Capital : Kinshasa
Haut-Zaire, Kasai Orientale, Kivu, Shaba
Size: 906 000 sq m Popn: 39 882 000
Pygmies and other hunter-gatherers lived here originally and farming and fishing communities grew up on the coast. From the C10th to the C14th Bantu immigrants arrived and built up states. The great kingdom of Kongo at the mouth of the Congo River was beginning to decline when the Portuguese reached it in 1482 and was further weakened by the establishment of the slave trade. They gave the country the name of Zaire (from zadi 'big water' i.e. the Zaire river).
The interior remained unexplored by Europeans until the expeditions of Stanley and Livingston in the 1870s. They were partially funded by Leopold II of Belgium who established himself as personal ruler of the Congo Free State in 1885, suppressing local resistance. He was persuaded to hand the colony over to the Belgian government in 1908 as the Belgian Congo.
Independence came in 1960 with Patrice Lumumba as Prime Minister and Joseph Kasavubu as President of the Republic of the Congo but the army mutinied within a few days and Moise Tshombe declared the secession of Katanga a rich mining province, renamed Shaba in 1972. Lumumba and Kasavubu quarrelled and Col. Mubutu staged a coup in late 1960. Lumumba was murdered in 1961 and Cyrille Adoula formed a government of national unity, re-uniting with Katanga with UN help. Tshombe was appointed Prime Minister by Kasavubu in 1964 but was dismissed in favour of Evariste Kimba in 1965. Mobutu's second coup came at the end of the year but he delayed the election until 1970 when he reached forty, the minimum age for Presidency. His regime was been frequently criticised and reforms were promised in 1990. Some reforms were carried out during the 1970s and two revolts by the Congolese National Liberation Front in Shaba province were put down with Moroccan, French and Belgian military assistance.
Mulitparty elections were promised for 1992 but the economy collapsed during 1991 and rebels ransacked the cities. Mobuto agreed to share power in an emergency government with Etienne Tshisekedi as Prime Minister but he dismissed him in October 1991. Tshisekedi set up an opposition government. Mobuto named Bernardin Mungul-Diaka and later Jean Nguza Karl-I-Bond as premier but due to fears of a north-south split brought about by Bond's followers, he reinstated Tsiksekedi in August 1992.
War with neighbouring Rwanda created a huge refugee problem and in May 1997, rebels under Laurent Kabila forced President Mobuto to flee the country which was declared 'The Democratic Republic of Congo'.
There are around 200 Bantu groups in the country, French is the official language with Swahili and Tsiluba, and religions followed are Christianity, Islam and traditional beliefs.
This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.
Copies may be made for personal use only.
tekeli.li home|Onomastikon home