Joachim Yhombi-Opango to serve as President of the Republic. Two years later, Yhombi-Opango was forced from power and Denis Sassou Nguesso become the new president.

Sassou Nguesso aligned the country with the Eastern Bloc and signed a twenty-year friendship pact with the Soviet Unionmarker. Over the years, Sassou had to rely more on political repression and less on patronage to maintain his dictatorship.

After decades of turbulent politics bolstered by Marxist-Leninist rhetoric, and with the collapse of the Soviet Unionmarker, the Sassou regime started to falter. Protesting Congolese students, workers and religious groups succeeded to bring an end to Sassou's dictatorship. Congo had multi-party elections in August 1992. Sassou Nguesso conceded defeat and Congo's new president, Pascal Lissouba was inaugurated on August 31, 1992. At least two thousand people died after fighting broke at the end of 1993 between the troops loyal to Lissouba and the militia supporting Bernard Kolelas.Lissouba, another socialist, did not bring much change. He delayed economic reforms.

Congo's democratic progress was derailed in 1997 when Lissouba and Sassou started to fight over power. As presidential elections scheduled for July 1997 approached, tensions between the Lissouba and Sassou camps mounted. On June 5, President Lissouba's government forces surrounded Sassou's compound in Brazzaville and Sassou ordered members of his private militia (known as "Cobras") to resist. Thus began a four-month conflict that destroyed or damaged much of Brazzaville and caused tens of thousands of civilian deaths. In early October, the Angolanmarker socialist regime began an invasion of Congo to install Sassou to power. In mid-October, the Lissouba government fell. Soon thereafter, Sassou declared himself President. In 1998, Sassou adopted a dual strategy of co-opting with some Congolese politicians and assassinating others. The Congo Civil War continued for another year and a half until a peace deal was struck between the various factions in December 1999. Sassou has received military backing from Angola and financial support from French interests.

Controversial elections in 2002 saw Sassou win with almost 90% of the vote cast. His two main rivals Lissouba and Bernard Kolelas were prevented from competing and the only remaining credible rival, Andre Milongo, advised his supporters to boycott the elections and then withdrew from the race. A new constitution, agreed upon by referendum in January 2002, granted the president new powers and also extended his term to seven years as well as introducing a new bicameral assembly. International observers took issue with the organization of the presidential election as well as the constitutional referendum, both of which were reminiscent in their organization of Congo's era of the single-party state. Following the presidential elections, fighting restarted in the Pool region between government forces and rebels lead by Pastor Ntumi; a peace treaty to end the conflict was signed in April 2003.

The regime held presidential election in July 2009. According to the Congolese Observatory of Human Rights, a non-governmental organisation, the election was marked by "very low" turnout and "fraud and irregularities." The regime announced Sassou as the winner.

Government and politics

The Republic of the Congo is an authoritarian regime, according to the Democracy Index. It is ruled by Denis Sassou Ngessuui. Internationally, Sassou's socialist regime has been hit by corruption revelations despite attempts to censor them. One French investigation found over 110 bank accounts and dozens of lavish properties in France; Sassou denounced embezzlement investigations as "racist" and "colonial".

Human rights

As of 2008, main media is owned by the government. There is one government-owned television station, three government-owned radio stations, and three private pro-government radio stations, and a government-owned newspaper.

Many Pygmies in Congo live as slaves to Bantu masters. The nation is deeply stratified between these two major ethnic groups. The Pygmy slaves belong from birth to their Bantu masters in a relationship that the Bantus call a time-honored tradition. Even though the Pygmies are responsible for much of the hunting, fishing and manual labor in jungle villages, Pygmies and Bantus alike say Pygmies are often paid at the master's whim; in cigarettes, used clothing, or even nothing at all. Now UNICEF and human-rights activists are speaking out. A law that would grant special protections to the Pygmy people is awaiting a vote by the Congo parliament.

Administrative divisions

The Republic of the Congo is divided into 12 départements (départements). Departments are divided into communes and/or districts.These are:

Geography and climate

Map of the Republic of the Congo
Congo is located in the central-western part of sub-Saharan Africa, along the Equator. To the south and east of it is the Democratic Republic of Congomarker. It is also bounded by Gabonmarker to the west, Cameroonmarker and the Central African Republicmarker to the north, and Cabindamarker (Angolamarker) to the southwest. It has a short Atlanticmarker coast.

The capital, Brazzavillemarker, is located on the Congo River, in the south of the country, immediately across from Kinshasamarker, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The southwest of the country is a coastal plain for which the primary drainage is the Kouilou-Niari River; the interior of the country consists of a central plateau between two basins to the south and north. Forests are under increasing exploitation pressure.

Since the country is located on the Equator, the climate is consistent year-round, with the average day temperature being a humid and nights generally between and . The average yearly rainfall ranges from in south in the Niari valley to over in central parts of the country. The dry season is from June to August while in the majority of the country the wet season has two rainfall maxima: one in March–May and another in September–November.

In 2006-07, researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society studied gorillas in heavily forested regions centered on the Ouesso district of the Sangha Region. They suggest a population on the order of 125,000 Western Lowland Gorillas, whose isolation from humans has been largely preserved by inhospitable swamps.


