|Democratic Republic of the Congo
République Démocratique du Congo
|Motto: Justice – Paix – Travail (French)
"Justice – Peace – Work"
|Anthem: Debout Congolais
(and largest city)
|Recognised regional languages||Lingala, Kikongo, Swahili, Tshiluba|
|-||Prime Minister||Adolphe Muzito|
|-||from Belgium||30 June 1960|
|-||Total||2,344,858 km2 (12th)
905,355 sq mi
|-||July 2009 estimate||68,692,542 (19th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2008 estimate|
|-||Total||$20.738 billion (120)|
|-||Per capita||$329 (180)|
|GDP (nominal)||2008 estimate|
|-||Total||$11.629 billion (118)|
|-||Per capita||$185 (178)|
|HDI (2009)||▲ 0.389 (low) (176)|
|Currency||Congolese franc (
|Time zone||WAT, CAT (UTC+1 to +2)|
|-||Summer (DST)||not observed (UTC+1 to +2)|
|Drives on the||right|
|a Estimate is based on regression; other PPP figures are extrapolated from the latest International Comparison Programme benchmark estimates.|
Coordinates: The Democratic Republic of the Congo (French: République démocratique du Congo), known until 1997 as Zaire, is a country located in Central Africa, with a small length of Atlantic coastline. It is the third largest country (by area) in Africa. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is, with the population more than 68 million, the eighteenth most populous nation in the world, and the fourth most populous nation in Africa, as well as the most populous country where French is an official language.
In order to distinguish it from the neighbouring Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is often referred to as DR Congo, DROC, DRC, or RDC (from its French abbreviation), or is called Congo-Kinshasa after the capital of Kinshasa (in contrast to Congo-Brazzaville for its neighbour).
The Democratic Republic of the Congo was formerly, in order, the Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, Congo-Léopoldville, Congo-Kinshasa, and Zaire (Zaïre in French). Though it is located in the Central African UN subregion, the nation is economically and regionally affiliated with Southern Africa as a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The Democratic Republic of the Congo borders the Central African Republic and Sudan to the north; Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi in the east; Zambia and Angola to the south; the Republic of the Congo to the west; and is separated from Tanzania by Lake Tanganyika in the east. The country enjoys access to the ocean through a 40-kilometre (24.9 mi) stretch of Atlantic coastline at Muanda and the roughly nine-kilometre wide mouth of the Congo River which opens into the Gulf of Guinea.
The Second Congo War, beginning in 1998, devastated the country, involved seven foreign armies and is sometimes referred to as the "African World War". Despite the signing of peace accords in 2003, fighting continues in the east of the country. In eastern Congo, the prevalence of rape and other sexual violence is described as the worst in the world. The war is the world's deadliest conflict since World War II, killing 5.4 million people.
A wave of early peoples is identified in the Northern and North-Western parts of Central Africa during the second millennium BP. They produced food (pearl millet), maintained domestic livestock, and developed a kind of arboriculture mainly based on the oil palm. From 3,500 BP to 2,000 BP, starting from a nucleus area in South Cameroon on both banks of the Sanaga River, the first Neolithic peopling of northern and western Central Africa can be followed south-eastwards and southwards. In D.R. Congo, the first villages in the vicinity of Mbandaka and the Lake Tumba are known as the 'Imbonga Tradition', from around 2,600 BP. In Lower Congo, north of the Angolan border, it is the 'Ngovo Tradition' around 2,300 BP that shows the arrival of the Neolithic wave of advance.
In Kivu, across the country to the east, the 'Urewe Tradition' villages first appeared about 2,600 BP. The few archaeological sites known in Congo are a western extension of the 'Urewe' Culture which has been found chiefly in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Western Kenya and Tanzania. From the start of this tradition, the people knew iron smelting, as is evidenced by several iron-smelting furnaces excavated in Rwanda and Burundi.
The earliest evidence further to the west is known in Cameroon, and near to the small town of Bouar in Central Africa. Though further studies are needed to establish a better chronology for the start of iron production in Central Africa, the Cameroonian data places iron smelting north of the Equatorial Forest around 2,600 BP to 2,500 BP. This technology developed independently from the previous Neolithic expansion, some 900 years later. As fieldwork done by a German team shows, the Congo River network was slowly settled by food-producing villagers going upstream in the forest. Work from a Spanish project in the Ituri area further east suggests villages reached there only around 800 BP.
The supposedly Bantu-speaking Neolithic, and then iron-producing, villagers added to and displaced the indigenous Pygmy populations (also known in the region as the "Batwa" or "Twa") into secondary parts of the country. Subsequent migrations from the Darfur and Kordofan regions of Sudan into the north-east, as well as East Africans migrating into the eastern Congo added to the mix of ethnic groups. The Bantu-speakers imported a mixed economy made up of agriculture, small-stock raising, fishing, fruit collecting, hunting and arboriculture before 3,500 BP; iron-working techniques, possibly from West Africa, a much later addition. The villagers established the Bantu language family as the primary set of tongues for the Congolese.
The process in which the original Upemba society transitioned into the Kingdom of Luba was gradual and complex. This transition ran without interruption, with several distinct societies developing out of the Upemba culture prior to the genesis of the Luba. Each of these kingdoms became very wealthy due mainly to the region's mineral wealth, especially in ores. The civilization began to develop and implement iron and copper technology, in addition to trading in ivory and other goods. The Luba established a strong commercial demand for their metal technologies and were able to institute a long-range commercial net (the business connections extended over 1,500 kilometres (930 mi), all the way to the Indian Ocean). By the 1500s, the kingdom had an established strong central government based on chieftainship.
European exploration and administration took place from the 1870s until the 1920s. It was first led by Sir Henry Morton Stanley, who undertook his explorations under the sponsorship of King Leopold II of Belgium. Leopold had designs on what was to become the Congo as a colony. In a succession of negotiations, Leopold, professing humanitarian objectives in his capacity as chairman of the Association Internationale Africaine, played one European rival against the other.
Leopold formally acquired rights to the Congo territory at the Conference of Berlin in 1885. He made the land his private property and named it the Congo Free State. Leopold's regime began various infrastructure projects, such as construction of the railway that ran from the coast to the capital of Leopoldville (now Kinshasa). It took years to complete. Nearly all such projects were aimed at increasing the capital which Leopold and his associates could extract from the colony, leading to exploitation of Africans.
In the Free State, colonists brutalized the local population to produce rubber, for which the spread of autos and development of rubber tires created a growing international market. The sale of rubber made a fortune for Leopold, who built several buildings in Brussels and Ostend to honour himself and his country. To enforce the rubber quotas, the army, the Force Publique (FP), was called in. The Force Publique made the practice of cutting off the limbs of the natives as a means of enforcing rubber quotas a matter of policy; this practice was widespread. During the period 1885–1908, between 5 and 15 (the commonly accepted figure is about 10) million Congolese died as a consequence of exploitation and diseases. A government commission later concluded that the population of the Congo had been "reduced by half" during this period. The actions of the Free State's administration sparked international protests led by E. D. Morel and British diplomat/Irish patriot Roger Casement, whose 1904 report on the Congo condemned the practice. Famous writers such as Mark Twain also protested, and Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness was set in Congo Free State.
In 1908, the Belgian parliament, despite initial reluctance, bowed to international pressure (especially that from Great Britain) and took over the Free State as a Belgian colony from the king. From then on, it was called the Belgian Congo and was under the rule of the elected Belgian government.
In May 1960 in a growing nationalist movement, the Mouvement National Congolais or MNC Party, led by Patrice Lumumba, won the parliamentary elections. The party appointed Lumumba as Prime Minister. The parliament elected Joseph Kasavubu, of the Alliance des Bakongo (ABAKO) party as President. Other parties that emerged included the Parti Solidaire Africain (or PSA) led by Antoine Gizenga, and the Parti National du Peuple (or PNP) led by Albert Delvaux and Laurent Mbariko. (Congo 1960, dossiers du CRISP, Belgium) The Belgian Congo achieved independence on June 30, 1960 under the name République du Congo ("Republic of Congo" or "Republic of the Congo" in English). Shortly after independence, the provinces of Katanga (led by Moise Tshombe) and South Kasai engaged in secessionist struggles against the new leadership. Most of the 100,000 Europeans who had remained behind after independence fled the country, opening the way for Congolese to replace the European military and administrative elite.
As the French colony of Middle Congo (Moyen Congo) also chose the name "Republic of Congo" upon achieving its independence, the two countries were more commonly known as "Congo-Léopoldville" and "Congo-Brazzaville", after their capital cities. Another way they were often distinguished during the 1960s, such as in newspaper articles, was that "Congo-Léopoldville" was called “The Congo” and "Congo-Brazzaville" was called simply “Congo”. In 1964, Joseph Mobutu changed the country's official name to "Democratic Republic of the Congo". In 1971 it was changed again to "Republic of Zaïre".
On September 5, 1960, Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba from office. Lumumba declared Kasavubu's action "unconstitutional" and a crisis between the two leaders developed. (cf. Sécession au Katanga – J.Gerald-Libois -Brussels- CRISP) Lumumba had previously appointed Joseph Mobutu chief of staff of the new Congo army, Armée Nationale Congolaise (ANC). Taking advantage of the leadership crisis between Kasavubu and Lumumba, Mobutu garnered enough support within the army to create mutiny. With financial support from the United States and Belgium, Mobutu paid his soldiers privately. The aversion of Western powers to communism and leftist ideology influenced their decision to finance Mobutu's quest to maintain "order" in the new state by neutralizing Kasavubu and Lumumba in a coup by proxy.
On January 17, 1961, Katangan forces and Belgian paratroops, supported by the United States' and Belgium's intent on copper and diamond mines in Katanga and South Kasai, kidnapped and executed Patrice Lumumba. Amidst widespread confusion and chaos, a temporary government was led by technicians (Collège des Commissaires) with Evariste Kimba. The Katanga secession was ended in January 1963 with the assistance of UN forces. Several short-lived governments, of Joseph Ileo, Cyrille Adoula, and Moise Tshombe, took over in quick succession. (See the book The Assassination of Lumumba by Ludo de Witte.)
Following five years of instability and civil unrest, Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, now Lieutenant General, overthrew Kasavubu in a 1965 coup. He had the support of the United States because of his staunch opposition to Communism. Western powers appeared to believe this would make him a roadblock to Communist schemes in Africa. Historians have also argued that Western support for Mobutu was related to his allowing businesses to export the many natural resources of Zaire without worrying about environmental, labour, or other regulations.
