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Congo, Democratic Republic of the

Congo, Democratic Republic of the, formerly Zaïre (zīˈēr, zäērˈ), republic (2020 est. pop. 89,561,403), c.905,000 sq mi (2,344,000 sq km), central Africa. It borders on Angola in the southwest and west, on the Atlantic Ocean, Cabinda (an Angolan exclave), and the Republic of the Congo in the west, on the Central African Republic and South Sudan in the north, on Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania in the east, and on Zambia in the southeast. Kinshasa is its capital and largest city.

Land and People

Congo lies astride the equator, and virtually all of the country is part of the vast Congo River drainage basin. North central Congo is made up of a large plateau (average elevation: c.1,000 ft/300 m), which is covered with equatorial forest and has numerous swamps. The plateau is bordered on the east by mountains, which rise to the lofty Ruwenzori range (located on the border with Uganda). The Ruwenzori include Margherita Peak (16,763 ft/5,109 m), the country's highest point; they are situated in the western or Albertine branch of the Great Rift Valley, which runs along the entire eastern border of the country and also takes in lakes Albert, Edward, Kivu, and Tanganyika. In S Congo are highland plateaus (average elevation: c.3,000 ft/910 m; highest elevation: c.6,800 ft/2,070 m), which are covered with savanna. The high Mitumba Mts. in the southeast include Lake Mweru (situated on the border with Zambia). In addition to Kinshasa, the major urban areas include Boma, Bukavu, Kalemie, Kamina, Kananga, Kisangani, Kolwezi, Likasi, Lubumbashi, Matadi, Mbandaka, and Mbuji-Mayi.

The population of Congo comprises approximately 200 ethnic groups, the great majority of whom speak one of the Bantu languages. In addition, there are Nilotic speakers in the north near South Sudan and scattered groups of Pygmies (especially in the Ituri Forest in the northeast). The principal Bantu-speaking ethnic groups are the Kongo, Mongo, Luba, Bwaka, Kwango, Lulua, Lunda, and Kasai. The Alur are the main Nilotic speakers. In the 1990s, Congo also had an influx of immigrants, particularly refugees from neighboring countries. In 1985 over half the population was rural, but the country is becoming increasingly urbanized.

French is Congo's official language, but it is spoken by relatively few persons. Swahili is widely used in the east, and Lingala is spoken in the west; Tshilaba is also common. About 50% of the inhabitants are Roman Catholics and 20% are Protestants. A substantial number are adherents of Kimbanguism, an indigenous Christian church. Many also follow traditional religious beliefs, and about 10% are Muslims.


Congo's mineral wealth is the mainstay of the economy, but the development of the mining industry has occurred at the expense of commercial agriculture. The economy's growth spurted under Belgian control in the 1950s, slowed considerably during the country's postindependence troubles in the early 1960s, accelerated again in the late 1960s when political stability returned, and then generally declined beginning in the 1970s, when the nationalization of major industries resulted in a reduction of private investment. For a decade beginning in the early 1990s much of the economy was in a state of collapse, but with the end of most of civil warfare that devastated Congo, economic stability improved in the early 2000s and foreign investment is again occurring.

Although only 3% of the nation's land area is arable, a substantial part of the labor force is engaged as subsistence farmers. The principal food crops are cassava, bananas, root crops, corn, and fruits. Coffee, sugarcane, palm oil, rubber, tea, quinine, and cotton are produced commercially, primarily for export. Although agricultural production satisfied domestic demands before independence, Congo has become dependent on food imports. Goats, sheep, and cattle are raised.

Mining is centered in in SE Congo (the former Katanga prov.); products include copper, cobalt, zinc, manganese, uranium, cassiterite (tin ore), coal, gold, and silver. Diamonds are mined in S central Congo. There are major deposits of petroleum offshore near the mouth of the Congo River. About 75% of Congo is covered with forest containing ebony and teak as well as less valuable woods.

Kinshasa and Lubumbashi are the country's most important industrial centers. Industries produce processed copper, zinc, and cassiterite; refined petroleum; processed foods and beverages; and basic consumer goods such as clothing and footwear. The numerous rivers of Congo give it an immense potential for producing hydroelectricity, a small but significant percentage of which has been realized. The chief hydroelectric facilities are situated in the southeast and produce power for the mining industry; another major project is located at Inga, on the Congo River near Kinshasa.

Rivers form the backbone of the country's transportation network; unnavigable parts of the Congo River (e.g., Kinshasa-Matadi and Kisangani-Ubundi) are bridged by rail lines, but the rail and road network in Congo is both very limited for a nation of its size and in disrepair in a number of sections as a result of the civil war. Matadi, Boma, and Banana can handle oceangoing vessels. E Congo is linked (via Lake Tanganyika) by rail with the seaport of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The country's export earnings come almost entirely from sales of primary products, which are vulnerable to sharp changes in world prices. Since 1994 diamonds have become the country's leading export as a result of a decline in the production of copper (once the leading mineral product in terms of value). Petroleum also accounts for a substantial portion of export earnings. Other important exports are coffee, cobalt, palm products, and rubber. The leading imports are foodstuffs, machinery, transport equipment, fuels, and consumer goods. The country's principal trade partners are Belgium, the United States, South Africa, and France.


The Democratic Republic of the Congo is governed under the constitution of 2006 as amended. The president, who is the head of state, is popularly elected and may serve two five-year terms. There is a bicameral legislature. The National Assembly has 500 members, who serve five-year terms; the majority (439) of the members are elected proportionally, the rest directly. The prime minister is chosen from the party or coalition that controls the assembly. The Senate has 108 indirectly elected members, who also serve for five years. Administratively, the country is divided into 25 provinces and one city (Kinshasa).


Early History

The indigenous inhabitants of the region of the Congo were probably Pygmies, who lived in small numbers in the equatorial forests of the north and northeast. By the end of the 1st millennium B.C., small numbers of Bantu-speaking people had migrated into the area from the northwest (present-day Nigeria and Cameroon) and settled in the savanna regions of the south. Aided by their knowledge of iron technology and agriculture, the Bantu-speakers migrated to other parts of the Congo and Africa, at the same time developing new, related languages. From about A.D. 700 the copper deposits of SE Congo were worked by the Bantu and traded over wide areas.

By about 1000 the Bantu had settled most of the Congo, reducing the area occupied by the Pygmies. By the early 2d millennium the Bantu had increased considerably in number and were coalescing into states, some of which governed large areas and had complex administrative structures. Most of the states were ruled by a monarch, whose authority, although considerable, was checked by a council of high civil servants and elders. Notable among the states were the kingdom of Kongo (founded in the 14th cent.), centered in modern N Angola but including extreme W Congo and a Luba empire (founded in the early 16th cent.), centered around lakes Kisale and Upemba in SE Congo.

Also included among these states were the Lunda kingdom of Mwata Yamo (founded in the 15th cent.), centered in SW Congo; the Kuba kingdom of the Shongo people (established in the early 17th cent.), located in the region of the Kasai and Sankuru rivers in S Congo; and the Lunda kingdom of Mwata Kazembe (founded in the 18th cent.), located near the Luapula River (which forms part of the present Congo-Zambia boundary). Through intermarriage and other contacts the Luba transmitted political ideas to the Lunda, and numerous small Luba-Lunda states (in addition to those of Mwata Yamo and Mwata Kazembe) were established in S Congo. The Kuba kingdom was noted for its sculpture and decorative arts.

