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Democratic Republic of Congo    

Country Overview 



Background: Established as a Belgian colony in 1908. It's early years were marred by political and social instability.
Terrain: The country features tropical rain forests in the central and western regions, grasslands in the north and south, and mountains in the east.
Population: 70,916,439
Location:
Central Africa, northeast of Angola
Natural Resources:
cobalt, copper, niobium, tantalum, petroleum, industrial and gem diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, uranium, coal, hydropower, timber
Population Growth Rate: 3.208%
Area, sq. mi.: 905,355
Land Use:
arable land: 2.86%
permanent crops:
0.47%
other: 96.67%
Net Migration Rate: 1.07 migrant(s)/1,000 population
Borders: Angola, Rep. of the Congo, Zambia, Sudan, C.A.R.
Natural Hazards:
periodic droughts in south; Congo River floods (seasonal); in the east, in the Great Rift Valley, there are active volcanoes
Infant mortality rate: 81 per 1,000 births
Climate: temperatures average between 70 and 85°F all year.
Enviromental Issues:
poaching threatens wildlife populations; water pollution; deforestation; refugees responsible for significant deforestation, soil erosion, and wildlife poaching; mining of minerals (coltan - a mineral used in creating capacitors, diamonds, and gold) causing environmental damage
Life expectancy: 46 (male); 49 (female)
Ethnic Groups:
over 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
Literacy:
definition: age 15 and over can read and write French, Lingala, Kingwana, or Tshiluba
total population:
67.2%
male: 80.9%female: 54.1%
Government Type: Democaracy
Capital: Kinshasa
Independence: Gained in June 30, 1960
Suffrage:
18 years of age; universal and compulsory
Leader: Joseph Kabila
Economic Overview: Slowly recovering from two decades of decline. Conflict that began in May 1997 has dramatically reduced national output and government revenue, increased external debt.
GDP per capita: 298
Labor Force: 23.53 million
Unemplyment: NA%
Agriculture Products:
coffee, sugar, palm oil, rubber, tea, quinine, cassava (tapioca), palm oil, bananas, root crops, corn, fruits; wood products.
Industries:
mining (diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt, coltan, zinc), mineral processing, consumer products (including textiles, footwear, cigarettes, processed foods and beverages), cement, commercial ship repair.
Export Commodities:
diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt, wood products, crude oil, coffee
Import Commodities:
foodstuffs, mining and other machinery, transport equipment, fuels
Currency/Exchange Rate:
Congolese francs (CDF) per US dollar - NA (2007), 464.69 (2006), 437.86 (2005), 401.04 (2004), 405.34 (2003)
Illicit Drugs: one of Africa's biggest producers of cannabis.
Religion: 80% Christian.
50% Roman Catholic. 20% various Protestant organizations.
Education: Facilities and staff are lacking, and enrollment levels are very low. Few viable institutions exist in interior rural areas.
Internet Access:
Internet users: 290,000
Internet hosts: 3,006


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The flag is sky blue and features a yellow star and a diagonal red stripe bordered by two narrow yellow stripes. The blue stands for peace, red for the blood of martyrs, yellow for the nation's wealth, and the star for a radiant future.


Timelime


  • June 3, 1960: the Republic of the Congo gained its independence.
  • December, 1965: Col. Joseph MOBUTU seized power and declared himself president.
  • 1994: Ethnic strife and civil war, touched off by a massive inflow of refugees from fighting in Rwanda and Burundi.
  • May 1997: led to the toppling of the MOBUTU regime by a rebellion backed by Rwanda and Uganda and fronted by Laurent KABILA. He renamed the country the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • 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.
  • July, 1999: A cease-fire was signed by the DRC, Congolese armed rebel groups, Angola, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zimbabwe but sporadic fighting continued.
  • January 2001: Laurent KABILA was assassinated and his son, Joseph KABILA, was named head of state.
  • October 2002: The new president was successful in negotiating the withdrawal of Rwandan forces occupying eastern Congo; two months later, the Pretoria Accord was signed by all remaining warring parties to end the fighting and establish a government of national unity.
  • July, 2003: A transitional government was set up. Joseph KABILA as president and four vice presidents represented the former government, former rebel groups, the political opposition, and civil society.
  • December, 2005-2006: The transitional government held a successful constitutional referendum and elections for the presidency, National Assembly, and provincial legislatures.
  • 2007: Provincial assemblies were constituted and elected governors and national senators.