A one-party system was established, and Mobutu declared himself head of state. He periodically held elections in which he was the only candidate. Relative peace and stability was achieved; however, Mobutu's government was guilty of severe human rights violations, political repression, a cult of personality and corruption. (Mobutu demanded every Congolese bank note printed with his image, hanging of his portrait in all public buildings, most businesses, and on billboards; and it was common for ordinary people to wear his likeness on their clothing.)
Corruption became so prevalent the term "le mal Zairois" or "Zairean Sickness"  was coined, reportedly by Mobutu himself. By 1984, Mobutu was said to have $4 billion (USD), an amount close to the country's national debt, deposited in a personal Swiss bank account. International aid, most often in the form of loans, enriched Mobutu while he allowed national infrastructure such as roads to deteriorate to as little as one-quarter of what had existed in 1960. With the embezzlement of government funds by Mobutu and his associates, Zaire became a "kleptocracy."
In a campaign to identify himself with African nationalism, starting on June 1, 1966, Mobutu renamed the nation's cities: Léopoldville became Kinshasa [the country was now Democratic Republic of The Congo – Kinshasa], Stanleyville became Kisangani, Elisabethville became Lubumbashi, and Coquihatville became Mbandaka. This renaming campaign was completed in the 1970s.
In 1971, Mobutu renamed the country the Republic of Zaire, its fourth name change in 11 years and its sixth overall. The Congo River was renamed the Zaire River. In 1972, Mobutu renamed himself Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (roughly translated as The Great Unstoppable Warrior who goes from Victory to Victory).
During the 1970s and 1980s, Mobutu was invited to visit the United States on several occasions, meeting with U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. In June 1989, Mobutu was the first African head of state invited for a state visit with newly elected President Bush. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, U.S. relations with Mobutu cooled, as he was no longer deemed necessary as a Cold War ally.
Opponents within Zaire stepped up demands for reform. This atmosphere contributed to Mobutu's declaring the Third Republic in 1990, whose constitution was supposed to pave the way for democratic reform. The reforms turned out to be largely cosmetic. Mobutu continued in power until the conflict forced him to flee Zaire in 1997. Thereafter, the nation chose to reclaim its name of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, since the name Zaire carried such strong connections to the rule of Mobutu.
By 1996, tensions from the neighboring Rwanda war and genocide had spilled over to Zaire. Rwandan Hutu militia forces (Interahamwe), who had fled Rwanda following the ascension of a Tutsi-led government, had been using Hutu refugees camps in eastern Zaire as a basis for incursion against Rwanda. These Hutu militia forces soon allied with the Zairian armed forces (FAZ) to launch a campaign against Congolese ethnic Tutsis in eastern Zaire.
In turn, a coalition of Rwandan and Ugandan armies invaded Zaire under the cover of a small group of Tutsi militia to fight the Hutu militia, overthrow the government of Mobutu, and ultimately control the mineral resources of Zaire. They were soon joined by various Zairean politicians, who had been unsuccessfully opposing the dictatorship of Mobutu for many years, and now saw an opportunity for them in the invasion of Zaire by two of the region's strongest military forces.
This new expanded coalition of two foreign armies and some longtime opposition figures, led by Laurent-Desire Kabila, became known as the Alliance des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo-Zaïre (AFDL). They were seeking the broader goal of ousting Mobutu and controlling his country's wealth. In May 1997, Mobutu fled the country and Kabila marched into Kinshasa, naming himself president and reverting the name of the country to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
A few months later, President Laurent-Desire Kabila thanked all the foreign military forces that helped him to overthrow Mobutu, and asked them to return back to their countries because he was very fearful and concerned that the Rwandan military officers who were running his army were plotting a coup d'état against him in order to give the presidency to a Tutsi who would be reporting directly to the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame. This move was not well received by the Rwandan and Ugandan governments, who wanted to control their big neighbor.
Consequently, Rwandan troops in DRC retreated to Goma and launched a new militia group or rebel movement called the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie (RCD), led by Tutsis, to fight against their former ally, President Laurent-Desire Kabila. To counterbalance the power and influence of Rwanda in DRC, the Ugandan troops instigated the creation of another rebel movement called the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), led by the Congolese warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba, son of Congolese billionaire Bemba Saolona. The two rebel movements started the second war by attacking the DRC's still fragile army in 1998, backed by Rwandan and Ugandan troops. Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia became involved militarily on the side of the government to defend a fellow SADC member.
Kabila was assassinated in 2001 and was succeeded by his son Joseph, who upon taking office called for multilateral peace talks to end the war. In February 2001 a peace deal was brokered between Kabila, Rwanda and Uganda, leading to the apparent withdrawal of foreign troops. UN peacekeepers, MONUC, arrived in April 2001. The conflict was reignited in January 2002 by ethnic clashes in the northeast, and both Uganda and Rwanda then halted their withdrawal and sent in more troops. Talks between Kabila and the rebel leaders led to the signing of a peace accord in which Kabila would share power with former rebels. By June 2003 all foreign armies except those of Rwanda had pulled out of Congo. Much of the conflict was focused on gaining control of substantial natural resources in the country, including diamonds, copper, zinc, and coltan.
DR Congo had a transitional government until the election was over. A constitution was approved by voters, and on July 30, 2006 the Congo held its first multi-party elections since independence in 1960. After this Joseph Kabila took 45% of the votes and his opponent, Jean-Pierre Bemba took 20%. The disputed results of this election turned into an all-out battle between the supporters of the two parties in the streets of the capital, Kinshasa, from August 20–22, 2006 . Sixteen people died before police and the UN mission MONUC took control of the city. A new election was held on October 29, 2006, which Kabila won with 70% of the vote. Bemba made multiple public statements saying the election had "irregularities," despite the fact that every neutral observer praised the elections. On December 6, 2006 the Transitional Government came to an end as Joseph Kabila was sworn in as President.
The fragility of the state government has allowed continued conflict and human rights abuses. In the ongoing Kivu conflict, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) continues to threaten the Rwandan border and the Banyamulenge; Rwanda supports RCD-Goma rebels against Kinshasa; a rebel offensive at the end of October 2008 caused a refugee crisis in Ituri, where MONUC has proved unable to contain the numerous militia and groups driving the Ituri conflict. In the northeast, Joseph Kony's LRA moved from their original bases in Uganda (where they have fought a 20-year rebellion) and South Sudan to DR Congo in 2005 and set up camps in the Garamba National Park. In northern Katanga, the Mai-Mai created by Laurent Kabila slipped out of the control of Kinshasa. The war is the world's deadliest conflict since World War II, killing 5.4 million people.
In 2009 people in the Congo may still be dying at a rate of an estimated 45,000 per month, and estimates of the number who have died from the long conflict range from 900,000 to 5,400,000.. The death toll is due to widespread disease and famine; reports indicate that almost half of the individuals who have died are children under the age of 5. The aftermath of the war has gutted the country. This death rate has prevailed since efforts at rebuilding the nation began in 2004.
The long and brutal conflict in the DRC has caused massive suffering for civilians, with estimates of millions dead either directly or indirectly as a result of the fighting. There have been frequent reports of weapon bearers killing civilians, destroying property, committing widespread sexual violence, causing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes or otherwise breaching humanitarian and human rights law. An estimated 200,000 women have been raped.
Few people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have been unaffected by the armed conflict. A survey conducted in 2009 by the ICRC and Ipsos shows that three quarters (76%) of the people interviewed have been affected in some way – either personally or due to the wider consequences of armed conflict.
In 2003, Sinafasi Makelo, a representative of Mbuti pygmies, told the UN's Indigenous People's Forum that during the war, his people were hunted down and eaten as though they were game animals. In neighbouring North Kivu province there has been cannibalism by a group known as Les Effaceurs ("the erasers") who wanted to clear the land of people to open it up for mineral exploitation. Both sides of the war regarded them as "subhuman" and some say their flesh can confer magical powers.
The response of the international community has been incommensurate with the scale of the disaster resulting from the war in the Congo. Its support for political and diplomatic efforts to end the war has been relatively consistent, but it has taken no effective steps to abide by repeated pledges to demand accountability for the war crimes and crimes against humanity that were routinely committed in Congo. United Nations Security Council and the U.N. Secretary-General have frequently denounced human rights abuses and the humanitarian disaster that the war unleashed on the local population. But they had shown little will to tackle the responsibility of occupying powers for the atrocities taking place in areas under their control, areas where the worst violence in the country took place. Hence Rwanda, like Uganda, has escaped any significant sanction for its role. 
The Congo is situated at the heart of the west-central portion of sub-Saharan Africa and is bounded by (clockwise from the southwest) Angola, the South Atlantic Ocean, the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, the Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania across Lake Tanganyika, and Zambia. The country straddles the Equator, with one-third to the North and two-thirds to the South. The size of Congo, 2,345,408 square kilometres (905,567 sq mi), is slightly greater than the combined areas of Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, and Norway.
As a result of its equatorial location, the Congo experiences large amounts of precipitation and has the highest frequency of thunderstorms in the world. The annual rainfall can total upwards of 80 inches (2,032 mm) in some places, and the area sustains the Congo Rainforest, the second largest rain forest in the world (after that of the Amazon). This massive expanse of lush jungle covers most of the vast, low-lying central basin of the river, which slopes toward the Atlantic Ocean in the West. This area is surrounded by plateaus merging into savannas in the south and southwest, by mountainous terraces in the west, and dense grasslands extending beyond the Congo River in the north. High, glaciated mountains are found in the extreme eastern region.
The tropical climate has also produced the Congo River system which dominates the region topographically along with the rainforest it flows through, though they are not mutually exclusive. The name for the Congo state is derived in part from the river. The river basin (meaning the Congo River and all of its myriad tributaries) occupies nearly the entire country and an area of nearly 1,000,000 km2 (386,102 sq mi). The river and its tributaries (major offshoots include the Kasai, Sangha, Ubangi, Aruwimi, and Lulonga) form the backbone of Congolese economics and transportation. They have a dramatic impact on the daily lives of the people.