European and Arab Contacts

In 1482, Diogo Cão, a Portuguese navigator, became the first European to visit the Congo when he reached the mouth of the Congo River and sailed a few miles upstream. Soon thereafter the Portuguese established ties with the king of Kongo, and in the early 16th cent. they established themselves on parts of the coast of modern Angola, especially at the court of the king of Ndongo (a vassal state of Kongo). Portuguese trade with the African kingdoms including ivory and other goods and slaves. About four million slaves ultimately were shipped to the Americas, amounting to some 30 percent of the Atlantic slave trade. The Portuguese had little influence on the Congo until the late 18th cent., when the African and mulatto traders (called pombeiros), whom they backed, traveled far inland to the kingdom of Mwata Kazembe.

In the mid-19th cent., Arab, Swahili, and Nyamwezi traders from present-day Tanzania penetrated into E Congo, where they traded and raided for slaves and ivory. Some of the traders established states with considerable power. Msiri (a Nyamwezi) established himself near Mwata Kazembe in 1856, soon enlarged his holdings (mainly at the expense of Mwata Kazembe), and was a major force until 1891, when he was killed by the Belgians. From the 1860s to the early 1890s, Muhammad bin Hamad (known as Tippu Tib), a Swahili Arab trader from Zanzibar, who was also part Nyamwezi, ruled a large portion of E Congo NW of Lake Tanganyika. In the 1870s, on the eve of the scramble for African territory among the European powers, the territory of the Congo had no overall political unity.

The Congo Free State

Beginning in the late 1870s the territory was colonized by Leopold II, king of the Belgians (reigned 1865–1909). Leopold believed that Belgium needed colonies to ensure its prosperity, and sensing that the Belgians would not support colonial ventures, he privately set about establishing a colonial empire. Between 1874 and 1877, Henry M. Stanley made a journey across central Africa during which he found the course of the Congo River. Intrigued by Stanley's findings (especially that the region had considerable economic potential), Leopold engaged him in 1878 to establish the king's authority in the Congo basin. Between 1879 and 1884, Stanley founded a number of stations along the middle Congo River and signed treaties with several African rulers purportedly giving the king sovereignty in their areas.

At the Conference of Berlin (1884–85) the European powers recognized Leopold's claim to the Congo basin, and in a ceremony (1885) at Banana, the king announced the establishment of the Congo Free State, headed by himself. The announced boundaries were roughly the same as those of present-day Congo, but it was not until the mid-1890s that Leopold's control was established in most parts of the state. In 1891–92, the Katanga area was conquered, and between 1892 and 1894, E Congo was wrested from the control of E African Arab and Swahili traders (including Tippu Tib, who for a time had served as an administrator of the Congo).

Because he did not have sufficient funds to develop the Congo, Leopold sought and received loans from the Belgian parliament in 1889 and 1895, in return for which Belgium was given the right to annex the Congo in 1901. At the same time Leopold declared all unoccupied land (including cropland lying fallow) to be owned by the state, thereby gaining control of the lucrative trade in rubber and ivory. Much of the land was given to concessionaire companies, which in return were to build railroads or to occupy a specified part of the country or merely to give the state a percentage of their profits. In addition, Leopold maintained a large estate in the region of Lake Leopold II (NE of Kinshasa).

Private companies were also established to exploit the mineral wealth of central and SE Congo; a notable example was Union Minière du Haut-Katanga, chartered in 1905. The Belgian parliament did not exercise its right to annex the Congo in 1901, but reports starting in 1904 (particularly by Roger Casement and E. D. Morel) about the brutal treatment of Africans there (especially those forced to collect rubber for concessionaire companies) led to a popular campaign for Belgium to take over the state from Leopold. After exhaustive parliamentary debates, in 1908 Belgium annexed the Congo.

The Belgian Congo

Under Belgian rule the worst excesses (such as forced labor) of the Free State were gradually diminished, but the Congo was still regarded almost exclusively as a field for European investment, and little was done to give Africans a significant role in its government or economy. Economic development was furthered by the construction of railroads and other transportation facilities. European concerns established more large plantations, and vast mining operations were set up. Africans formed the labor pool for these operations, and Europeans were the managers. By the end of the 1920s, mining (especially of copper and diamonds) was the mainstay of the economy, having far outdistanced agriculture. Some of the mining companies built towns for their workers, and there was considerable movement of Africans from the countryside to urban areas, especially beginning in the 1930s.

Christian missionaries (the great majority of whom were Roman Catholic) were very active in the Congo, and they were the chief agents for raising the educational level of the Africans and for improving medical services. However, virtually no Africans were educated beyond the primary level until the mid-1950s, when two universities were opened. A noteworthy indigenous religious movement was that of Simon Kimbangu, who, educated by Protestant missionaries, around 1920 established himself as a prophet and healer. He soon gathered a large following and, although not explicitly anti-Belgian, was jailed in 1921 by the colonial government, which feared that his movement would undermine its authority. The Belgians outlawed Kimbangu's movement, but it continued clandestinely and became increasingly anti-European.

The Independence Movement

In 1955, when demands for independence were mounting throughout Africa, Antoine van Bilsen, a Belgian professor, published a “30-Year Plan” for granting the Congo increased self-government. The plan was accepted enthusiastically by most Belgians, who assumed that Belgian rule in the Congo would continue for a long period. Events proved otherwise.

Congolese nationalists, notably Joseph Kasavubu (who headed ABAKO, a party based among the Kongo people) and Patrice Lumumba (who led the leftist Mouvement National Congolais), became increasingly strident. They were impressed greatly by the visit in late 1958 of French president Charles de Gaulle to neighboring Middle Congo (now the Republic of the Congo), where he offered Africans the opportunity to vote in a referendum for continued association with France or for full independence. In Jan., 1959, there were serious nationalist riots in Kinshasa, and thereafter the Belgians steadily lost control of events in the Congo. At a roundtable conference (which included Congolese nationalists) at Brussels in Jan.–Feb., 1960, it was decided that the Belgian Congo would become fully independent on June 30, 1960.

Independence and Conflict

Following elections in June, Lumumba became prime minister and Kasavubu head of state. However, the Republic of the Congo (as the nation was then called) soon began to be pulled apart by ethnic and personal rivalries, often encouraged by Belgian interests. On July 4 the Congolese army mutinied, and on July 11 Moïse Tshombe declared Katanga prov., of which he was provisional president, to be independent. There were attacks on Belgian nationals living in the Congo, and Belgium sent troops to the country to protect its citizens and also its mining interests. Most Belgian civil servants left the country, thus crippling the government.

On July 14, the UN Security Council voted to send a force to the Congo to help establish order; the force was not allowed to intervene in internal affairs, however, and could not act against the Katangan secession. Therefore, Lumumba turned to the USSR for help against Katanga, but on Sept. 5 he was dismissed as prime minister by Kasavubu. On Sept. 14, Col. Joseph Mobutu (later Mobutu Sese Seko), the head of the army, seized power and dismissed Kasavubu. On Dec. 1, Lumumba, who probably had the largest national following of any Congo politician, was arrested by the army; he was murdered while allegedly trying to escape imprisonment in Katanga in mid-Feb., 1961.

