Democratic Republic of the Congo


February 16, 2012 22:44 EDT

Settlement in the area which is now part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, can be traced back over 4000 years. Initially, the area was home to many different ethnic groups and governed by several kings. It was colonized by Belgium in 1908, and remained under foreign rule until 1960. Soon after independence, Congo faced serious political turmoil with various groups threatening to secede, a leadership crisis, and a rebellion of its army. Only one year after independence, Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba was murdered by troops under the control of Mobutu Sese Seko. Mobutu seized power in 1965, establishing a dictatorship in the country, which he had renamed Zaire. Under his rule, the overall conditions in the country worsened and the human rights situation and corruption became tremendous problems.

With the end of the Cold War, Mobutu was no longer needed as an ally for the US and was eventually overthrown in the First Congo War, by a coalition of Rwandan Tutsis, Ugandan armies, and Zairian rebels. After Mobutu fled the country, Laurent-Désiré Kabila took over presidency and renamed it the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1997.But soon his former allies turned against him, leading to the Second Congo War. When Kablia was killed in 2001, his son Joseph took office. A transitional government took over in 2003 and the atrocities officially ended. Joseph Kabila made the first democratic election since the end of colonial rule possible in 2006, whose results confirmed his position in office. However, armed conflict continues to be an issue in Eastern Congo. Especially in the areas around Kivu and Ituri, several violent clashes between the government’s army and rebels resulted in even more civilians suffering from the direct and indirect results of the fighting.

2011 Elections 

The Second Congo War was the most violent conflict since World War II and killed almost 5.4m people. Today the country is still challenged by instability and has difficulty maintaining peace. The elections of 2011 were considered a test to see whether or not Congo’s government would be able to manage the affairs of the country efficiently and secure peace and democracy. So far it seems as if Congo has failed the test. The outcome of the election was highly disputed locally and internationally. It is questionable if the reelected President Kabila will be able to keep the support of his people and maintain stability in the country. 

Facts and figures:

Population: 67.7 million

President:  Joseph Kabila

Capital: Kinshasa

Life expectancy:  47 years (men)

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