The sources of the Congo are in the highlands and mountains of the East African Rift, as well as Lake Tanganyika and Lake Mweru. The river flows generally west from Kisangani just below Boyoma Falls, then gradually bends southwest, passing by Mbandaka, joining with the Ubangi River, and running into the Pool Malebo (Stanley Pool). Kinshasa and Brazzaville are on opposite sides of the river at the Pool (see NASA image).
Then the river narrows and falls through a number of cataracts in deep canyons (collectively known as the Livingstone Falls), and then running past Boma into the Atlantic Ocean. The river also has the second-largest flow and the second-largest watershed of any river in the world (trailing the Amazon in both respects). The river and a 45 km wide strip of land on its north bank provide the country's only outlet to the Atlantic.
The previously mentioned Great Rift Valley, in particular the Eastern Rift, plays a key role in shaping the Congo's geography. Not only is the northeastern section of the country much more mountainous, but due to the rift's tectonic activities, this area also experiences low levels of volcanic activity. The geologic activity in this area also created the famous African Great Lakes, three of which lie on the Congo's eastern frontier: Lake Albert (known previously as Lake Mobutu), Lake Edward, and Lake Tanganyika.
Perhaps most important of all, the Rift Valley has exposed an enormous amount of mineral wealth throughout the south and east of the Congo, making it accessible to mining. Cobalt, copper, cadmium, industrial and gem-quality diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, germanium, uranium, radium, bauxite, iron ore, and coal are all found in plentiful supply, especially in the Congo's southeastern Katanga region.
On January 17, 2002 Mount Nyiragongo erupted in Congo, with the lava running out at 40 mph (64.4 km/h) and 50 yards (45.7 m) wide. One of the three streams of lava flowed through the nearby city of Goma, killing 45 and leaving 120,000 homeless. Four hundred thousand people were evacuated from the city during the eruption. The lava poisoned the water of Lake Kivu, killing fish. Only two planes left the local airport because of the possibility of the explosion of stored petrol. The lava passed the airport but ruined the runway, entrapping several airplanes. Six months after the 2002 eruption, nearby Mount Nyamulagira also erupted. Mount Nyamulagira also erupted in 2006 and again in January 2010. Both of these active volcanos are located within the boundaries of Virunga National Park.
World Heritage Sites located in Democratic Republic of Congo are: Virunga National Park (1979) Garamba National Park (1980) Kahuzi-Biega National Park (1980) Salonga National Park (1984) Okapi Wildlife Reserve (1996)
Formerly the country was divided into eleven provinces, Kinshasa, Province Orientale, Kasai-Oriental, Kasai-Occidental, Maniema, Katanga, Sud-Kivu, Nord-Kivu, Bas-Congo, Équateur and Bandundu. However, the constitution approved in 2005 divided the country into 26 fairly autonomous provinces, including the capital, Kinshasa to be formed by 18 February 2009. It seems however that the former 11 provinces are still the legal administrative entities. The country is further subdivided into 192 territories (fr. territoires, sing. territoire).
The provinces are subdivided into territories.
After a four-year interim between two constitutions that established new political institutions at the various levels of all branches of government, as well as new administrative divisions for the provinces throughout the country, politics in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have finally settled into a stable presidential democratic republic. The 2003 transitional constitution established a system composed of a bicameral legislature with a Senate and a National Assembly. The Senate had, among other things, the charge of drafting the new constitution of the country. The executive branch was vested in a 60-member cabinet, headed by a pentarchy of a President, and four vice presidents. The President was also the Commander-in Chief of the Armed forces. The unusual organization of the executive — considering the large number of vice presidents — had earned it the very official nickname of "The 1 + 4".
The transition constitution also established a relatively independent judiciary, headed by a Supreme Court with constitutional interpretation powers.
The 2006 constitution, also known as the Constitution of the Third Republic, came into effect in February 2006. It had concurrent authority, however, with the transitional constitution until the inauguration of the elected officials who emerged from the July 2006 elections. Under the new constitution, the legislature remained bicameral; the executive was concomitantly undertaken by a President and the government, led by a Prime Minister, appointed from the party with the majority at the National Assembly. The government – not the President – is responsible to the Parliament.
The new constitution also granted new powers to the provincial governments with the creation of provincial parliaments, which have oversight over the Governor, head of the provincial government, whom they elect.
The new constitution also saw the disappearance of the Supreme Court, which was divided into three new institutions. The constitutional interpretation prerogative of the Supreme Court is now held by the Constitutional Court.
Mobutu Sese Seko ruled Zaire from 1965 to 1997. A relative explained how the government illicitly collected revenue: "Mobutu would ask one of us to go to the bank and take out a million. We'd go to an intermediary and tell him to get five million. He would go to the bank with Mobutu's authority, and take out ten. Mobutu got one, and we took the other nine." Mobutu institutionalized corruption to prevent political rivals from challenging his control, leading to an economic collapse in 1996. Mobutu allegedly stole up to US$4 billion while in office.
The economy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a nation endowed with resources of vast potential wealth, has declined drastically since the mid-1980s. The two recent conflicts (the First and Second Congo Wars), which began in 1996, have dramatically reduced national output and government revenue, have increased external debt, and have resulted in deaths of more than five million people from war, and associated famine and disease. Malnutrition affects approximately two thirds of the country's population.
Foreign businesses have curtailed operations due to uncertainty about the outcome of the conflict, lack of infrastructure, and the difficult operating environment. The war has intensified the impact of such basic problems as an uncertain legal framework, corruption, inflation, and lack of openness in government economic policy and financial operations.
Conditions improved in late 2002 with the withdrawal of a large portion of the invading foreign troops. A number of International Monetary Fund and World Bank missions have met with the government to help it develop a coherent economic plan, and President Joseph Kabila has begun implementing reforms. Much economic activity lies outside the GDP data. A United Nations Human Development Index report shows human development to be one of the worst in decades.
The Congo is the world's largest producer of cobalt ore, and a major producer of copper and industrial diamonds. It has significant deposits of tantalum, which is used in the fabrication of electronic components in computers and mobile phones. In 2002, tin was discovered in the east of the country, but, to date, mining has been on a small scale . Smuggling of coltan and cassiterite, the ores of tantalum and tin, respectively, has helped fuel the war in the Eastern Congo. Katanga Mining Limited, a London-based company, owns the Luilu Metallurgical Plant, which has a capacity of 175,000 tonnes of copper and 8,000 tonnes of cobalt per year, making it the largest cobalt refinery in the world. After a major rehabilitation program, the company restarted copper production in December 2007 and cobalt production in May 2008. It has one of the twenty last ranks among the countries on the Corruption Perception Index.
In 2007, The World Bank decided to grant the Democratic Republic of Congo up to $1.3 billion in assistance funds over the next three years.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is in the process of becoming a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA).
The United Nations 2007 estimated the population at 62.6 million people, having increased rapidly despite the war from 46.7 million in 1997. As many as 250 ethnic groups have been identified and named. The most numerous people are the Kongo, Luba, and Mongo. About 600,000 Pygmies are the aboriginal people of the DR Congo. Although seven hundred local languages and dialects are spoken, the linguistic variety is bridged both by widespread use of French and intermediary languages such as Kongo, Tshiluba, Swahili, and Lingala.
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 2006 expressed concern that in the post-war transition period, the promotion of women’s human rights and gender equality is not seen as a priority.
In eastern Congo, the prevalence and intensity of rape and other sexual violence is described as the worst in the world. A 2006 report by the African Association for the Defence of Human Rights prepared for that committee provides a broad overview of issues confronting women in the DRC in law and in daily life. They have been raped during warfare and kept as slaves for soldiers. When the women are released, most killed themselves or checked into a hospital where they would die.
The war has made the life of women more precarious. Violence against women seems to be perceived by large sectors of society to be normal. In July 2007, the International Committee of the Red Cross expressed concern about the situation in eastern DRC. A phenomenon of 'pendulum displacement' has developed, where people hasten at night to safety. According to the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence, Yakin Ertürk, who toured eastern Congo in July 2007, violence against women in North and South Kivu included “unimaginable brutality”. "Armed groups attack local communities, loot, rape, kidnap women and children and make them work as sexual slaves," Ertürk said.
Christianity is the majority religion in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, followed by about 80% of the population. Denominations include Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 20%, Kimbanguist 10%. Kimbanguism was seen as a threat to the colonial regime and was banned by the Belgians. Kimbanguism, officially "the church of Christ on Earth by the prophet Simon Kimbangu", now has about three million members, primarily among the Bakongo of Bas-Congo and Kinshasa. The largest concentration of Christians following William Branham is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it is estimated that there are up to 2,000,000 followers.
Sixty-two of the Protestant denominations in the country are federated under the umbrella of the Church of Christ in Congo or CCC (in French, Église du Christ au Congo or ECC). It is often simply referred to as 'The Protestant Church', since it covers most of the 20% of the population who are Protestants.
Of the remaining 20% of the population, half are Muslim, and the rest follow traditional beliefs or syncretic sects. Islam was introduced and mainly spread by Arab traders/merchants. Traditional religions embody such concepts as monotheism, animism, vitalism, spirit and ancestor worship, witchcraft, and sorcery and vary widely among ethnic groups. The syncretic sects often merge Christianity with traditional beliefs and rituals, and may not be accepted by mainstream churches as part of Christianity.
There are an estimated total of 242 languages spoken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Out of these, only four have the status of national languages: Kikongo (Kituba), Lingala, Tshiluba and Swahili.
Lingala was made the official language of the colonial army, the "Force Publique" under Belgian colonial rule. But since the recent rebellions, a good part of the army in the East also uses Swahili where it is prevalent.
French is the official language of the country. It is meant to be an ethnically neutral language, to ease communication among the many different ethnic groups of the Congo.
When the country was a Belgian colony, it had already instituted teaching and use of the four national languages in primary schools, making it one of the few African nations to have had literacy in local languages during the European colonial period. During the colonial period both Dutch and French were the official languages but French was by far the most important.
The culture of the Democratic Republic of the Congo reflects the diversity of its hundreds of ethnic groups and their differing ways of life throughout the country — from the mouth of the River Congo on the coast, upriver through the rainforest and savanna in its centre, to the more densely populated mountains in the far east. Since the late 19th century, traditional ways of life have undergone changes brought about by colonialism, the struggle for independence, the stagnation of the Mobutu era, and most recently, the First and Second Congo Wars. Despite these pressures, the customs and cultures of the Congo have retained much of their individuality. The country's 60 million inhabitants are mainly rural. The 30 percent who live in urban areas have been the most open to Western influences.