By the end of 1960 the Congo was divided into four quasi-independent parts: Mobutu held the west, including Kinshasa (then called Léopoldville); Antoine Gizenga, the self-styled successor to Lumumba, controlled the east from Kisangani (then called Stanleyville); Albert Kalonji controlled S Kasai; and Tshombe headed Katanga, aided by Belgian and other foreign soldiers. The secession of Katanga, with its great mineral resources, particularly weakened the national government. In Apr., 1961, Tshombe was arrested by the central government (Kasavubu was back as head of state), but he was freed in June after agreeing to end the Katanga secession. By July, however, Tshombe was again proclaiming the independence of Katanga.

In August the UN forces began disarming Katangese soldiers, and in December UN and Katangese forces became engaged in battle. Throughout 1962, Tshombe maintained his independent position and in Dec., 1962, renewed UN-Katanga fighting broke out. Tshombe quickly was forced to give in, and in Jan., 1963, agreed to end Katanga's secession. However, the national scene remained confused, and there was considerable agitation by the followers of Lumumba.

At the end of June, 1964, the last UN troops were withdrawn from the country. In desperation, Kasavubu appointed Tshombe prime minister in July, 1964, but this move resulted in large-scale rebellions. With the help of U.S. arms, Belgian troops, and white mercenaries, the central government gradually regained control of the country. Nonetheless, national politics remained turbulent and were highlighted by a clash between Kasavubu and Tshombe. In mid-1965, Kasavubu appointed Evariste Kimba prime minister. In Nov., 1965, Mobutu again intervened, dismissing Kasavubu and proclaiming himself president; Tshombe fled to Spain. (In 1967, Tshombe was kidnapped and taken to Algeria; he died in 1969.) In 1966 and 1967 there were several short-lived rebellions (notably in Kisangani and Bukavu), and in 1966 an attempted coup by Kimba was defeated.

The Mobutu Regime

In late 1966, Mobutu abolished the office of prime minister, establishing a presidential form of government. Léopoldville, Stanleyville, and Elisabethville were given African names (Kinshasa, Kisangani, and Lubumbashi, respectively), thus in effect beginning the campaign for “African authenticity” that became a major policy of Mobutu in the early 1970s. (In 1971 the country was renamed Zaïre, as was the Congo River; in 1972, Katanga was renamed Shaba—largely in an attempt to destroy the region's past association with secession—and Mobutu dropped his Christian names and called himself Mobutu Sese Seko, while advising other Zaïreans to follow suit.) By the end of the 1960s, the country enjoyed political stability, although there was intermittent student unrest.

The government was firmly guided by Mobutu, who headed the sole (from 1970) political party, the Popular Movement of the Revolution (MPR). In 1970, Mobutu, the sole candidate, was elected to a seven-year term as president. In the early 1970s he centralized the administration of the nation, encouraged the participation of foreign firms in the economic development of the country, improved relations with neighboring independent countries, and maintained good relations with the West while establishing (1972) full diplomatic relations with China. In 1973, Mobutu nationalized many foreign-owned firms in the attempt to reduce unemployment; however, the nation remained dependent on volatile world copper prices. Mobutu forced European investors out of the country in 1974 but invited them back (unsuccessfully) in 1977.

In addition to economic decline in the 1970s, the government had to contend with increasingly active political opposition. Mobutu's policy of giving members of his own ethnic group (the Ngbanda) jurisdiction over security matters led to ethnic conflicts and a succession of coup attempts between 1975 and 1978. Opposition parties grew in number and in size; one of these, the Front Libération Nationale du Congo (FNLC), organized Katangese refugees forced out of the country by Mobutu. The FNLC, working from its base in Angola, launched a rebellion in the Katanga region but was repulsed after the intervention of French, Belgian, and Moroccan troops.

Promising political reforms, the government made superficial changes to satisfy foreign aid donors, but the detention of dissidents and violent clashes between soldiers and students continued. In the early 1980s opposition groups were organized in exile and formed alliances in the hopes of overthrowing Mobutu. In 1989 the country defaulted on a loan from Belgium, resulting in the cancellation of development programs and increased deterioration of the economy. In 1990, Mobutu announced an end to single-party rule and appointed a transitional government. However, he reserved for himself the position of head of state “above all political parties” and kept substantial power in his own hands.

Rebellion and Civil War

A loss of confidence in Zaïre's government and riots by unpaid soldiers in Kinshasa led Mobutu to agree to a coalition government with opposition leaders in 1991. He retained control of a far-reaching security apparatus and important government ministries, however, and engaged in a power struggle with opposition leaders. Economic collapse continued unabated, with the national infrastructure seriously deteriorating and civil servants, often unpaid for long periods, making money through bribery and theft of government property.

The nation's problems were compounded by an influx of hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees from Rwanda and a spillover of ethnic fighting between Hutus and Tutsis into Zaïre. In mid-1994, Kengo Wa Dondo, an advocate of austerity and free-market reform, was chosen prime minister by parliament, but he was dismissed in Mar., 1997. In 1996 and 1997, while Mobutu was in Europe being treated for cancer, rebels dependent on support from Rwandan and Ugandan forces captured much of E Zaïre. The insurgents, who also received aid from Zambia and Angola, met little resistance from the ragged Zaïrean army and entered Kinshasa on May 17, 1997. Rebel leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila was sworn in as president on May 29 and changed the name of the country to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mobutu died in Morocco on Sept. 7, 1997.

Although Kabila promised that elections would be held in 1999, he banned all political opposition, and his regime soon became repressive. His failure to revive the economy and to prevent the attacks upon thousands of Congolese Tutsis by their Hutu neighbors in the mid-1990s, as well as the revelation that his forces had probably massacred thousands of Rwandan Hutu refugees during their march across the country in 1996–97, led to a fading of both internal and foreign support for his government. The eastern part of the country remained unstable, and in Aug., 1998, a group of ethnic Tutsi Congolese forces supported by Rwanda mutinied against Kabila's rule and began advancing toward Kinshasa. Although they were repulsed, the movement grew, attracting opposition politicians, former Mobutu supporters, and disaffected military leaders formerly allied with Kabila. It also threatened to widen into a regional conflict, as Zimbabwe, Angola, and Namibia sent troops to aid Kabila's government, while Rwanda and Uganda backed the rebels.

In July, 1999, following a peace conference in Lusaka, Zambia, the heads of the six governments involved signed a cease-fire agreement; the leaders of the two main Congolese rebel groups also subsequently signed the pact. Kabila and his allies controlled most of the east and south of the Congo, and the rebels and their supporters controlled much of the north and west. By the end of the year, however, implementation of the accord was stalled, due in part to intransigence on the part of Kabila's government, and the much-violated cease-fire was in the process of collapsing.

The United Nations approved a force to monitor the accord in Feb., 2000, but the situation in the Congo proved too unstable to permit the force to move in. Fighting erupted between Ugandan and Rwandan forces in Kisangani (as it had the year before), and Kabila's government launched an offensive in Équateur (NW Congo) and continued to resist cooperating with the United Nations and with African peace negotiators. A new agreement calling for the pullback of all forces was signed (without the participation of one of the rebel groups) in Dec., 2000.

