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Congo Country Information

Travel Advice with Country Information from the CIA.

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Congo Map

Introduction

Background

The Kingdom of Kongo ruled the area around the mouth of the Congo River from the 14th to 19th centuries. To the center and east, the Kingdoms of Luba and Lunda ruled from the 16th and 17th centuries to the 19th century. in the 1870s, European exploration of the Congo Basin, sponsored by King Leopold II of Belgium, eventually allowed the ruler to acquire rights to the Congo territory and to make it his private property under the name of the Congo Free State. During the Free State, the king's colonial military forced the local population to produce rubber. From 1885 to 1908, millions of Congolese people died as a result of disease and exploitation. International condemnation finally forced Leopold to cede the land to Belgium, creating the Belgian Congo.

The Republic of the Congo gained its independence from Belgium in 1960, but its early years were marred by political and social instability. Col. Joseph MOBUTU seized power and declared himself president in a November 1965 coup. He subsequently changed his name - to MOBUTU Sese Seko - as well as that of the country - to Zaire. MOBUTU retained his position for 32 years through several sham elections, as well as through brutal force. Ethnic strife and civil war, touched off by a massive inflow of refugees in 1994 from conflict in Rwanda and Burundi, led in May 1997 to the toppling of the MOBUTU regime by a rebellion backed by Rwanda and Uganda and fronted by Laurent KABILA. KABILA renamed the country the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), but in August 1998 his regime was itself challenged by a second insurrection again backed by Rwanda and Uganda. Troops from Angola, Chad, Namibia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe intervened to support KABILA's regime. In January 2001, KABILA was assassinated and his son, Joseph KABILA, was named head of state. In October 2002, the new president was successful in negotiating the withdrawal of Rwandan forces occupying the eastern DRC; two months later, the Pretoria Accord was signed by all remaining warring parties to end the fighting and establish a government of national unity. Presidential, National Assembly, and provincial legislatures took place in 2006, with Joseph KABILA elected to office.

National elections were held in November 2011 and disputed results allowed Joseph KABILA to be reelected to the presidency. While the DRC constitution barred President KABILA from running for a third term, the DRC Government delayed national elections originally slated for November 2016, to 30 December 2018. This failure to hold elections as scheduled fueled significant civil and political unrest, with sporadic street protests by KABILA’s opponents and exacerbation of tensions in the tumultuous eastern DRC regions. Presidential, legislative, and provincial elections were held in late December 2018 and early 2019 across most of the country. The DRC Government canceled presidential elections in the cities of Beni and Butembo (citing concerns over an ongoing Ebola outbreak in the region) as well as Yumbi (which had recently experienced heavy violence).

Opposition candidate Felix TSHISEKEDI was announced the election winner on 10 January 2019 and inaugurated two weeks later. This was the first transfer of power to an opposition candidate without significant violence or a coup since the DRC's independence. 

The DRC, particularly in the East, continues to experience violence perpetrated by more than 100 armed groups active in the region, including the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), and assorted Mai Mai militias. The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) has operated in the region since 1999 and is the largest and most expensive UN peacekeeping mission in the world.

Geography

Location

Central Africa, northeast of Angola

Geographic coordinates

0 00 N, 25 00 E

Map references

Africa

Area

total: 2,344,858 sq km

land:2,267,048 sq km

water:77,810 sq km

country comparison to the world: 12

Area - comparative

slightly less than one-fourth the size of the US

Land boundaries

total: 11,027 km

border countries (9):Angola 2646 km (of which 225 km is the boundary of Angola's discontiguous Cabinda Province), Burundi 236 km, Central African Republic 1747 km, Republic of the Congo 1775 km, Rwanda 221 km, South Sudan 714 km, Tanzania 479 km, Uganda 877 km, Zambia 2332 km

Coastline

37 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone:since 2011, the DRC has had a Common Interest Zone agreement with Angola for the mutual development of off-shore resources