Another notable feature in Congo culture is its sui generis music. The DROC has blended its ethnic musical sources with Cuban rumba, and merengue to give birth to soukous. Influential figures of soukous and its offshoots: N'dombolo and Rumba rock, are Franco Luambo, Tabu Ley, Lutumba Simaro, Papa Wemba, Koffi Olomide, Kanda Bongo, Ray Lema, Mpongo Love, Abeti Masikini, Reddy Amisi, [Pasnas] Pepe Kalle and Nyoka Longo.
Other African nations produce music genres that are derived from Congolese soukous. Some of the African bands sing in Lingala, one of the main languages in the DRC. The same Congolese soukous, under the guidance of "le sapeur", Papa Wemba, has set the tone for a generation of young men always dressed up in expensive designers' clothes.
The Congo is also known for its art. Traditional art includes masks and wooden statues. Notable contemporary artists and fashion designers are Odette Maniema Krempin, Lema Kusa, Henri Kalama Akulez, Nshole, Mavinga, Claudy Khan et Chéri Samba.
The education system in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is governed by three government ministries: the Ministère de l’Enseignement Primaire, Secondaire et Professionnel (MEPSP), the Ministère de l’Enseignement Supérieur et Universitaire (MESU) and the Ministère des Affaires Sociales (MAS). The educational system in the DRC is similar to that of Belgium. In 2002, there were over 19,000 primary schools serving 160,000 students; and 8,000 secondary schools serving 110,000 students.
However, primary school education in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is neither compulsory, free nor universal, and many children are not able to go to school because parents were unable to pay the enrollment fees. Parents are customarily expected to pay teachers' salaries. In 1998, the most recent year for which data are available, the gross primary enrollment rate was 50 percent.
Gross enrollment ratios are based on the number of students formally registered in primary school and therefore do not necessarily reflect actual school attendance. In 2000, 65 percent of children ages 10 to 14 years were attending school. As a result of the 6-year civil war, over 5.2 million children in the country receive no education.
The rainforests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo contain great biodiversity, including many rare and endemic species, such as the common chimpanzee and the bonobo (formerly known as the Pygmy Chimpanzee), the forest elephant, mountain gorilla, okapi and white rhino. Five of the country's national parks are listed as World Heritage Sites: the Garumba, Kahuzi-Biega, Salonga and Virunga National Parks, and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. The civil war and resultant poor economic conditions have endangered much of this biodiversity. Many park wardens were either killed or could not afford to continue their work. All five sites are listed by UNESCO as World Heritage In Danger. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the most biodiverse African country.
Over the past century or so, the DRC has developed into the center of what has been called the Central African "bushmeat" problem, which is regarded by many as a major environmental, as well as, socio-economic crisis. "Bushmeat" is another word for the meat of wild animals. It is typically obtained through trapping, usually with wire snares, or otherwise with shotguns, poisoned arrows or arms originally intended for use in the DRC's numerous military conflicts.
The "bushmeat crisis" has emerged in the DRC mainly as a result of the poor living conditions of the Congolese people and a lack of education about the dangers of eating it. A rising population combined with deplorable economic conditions has forced many Congolese to become dependent on bushmeat, either as a means of acquiring income (hunting the meat and selling), or are dependent on it for food. Unemployment and urbanization throughout Central Africa have exacerbated the problem further by turning cities like the urban sprawl of Kinshasa into the prime market for commercial bushmeat.
This combination has caused not only widespread endangerment of local fauna, but has forced humans to trudge deeper into the wilderness in search of the desired animal meat. This overhunting results in the deaths of more animals and makes resources even more scarce for humans. The hunting has also been facilitated by the extensive logging prevalent throughout the Congo's rainforests (from corporate logging, in addition to farmers clearing out forest in order to create areas for agriculture), which allows hunters much easier access to previously unreachable jungle terrain, while simultaneously eroding away at the habitats of animals. Deforestation is accelerating in Central Africa.
A case that has particularly alarmed conservationists is that of primates. The Congo is inhabited by three distinct great ape populations — the Common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) and the bonobo (Pan paniscus) and the gorilla as well. It is the only country in the world in which bonobo are found in the wild. The chimpanzees, along with gorillas, are the closest living evolutionary relatives to humans.
Much concern has been raised about Great ape extinction. Because of hunting and habitat destruction, the chimpanzee and the gorilla, both of whose population once numbered in the millions have now dwindled down to only about 200,000 per species. Gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos are all classified as Endangered by the World Conservation Union, as well as the okapi, which is also native to the area geography.
Ground transport in the Democratic Republic of Congo has always been difficult. The terrain and climate of the Congo Basin present serious barriers to road and rail construction, and the distances are enormous across this vast country. Furthermore, chronic economic mismanagement and internal conflict has led to serious under-investment over many years.
On the other hand, the Democratic Republic of Congo has thousands of kilometres of navigable waterways, and traditionally water transport has been the dominant means of moving around approximately two-thirds of the country.
All air carriers certified by the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been banned from European Union airports by the European Commission, because of inadequate safety standards.
|Government||Dictatorship; presumably undergoing a transition to representative government|
|Currency||Congolese franc (CDF)|
|Area||total: 2,345,410 km2
water: 77,810 km2
land: 2,267,600 km2
|Population||62,660,551 (July 2006 est.)|
|Language||French (official), Lingala (a lingua franca trade language), Kingwana (a dialect of Kiswahili or Swahili), Kikongo, Tshiluba|
|Religion||Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 20%, Kimbanguist 10%, Muslim 10%, other syncretic sects and indigenous beliefs 10%|
|Electricity||220V/50Hz (European plug)|
|Time Zone||UTC+1 - UTC+2|
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (Republique Democratique du Congo) (Abbreviated:DROC) is a country in Central Africa. It straddles the Equator and is surrounded by Angola to the southwest, (Angola's discontiguous Cabinda Province lies to the west and north of a very narrow strip of land that controls the lower Congo River and is only outlet to South Atlantic Ocean), Republic of the Congo to the northwest, Central African Republic to the north, Sudan to the northeast, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania in the east from north to south, and Zambia to the southeast.
The country has formerly been known as Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, Congo or Zaire. The country is also known as Congo-Kinshasa to distinguish it from its northern neighbor, the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville).
The Congo is divided into 25 provinces and one independent city (Kinshasa).
Several parks are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly known as Zaire) is considered risky at this time, and tourism is NOT recommended at this time. The country has had a tumultuous recent history. Congolese politics have been dominated by the civil war in neighbouring Rwanda, with the influx of refugees from that conflict adding to the factional disputes following Mobutu's overthrow. Active civil war has been taking place on Congolese territory since approximately 1998. Joseph Kabila has established a government of national unity; however, bitter divisions still exist nationwide, and the situation is unstable at this time.
Mobutu Sese Seko was president from 24 November 1965 until forced into exile on 16 May 1997 when his government was overthrown militarily by Laurent Kabila. Kabila immediately assumed governing authority, but his regime was subsequently challenged by a Rwanda- and Uganda-backed rebellion in August 1998. Troops from Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Chad, and Sudan intervened to support the Kinshasa regime. A cease-fire was signed on 10 July 1999 by the DROC, Zimbabwe, Angola, Uganda, Namibia, Rwanda, and Congolese armed rebel groups, but sporadic fighting continued.
Kabila was assassinated in January 2001 and was succeeded by his son Joseph Kabila. In October 2002, the new president was successful in getting occupying Rwandan forces to withdraw from eastern Congo; two months later, an agreement was signed by all remaining warring parties to end the fighting and set up a government of national unity.
Local airlines will transport you inland, mainly with Russian planes: Hewa Bora, Wimbi Dira Airways, Bravo Air, CAA (Compagnie Africaine d'Aviation).
No Train available yet, some short trains in North east, or 100 miles west of Watsa use to have a weekly trip further west.
The roads as a whole are too rocky or muddy for cars without 4 wheel drive. Old VW bugs are ok, but other cars will hang up on the rear axil in no time. Cars are only used around larger cities.
From Uganda to Congo via Bunagana Kisoro Border. There is many buses which operate daily between Bunagana /Uganda and Goma every day between 7AM and 1PM. Prices for the bus is US$5. A valid visa for both countries is required in either direction.Entry and exit procedures at Bunagana border are "easy" and straight forward and people are very helpful in assisting visitors to get through without troubles.
Passenger and VIP ferries also locally known as 'Carnot Rapide' operate daily between Brazzaville and Kinshasa roughly every two hours between 8AM and 3PM. Prices for the ferries are: 15 US$ for the passenger and US$25 for the VIP ferry (Carnot Rapide). The latter is recommended as these are brand new boats and not cramped. A valid visa for both countries is required in either direction. The bureaucracy at either end require some time. Entry and exit procedures in Brazzaville are "easy" and straight forward and people are very helpful in assisting to get through without troubles. In contrast, these procedures are a bit difficult in Kinshasa and depend much on whether you are an individual traveller or assisted by an organisation or an official government representative. There are also speed boats to hire, either in a group or alone (price!), however, it is not advisable to book them as they really speed across the river along the rapids.
Due to the immense size of the country, the terrible state of the roads and the poor security situation, the only way to get around the country quickly is by plane. This is not to say that it's safe — Congolese planes crash with depressing regularity, with eight recorded crashes in 2007 alone — but it's probably the safest option. The largest carriers are Hewa Bora , Wimbi Dira  and Compagnie Africain d'Aviation .
As smaller vehicles are unable to negotiate what remains of the roads, a lot of travel in the Congo is done by truck. If you go to a truck park, normally near the market, you should be able to find a truck driver to take you where ever you want, conflict zones aside. You travel on top of the load with a large number of others. If you pick a truck carrying bags of something soft like peanuts it can be quite comfortable. Beer trucks are not. If the trip takes days then comfort can be vital, especially if the truck goes all night. It helps to sit along the back, as the driver will not stop just because you want the toilet. The cost has to be negotiated so ask hotel staff first and try not to pay more than twice the local rate. Sometimes the inside seat is available. Food can be bought from the driver, though they normally stop at roadside stalls every 5/6 hours. Departure time are normally at the start or end of the day, though time is very flexible. It helps to make arrangements the day before. It is best to travel with a few others. Women should never ever travel alone. Some roads have major bandit problems so check carefully before going.
