Congo (Zaire) Information

General Information for Congo (Zaire)

Country: Congo (Zaire)
Location: Central Africa
Independence: June 30, 1960
Nationality: Congolese
Capital City: Kinshasa
Population: 44,060,636
Important Cities: Kisingani, Lubumbashi, Kolwesi
Head of State: Lawrence Kabila
Area: 2,300,000
Type of Government: Republic
Currency: 3 millions Z=1 USD
Major peoples: Azande, Chokwe, Songo, Kongo, Kuba, Lunda, Bembe
Religion: Christian 70%, African religion 20%, Muslim 10%
Climate: Equatorial
Literacy: 72%
Official Language: French
Principal Languages: Lingala, Azande, Chokwe, Kongo, Luba
Major Exports: Copper, Cobalt, Zinc, Diamonds, Manganese, Gold, Bauxite
Pre-Colonial History The precolonial past of Congo (Zaire) was complex. A diversity of social aggregates developed, ranging from small, autonomous groups of hunters and gatherers to centralized chiefdoms, from settled indigenous village communities to predominantly Muslim and Arab trading communities. Established in the late 1300s, the Kongo Kingdom expanded until the mid-17th century. The Luba Empire was founded by NKongolo and Kalala Ilunga in mid-17th century. Other Luba chiefs, including Lunda, settled among neighboring people and introduced the concept of a state governed by divine kingship. The Luba Empire was noted for its artistic achievement in sculpture, praise poetry, and polyphonic music. In the early 1500s, Kongo King Affonso established relations with Portugal and declared Roman Catholicism the state religion. The Kuba Kingdom, founded in the 17th century, by King Shyaam aMbul aNgoong, was a highly centralized agricultural and trading state. The Kazembe Kingdom was founded in 1750s as a Lunda offshoot, following Lunda expansion and controlling salt pans and copper mines in Katanga. The Conference of Berlin held in 1884 to 1885, acknowledged Leopold II's claim to rule the Congo Free State.
Post-Colonial History Congo (Zaire) became independent from Belgium in 1960 when the head of state, Joseph Kasavubu, dismissed the prime minister, Patrice Lumumba. Col. Joseph Mobutu took over the government. Thirty years after independence Congo (Zaire) still bears the imprint of its colonial past. Behind the omnipresent apparatus of control forged by President Mobutu Sese Seko in 1965 may be detected the enduring influence of King Leopold II of Belgium. The import of different institutions, policies, and culture from the West has deeply affected Congo (Zaire). However, traditions are maintained by different peoples with different beliefs, loyalties, and tensions. Despite their historical differences, under the rule of Sese Seko Zairians were jointly repressed and neglected by a small and highly centralized political elite. In late 1996, Lawrence Kabila launched an offensive against the government, which led to the ouster of Mobutu Sese Seko in May 1997. One of Kabila's first acts as the new ruler was to change the name of the country from Zaire to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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