The economy is a mixture of village agriculture and handicrafts, an industrial sector based largely on petroleum, support services, and a government characterized by budget problems and overstaffing. Petroleum extraction has supplanted forestry as the mainstay of the economy. In 2008, oil sector accounted for 65% of the GDP, 85% of government revenue, and 92% of exports. In the early 1980s, rapidly rising oil revenues enabled the government to finance large-scale development projects with GDP growth averaging 5% annually, one of the highest rates in Africa. The government has mortgaged a substantial portion of its petroleum earnings, contributing to a shortage of revenues. The January 12, 1994 devaluation of Franc Zone currencies by 50% resulted in inflation of 46% in 1994, but inflation has subsided since.Economic reform efforts continued with the support of international organizations, notably the World Bank and the IMFmarker. The reform program came to a halt in June 1997 when civil war erupted. When Sassou Nguesso returned to power at the war ended in October 1997, he publicly expressed interest in moving forward on economic reforms and privatization and in renewing cooperation with international financial institutions. However, economic progress was badly hurt by slumping oil prices and the resumption of armed conflict in December 1998, which worsened the republic's budget deficit. The current administration presides over an uneasy internal peace and faces difficult economic problems of stimulating recovery and reducing poverty, despite record-high oil prices since 2003. Natural gas and diamonds are also recent major Congolese exports, although Congo was excluded from the Kimberley Process in 2004 amid allegations that most of its diamond exports were in fact being smuggled out of the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congomarker; it was re-admitted to the group in 2007. Republic of the Congo also has base metal, gold, iron and phosphate deposits. The Republic of the Congo is a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA). The Congo government has signed an agreement to lease 200,000 hectares of land to South African farmers to reduce its dependence on imports.


Congolese woman.

The Republic of the Congo's sparse population is concentrated in the southwestern portion of the country, leaving the vast areas of tropical jungle in the north virtually uninhabited. Thus, Congo is one of the most urbanized countries in Africa, with 70% of its total population living in a few urban areas, namely in Brazzavillemarker, Pointe-Noiremarker, or one of the small cities or villages lining the railway which connects the two cities. In rural areas, industrial and commercial activity has declined rapidly in recent years, leaving rural economies dependent on the government for support and subsistence.

Ethnically and linguistically the population of the Republic of the Congo is diverse—Ethnologue recognises 62 spoken languages in the country—but can be grouped into three categories. The Kongo are the largest ethnic group and form roughly half of the population. The most significant subgroups of the Kongo are Laari in Brazzaville and Pool regions and Vili around Pointe-Noire and along the Atlantic coast. The second largest group are the Teke who live to the north of Brazzaville with 17% of the population. Boulangui (M’Boshi) live in northwest and in Brazzaville and form 12% of the population. Before the 1997 war, about 9,000 Europeans and other non-Africans lived in Congo, most of whom were Frenchmarker; only a fraction of this number remains. Around 100 Americanmarker expatriates reside in the Congo. Nearly 2,000 South Africa’s white farmers have expressed interest in going to Congo. Pygmies make up between 5 to 10 percent of Congo's population.

The people of Republic of the Congo are largely a mix of Christians and Animists, accounting for 50% and 48% of the population, respectively. The majority of Christians in the country are Catholic, amounting to 90%, while the remaining 10% comprises various other Christian denominations. Two percent follow Islam and this is primarily due to an influx of foreign workers into the urban centres.


Public expenditure on health was at 1.2 % of the GDP in 2004, whereas private expenditure was at 1.3 %.HIV prevalence is at several % among 15-49 year olds. Health expenditure was at US$ 30 per capita in 2004 A large proportion of the population is undernourished.There were 20 physicians per 100,000 persons in the early 2000s.



Literacy is high, particularly among men.Public expenditure of the GDP was less in 2002-05 than in 1991. Public education is free and compulsory for under-16-year olds. In practice, expenses exist.
Net primary enrolment rate was 44 % in 2005, much less than the 79 % in 1991. The country has universities.

See also

See also


  1. C. R. Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 1415-1825
  2. Vote results expected as opposition alleges fraud. France24
  3. 2008 Human Rights Report: Republic of the Congo
  4. With inconsistent figures: * The site of the Presidency of the Republic of Congo lists 11 departments, 7 communes, and 76 districts. * The 2004 Statistical directory of Congo lists 12 departments, 6 communes, and 85 districts * A list of subprefects (higher representatives of State in a district) nominated in December 2008 lists 86 districts. See [1] * Finally, the good figures seem to come from this site: 12 departments, 7 communes, and 86 districts
  5. Map: Situation de l'exploitation forestière en République du Congo
  6. Republic of Congo World Bank
  7. " South Africa’s white farmers prepare to trek to the Congo". National Post. October 21, 2009.
  8. " Congo hands land to South African farmers". Telegraph. October 21, 2009.
  9. Background Note: Republic of the Congo United States Department of State. Accessed on August 21, 2008.
  10. " SA farmers to rent land in Congo". BBC News. October 20, 2009.

Further reading

  • Maria Petringa, Brazza, A Life for Africa (2006) ISBN 9781-4259-11980

External links





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