At army checkpoints locals are often hassled for bribes. Foreigners are normally left alone, but prepare some kind of bribe just in case. By the middle of the afternoon the soldiers can be drunk so be very careful and very polite. Never lose your temper.
A ferry on the Congo River operates, if security permits, from Kinshasa to Kisangani, every week or two. You can pick it up at a few stops enroute, though you have to rush as it doesn't wait. A suitable bribe to the ferry boss secures a four bunk cabin and cafeteria food. The ferry consists of 4 or so barges are tied around a central ferry, with the barges used as a floating market. As the ferry proceeds wood canoes paddled by locals appear from the surrounding jungle with local produce - vegetables, pigs, monkeys, etc - which are traded for industrial goods like medicine or clothes. You sit on the roof watching as wonderful African music booms out. Of course it is not clean, comfortable or safe. It is however one of the world's great adventures.
Much of the eastern and southern half speaks Swahili. The rest of the country speaks either Kikongo, Lingala (Kinshasa and surrounding areas/regions) Tshiluba, or a smaller tribal language.
French is also an official language.
The "Academie des Beaux-Arts" is often considered a touristic site and is in itself and with its gallery a good place to meet the famous artists of this country. Big names like Alfred Liyolo, Lema Kusa oder Roger Botembe are teaching here as well as the only purely abstract working artist Henri Kalama Akulez, whose private studio is worth a visit.
Congo is the centre of popular African music. The rhythms are irresistible, once you get the feel for it. Try visiting a local bar or disco, in Bandal or Matonge (both in Kinshasa), if possible with live soukouss music, and just hit the dance floor!
The currency is the Congolese franc. Banknotes are issued in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 centimes, 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 francs. The only Congolese bank notes currently in circulation in most places are the 50, 100, 200 and 500 franc notes. They are almost worthless, as the highest valued banknote (the 500 franc note) is worth only about 90 US cents.
US dollars in denominations above $2 are much preferred to francs. In contrast, US coins and $1 and $2 US notes are considered worthless. Note that if you pay in dollars, you will get change in francs. Though francs may sometimes come in bills so old they feel like fabric, US notes must be crisp (less than 3 folds) and printed in or after 2003, or they will not be accepted.
There are some supermarkets in Gombe commune of Kinshasa: City market, Peloustore, Kin Mart, Hasson's sell food and drinks, soap, kitchen devices and bazar. SIM cards and prepaid recharge for mobile phones are available in the street and at Ndjili airport, at reasonable price.
Mastercard/Maestro ATMs are available now in Kinshasa at the "Rawbank" on boulevard du 30 Juin (Gombe District), and in Grand Hotel. It spits out USD$. Visa card are also usable with "Procredit" bank ATMs in Kinshasa, avenue des Aviateurs, or outside in front of Grand Hotel (only 20 and 100 $ notes).
Congo has one national dish: moambe. It's made of eight ingredients (moambe is the Lingala word for eight): palm nuts, chicken, fish, peanuts, rice, cassave leaves, bananas and hot pepper sauce.
Don't drink the local water. Bottled water seems to be cheap enough but sometimes hard to find for a good price. The usual soft drinks (called sucré in Congo) such as Coke, Pepsi and Mirinda are available in most places and are safe to drink. Local drinks like Vitalo are amazing. Traditional drinks like ginger are also common.
The local beer is based on rice, and tastes quite good. It comes in 75 cl bottles. Primus, Skol, Castel are the most common brands. Tembo, Doppel are the dark local beers.
In rural areas, you may try the local palm wine, an alcoholic beverage from the sap of the palm tree. It is tapped right from the tree, and begins fermenting immediately after collection. After two hours, fermentation yields an aromatic wine of up to 4% alcohol content, mildly intoxicating and sweet. The wine may be allowed to ferment longer, up to a day, to yield a stronger, more sour and acidic taste, which some people prefer.
Beware of the local gin. The distillation process, if not controlled properly, can generate methanol instead of ethanol, which is toxic and can cause blindness.
There are more and more hotels in Kinshasa, with smaller hotels available in Gombe and Ngaliema area.
At present, the country cannot be considered a tourist destination. Travel by car is extremely dangerous, particularly outside Kinshasa, Goma and Kisangani. Certain regions are controlled by rebel forces and cease fire agreements are weak. Several countries (e.g., Germany) have issued a travel warning. A UN peace keeping mission is trying to prevent warfare.
Public transport is also unreliable at best, predominantly due to a lack of vehicles, and bad road conditions during the rainy season. Safety equipment is missing.
Congo is malarial, so use insect repellent and take necessary precautions. Seek advice from a physician before visiting. Hygiene is not good, so beware of food and catering.
It is dangerous to go to local town hospitals in towns since they are not hygienic and are often without a registered doctor. Needles are also unsafe because of the lack of sterilization. Ebola outbreaks have recently been reported in some areas. If you need emergency medical assistance, it is advised that you go to your nation's embassy. The embassy doctors are normally willing and skilled enough to help.
There are safe hospitals in Kinshasa, like "CMK" (Centre Medical de Kinshasa) which is is private and was established by European doctors (a visit costs around 20$). Another one private and non-profit hospital is Centre Hospitalier MONKOLE, in Mont-Ngafula district, with European and Congolese doctors. Dr Léon Tshilolo, a paediatrician trained in Europe and one of African experts in Sickle-Cell Anaemia, is the Monkole Medical Director.
When motorcades pass, all vehicular traffic is expected to provide a clear path. Photography of these motorcades is illegal. Also illegal is photography of borders or government buildings or airports.
At approximately 6AM and 6PM daily, the national flag is raised and lowered. All traffic and pedestrians are required to stop for this ceremony, with reports indicating that those who do not are detained by security personnel.
|This article is an outline and needs more content. It has a template, but there is not enough information present. Please plunge forward and help it grow!|
Part of the Comparative law and justice Wikiversity Project
Katiegc615 15:46, 18 September 2009 (UTC)
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is located in Africa. It is bordered by Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda . The Democratic Republic of the Congo has a total area of 905,354.735 square miles which, is roughly one-fourth the size of the United States .
In the DRC, the climate varies considerably depending on which part of the country you are in. The DRC does straddle the equator so in this region the climate it very hot and humid. In the southern highlands of Congo the climate is much cooler and drier. Lastly, in the eastern highlands, the climate is also cooler but wetter than both the area near the equator and the southern highlands. The terrain is mostly made up of the large central basin which is a low-lying plateau and there are also mountains located in eastern Congo. Also running through the DRC is the Congo River which is approximately 2,920 miles long. The Congo River is the second largest river in Africa with the Nile River being the first. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has a reported population of 68,692,542 people, the cities with the largest populations include Kinshasa (the capital) with 7.5 million people, Mbuji-Mayi with 2.5 million people and Lubumbashi with 1.7 million people. Approximately, 46.9 % of the population ranges from ages 0-14, about 50.6% of the population ranges from ages 15-64 and only about 2.5% of the population is 65 years and over . The Democratic Republic of the Congo has accounted for more than 200 African ethnic groups but the majority of the people are Bantu. The four largest tribes in the DRC are Mongo, Luba, Kongo and the Mangbetu-Azande which all make up about 45% of the population. The official language of the DRC is French but Lingala, Kingwana, Kikongo and Tshiluba are also spoken in different areas of the DRC. There are several religions that are practiced in the DRC but the most prominent religion is Roman Catholic which, 50% of the population practices. Other religions include Protestant which, 20% of the population practices, Kimbanguist which, 10% of the population practices, Muslim which, 10% of the population practices and finally, 10% of the population practices other religions including indigenous beliefs.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, literacy is defined as someone 15 years of age and older that can read and write Kingwana, French, Lingala or Tshiluba. Only 67.2% of the total population is literate; 80.9% of the population that is literate are males and 54.1% are female. In the DRC, 46% of the population completes primary school, 30% of the population completes secondary school, 3% of the population completes a university and 21% of the population completes no education.
The life expectancy rate at birth in the DRC for the total population is 54.36 years. For females, the life expectancy at birth is 56.2 years and for males it is 52.58 years. The total infant mortality rate is 81.21 deaths per 1,000 live births. The average death rate in the DRC is 11.63 deaths per 1,000 people. There are a number of infectious diseases that are prominent in the DRC that could contribute to such a high death rate and such a short life expectancy. First, the DRC is ranked 6th in the world for deaths resulting from HIV/AIDS. In 2003, there was an estimated 100,000 deaths. Other illnesses that people in the DRC are at a high risk for contracting are hepatitis A, food or waterborne diseases, malaria and typhoid fever.
Still trying to recover from years of civil war and instability the Democratic Republic of the Congo still has a weak economy. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is $11.59 billion. The GDP per capita is $300 which places it 228th in the world. The main industries in the DRC are mining, mineral processing, consumer products (textiles, cigarettes, footwear etc.), cement and commercial ship repair. The main exports for the country are diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt, wood products, crude oil and coffee. The main imports for the DRC are foodstuffs, mining and other machinery, fuels and transport equipment .
The Democratic Republic of the Congo was first populated about 10,000 years ago and was settled in by the 7th and 8th centuries A.D. by Bantus. In 1885, the DRC was first colonized by the Belgian King Leopold II and was named the Congo Free State. In 1907, the administration was shifted to the Belgian government and was renamed the Belgian Congo. After years of riots and disturbance from the people of the Belgian Congo they were finally granted their independence on June 30, 1960. One parliamentary elections took place, Joseph Kasavubu was elected as President and Patrice Lumumba was elected as Prime Minister. The country was then renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Soon after the elections took place the Democratic Republic of the Congo was plagued by social and political instability which caused the government to slowly crumble.
In the beginning of their independence the DRC experienced several events that caused instability within their government. these events include the death of Prime Minister Lumumba under mysterious circumstances, the mutiny of the army and Colonel Joseph Desire Mobutu took over the government and cedes it again to President Kasavubu. The unrest within the government continued until 1965. In 1965, Mobutu once again seized control of the DRC and declared himself the new President for the next 5 years. All the power fell into the hands of Motubu. In 1970, he was elected President when no other candidate ran against him. When Mobutu took office he began to implement changes immediately. He renamed the country the Republic of Zaire and in an effort to make the citizens of Zaire aware of their culture he made them adopt African names. Throughout the 1980's, Mobutu successfully continued to utilized a one-party system of rule but opposition groups began to mobilize. In an attempt to rid of these groups, Mobutu gained international attention and criticism.