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

highest point: Pic Marguerite on Mont Ngaliema (Mount Stanley) 5,110 m

lowest point:Atlantic Ocean 0 m

mean elevation:726 m

Natural resources

cobalt, copper, niobium, tantalum, petroleum, industrial and gem diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, uranium, coal, hydropower, timber

Land use

agricultural land: 11.4% (2018 est.)

arable land: 3.1% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.3% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 8% (2018 est.)

forest:67.9% (2018 est.)

other:20.7% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

110 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources

1.283 trillion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Population distribution

urban clusters are spread throughout the country, particularly in the northeast along the boarder with Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi; the largest city is the capital, Kinshasha, located in the west along the Congo River; the south is least densely populated as shown in this population distribution map

Natural hazards

periodic droughts in south; Congo River floods (seasonal); active volcanoes in the east along the Great Rift Valley

volcanism: Nyiragongo (3,470 m), which erupted in 2002 and is experiencing ongoing activity, poses a major threat to the city of Goma, home to a quarter million people; the volcano produces unusually fast-moving lava, known to travel up to 100 km /hr; Nyiragongo has been deemed a Decade Volcano by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior, worthy of study due to its explosive history and close proximity to human populations; its neighbor, Nyamuragira, which erupted in 2010, is Africa's most active volcano; Visoke is the only other historically active volcano

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping-London Convention, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Tropical Timber 2006, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified:Environmental Modification

Geography - note

note 1: second largest country in Africa (after Algeria) and largest country in Sub-Saharan Africa; straddles the equator; dense tropical rain forest in central river basin and eastern highlands; the narrow strip of land that controls the lower Congo River is the DRC's only outlet to the South Atlantic Ocean

note 2: because of its speed, cataracts, rapids, and turbulence the Congo River, most of which flows through the DRC, has never been accurately measured along much of its length; nonetheless, it is conceded to be the deepest river in the world; estimates of its greatest depth vary between 220 and 250 meters

People and Society

Population

105,044,646 (July 2021 est.)

note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected

country comparison to the world: 15

Nationality

noun: Congolese (singular and plural)

adjective:Congolese or Congo

Ethnic groups

more than 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

Languages

French (official), Lingala (a lingua franca trade language), Kingwana (a dialect of Kiswahili or Swahili), Kikongo, Tshiluba

printed major-language sample:
Buku oyo ya bosembo ya Mokili Mobimba Ezali na Makanisi ya Liboso Mpenza. (Lingala)

The World Factbook, the indispensable source for basic information.

Religions

Roman Catholic 29.9%, Protestant 26.7%, other Christian 36.5%, Kimbanguist 2.8%, Muslim 1.3%, other (includes syncretic sects and indigenous beliefs) 1.2%, none 1.3%, unspecified .2% (2014 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Democratic Republic of the Congo

conventional short form:DRC

local long form:Republique Democratique du Congo

local short form:RDC

former:Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, Congo/Leopoldville, Congo/Kinshasa, Zaire

abbreviation:DRC (or DROC)

etymology:named for the Congo River, most of which lies within the DRC; the river name derives from Kongo, a Bantu kingdom that occupied its mouth at the time of Portuguese discovery in the late 15th century and whose name stems from its people the Bakongo, meaning "hunters"

Government type

semi-presidential republic

Capital

name: Kinshasa

geographic coordinates:4 19 S, 15 18 E

time difference:UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

note:the DRC has two time zones

etymology: 
founded as a trading post in 1881 and named Leopoldville in honor of King Leopold II of the Belgians, who controlled the Congo Free State, the vast central African territory that became the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1960; in 1966, Leopoldville was renamed Kinshasa, after a village of that name that once stood near the site

Economy

Economic overview

The economy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo - a nation endowed with vast natural resource wealth - continues to perform poorly. Systemic corruption since independence in 1960, combined with countrywide instability and intermittent conflict that began in the early-90s, has reduced national output and government revenue, and increased external debt. With the installation of a transitional government in 2003 after peace accords, economic conditions slowly began to improve as the government reopened relations with international financial institutions and international donors, and President KABILA began implementing reforms. Progress on implementing substantive economic reforms remains slow because of political instability, bureaucratic inefficiency, corruption, and patronage, which also dampen international investment prospects.