In Jan., 2001, Kabila was assassinated, reportedly by a bodyguard, and his son, Maj. Gen. Joseph Kabila, was named his successor. Joseph Kabila's government resumed cooperating on peace negotiations, and ended the ban on political parties. Beginning in March the forces of foreign nations began pulling back from the front lines and, in some cases, pulling out from the Congo. Fighting largely ceased, although banditry by militias and fighting between tribal groups persisted in E Congo. Peace talks began tentatively in Oct., 2001, and in 2002 agreements were signed successively with one of the rebel groups, Rwanda, and Uganda, although no agreement was reached with the largest rebel force, the Rwandan-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy–Goma. By the end of Oct., 2002, most foreign troops had been withdrawn from the Congo. In 2010, a UN report on the years of civil war in Congo was leaked; the report accused multiple armies and militias of various serious crimes during the conflict, and indicated that the Rwandan army and its Congolese allies, Laurent Kabila's rebels, had massacred groups of civilian Rwandan and Congolese Hutus.

The government and both main rebel groups reached an accord in Apr., 2003, when they signed a peace agreement that called for a power-sharing government led by President Kabila, and an interim parliament. Despite the peace deal, fighting continued in parts of the Congo, especially between tribal groups in the east, and in June, 2003, the United Nations dispatched French-led peacekeepers to E Congo in an effort to restore order. In the same month the government and rebels agreed on the composition of the new government, which was formally established. Democratic elections were scheduled for 2005. By the time of the government's establishment it was estimated that 3.3 million people had died, directly or indirectly, as a result of the fighting that began in 1998.

The French-led peacekeepers were replaced by 10,000 UN soldiers beginning in Sept., 2003; the force was subsequently increased to 16,000. In the first half of 2004 there were two attempted coups in the country, and progress toward real peace continued to be slow during the year. By the end of 2004 rebel forces and the former Congolese army had been integrated into a unified force in name only. An uprising involving former rebels occurred in June at Bukavu in E Congo, although the rebels soon dispersed, and in December there was fighting in Nord-Kivu between former army and former rebel forces. The army forces had been sent into the area in response to threats by Rwanda to invade the region in order to attack Rwandan Hutu rebels based there. Congo accused Rwandan forces of invading and aiding the former Congolese rebels, a charge Rwanda denied, but a UN panel had accused (July, 2004) Rwanda and Uganda of maintaining armed units in E Congo and UN peacekeepers said that forces had entered Congo following Rwanda's threat to invade. The latter charge was called false, however, by a former UN employee in early 2005.

Fighting between militias and UN peacekeepers occurred in NE Congo during 2005, as the area remained unpacified and some of the militias resisted disarming. Militia forces in Katanga prov. also refused to disarm, leading to fighting there in late 2005 between them and the Congolese army. Because of the fighting and tensions within the government and logistical issues (a new constitution was not approved by the interim parliament until May, 2005) the elections scheduled to be held by June, 2005, were postponed into 2006. In Dec., 2005, however, voters approved the constitution, paving the way for electing a new government. The same month the International Court of Justice ruled that Congo was entitled to compensation from Uganda for looting by Ugandan forces during the recent civil war. The fighting in NE and E Congo continued off and on throughout 2006. The Ugandan army launched (Apr., 2006) a campaign against Ugandan rebels based in Congo and clashed with Congo's forces, prompting a protest from Congo.

Government and Ongoing Instability

At the end of July, 2006, Congo held elections for president and the national and provincial legislatures under the new constitution. Voting was largely peaceful, but the vote count was slow and marred by irregularities. Joseph Kabila won 44% of the presidential vote with a strong showing in E Congo, but failed to win the required majority; his party won 111 (out of 500) National Assembly seats and formed a governing coalition. The inconclusive presidential results sparked violence between Kabila's partisans and those of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, the former rebel and interim vice president who was the runner-up (with 20% of the vote) and did well in W Congo, and violence subsequently marred campaign leading up to the October runoff. The vote count was not completed until mid-November, but Kabila was elected, with 58% of the ballots, and again he ran strongly in E Congo. Bemba rejected the result and contested it in court, despite the assessment of the election by most observers as free and fair; Bemba's challenge was rejected, and Kabila's election confirmed.

Progess was made in disbanding a number of militias in E Congo in early 2007, but later in the year fighting broke out between army units that included former Tutsi militias and Rwandan Hutu militias based in the Congo. Subsequently the Congolese army moved against the renegade Tutsi units, and Nord-Kivu was torn by off-and-on fighting in the second half of 2007. In subsequent years, Nord-Kivu and Sud-Kivu continued to areas of recurring instability.

Meanwhile, in March deadly fighting erupted in Kinshasa between the army and Bemba's remaining forces, who had resisted disbanding. Bemba was accused of treason, while he accused the government of trying to kill him. He sought refuge in the South African embassy, and left the Congo in April.

In Aug., 2007, a border clash between Congolese and Ugandan forces occurred near the disputed Rukwanzi Island in Lake Albert; in September the nations agreed to demilitarize the island. A cease-fire agreement was signed by some of the groups in E Congo in Jan., 2008, but conflicts between some of the many armed militias there continued. In Aug., 2008, government forces attacked Congolese Tutsi positions in E Congo, and ongoing fighting led the Tutsis to withdraw from the cease-fire agreement in October. After Tutsi successes against government forces, the government accused Rwanda of sending its troops into the Congo, a charge Rwanda denied; there was evidence, however, of Rwandan support for Congolese Tutsis. Rwanda and Congolese Tutsis countercharged that the government had allied itself with Rwandan Hutu militias accused of genocide. By the end of October Tutsi forces had advanced to Goma, the capital of Nord-Kivu. Peace negotiations, mediated by Olusegun Obasanjo, the former president of Nigeria, began in Dec., 2008.

Meanwhile, in early 2008 there was violence between police forces and a religio-political sect (Bundu dia Kongo) in W Congo.; the sect was banned in March. In Dec., 2008, after Ugandan rebels led by Joseph Kony, based in and around Garamba National Park, in extreme NE Congo, failed to sign a peace agreement with Uganda. Ugandan, Congolese, and South Sudanese forces mounted a joint campaign against the rebels' bases that continued until Mar., 2009. The operation was only partially successful. Ugandan rebels continued to attack Congolese civilians in subsequent years, and the Ugandan military also continued small-scale operations in Congo against the group. Congo troops were included in a planned Ugandan-led four-nation African Union military force to capture Kony that was announced in 2012.

A joint Rwandan-Congolese operation (Feb.–Mar., 2009) captured Laurent Nkunda, the Congolese Tutsi leader, which led to his forces integration in the Congolese army and a peace accord between the government and the Tutsi. Local militia groups also signed integration agreements, but in 2010 some former rebels accused the government of failing to honor the accords. Some rebels in Nord-Kivu and Sud-Kivu did not integrate, and remained a problem in subsequent months. The troops were less successful against the Rwandan Hutu militia, who resumed their attacks against civilians after the operation's end; the Hutu forces were the target of UN-supported Congolese operations in subsequent months. Both government and rebel forces were accused of criminal behavior and human-rights abuses in the conflict. The UN ended its support for Congolese government operations in Dec., 2009, amid criticism from aid agencies for heavy civilian casualties and from a UN panel for a lack of permanent results against Hutu forces, but a new UN and government offensive against the Hutu rebels began in early 2010. In Oct., 2009, ethnic fighting began in NW Congo., and by Jan., 2010, some 120,000 had fled the area, most to the neighboring Republic of Congo.