Finally, 1989 Mobutu's power was diminished through a series of protest, endless criticism on his human right's practices and a plummeting economy. In 1990, Mobutu finally agreed to establish a multi-party system which would include elections and a constitution. In September 1991, when Mobutu withheld the details of his reform plans, soldiers began looting the capital in protest. In response, 2,000 French and Belgian Troops came into Kinshasa to evacuate 20,000 foreign representatives. In 1992, the Sovereign National Conference was held to discuss implementing a multi-party system; 2,000 representatives from a number of political parties attended the conference. Towards the end of 1992, Mobutu has managed to construct a competing government with his own prime minister but eventually in 1994, they we able to come to a compromise between the two governments. Presidential and legislative elections we consistently scheduled over the course of two years but were never actually held. In 1996, Zaire faced even more trouble, this time it was the result of the war and genocide taking place in nearby Rwanda. The conflict from Rwanda was entering Zaire. The Hutu militia forces from Rwanada began to flee to Congo once the Tutsi, whom which they were in conflict, took over the government power. in October1996, Rwanda troops made their way into Zaire with the goal of forcing Motubu out of office. This effort was led by Laurent-Desire Kabila. Finally, in May 1997, Mobutu left the country.
On May 17, 1997, Kabila made his way into Kinshasa and declared himself President. He quickly renamed Zaire to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and also centralized power around himself and the AFDL (Alliance des Forces Democratiques pour la Liberation Congo-Zaire) Tension between Kabila and his foreign troops began to grow over the next year. Finally, in July 1998, Kabila demanded that all foreign troops evacuate the DRC but most of them refused. On August 2nd, the Rwandan troops turned to violence when they rebelled against the DRC. On August 4th, the Rwandan troops made their way to Bas-Congo with the intent of marching into Kinshasa and forcing Kabila out of office, and replacing him with the Rwandan-backed rebel group the RCD. This plan was intervened by the Angolan, Zimbabwean and Wambian troops on behalf of the DRC. After their plan was stopped the Rwandans and the RCD retreated to eastern DRC where they continued to fight the Congolese Army .
In February 1999, a rebel group was formed with support from ex-Mobutuists and backing from Uganda. This rebel group was known as the Mouvement pour la Liberation (MLC). This group was able to gain control over the northern part of the DRC. After this occurred the DRC was now divided into three parts which were all controlled by someone different. One area was controlled by Laurent Kabila, one by Rwanda and the third part was now controlled by Uganda and the MLC. In July, 1999, in an effort to end some violence occurring between the three areas a cease-fire was proposed by Lusaka, Zambia which, by the end of August, had been signed by all three areas. The cease-fire agreement was called the Lusaka Accord which not only asked for a cease-fire but also requested the withdrawal of foreign troops, the UN peacekeeping operation and an effort to launch an "Inter-Congolese Dialogue" which would help create a transitional government. Unfortunately, the requirements of the Lusaka Accord were never properly enforced and Laurent Kabila was known to have violated most of the agreement.
On January 16, 2001, Laurent Kabila was assassinated and was replaced by his son Joseph. Joseph Kabila has made an effort to replace the negative policies his father had put in place.
After Joseph took office, MONUC, the UN peacekeeping operation dispersed throughout the DRC in an effort to proceed with the "Inter-Congolese Dialogue" and to create a transitional government. Finally, in July 2002, Rwandan troops withdrew from the DRC and in May, 2003, the Ugandan troops followed. This finally gave Kabila control over a country that was no longer segmented. It was noted that MONUC was trying to assist with the creation of a transitional government. This began in October, 2001 but made little progress throughout the first few meetings. After a short break period the meetings began again on February 25, 2002 in South Africa. A variety of people attended these meetings including government representatives and rebel groups. Again, on April 19, 2002, the meetings came to a close with no agreement reached. The meetings picked up again in October,2002 where an agreement was finally reached. On December 17, 2002, all delegates signed the agreement and it was ratified by all parties on April 2, 2003. On that same day a transitional Constitution was adopted. Throughout this time of political transition, President Kabila worked to reform the economy with support from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) and also made great progress with political reform.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a civil law country which inherited its legal traditions from Belgium. Some rural parts of the country also still utilize customary or tribal law (mostly to deal with issues concerning marriage, divorce and property). Since its independence in 1960, the country has operated under numerous constitutions, transitional constitutions and constitutional amendments. The constitution the DRC currently operates under was voted on in December, 2005. It was approved by 84% of voters and was enacted on February 18, 2006. The history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Constitution can only be described by detailing the many years of struggle and conflict the people faced to finally have a proper Constitution put in place. This is noted in the country's history above.
The DRC operates under three branches of government: the executive branch, the judicial branch and the legislative branch. The DRC government is also broken down into eleven provinces which includes the capital of Kinshasa. The Executive branch consists of the chief of state which is the President. Currently this position is held by President Joseph Kabila. He took office after the previous President (who was actually his father) was assassinated. Under the new constitution,the President is elected through a popular vote for a term of five years but after the five years the President is eligible for a second term. The requirements that must be fulfilled in order to become President are as follows: "must posses the nationality of Congolese origin", must be 30 years old, "must enjoy the fullness of his civil and political rights" and "does not lie in cases of exclusion provided by the electoral law". The executive branch also includes the head of the government which is the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President once he takes office. The third group of members of the executive branch is the cabinet which is made up of the Ministers of State. The Ministers of State are appointed by the President as well.
The judicial branch consists of a Constitutional Court, an Appeals Court (Cour de Cassation), a Council of State, High Military Court and civil and military courts and tribunals. Lastly, the Legislative branch consists of Parliament which is a bicameral legislature. The bicameral legislature includes the Senate which holds 108 seats and the National Assembly which holds 500 seats. The Senate is elected by provincial assemblies to serve a five-year term but in order to become a member of the Senate candidates must fulfill the same role requirements as the President. The National Assembly is elected in a more complicated manner. The first 61 seats of the National Assembly are elected through a majority vote in single-member constituencies. The other 439 seats are elected by an open-list proportional-representation in multi-member constituencies. Members of the National Assembly are elected for a term of five years . Candidates for the National Assembly must also fulfill the same role requirements as the President but can be at least 25 years of age.
In the DRC, laws are created by every member of the government. Bills are created and then submitted to the first notified Chamber. Members of the government have a right to propose amendments to the bills being deliberated. Any bill must be reviewed by both the Senate and the National Assembly and they must both be able to adopt identical versions of the bill. If there is a disagreement between the two Houses a joint comission of the two Houses is formed in order come up with a compromise of the provisions that are still under discussion. The bill put together by the joint commission is then submitted to both Houses to be reviewed. If the joint commission can not come up with a compromise or both Houses do not adopt the bill proposed by the joint commission the decision is then turned over to the National Assembly. The National Assembly can choose to adopt any version of the bill that they choose. Within six days of the adoption of the bill, the new law is given to the President to be put into effect. Within fifteen days of receiving the bill, the President can request that the National Assembly or the Senate reconsider the law itself or some of the articles of the law. The National Assembly and the Senate have the right to deny this request.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the voting age is 18 years of age. Voting is universal (everyone can vote) and compulsory which means everyone that is 18 years or older must vote. On June 30, 2006, the first multi-party election in 46 years took place. At this time the people were able to vote for their new President, for the federal parliament and provincial parliaments. . For this election there were over 25 million registered voters with a voter turnout of 70%. The voters chose from 33 candidates for the office of President and over 9,000 candidates for the 500 deputy seats in the National Assembly. Throughout the election there was some violence utilized as a way to intimidate voters and some technical difficulties but overall the election was a success. Since the first multi-party election only took place in 2006, there is still very little detailed information on the topic.
It is stated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Constitution that they practice judicial review. The judicial branch of government is a seperate entity from the legislative and executive branches. In the DRC, it is the Constitutional Court which is responsible to monitor the constitutionality of all laws and acts. Organic laws must be reviewed by the Constitutional court prior to their publication and the Rules of Procedure of the parliamentary chambers and the Congress, the Independent National Electoral Commission and the High Council of Audiovisual and Communications must be reviewed at sometime before they are put into effect. Any citizen of the DRC may bring a law to the attention of the Constitutional court in order to haves conformity to the constitution reviewed. In addition, the Constitutional court must interpret the Constitution for certain appeals at the request of certain government officials. Lastly, the Constitutional court can hear an action to declare that a law is unconstitutional under the following additional circumstances:
Currently, the court system in the DRC has six levels. The lowest level of the court system is the group of traditional leaders which are referred to as the chefs coutumiers. They are not officially part of the judicial system but they handle mediations and settlements for disputes. The next court in the system is the magistrates court which is the only court that has the authorization to conduct investigations. This is due to the fact that they are not joined with any of the departments that deal with public prosecutions. The magistrates also have jurisdiction over cases that were already decided upon by customary customary courts. The next highest court in the system is the Tribunal de Grande Instance which has a a wide range if jurisdictions and is also connected to a department of public prosecutions. The next court in the system is the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals is broken into two sections: the administrative and the judiciary. This court is also connected to a department of public prosecutions. The second highest court in the system is the state security court which has jurisdiction to decide on cases that pertain to the security of the state. The highest court in the judicial system is the Supreme Court which has three sections: administrative, legislation and judiciary. The Supreme Court is also connected to the department of public prosecutions.
Civil lawsuits are handled by the magistrate's court; the victim can file an action for punitive damages. In order for a plaintiff to file a civil suit they must have standing and they must also have a quality interest to act. This means that only people who were directly harmed by the action can file a lawsuit and that the plaintiff must have a material or moral benefit that will result from the civil claim. Also, in the DRC all criminal proceedings can be considered as a civil wrong but all civil proceedings must be put on hold until the criminal trial has been decided. For more information on legal personnel and trial proceedings see below.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there are over 213 known prisons with a prison population of 30,000 which is including pre-trial detainees. In addition to these facilities it has been confirmed that there are many other secret detention centers. With an extreme shortage of funds, food, medical facilities and personnel, conditions in these facilities remain harsh. There is also a major issue with overcrowding, brutality and corruption within the prisons. It has been reported that numerous prisoners have been tortured, beaten to death and starved. In fact, most prisoners only chance for survival is with resources provided to them by their family. This comes at a cost though. Many prison guards force family members to pay a bribe in order to deliver these resources. Prisoners may also have to pay a fee to receive the resources and to receive better treatment. In addition to the corruption and violence, conditions in the prisons are extremely unsanitary. There are no toilets provided for prisoners so they are forced to urinate and defecate on the floors of their cells. These conditions make infectious diseases widespread among prisoners including red diarrhea and tuberculosis.