Renewed activity in the mining sector, the source of most export income, boosted Kinshasa's fiscal position and GDP growth until 2015, but low commodity prices have led to slower growth, volatile inflation, currency depreciation, and a growing fiscal deficit. An uncertain legal framework, corruption, and a lack of transparency in government policy are long-term problems for the large mining sector and for the economy as a whole. Much economic activity still occurs in the informal sector and is not reflected in GDP data.

Poverty remains widespread in DRC, and the country failed to meet any Millennium Development Goals by 2015. DRC also concluded its program with the IMF in 2015. The price of copper – the DRC’s primary export - plummeted in 2015 and remained at record lows during 2016-17, reducing government revenues, expenditures, and foreign exchange reserves, while inflation reached nearly 50% in mid-2017 – its highest level since the early 2000s.

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 0 NA

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:less than 1 (2018 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 42,166,976

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:42.77 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 35

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: 

due to decades of conflict and poor infrastructure, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s telecom system is one of the least developed in the region; government aims to improve loose regulation through legislation; mobile networks are principal providers of telecom; LTE is geographically limited; investment from China and other foreign donors for fiber backbone; international bandwidth through WACS submarine cable; operator licensed to build landing station for submarine cable and tower upgrade that will provide competition in broadband, fixed, and mobile Internet services; operator added fiber link between Brazzaville and Kinshasa (2021)

(2020)

domestic:fixed-line connections less than 1 per 100 persons; given the backdrop of a wholly inadequate fixed-line infrastructure, the use of mobile-cellular services is over 43 per 100 persons (2019)

international:country code - 243; ACE and WACS submarine cables to West and South Africa and Europe; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2019)

note: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced downturn, particularly in mobile device production; many network operators delayed upgrades to infrastructure; progress towards 5G implementation was postponed or slowed in some countries; consumer spending on telecom services and devices was affected by large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home became evident, and received some support from governments

Broadcast media

state-owned TV broadcast station with near national coverage; more than a dozen privately owned TV stations - 2 with near national coverage; 2 state-owned radio stations are supplemented by more than 100 private radio stations; transmissions of at least 2 international broadcasters are available

Internet country code

.cd

Internet users

total: 8,231,357

percent of population:8.62% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 59

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 4,620

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:less than 1 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 181

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 8 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers:13

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers:932,043 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers:890,000 mt-km (2018)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

9Q

Airports

total: 198 (2013)

country comparison to the world: 27

Airports - with paved runways

total: 26 (2017)

over 3,047 m:3 (2017)

2,438 to 3,047 m:3 (2017)

1,524 to 2,437 m:17 (2017)

914 to 1,523 m:2 (2017)

under 914 m:1 (2017)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 172 (2013)

1,524 to 2,437 m:20 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m:87 (2013)

under 914 m:65 (2013)

Heliports

1 (2013)

Pipelines

62 km gas, 77 km oil, 756 km refined products (2013)

Railways

total: 4,007 km (2014)

narrow gauge:3,882 km 1.067-m gauge (858 km electrified) (2014)

125 1.000-m gauge

country comparison to the world: 48

Roadways

total: 152,373 km (2015)

paved:3,047 km (2015)

unpaved:149,326 km (2015)

urban:7,400 km (2015)

non-urban:144,973 km

country comparison to the world: 34

Waterways

15,000 km (including the Congo River, its tributaries, and unconnected lakes) (2011)

country comparison to the world: 8

Merchant marine

total: 21

by type:general cargo 4, oil tanker 2, other 15 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 146

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Banana

river or lake port(s):Boma, Bumba, Kinshasa, Kisangani, Matadi, Mbandaka (Congo)

Kindu (Lualaba) Bukavu, Goma (Lake Kivu) Kalemie (Lake Tanganyika)

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Forces d'Armees de la Republique Democratique du Congo, FARDC): Land Forces, National Navy (La Marine Nationale), Congolese Air Force (Force Aerienne Congolaise, FAC); Republican Guard (2020)

note - the Republican Guard is under the direct control of the president

Military expenditures

0.7% of GDP (2019 est.)

