The Democratic Republic of the Congo (pronunciation French: République démocratique du Congo), is a country located in Central Africa. It is sometimes referred to by its former name of Zaire, which was its official name between 1971 and 1997. Eastern DR Congo has been the scene of ongoing military conflict in Kivu, since 2015.
In the 1870s, just before the onset of the Scramble for Africa, European exploration of the Congo Basin was carried out under the sponsorship of Leopold II of Belgium. Leopold formally acquired rights to the Congo territory at the Berlin Conference in 1885 and made the land his private property, naming it the Congo Free State. During the Free State, his colonial military unit, the Force Publique, forced the local population to produce rubber. From 1885 to 1908, millions of the Kongo people died as a consequence of disease and exploitation. In 1908, Belgium, despite initial reluctance, formally annexed the Free State, which became known as the Belgian Congo.
The Belgian Congo achieved independence on 30 June 1960 under the name Republic of the Congo. Congolese nationalist Patrice Lumumba was elected the first Prime Minister, while Joseph Kasa-Vubu became the first President. Conflict arose over the administration of the territory, which became known as the Congo Crisis. The provinces of Katanga, under Moïse Tshombe, and South Kasai attempted to secede. After Lumumba turned to the Soviet Union for assistance in the crisis, the U.S. and Belgium became wary and oversaw his removal from office by Kasa-Vubu on 5 September and ultimate execution by Belgian-led Katangese troops on 17 January 1961. On 25 November 1965, Army Chief of Staff Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, who later renamed himself Mobutu Sese Seko, officially came into power through a coup d’état. In 1971, he renamed the country Zaire. The country was run as a dictatorial one-party state, with his Popular Movement of the Revolution as the sole legal party. Mobutu’s government received considerable support from the United States, due to its anti-communist stance during the Cold War. By the early 1990s, Mobutu’s government began to weaken. Destabilisation in the east resulting from the 1994 Rwandan genocide and disenfranchisement among the eastern Banyamulenge (Congolese Tutsi) population led to a 1996 invasion led by Tutsi FPR-ruled Rwanda, which began the First Congo War.
On 17 May 1997, Laurent-Désiré Kabila, a leader of Tutsi forces from the province of South Kivu, became President after Mobutu fled to Morocco, reverting the country’s name to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Tensions between President Kabila and the Rwandan and Tutsi presence in the country led to the Second Congo War from 1998 to 2003. Ultimately, nine African countries and around twenty armed groups became involved in the war, which resulted in the deaths of 5.4 million people. The two wars devastated the country. President Laurent-Désiré Kabila was assassinated by one of his bodyguards on 16 January 2001 and was succeeded eight days later as President by his son Joseph.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is extremely rich in natural resources but has had political instability, a lack of infrastructure, issues with corruption and centuries of both commercial and colonial extraction and exploitation with little holistic development. Besides the capital Kinshasa, the two next largest cities Lubumbashi and Mbuji-Mayi are both mining communities. DR Congo’s largest export is raw minerals, with China accepting over 50% of DRC’s exports in 2012. In 2016, DR Congo’s level of human development was ranked 176th out of 187 countries by the Human Development Index. As of 2018, around 600,000 Congolese have fled to neighbouring countries from conflicts in the centre and east of the DRC. Two million children risk starvation, and the fighting has displaced 4.5 million people. The sovereign state is a member of the United Nations, Non-Aligned Movement, African Union, and COMESA.
“Justice – Paix – Travail” (French)
“Justice – Peace – Work”
“Debout Congolais” (French)
|French lyrics||English translation|
Unis par le sort
Unis dans l’effort pour l’indépendance.
Dressons nos fronts, longtemps courbés
Et pour de bon prenons le plus bel élan,
Dans la paix
Ô peuple ardent
Par le labeur
Nous bâtirons un pays plus beau qu’avant
Dans la paix
Entonnez l’hymne sacré de votre solidarité
Saluez l’emblème d’or de votre souveraineté
Don béni, Congo !
Des aïeux, Congo !
Ô pays, Congo !
Bien aimé, Congo !
Nous peuplerons ton sol
et nous assurerons ta grandeur
Trente juin, ô doux soleil
Trente juin, du trente juin
Jour sacré, soit le témoin,
Jour sacré, de l’immortel
Serment de liberté
Que nous léguons
À notre postérité
|On this day the sun rises |
And our Congo stands resplendent.
A long night is ended,
A great happiness has come.
Let us all, with wild joyfulness, sing
The song of freedom.
Arise, Congolese, proud every man,
Proclaim the unity of our nation.
Let us forget what divides us
And become more united than ever.
Let us live our motto:
Unity, work, progress.
From the forest to the bush,
From the bush to the ocean,
One people, one soul,
One heart, ardent and proud.
Let us all fight, every one of us,
For our old black country.
And if we have to die,
What does it really matter? Our children
Everywhere will be able to say how
Triumph comes through battle,
And in the smallest village
Sing beneath our three colours.