In addition to serving a sentence in these conditions, many prisoners must also pay punitive damages to the victim. Any crime that has been committed can also be treated as a civil wrong which results in the payment of damages to anyone who has been affected by the crime committed. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, corporal punishment has been banned as a from of punishment for any crime but can be utilized for discipline in any penal institution. It's use for punishment has also been banned in the school systems but has been legalized in the home as a proper punishment for parents to use on their children . On the other hand, capital punishment is still widely used as a form of punishment. Capital punishment is issued to people who have committed aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, treason, spying, political and military offenses and genocide. There are currently 200 prisoners on death row including 10 juveniles. The methods used for capital punishment include shooting and hanging prisoners.
Since there are currently no crime statistics available for the DRC, accessing information on the punishments assessed for these crimes was also a challenge. There was also no information indicating that there are ethnic, gender, religious or other disparities in punishment. Lastly, there was no indication of what the country's justification for punishment is. Perhaps more information on punishment in the DRC will emerge in the future.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it takes five years to complete a legal education which can only be pursued after completing secondary school. Most students who enroll into the legal program at Congolese universities are predominately between the ages of 17 to 21. For the first year, all students have a general curriculum they must complete but in the following years they have greater freedom to choose courses of their interest. During lectures, the Socratic method is not utilized. In fact, for most lectures there is interaction between professors and students; the material is taught in a more authoritative manner. After a student completes the first three years of their legal education they obtain a degrees which allows them to appear as a public defender in lower level courts. In most civil law countries law students are required to choose specialization based on whether they want to become a judge or a lawyer; this differs in the DRC. All students obtain a basic law degree which allows them to choose their career path after they complete their studies. It should be noted that although legal educations are now offered at private universities, the government will usually only consider candidates from state universities to be appointed as a judge).
Since the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a civil law country, the courts utilize an inquisitorial system. In an inquisitorial system, the main focus is to discover facts about the case. A trial is more of a continuation of an investigation. The judge plays the key role in this system; they are the ones who ask all of the questions and examine witnesses. Lawyers, on the other hand, are there to present evidence to the judge on their clients behalf. After all parties have presented their evidence and the judge has completed their investigation the judge will then make the decision about the defendants guilt or innocence. Prior to this decision, the defendant is presumed to be innocent and the truth is discovered throughout the course of the trial. In an inquisitorial system there is no role for a jury so they are not utilized.
Currently in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, legal personnel are facing many obstacles. Very few cases are actually being held for many reasons. First, officials of the justice system receive very little pay if any at all. Also, many times, lawyers are not even given access to their clients which makes it very difficult to prepare for a case. Many times, lawyers are even threatened, tortured or killed by a number of the groups involved in the ongoing conflict. All of this is done in an effort to deter them and other legal personnel from pursuing their cases. When the legal personnel are unable to effectively do their job, it makes it very difficult to uphold a functional legal system.
When Mobutu took office in 1965, he made a number of changes to the operation of the police force in the DRC. As noted earlier, Mobutu's main concern was to gain extensive power in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It seemed as if his ultimate goal was to turn the DRC into a dictatorship and this was evident in the way he organized the police force. After declaring himself President of the DRC, Mobutu decided to combine all of the police forces into a single, centralized police force which was ultimately named the Gendarmarie Nationale and its operation was overlooked by the Department of Defense. Local police forces had minimal control over any police activity; almost all power was in the hands of the Gendarmarie Nationale. Also, local authorities such as mayor lost all power to enforce the law in their provinces as well. At this time, the Gendarmarie Nationale lacked proper funding and resources to carry out effective police work and training .
In 1997, after the death of President Mobutu, President Kabila attempted to establish an entirely new police force. With the help of the South African government, Kabila was trying to create a police force that differed greatly from the one Mobutu had in place. Although this was the intention of President Kabila, there is little information indicating that the police force was actually reformed. In fact, from the time Kabila took office until 2006 when the new Constitution was implemented, the police force was characterized by corruption, unwarranted violence and arrests, unbearable detention tactics and the torture of citizens. In addition to the police force, there were three intelligence agencies in place. The Agence Nationale de Renseignements (ANR) which was used for principal national security. They were in charge of carrying out many of the functions of the police force. The second intelligence agency in place was the Service d'Action et de Renseignements (SARM) which was utilized for military intelligence. The third intelligence group is characterized as a more ambiguous group; its actual purpose and affiliation is unknown. They are known as the "Les Hiboux" and they have been known to be involved with various kidnappings and terrorist acts. This police force could be appropriately described as centralized and multiple, uncoordinated. Appropriate actions are currently underway in an attempt to reform this type of police force.
Since 2006, in an effort to effectively reform the police force in the DRC many other countries and organizations have stepped in to assist the government with training. The United Nations through MONUC has taken on vast amounts of training with the Congolese police force hoping to stabilize this nation. In addition to training a civilian police force, the United Nations has organized the help of other countries including the United States, South Africa, Uganda and Tanzania which have assisted the effort with additional training, assistance with the integration of national police forces and financial resources. Currently the police force is operating under a combination of the military control and assistance from the United Nations. Since the DRC's independence from Belgium the education has also vastly improved. There are now institutions that prepare individuals for careers in police work as well as a police academy which is located in Kisangani. Steps in the right direction are being taken in order to create some sense of stability and security in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Hopefully, information will soon be released explaining their success. Since the reformation of the police force began recently, there is still very little detailed information about the structure of the police force and how officers are selected and trained.
After five years of a violent and devastating civil war,the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are still facing a considerable amount of violence and torture and have access to very few rights. This results from an unstable government and a number of armed rebel groups trying to establish control. Everyday the people of Congo face brutal rape (watch a video about this), torture, unlawful killings, the disappearance of family and friends, unwarranted arrests and detention in harsh and life-threatening conditions. The people of Congo maintain very little hope since very little is being done to protect them from these horrors. In fact, the government has made little effort to punish the rebel groups who are responsible for this chaos. The government itself is unstable and plagued by corruption which exacerbates the already devastating conditions. The only effort the government has made is to suppress the voice of the people by restricting their rights to press, assembly and movement; the government is working to ensure that the people remain terrified to ignite change .
In addition to crimes resulting from the aftermath of the civil war, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is also one of Africa's largest producers of marijuana. Although the marijuana is mostly produced for domestic consumption, it easily produced in large quantities due to inadequate shipping regulations. Traffickers are able to ship materials and their product into the Congo with ease.
Another crime that is commonplace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is human trafficking. Men, women and children are trafficked in and out of the DRC for purposes including sex exploitation and forced labor. Most of the human trafficking is organized by the armed rebel groups which, is beyond the control of the government. For the Human Trafficking Watchlist, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is listed as a Tier 2. The reason for this is that the DRC has neglected to show any evidence that they have increased their efforts to stop the human trafficking that is occurring within the country. Battling human trafficking in the DRC is a difficult task to accomplish since it is a challenge for the government to even convict or imprison the individuals responsible for these crimes. In addition to this roadblock, the government lacks appropriate financial, technical and human resources to tackle a problem of this size. Not only does this provide little reassurance that human trafficking will be put to an end, but, it also illustrates what little sense of security the people of the DRC have in their lives.
Although the crimes described above frequently occur in the DRC, there are currently no valid crime statistics available at this time. The Democratic Republic of the Congo does not report their crime statistics to any international organizations. Unfortunately, there is also no information available on the public opinion of crime in the Democratic Republic of the Congo either.
When handling matters that fall under the category of family law, the Congolese Civil Code is applied. The Congolese Civil Code is divided into three different books: the first book deals with the family code, the second book deals with property law and the third book deals with the law of obligations. Both the first and the third book deal with family law. The first book pertains to cases that relate to marriage settlements, wills and gifts .
One of the aspects of family law is the adoption process. The information that was available on adoption outlined the procedures for adopting a child from the Congo. The first step to this process is obtaining consent for the adoption to take place. Either the biological parents or other family members must give their consent. If the child has no family, the court will determine whether or not to consent to the adoption. If the child is 15 years of age or older, they must consent to the adoption on their own. The second step of the adoption process is the hearing. The prospective adoptive parents must request a hearing at the Tribunal Court in the part of the Congo where the child is from. At the hearing, the people who trying to adopt the child must provide their birth certificates, the child's birth certificate and proof that the child's family has been notified about the adoption and the hearing. The prospective parents and the child (if they are over the age of 10) must attend the hearing. After the hearing is completed the courts will take the time to determine whether or not all the conditions for the adoption have been met and all of the proper documentation has been done correctly. The final part of the adoption process is the judgment. During this part of the process the court will make a final judgment on the adoption. Throughout the judgment other issues will be decided as well. These include the date of the final adoption, the child's new name (which will incorporate the adoptive family's name) and issues regarding citizenship of the child. The decisions about citizenship will be decided by the adoptive parents or by the adoptee if they are 18 years or older. After all of this has been decided, the final judgment must be registered at the city hall by the adoptive parents. If it is not registered within 1 month of the judgment the adoption will no longer be legal.
Another aspect of family law is marriage. According to the DRC's constitution, all citizens have the right to form unions freely. The right to freedom of association is recognized. Also, every citizen has the right to marry and start a family with a person from the opposite sex that they choose. Also, according to the constitution, raising and caring for a child is placed in to the hands of the parents but under the supervision of the government. Parents have a duty to care for their children and protect them from harm.
Unfortunately, there was limited information on family law in the DRC. There was no available information on divorce or on rights regarding inheritance. Also, there was no information indicating whether or not juveniles and the elderly are treated differently than others by the legal system.