Constitutional amendments approved in Jan., 2011, generally strengthened the president's powers, and the elimination of a presidential runoff was seen as designed to aid Kabila's reelection. Kabila was declared the winner of the subsequent election, in Dec., 2011, but the vote was marred by logistical shortcomings and other irregularities and by statistically evident fraud. The second place finisher, Étienne Tshisekedi, denounced the results and declared himself the winner, while observers declared that the election lacked credibility and that the real winner was unknown. In the parliamentary elections, Kabila's party lost a significant number of seats but remained the largest bloc; his coalition retained an overall majority.

In Apr., 2012, Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, who was accused of war crimes and threatened with arrest, mutinied in Nord-Kivu with his former ethnic Tutsi rebels and established a new rebel force, M23. Facing relatively weak government resistance, the group advanced through several towns until by July it was threatening Goma, the provincial capital. Congo, the United Nations, and independent groups accused Rwanda of aiding the rebels, a charge Rwanda denied, but the United States and others called on Rwanda to end aid to the M23 rebels. In November the rebels took Goma, but withdrew after regional nations called on them to pull back. Divisions in M23 led in Mar., 2013, to Ntaganda's ouster. He fled to the U.S. embassy in Rwanda, and was turned over to the International Criminal Court, where he was convicted of war crimes in 2019. Also in March the United Nations approved the creation of a UN Intervention Brigade for the Congo with a broader mandate to actively enforce the peace.

In mid-2013 there was renewed fighting between the army and M23, and beginning in August the UN's Intervention Brigade supported army forces against M23. During the first half of 2013 there also were a number of clashes between the army and local militias in E Congo. M23 suffered of a serious of defeats in Oct.–Nov., 2013, and declared an end to their rebellion; a peace agreement was signed in December, but in Apr., 2015, it was reported that possible former M23 members were again present in Nord-Kivu. Beginning in mid-2013, the Ugandan Islamist rebel group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) was active in Nord-Kivu, and attacks by and clashes with the ADF continued into 2020, with Congolese and Ugandan forces conducting joint operations against the ADF in 2018. In Dec., 2013, government and UN forces began operations against Rwandan Hutu rebels based in E Congo, and the government crushed attacks in Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, and Kolwezi by supporters of a self-styled religious prophet, Joseph Mukungubila. Congolese and UN operations against local militias and foreign armed groups in E Congo continued into 2020; the region was marked by an increase in militia violence beginning in 2017, and the UN peacekeeping forces' mandate was extended several times. Both Rwanda and Burundi have been accused at times of sending troops in support of various militias.

In 2014, Kabila supporters sought to amend to the constitution to permit him to seek a third term. Though those efforts were not successful, the formation (Dec., 2014) of a government that included some opposition members and a proposal to hold a census before the next elections were seen by some in the opposition as part of Kabila's maneuvering remain in office after the expiration of his term in 2016; the census proposal led to violent protests in Jan., 2015. Those suspicions were reinforced by delays in progressing toward local, provincial, and other elections, slated to occur before the presidential election. The delays were aggravated by the division of Congo's 11 provinces into 26, a plan mandated in 2006 but not put into effect by Kabila until 2015.

In September several senior political allies of Kabila who called on him not to extend his rule were dismissed from their posts. The year ended without the holding of local and provincial elections, originally planned for Oct., 2015. In May, 2016, Congo's constitutional court ruled that Kabila could remain in office if the presidential election were delayed. Also that month, the government accused Moïse Katumbi, the former governor of Katanga and an opposition candidate for president, of hiring foreign mercenaries, a charge apparently based on the fact that a security advisor to Katumbi was a former U.S. soldier, and the following month he was convicted of fradulently selling a property. Clashes between opposition demonstrators and security forces in Kinshasa left several dozen dead in September and opposition parties' headquarters were torched.

In October, the constitutional court approved delaying the presidential election until Apr., 2018, and Kabila supporters and some minor opposition groups reached a power-sharing deal to extend the president's term. In December Catholic bishops negotiated a similar agreement between more significant opposition groups and Kabila supporters that called for Kabila to step down and elections to be held by the end of 2017, but it was unclear if Kabila would adhere to the accord. Negotiations became more complicated after opposition leader Étienne Tshisekedi died in Feb., 2017, and Bruno Tshibala, who was expelled from Tshisekedi's party after his death, was appointed prime minister in April. A cabinet was formed in May that included a number of opposition leaders, but the main opposition bloc denounced the government for violating the December accord. In July, the electoral commission president said that a presidential election would likely not occur in 2017. The date subsequently was pushed back to Dec., 2018. A number of prominent opposition figures were barred in 2018 from running, and Kabila did not attempt to seek a third term.

Meanwhile, in mid-2016, a local leader in Kasai-Central prov., Kamwina Nsapu, began a rebellion against the central government. Kamwina Nsapu was killed in August, but his militia escalated its attacks, which spread to other provinces in the Kasai region; the conflict only ended toward the end of 2017. Government forces were accused of indiscriminate killings, and the militia was also accused of war crimes; several thousand persons were reported to have been killed.

Attempts to unite the opposition around a single presidential candidate—businessman Martin Fayulu Madidi—failed, and Fayulu, opposition leader Félix Antoine Tshisekedi, and regime hardliner Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary were the major candidates. The Dec., 2018, election was marred by irregularites, and several opposition strongholds were excluded from the voting due to an Ebola outbreak and ethnic unrest. In January, Tshisekedi was declared the winner. The Catholic church, which had deployed some 40,000 election observers, supported Fayulu's claim that he had won, but the constitutional court affirmed the reported results and rejected Fayulu's request for a recount. The Kabila's coalition won a majority of the seats in parliament.

In May, Tshisekedi named Sylvestre Ilunkamba Ilunga, a technocrat seen as aligned with Kabila, as prime minister. The Ebola outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri prov. worsened in 2019, aggravated in part by rebel militia attacks on health workers and facilities, ethnic volence, and by local mistrust of health workers. By June, 2020, when the outbreak ended, 2,280 people had died from Ebola; rebel attacks and ethnic violence continued to be a serious problem in the region. In Decemeber the president broke with Kabila, and subsequently he sought to form a new cabinet.


See C. Young, Politics in the Congo (1965); R. Anstey, King Leopold's Legacy: The Congo under Belgian Rule, 1908–1960 (1966); R. W. Harms, River of Wealth, River of Sorrow: The Central Zaïre Basin in the Era of the Slave and Ivory Trade (1981); T. M. Callaghy, The State-Society Struggle: Zaïre in Comparative Perspective (1984); F. S. Bobb, Historical Dictionary of Zaïre (1988); D. Northrup, Beyond the Bend in the River: African Labor in Eastern Zaïre, 1865–1940 (1988); J. M. Elliot and M. M. Mervyn, Mobutu Sese Seko: People, Politics, and Policy (1989); A. Hochschild, King Leopold's Ghost (1998); G. Prunier, Africa's World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe (2008); S. Autesserre, The Trouble with the Congo (2010); J. K. Stearns, Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa (2011); D. Van Reybrouck, Congo: The Epic History of a People (2014).


