Not to be confused with its neighbor Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo is a country faced with a slew of challenges including vast human rights violations, disease outbreak, constant political unrest, corruption in government, and widespread poverty.  DR Congo is important to know about because, as primary consumers of its most valuable minerals, we all play a part in the fate of its people. Today we’ll learn some of the basics of DR Congo, and then later this month we’ll take a look at how we’re connected to its conflict and some simple practices we can do to lessen our negative impact. 

DR Congo: This is a neighbor we have more to do with than you may think.

Location: Central Africa. Bordered by Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola.

Capital: Kinshasa

Population: 71,712,867 (Just under twice California’s Population)

Size: 905,063 square miles (Comparable to all of US East of the Mississippi)

Religion: Predominantly Christian

Language: French and about 4 local native African languages

Government: As of 2006, democracy. Belgium controlled Congo until 1960 when it gained its independence, establishing a President and Prime Minister. Due partly to UN involvement, the PM was removed, arrested, and murdered, and shortly after, a coup led by Joseph Mobutu removed the President. Mobutu renamed the country Zaire. He haphazardly led the country in a dictatorship focused on cultural purity which alienated foreign investors and supporters until 1996 when he was usurped. Laurent Kabila was next to take over the helm, but was unpopular and was assassinated in 2001.  His son, Joseph Kabila, took over, embracing a multiparty system and reversing many of his father’s negative policies.  In 2006, he was elected president in an historic election and has ruled since.

Economy: GNI $280 US dollars. One of the poorest countries despite their mineral wealth in diamonds, gold, cobalt, colton and copper. Also export coffee, wood, petroleum and have significant agricultural industry.

Fun Facts:

  • Colton, one of the most valuable of DR Congo’s resources is used in smart phones and other widely used technology.
  • It’s customary for DR Congo people to eat and greet with only their right hands.
  • Hilary Clinton visited the city of Goma in 2009 to promise 17 million dollars in aid for sexual violence victims, as most victims never get medical help.
  • 2006 election set the precedent for democracy, and is widely accepted as a fair election.

Not So Fun Facts:

  • It is suspected that warring parties are prolonging conflict in order to plunder the country’s natural resources for a large profit.
  • Custom mandates that women serve men meals first. Women and children eat only after the men are finished, and consequently suffer from malnutrition.
  • Armies reportedly conduct mass rapes.
  • Most recent election in 2011, is widely denounced as fixed and unfair. The winner, Joseph Kabila is still president.
  • Volcano eruption (Mt.Nyiragongo) destroyed much of the city of Goma in 2002.
  • Ebola virus devastated the country in 2007.