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keskiviikko 28. lokakuuta 2015

Democratic Republic of Congo, Cool Facts #74

<= 73. Congo                                                                                                                       75. Niger =>

1. Congo Free State  

In the late 1870s the king of Belgium, Leopold II contracted the British explorer Henry Stanley to examine the area of the Congo basin. European countries divided Africa with each other during the Berlin Conference in 1884-1885 and Leopold II announced that he would take the whole Congo Basin region as his private property.

The region was called as Congo Free State until 1908 when it was dissolved and the area was transformed from king's private property into a Belgian colony. This period of time is known as one of the cruelest in the colonial history. About 10 million people lost their lives in forced labour collecting rubber and other resources.

Many native people had their hands chopped off as they weren't able to meet the expectations in collected rubber amounts. This event created one of the biggest international scandals in the 20th century when the actions of king Leopold were revealed in Congo Free State. 

Leopold II of Belgium

2. Most populated French-speaking country

- DR Congo is the most populated French-speaking country 
  1. DR Congo - 81,7M 
  2. France - 66,0M
  3. Canada - 35,2M

- DR Congo is the 2nd biggest country in Africa after Algeria

  1. Algeria - 2,381,741
  2. DR Congo - 2,344,858
  3. Sudan - 1,886,068

- DR Congo is the most biodiverse country in Africa 

- The Congo River which flows across the country is the second longest in Africa and the amount of water in the river is the second largest after the Amazon. 

Virunga national park
3. World's richest country in natural reserves

It's speculated that DR Congo might be the richest country in natural reserves in the world. Most of the natural resources are untapped due to the unstable political situation. 

DR is one of the world's leading producers in copper, cobalt, zinc, manganese, silver and diamonds. They also produce a lot of gold and uranium. 

Natural resources in DR Congo: 

- 70% of the world's coltan
- 33% of the world's cobalt 
- over 30% of the world's diamond reserves
- 10% of the world's copper 

So taking in consideration these facts it's hard to accept that the population of DR Congo is among the world's poorest. The natural resources are one reason why the political situation is so unstable, everyone wants to get control of these resources. The resource rich Katanga was already independent in 1960-1963 and the diamond rich South Kasai tried to become independent as well. The cold truth is that in DR Congo the wealth from the natural resources goes to the rich elite and military leaders and their foreign bank accounts. 

Map of natural resources in DR Congo

4. Mobutu Sese Seko

Joseph-Desire Mobutu or Mobutu Sese Seko like he renamed himself is one of the most notorious dictators in history. He rose in power in 1965 in a coup and the following 33 years he was the president of DR Congo until 1997 when Lauren Kabila's rebel forces expelled him from the country. Three months later in 1997 he died in Morocco because of an advanced prostate cancer. 

Mobutu's actions during his presidency

- Changed his name from Joseph-Desire Mobutu to Mobutu Sese Seko
- Changed the name of Leopoldville to Kinshasa
- Congo became Zaire and the flag was changed
- Mobutu gathered a wealth of 5 Billion dollars from the countries natural resources
- Banned skin bleaching, straightening hair, usage of ties, western music and Christian names
- Single party system and secret police suppressed the opposition
- Transformed DR Congo into a kleptocracy

Despite all of Mobutu's shocking actions the western countries supported him for a long time because Mobutu was an anti-communist and he secured the exploitations of natural resources. Gradually the lack of democracy, corruption, human rights violations and economic chaos banished the outside supporters. 

Mobutu Sese Seko with Ronald Reagan

5. African World War

The Second Congo War is also known as the Great African War or the African World War. The name comes from the fact that nine African countries participated somehow in the war either in participating in the fights or giving logistic or political support.

The Second Congo War began in 1998 when the civil war expanded into a regional conflict. Laurent Kabila had expelled Mobutu out of the country in 1997 with the help of Rwandan and Ugandan troops. In 1998 Kabila ordered the Rwandan and Ugandan troops to leave the country, which they refused to do because Kabila's relationship with his former allies had worsened.

The Rwandan troops tried to conquer Kinshasa and replace the government with their allies. Uganda and Burundi supported Rwanda but their plans didn't go like planned as the militaries of Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe came to rescue Kabila's regime. Chad and Sudan sent some troops also for a while but they were withdrawn quickly when for example the Chadian troops were accused of serious human rights violations.

In 2001 Kabila was assassinated and a ceasefire agreement was made, but still the fights continued until late 2002 before the official peace treaty was made in 2003. Despite the peace treaty, fights continued in eastern DR Congo in different conflicts like the Kivu and Ituri conflicts and the Lord's Resistance Army Insurgency.

It's estimated that about 3-4 million people died in the Second Congo War, which is the highest number of deaths in a war since World War II. 


Before Europeans there were many tribes, the pygmies were the most ancient people on the area
About 2000 years ago the Bantu people migrated to the area
1483 The Portuguese Diogo Cao is the first at the Congo river
1506 Portuguese missionaries converted the king Nzinga Nkuwu into Christianity and he opened his country to trade
1870s British explorer Henry Stanley examines the area
1884 After Berlin Conference Belgian king Leopold II gets the whole Congo river area as his private property
1908 Congo becomes the colony of Belgium instead of being the private property of the king
1960 Belgium grants DR Congo independence, Joseph Kasavubu became the first president
1960-1963 Katanga is independent
1961 Belgian secret police assasinates the prime minister Patrice Lumumba
1965 Joseph Mobutu rose in power after a leadership crisis between Lumumba and Joseph Kasavubu, which also resulted in changing the name of the country to the "Democratic Republic of Congo"
1971 DR Congo changed its name to Republic of Zaire adopting a new flag as well
1997 The armed forces forced Mobutu to flee from Zaire and Joseph Kabila became the president
1998 The war in DR Congo evolved from a civil war into a regional conflict
2001 Laurent Kabila was murdered
2006 First multiparty elections in 46 years, which ends into armed conflicts when the results were published
2015 big protests where people demand Joseph Kabila to step down as president

"Maailman maat liput ja historia" by Kimmo Kiljunen

2 kommenttia:

  1. The second biggest state in Africa and with the greatest wealth in minerals is a miserable , insecure failed state. The African "elites" are structurally unable to manage their own countries, it seems.

  2. Yes, the colonial powers didn't do the best job after giving their colonies independence. But what do you think DR Congo has to do the following decades to improve the situation ? It seems pretty hard with all that wealth and all the rivaling groups, who want the money and wealth for themselves in this really large country.