, river, Africa
Congo (kŏngˈgō) or Zaïre (zīˈēr, zäērˈ), great river of equatorial Africa, c.2,720 mi (4,380 km) long, formed by the waters of the Lualaba River and its tributary, the Luvua River, and flowing generally N and W through Congo (Kinshasa) to the Atlantic Ocean.


The second longest river of Africa and one of the longest in the world, the Congo River drains c.1,425,000 sq mi (3,690,750 sq km) including all of Congo (Kinshasa) and parts of Congo (Brazzaville), Cameroon, Central African Republic, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, and Angola. The Lualaba River, considered to be the upper Congo River, rises in SE Congo (Kinshasa), flows north over rapids and falls to Bukama, and thence across a vast plain and through a series of marshy lakes (Kabwe, Kabele, Upemba) to receive the Luvua River at Ankoro. The Luvua River has its most remote source in the Chambeshi River, which rises in N Zambia and flows southwest into swamps around Lake Bangweulu; it emerges from the swamps as the Luapula River, continues N along the Congo (Kinshasa)–Zambia border into Lake Mweru, exits from there as the Luvua River, and continues NW to the Lualaba River. A third major headstream is the Lukuga River, which drains from Lake Tanganyika and joins the Lualaba River near Kabalo. From Kabalo, the Lualaba River flows N to Kisangani in a varied course marked by a deep and narrow gorge (the Gates of Hell) below Kongolo, a navigable stretch from Kasongo to Kibombo, a section of rapids and falls from Kibombo to Kindu, a shallow but navigable section from Kindu to Ubundu, and a section of seven cataracts—known as Boyoma Falls—between Ubundu and Kisangani that marks the end of the Lualaba and the beginning of the Congo River proper.

Below Kisangani, the Congo flows west and southwest, in a great curve unbroken by falls or rapids for about 1,090 mi (1,750 km) to Kinshasa. For most of its middle section the Congo is from 4 to 10 mi (6.4–16.1 km) wide, with many islands and sandbars. Because its many large tributaries (including the Lomami, Kasai, Lulonga, Ubangi, Aruwimi, Itimbiri, and Mongala rivers) drain areas with alternating rainy seasons on either side of the equator, the Congo has a fairly constant flow throughout the year. Between Bolobo and Kwamouth the Congo narrows in width to between 1 mi and 11-2 mi (1.6–2.4 km) but, c.350 mi (560 km) from its mouth, widens to form lakelike Pool Malebo, on which Kinshasa and Brazzaville are located. From the western end of Pool Malebo, the Congo descends 876 ft (267 m) in a series of 32 rapids, known as Livingstone Falls, to the port of Matadi.

Below Matadi (83 mi/134 km inland) the Congo is navigable by oceangoing vessels and, despite such hazards as the whirlpools of the Devil's Cauldron, shifting sandbars, and sharp bends in the river, forms one of the largest natural harbors in Africa. The river is tidal to Boma, c.60 mi (100 km) upstream. The Congo River enters the Atlantic Ocean between Banana Point, Congo (Kinshasa), and Sharks Point, Angola, and dredging is required to keep a navigable channel open. The river is continued offshore by a c.500-mi-long (800-km) submarine canyon that is c.4,000 ft (1,220 m) deep.

Economic Importance

With railroads to bypass major falls (Matadi-Kinshasa; Kisangani-Ubundu; Kindu-Kongolo), the Congo River and its tributaries form a system of navigable waterways c.9,000 mi (14,480 km) long, along which move much of central Africa's copper, palm-oil kernels, cotton, sugar, and coffee. The chief ocean port is Matadi, with its associated oil port, Ango Ango; the chief river ports are Kinshasa and Kisangani. River steamers operate throughout the year between Kinshasa and Kisangani. The Congo River is Africa's largest potential source of hydroelectric power; the most valuable site is along Livingstone Falls, where the first phase of the Inga Power Project has been completed. In spite of government initiatives, hydroelectric power is underdeveloped.

The Congo river basin encompasses the world's second largest contiguous rain forest, surpassed only by that of the Amazon. The region is biologically diverse, and a huge watershed. The forest is threatened by illegal logging and the poaching of large mammals (especially for the bushmeat trade), but two summits (1999, 2005) that brought together the nations of the basin have committed its participants to forest conservation and have led to the establishment of wildlife preserves.

European Exploration

The mouth of the Congo River was visited (1482) by Diogo Cão, the Portuguese navigator. It became known as the Zaïre River (a corruption of the local name Mzadi meaning “great water”) and was later referred to as the Congo River (for the Kongo kingdom located near its mouth); it was called Zaïre River by the government of Zaïre (now Congo [Kinshasa]) from 1971 to 1997. The Congo's lower course was traced upstream as far as Isangila by a British force under Capt. J. K. Tuckey in 1816, and its upper headwaters by the missionary David Livingstone, who followed the Lualaba River to Nyangwe in 1871. The journalist Henry Stanley traveled from Nyangwe to Isangila and on to Boma during his great transcontinental journey (1874–77), thus proving the headwaters to be tributaries of the Congo River, and not sources of the Nile as hypothesized by Livingstone.


See H. Winternitz, East Along the Equator: A Journey up the Congo and into Zaïre (1987).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



Republic of Zaïre (République du Zaïre). Prior to 1971, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Zaïre is a state in Central Africa. It is bordered by the People’s Republic of the Congo on the west; the Central African Republic on the northwest and north; the Sudan on the northeast; Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania on the east; Zambia on the southeast and south; and Angola on the southwest. It has an outlet in the west to the Atlantic Ocean through a narrow strip along the right bank of the estuary of the Zaïre (Congo) River (the coastline measures 40 km). Zaïre occupies an area of 2,345,400 sq km and has a population of 22.5 million (1971, estimate according to data of the Monthly Bulletin of Statistics, New York, March 1972). The capital is Kinshasa.

Administratively the country is divided into nine provinces (see Table 1). The city of Kinshasa with its suburbs is a separate administrative unit equal to a province.

Table 1. Administrative Divisions
ProvinceArea (sq km)Population (1970)Administrative center
Haut (Upper) Zaire.............503,2003,035,000Kisangani
Kasai Oriental (Eastern).............61,8001,838,000Mbuji-Mayi
Kasai Occidental (Western).........261,3001,671,000Kananga
Bas (Lower) Zaire................59,1001,596,000Matadi
Shaba (formerly Katanga)...........497,0002,097,000Lubumbashi

Zaïre is a republic. The constitution of June 24, 1967 (with the amendments of 1970–74), is in effect. The highest organ of the republic is the Mouvement Populaire de la Révolution (MPR). The constitution declares this party’s ideology— Mobutism—the official ideology of the state apparatus. The chairman of the MPR is the president, who is the head of the state and of government and also the chairman of parliament. He is elected by direct universal suffrage for a five-year term and may be reelected twice. The president appoints and dismisses the members of the government and all high-ranking military and civil officials. He is the supreme commander of the armed forces and the police, has the right to issue decrees that have the force of law and to declare states of emergency and of siege, and exercises the right of pardon.