Tourist Information


Greetings

In urban areas, men and women generally shake hands, smile, and greet each other verbally. Upon entering a room for the first time, a person shakes hands with each individual. Close friends greet first with a handshake, followed by a hug and three alternating kisses to the cheek (men might simply touch alternating temples). The urban elite greet with the French term Bonjour (Good day). But Mbote (Hello) is more common. It is followed by Sango nini? (What's new?) among Lingala speakers. Outside urban areas, men usually do not shake hands with women but will shake hands with men. Some rural women greet men by clapping their hands a few times and bowing slightly. In the eastern and southeastern parts of the country, the Swahili greeting Jambo (Hello) is common.

Gestures

Pointing directly at a person with the index finger is considered impolite. One beckons by waving all fingers. Objects are passed with the right hand or both hands, never the left alone, as the left is traditionally reserved for personal hygiene. When shaking hands, if one's right hand is soiled, one offers the wrist instead. Hand gestures often accompany or replace verbal communication. For example, to indicate a bus or place is completely full, one taps the fist two or three times with an open palm.

Daily Eating

They eat a light breakfast and a larger meal in the late afternoon or early evening. Meals usually are eaten with the fingers of the right hand only. When Congolese use utensils, they observe the continental style of eating; the fork is in the left hand and the knife remains in the right. Men and women eat from separate communal bowls. When sharing a bowl, people eat only from the space directly in front of them. Only the eldest person is permitted to distribute meat with both hands to those eating the meal. Diners wash their hands before and after each meal.

Holidays

National holidays include New Year's Day, the Commemoration of the Martyrs of Independence (4 Jan.), Easter, Labor Day (1 May), Independence Day (30 June), Parents' Day (1 Aug.), Veterans' Day (17 Nov.), and Christmas.

Recreational Activities

Soccer is the most popular sport. Even urban girls are beginning to play. Rural Congolese enjoy gatherings that consist of dancing and drum music. Many urban people spend their leisure time socializing, dancing, or listening to music.

The Arts

Musical styles that originated in Congo-Kinshasa are popular not only locally but also in many other parts of Africa and around the world. Among the most celebrated is soukous, which combines guitars, percussion, and horns in an upbeat, Latin-influenced dance rhythm. Soukous is also referred to as rumba or lingala and has generated related forms such as kwasa kwasa and ndombolo. Congolese musicians who have achieved international success include singers Papa Wemba and Koffi Olomide and bands Wenge Musica and Zaiko Langa Langa. Traditional music is still important, so instruments such as the likembe
(a board with thin metal strips plucked with the thumbs) are common. Folk art has a strong presence throughout the country; popular forms include baskets, wood carvings, and jewelry. Painting and sculpture are concentrated in urban areas.

Housing

Most Congolese live in small villages and subsist by farming small plots of land or catching fish. A typical rural dwelling is a one-room, mud-brick hut. Nearby is the garden plot, which may contain cassava trees, banana trees, and other crops. Rural homes are without electricity, and water is collected from a stream or well.
Many urban houses date to the colonial era and exist in varying degrees of disrepair. Three generations of a family often live together. If more than eight people share the house, a few of them will likely sleep in the living room. In Kinshasa, most neighborhoods have electricity 24 hours a day, but there are regular blackouts. These occur partly because the equipment of the public electricity utility is extremely old and because, throughout the city, people illegally connect their homes to cables and do not pay for electricity. Water is also a problem in Kinshasa. The poor quality of the pipes ensures that there are regular interruptions. Most urban residents rent their homes. Before a renter moves in, he or she usually has to pay a deposit of between five and eight month's rent.

Photos

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Currency used in D.R.C.

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Photo of some of the lower class homes in a village.
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Photo of the capital, Kinshasa.

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Joseph Kabila, the leader of D.R.C.
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Primary School of Ndolege in Kinsangani.




Work Cited