The rights of both women and children are protected in the DRC's Constitution with statements such as "Governments have an obligation to protect children in difficult situations and bring before justice the perpetrators and accomplices in acts of violence against children" and " Governments shall ensure the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and protect and promote their rights. They take measures against all forms of violence to women in public life and private life". Even though their rights are stated here in the constitution that are rarely if ever honored. Women and children consistently face inhumane and unequal treatment. They are the targets of numerous acts of violence, forced labor and kidnappings. For a more detailed description of the inequalities women and children face in the DRC please see below.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, very little is done by the government to uphold the fundamental rights of their citizens. In the constitution it states that there are a number of rights that cannot be denied to individual even if the country is under seige or in a state of emergency. These rights include:
Although the constitution is supposed to ensure these rights, they are consistently ignored and violated. In fact, since the outbreak of the civil war in 1996, the violence has continued and escalated; much of this conflict is fueled by ethnic tensions. In the past few years human rights violations have been commonplace in the DRC. The groups involved in the ongoing conflict have been responsible for the violations; they have used a variety of sadistic acts to gain control over various groups of people. Some of the most horrific acts utilized include: killing civilians, forced recruitment of child soldiers (watch a video about this),rape, torture, cannibalism, and demolishing entire villages. It has been estimated by the U.N. that in addition to the 3 million civilians that have perished since 1998, another 5,000 civilians have died between July 2002 and May 2003, due to the ongoing violence that is occurring. The unlawful killings that have occurred have been linked to both the Congolese army and government-backed militias as well as the rebel groups. Torture and other atrocities have been attributed to both sides of the conflict. The government and military has been known to torture their prisoners using a variety of methods including whipping, burning prisoners with cigarettes and beating them with belts and metal tubes. Throughout the conflict, the women and children of the DRC have been the most persecuted. Women and children are highly targeted for means of human trafficking. The DRC is on the Tier 2 Watch List for human trafficking; they have received this rating due to their lack of effort to put an end to this issue. Women and children are frequently kidnapped and brought to various parts of the country or shipped elsewhere for sexual slavery and forced labor. Little progress has been made and human trafficking continues to be one of the prevalent issues in the DRC.
In addition to the use of women and children as products in the human trafficking ring mostly run by the rebels, women and young girls must face terros of the most widely used weapon of war by the government and the rebel groups:sexual violence. Throughout the DRC, the use of rape as a weapon of war is widespread. Women are being targeted all over the DRC and are being used as a means to tear apart entire communities. The most frequent attacks on women of the Congo include: individual rapes, gang rapes, sexual abuse, genital mutilation and rape combined with death. Many times, a woman's family members are tied up and are forced to watch these devastating acts of violence. Many women have reported that armed groups will circle a village and rape women in public. The age of victims has ranged from four months old to eighty-four years old; with these armed groups there are no limits. As a result of the sexual violence many women have to endure, they are not only severely psychologically and physically harmed but also face consequences within their village and community. Due to cultural beliefs, many victims of sexual violence and their families face a great deal of shame and humiliation. A single act of rape can shatter an entire community. Both rape victims and children that are conceived as a result of rape are often rejected by their families and communities. Rape is being utilized by both government and rebel groups as a way to assert power over others. Sexual violence is also being used to gain access to resources and valuable assets such as diamonds, gold, livestock and crops. Women live in fear of becoming a victim of sexual violence and the women who have already lived through this horror are now left to provide for themselves in a community that makes it very difficult for them to do so.
As if children were not facing enough with the struggle to even survive, many children are often kidnapped and forced to join rebel groups. They are subjected to poor treatment, sexual violence, violent initiations, hard labor, torture and rigorous training. These children are also given drugs and alcohol in an effort to break them down psychologically to make it easier for them to commit acts of violence against others. Many of these child soldiers have been forced to watch or commit the murder of their family and friends, to commit murder and to commit rape.
Human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo do not end at the numerous acts of violence the people are faced with every day. In addition to facing countless acts of abuse, very few of these abuses have actually been investigated or prosecuted. In the areas of the country that is still controlled by the government, the judicial systems remains "underfunded, inefficient, ineffective, and subject to corruption and executive influence. In many cases, lawyers are not even allowed to consult with their clients and are given no time at all to even prepare any kind of defense. Many of the lawyers in the DRC are threatened, kidnapped and tortured in an effort to keep anyone from even attempting to bring a case to court. If a victim is lucky enough to get their case into the judicial system, most of the time they will have to pay a judge a bride in order for it to be heard. In rebel territory, it is difficult to say if their is even a functioning judicial system at all. Many of the courts are no longer operating due to the fact that most of the court personnel fled the area during the conflict. In fact, the rebel groups are known for carrying out unwarranted arrests, detentions and executions as a means of maintaining control over the people in the area. Having the right to fair trial is yet another right the civilians of the DRC are consistently denied. It is said that the lack of an effective judicial system adds to the fueling conflict. Knowing that there will be not repercussions for their actions gives no reason for either parties to put an end to their malicious behavior. The international community has taken action in an effort to deal with the numerous crimes and human rights violations of the past. They are attempting to utilize a better judicial system in order to prevent these crimes from occurring and will also be punishing those who already took part in a variety of crimes. Without giving these criminals the punishments they deserve it will be difficult for the Democratic Republic of the Congo to ever really move forward from this conflict.
World Focus. "Rape as a Weapon of War in DR Congo". 16 December 2008. Online video clip. YouTube. Accessed on 6 October 2009. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkaCbX3PEHA. This video discusses the ongoing issue in the DRC of sexual violence being utilized as a weapon of war in an attempt to gain control and destroy entire villages.
Witness. "A Duty to Protect: Justice for Child Soldiers in the D.R.C.". 13 December 2007. Online video clip. YouTube. Accessed on 18 November 2009. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIWIQ4Wt4o8. This video shows the struggle child soldiers face in the D.R.C. and discusses the issues surrounding various efforts to assist these child soldiers.
[[File:|thumb|right|250px|Location of the Democratic Republic of the Congo]]
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the country that was known as Zaïre from 1971 to 1997. It is in central Africa.
Shortly after independence, Belgium tried to take control of Congo-Kinshasa again, and invaded the country. Belgium also supported the province of Katanga when it declared independence from the rest of the country with Moïse Tshombe calling himself the president. This was because the Belgians wanted to keep mining the minerals in Katanga for themselves. The government of Patrice Lumumba was against this invasion and tried to convince the United Nations to stop it. Instead, the UN helped the Belgians. The USA also tried to kill Prime Minister Lumumba. In September, the Western imperialists convinced President Kasavubu to say that Lumumba was no longer Prime Minister. This was illegal. Later, Joseph Mobutu started a coup d'état, overthrowing them both. Kasavubu was allowed to live freely, but Lumumba was under house arrest. At the end of December, he escaped his home, but was captured by Mobutu's soldiers while trying to cross the River Sankuru between Port Francqui and Mweka on his way to his supporters in Stanleyville. He was tortured for weeks and then sent to Katanga on 17 January 1961. That day, he was tortured with his ministers Maurice Mpolo and Joseph Okito at the house of Belgian farmer Lucien Brouwez. That night, the three were secretly shot in the forest by Katangans with Belgian officers. Later, their bodies were dissolved in sulfuric acid and Katanga made up a fake story about their death a month later. Lumumbists in Stanleyville, led by people such as Pierre Mulele and Antoine Gizenga, began a revolution against the Mobutu dictatorship.
1965: Joseph Mobutu, a lieutenant-general in the Congolese army, seized (took without permission) power from President Kasavubu. He made himself president and became a dictator. He had the support of the United States until the end of the Cold War.
1966: The country's name was changed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
1971: Mobutu changed the name of the country to Zaïre.
1975: The United States used bases (areas of land used for military purposes) in Zaïre to fight Soviet-supported rebels in Angola.
1977: Mobutu was re-elected with almost 100 percent of the votes because there were no other candidates.
1984: Mobutu was re-elected. Again, there were no other candidates. By this time, the American TV program Sixty Minutes said Mobutu had a personal fortune of about US$5 billion (five billion U.S. dollars).
1989: The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union officially ended. The United States gave less support to Mobutu because he was no longer useful in the Cold War.
1990: Mobutu ended the ban (prohibition) on political parties. He appointed a transitional government that was going to help the country change to democracy.
1994: The dictator of Rwanda, Juvénal Habyarimana died when his plane was shot down. Some extremists from the Hutu group (which had become considered an ethnicity) used this to start a long-planned genocide against theTutsi group and anyone who was against the genocide. A group of refugees in Uganda had formed an army called the Rwandan Patriotic Front (Front Patriotique Rwandaise in French). This group was two-thirds Tutsi. The RPF invaded parts of Rwanda which they did not already control, and many Hutu extremists and Hutu hostages fled to Zaïre. Among the refugees were members of the Interahamwe, an extremist militia group that was responsible for killing many Tutsi. (A militia is a civilian army.) Mobutu did not respond to demands to return Interahamwe members for trial (a legal process to decide if someone is guilty or innocent).
1996: Mobutu's government told Tutsi in Zaïre to leave the country or they would be killed. Leaders in Uganda and Rwanda responded by invading Zaïre in order to overthrow (take power from) Mobutu.
1997: Laurent Kabila, a rebel leader with the support of rebels in Zaïre, Uganda and Sudan, overthrew Mobutu Sésé Seko. The time from the invasion (act of entering without permission) in 1996 to 1997 when the war ended is called the First Congo War. Kabila also changed the name of the country back to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
1998: The Second Congo War started after Kabila ordered all Ugandan and Rwandan military forces to leave the country. The governments of Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi reacted by invading the country. Then other countries got involved to support Kabila: Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Chad, Libya and Sudan. Some people call the war Africa's World War because it involved so many countries. About 3.8 million people died in this war, mostly from starvation (not getting enough food) and disease.
2001: Laurent Kabila was assassinated (killed for political reasons) by one of his bodyguards. The Congolese parliament voted unanimously (with everyone agreeing) that his son, Joseph Kabila should replace him as president.
2003: The Second Congo War ended when the Transitional Government was made after many peace agreements, and it took power.
2006 (July 30): Congo-Kinshasa had a presidential election. It was the first election that included more than one political party since independence in 1960. No candidate got more than half of the votes. On October 29, a second election took place to decide which of the two most popular candidates, Joseph Kabila or Jean-Pierre Bemba, would become president. There were protests (people showing they did not like what was happening) over both elections. Kabila won the second election. Lumumbist Antoine Gizenga is now Prime Minister.
|Error creating thumbnail: sh: convert: command not found|
The capital is Kinshasa.