The highest legislative body is the unicameral National Legislative Council (Conseil Législatif National). It consists of 210 commisscdres du peuple elected by direct universal suffrage for five-year terms. All citizens over 18 years of age have the right to vote; only active members of the MPR can stand for election. The members of the National Legislative Council are elected from lists of candidates proposed in election districts by the MPR’s Political Bureau.

The government, the National Executive Council, an executive organ of the party, is responsible only to the president and resigns on the expiration of the president’s term of office. It consists of state commissaires and their assistants.

The provinces are headed by commissaires and the cities and urban communities by mayors appointed by the commissaires. The mayors of the major cities are appointed by the president; the members of the city and communal councils are appointed by the commissaires from among the civil servants and party workers. In the villages (localités) authority is held by the traditional tribal chiefs.

The judicial system comprises the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, district courts, police courts, and magistrates’ courts. A special judicial organ is the Constitutional Court of nine advisers appointed by the president.


Zaïre lies in the Central Basin (or Congo depression) and its regional rises in the equatorial and subequatorial belts of the northern and southern hemispheres.

Terrain. The central and western parts of the country are situated in the lowest part of the Central Basin (300–350 m), which is a fiat, mostly swampy, and periodically flooded alluvial plain formed by the combined broad floodplain valleys of the Zaïre River and its tributaries. From the center of the Central Basin to its edge the country rises in the form of an amphitheater of terraces and terrace-like plateaus to an elevation of 500–600 m. A belt of plateaus and uplands with cuesta-like elevations extends along the northern edge of the Central Basin. There are piedmont alluvial plains (average elevation, 600–900 m) in the extreme north with isolated mountains that form the southern slope of the Azande rise. The southwest of Zaïre includes part of the South Guinean Highland, which has a complex structural-denuded terrain (the Cataract Plateau and Bangu plateaus, the hills of Mayumbe), and separates the Central Basin from the narrow strip of coastal lowland along the Atlantic Ocean. The terrain of the south is dominated by tablelands (with an elevation ranging from 700–1,000 m to 1,200–1,300 m). There are high (more than 1,200–1,500 m) piedmont alluvial plains in the Zaïre-Zambezi watershed in the south of the province of Shaba (formerly Katanga). Outcroppings of the more stable rocks are isolated in the form of narrow ridges separated by longitudinal depressions. In the central and eastern regions of Shaba Province are the flat-top massifs of the Mitumba Mountains (1,889 m) and the sandstone Manika (1,679 m) and Kundelungu (1,772 m) plateaus, which are separated by broad tectonic basins with alluvial bottoms.

A higher elevation and more rugged terrain distinguish the country’s eastern outlying districts, which encompass the edge of the East African plateau. A vast system of fault depressions extends from south to north along the eastern border. It is known as the Great Rift Valley, and its edge is formed by mountains with elevations of 2,000–3,000 m; the highest is the Ruwenzori Massif (5,109 m) on the border be-between Zaïre and Uganda. Active volcanoes include Nyamulagira and Nyiragongo; there is considerable seismic activity.

Geological structure and mineral resources. Nearly half of the country’s territory is occupied by the Central Basin, which is formed from continental deposits of the Late Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras; its central part was occupied by a large lake in Anthropogenic times. The Upper Cretaceous Kwango sand series on the edge of the basin contains redeposited diamonds. The southeastern part of the Central Basin is superimposed on more ancient troughs, composed of carboniferous sediments of the Karroo System (Late Paleozoic), while Upper Precambrian sedimentary formations are evident along its northern and partially along the southeastern edge. To the northeast, east, southeast, and south of the Central Basin and in the extreme west, along the lower course of the Zaïre River, the Precambrian rocks of the basement of the African Platform are developed. The oldest of these rocks are extremely metamorphosed and granitized rocks of the lower Precambrian; they form the Kasai massif in the country’s south and also appear in the east and north-east and in the extreme lower reaches of the Zaïre River, where they form rapids. The weakly metamorphosed sedimentary rocks of the lower part of the Upper Precambrian—quartzite and shale—form the northeasterly striking Kibara folded system in the country’s southeast and east; extensive deposits of tin and some other metals are connected with the granite intruded in it. The deposits of the upper strata of the Upper Precambrian form in the country’s extreme southeast a folded system with rich deposits of copper ore, with which cobalt, zinc, uranium, and other metals are associated. The total resources of copper, according to various sources, are estimated at between 27 million and 36 million tons (including an actual and probable 12 million and 19 million tons). Resources of zinc are estimated at 2 million tons, uranium at 5,000–6,000 tons of U3O8, cobalt at 600,000 tons (including an actual and probable 200,000 tons), and tin at 450,000 tons (including an actual and probable 200,000 tons). Deposits of iron ore (primarily in Kasai Occidental and Haut Zaïre), bauxite (in Bas Zaïre; total resources, 50 million to 100 million tons), and bituminous shale (in Haut Zaïre) are known. Oil traces have been found in the coastal region. There are also deposits of manganese ore, gold, and coal.

Climate. The part of Zaïre between 3° N lat. and 3° S lat. has an equatorial climate, which is perpetually humid, with two peak periods of precipitation (March to May and September to November). In the south and in the extreme north the climate is subequatorial, with rainy summer and dry winter seasons. The duration of the dry season near the northern border of Zaïre does not exceed two to three months (December to February); in the south it lasts for five to seven months (from April or May through September or October). In the Central Basin and surrounding plateaus the average temperature of the hottest month (March or April) fluctuates between 24°C and 28°C and of the coldest month (July or August), between 22°C and 25°C. The daily variations in temperature are greater than the annual ones but do not exceed 10°–15°C. In the higher regions in the east and southeast the climate is cooler (in Lubumbashi the temperature ranges from 16°C in July to 24°C in October). The daily fluctuation in temperature can exceed 20°C. Annual precipitation in the equatorial zone measures from 1,700–1,800 to 2,000–2,200 m (in the mountains in the east it is as much as 2,500 m and more). The annual amount of precipitation decreases with increasing distance from the equator: in the extreme north to 1,300–1,500 mm and in the extreme south, to 1,000–1,200 mm.

Rivers and lakes. The river network is very dense and abounds in water. More than nine-tenths of Zaïre’s territory is located within the Zaïre River basin; the largest rivers are the Zaïre and its tributaries the Lufira, Luvua, Aruwimi, Itimbiri, Mongala, and Ubangi on the right and the Lomami, Lulonga, Ruki, and Kasai on the left. Almost all the rivers abound in rapids and waterfalls, and only in the Central Basin do they form a single system of navigable waterways, which, however, has no outlet to the ocean owing to a series of waterfalls and rapids in the lower reaches of the Zaïre. The presence of steep declivities of longitudinal profile in the rivers together with the great amount of water determine the great magnitude of potential hydroelectric power resources (by estimate, over 100 million kW at an average flow rate). In the east the large Lakes Mobutu Sese Seko (formerly Albert), Idi Amin (formerly Edward), Kivu, Tanganyika, and Mweru, lying within the fault valleys, are partially situated in Zaïre; the shallow lakes Mai-Ndombe (formerly Leopold II) and Tumba are located in the Central Basin.