0.7% of GDP (2018)

0.7% of GDP (2017)

1.3% of GDP (2016)

1.4% of GDP (2015)

country comparison to the world: 141

Military and security service personnel strengths

size estimates for the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) vary widely because of inconsistent and unreliable data, as well as the ongoing integration of various non-state armed groups/militias; approximately 100,000 active troops (mostly Army, but includes several thousand Navy and Air Force personnel, as well as about 10,000 Republican Guard; note -  Navy personnel includes naval infantry (2020)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the FARDC is equipped mostly with a mix of second-hand Russian and Soviet-era weapons acquired from former Warsaw Pact nations; most equipment was acquired between 1970 and 2000; since 2010, Ukraine is the largest supplier of arms to the FARDC (2020)

Military service age and obligation

18-45 years of age for voluntary and compulsory military service (2019)

Terrorism

Terrorist group(s)

Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham – Democratic Republic of the Congo (ISIS-DRC)

note: details about the history, aims, leadership, organization, areas of operation, tactics, targets, weapons, size, and sources of support of the group(s) appear(s) in Appendix-T

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

heads of the Great Lakes states and UN pledged in 2004 to abate tribal, rebel, and militia fighting in the region, including northeast Congo, where the UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), organized in 1999, maintains over 16,500 uniformed peacekeepers; members of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army forces continue to seek refuge in Congo's Garamba National Park as peace talks with the Uganda Government evolve; the location of the boundary in the broad Congo River with the Republic of the Congo is indefinite except in the Pool Malebo/Stanley Pool area; Uganda and DRC dispute Rukwanzi Island in Lake Albert and other areas on the Semliki River with hydrocarbon potential; boundary commission continues discussions over Congolese-administered triangle of land on the right bank of the Lunkinda River claimed by Zambia near the DRC village of Pweto; DRC accuses Angola of shifting monuments

Refugees and internally displaced persons

refugees (country of origin): 213,329 (Rwanda) (refugees and asylum seekers), 206,491 (Central African Republic), 55,784 (South Sudan) (refugees and asylum seekers), 44,193 (Burundi) (2021)

IDPs:5.268 million (fighting between government forces and rebels since mid-1990s; conflict in Kasai region since 2016) (2020)

Trafficking in persons

current situation: human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Democratic Republic of the Congo and Congolese abroad; most trafficking is internal and involves the forced labor of men, women, and children in artisanal mining, agriculture, domestic servitude, sex trafficking, or child recruitment by armed groups; some traffickers are family members or others who promise victims or victims’ families educational or job opportunities and instead force victims to work as domestic servants, street vendors, gang members, or in commercial sex; some Congolese women and girls who migrate to other countries in Africa or the Middle East are exploited in sex trafficking or forced labor in agriculture, diamond mines, or domestic service; they may be fraudulently recruited by traffickers with false promises of jobs or education

tier rating:

Tier 2 Watch List — The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so; the DRC was upgraded to Tier 2 Watch List because of several accomplishments; the government drafted and launched its first national anti-trafficking action plan; authorities increased law enforcement efforts, including investigating and prosecuting more trafficking crimes; a number of traffickers were convicted, including a high-ranking army officer and the leader of an armed group; however, authorities continued to lack standard operating procedures for identifying victims and referring them to care; there were credible allegations that the army abducted women and girls for sexual slavery and recruited and used child soldiers (2020)

Illicit drugs

traffickers exploit lax shipping controls to transit pseudoephedrine through the capital; while rampant corruption and inadequate supervision leave the banking system vulnerable to money laundering, the lack of a well-developed financial system limits the country's utility as a money-laundering center

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