Soil and flora. Dense evergreen rain forests grow in the equatorial belt; they are particularly dense on the eastern slopes of the Central Basin. Thick reddish yellow ferrolite soils are developed beneath the forest canopy. The periodically flooded and marshy forests growing on hydromorphic lateritic gleyey soils in the lowest part of the Central Basin form a special type of forest vegetation. Many valuable varieties of trees grow in the forests, including mahogany, yellow tree, ebony, limba, agba, iroko, and other trees that yield high-quality wood; oil palms; piney trees; and various rubber-bearing trees.

To the north of 3°–4° N lat. and to the south of 4°–5° S lat. dense forests are preserved only on small tracts or in narrow belts along rivers (fringing forests); for the most part they have been cleared by man and replaced by secondary tall-grass savannas with isolated small deciduous trees and shrubs; red ferrolitic soils have formed under the savannas with sharply distinguished seasonal drying of the profile; dense surface ferruginous crusts are developed in places. Sparse tropical forests (savanna forests) are widespread in the extreme south and southeast of the country; growing on brownish red soils, they shed their leaves in the dry part of the year. The altitudinal zonality of flora can be traced on the slopes of the high mountains of the eastern outlying districts of Zaïre (the zone of mountain humid evergreen forests with thickets of bamboo at its upper boundary, the African subalpine zone with a prevalence of arborescent heather, and the African alpine zone with arborescent groundsel and lobelia). There are mangrove thickets at the mouth of the Zaïre River.

Fauna. The fauna of Zaïre is extremely rich and diversified, although it was subjected to considerable destruction (particularly the large animals). There are many herbivorous mammals in the savannas and sparse forests: various species of antelope, bisons, elephants, rhinoceroses, zebras, and giraffes. The most common predators are the lion, leopard, cheetah, jackal, hyena, and African hunting dog. Elephants, warthogs, and okapis inhabit the dense forests. Animals adapted to living in trees are numerous, for example, various species of monkeys. Hippopotamuses are common in the rivers and lakes. There are many species of birds, reptiles (primarily crocodiles and snakes), fish, and insects (including the tsetse fly). Zaïre has three large national parks: Virunga (formerly Kivu), Garamba, and Upemba.


Cahen, L.Geologiia Bel’giiskogo Kongo. Moscow, 1958. (Translated from French.)
Robert, M.Le Congo physique, 3rd ed. Liège, 1946.
Encyclopédic du Congo Beige, vols. 1–3. Brussels, 1951–52.
Carte des sols el de la végétation du Congo Beige et du Ruanda-Urundi. Brussels, 1954.


Peoples of the Bantu linguistic group constitute about 85 percent of the population (1969, estimate). The most numerous are the Bakongo, who inhabit the lower reaches of the Zaïre River. To the east of them live the Mongo and the closely related Tetela (Batetela), Lengola, and Lokele; along the middle reaches of the Zaïre River live the Bangala and the Babangi, Ngombe, and other people closely related to the Bangala. The environs of the city of Kinshasa are inhabited by the Bateke, among others; the Babwa, Barega, and other tribes live in the vicinity of the city of Kisangani. The Banyaruanda, Barundi, and Bakonjo live in the east; the southern part of the country is inhabited by the Baluba and Bemba. The northern regions are inhabited by peoples speaking the languages of central and eastern Sudan: the Azande and the Moru-Mangbetu group of people (small tribes of pygmies in the Ituri River basin also speak the languages of the latter). On the border with Uganda and the Sudan live the Alur, Bari, and other peoples, whose languages belong to the Nilotic family. There are between 40,000 and 50,000 Europeans in the country (1967, estimate). About 52 percent of the people follow local traditional religious beliefs, 45 percent are Christians (primarily Catholic), about 300,000 are Muslim, and about 1,500 are Jewish. The official language is French, and the official calendar is the Gregorian calendar.

The population growth between 1963 and 1970 averaged 2.2 percent a year. The economically active population numbers 7,655,000 (1965, estimate), 69 percent of which is engaged in agriculture. In 1967 more than 1 million people worked as hired labor. The average population density is more than nine persons per sq km (1971). The hilly regions of the eastern part of the country are the most densely populated (in some places as many as 50–100 persons per sq km), along with the mining region in the south of Shaba province (in some places more than 50 persons per sq km), the lower reaches of the Zaïre River, the Kasai River basin between 4° and 6° S lat. (as many as 25–50 persons per sq km), and along the Uele and Ubangi rivers and the middle reaches of the Zaïre River (as many as 10–30 persons per sq km). Over most of Zaïre the population density is less than average, frequently less than one person per sq km. The majority of the Zairian population lives in tribal communities in the rural areas. Since the declaration of independence (1960) a rapid growth has been observed in the urban population (24 percent in 1970). The largest city is Kinshasa (1,288,000 persons excluding the suburbs, 1970). The major cities are Lubumbashi, Mbuji-Mayi, Kisangani, Bukavu, Likasi, Matadi, and Kikwit.

From antiquity to colonial enslavement (last quarter of the 19th century). Lower Paleolithic stone implements have been found on the territory of modern Zaïre in the upper reaches of the Kasai, Lualuba, and Luapula rivers. Characteristic of the tropical forests is the Sangoan Mesolithic culture (45th–40th millennia B.C., named after the findings near Sango Bay on the western shore of Lake Victoria); the different Tumbian type Neolithic cultures, which are designated by the names of the places of the finds, are the Kalina (25th millennium B.C.), Djoko (tenth millennium B.C.), Lupemban (seventh millennium B.C.), and Tshitolian (sixth millennium B.C.).

Farming was the main occupation of the population from the most ancient times; the breeding of small stock, primarily goats, played a considerably lesser role. The main agricultural crops were sorghum, millet, and the oil palm; since the middle of the 16th century cultivated plants introduced from America have become widespread: manioc, maize (corn), and sweet potato. Copper was mined in the southern regions (the territory of present-day Shaba province); copper bars of varying size and shape were used as a unit of exchange. It is probable that one of the oldest centers of metallurgy in Africa existed in the southern part of the country. It is not known when the working of metals developed, but it is quite likely that iron metallurgy existed here already at the end of the first millennium A.D. Property inequality existed among the peoples that belonged to the Bantu language group and formed the bulk of Zaïre’s population long before the arrival of Europeans; class relations had already begun to develop and state formations had arisen (the history of whose origin is legendary and usually connected with mythical heroes): in the lower reaches of the Zaïre River were the Kongo, Kakongo, Matamba, and Ndongo kingdoms; in the middle of the country were the Kuba (or Bushongo), Teke (or Tyo), and Bolia states; in the upper reaches of the Kasai, Lulua, and Lomami rivers were the Luba and Lunda kingdoms. One of the oldest was the Kongo Kingdom, which arose around the 14th century. Some slave-owning and feudal traditions, which developed as a result of the local conditions simultaneously and parallel to each other, were intermixed in the early class states with vestiges of the primitive communal system. The intensification of the contradictions among the nobility, the free farmer-community members, and the slaves led to social conflicts, which were manifested in popular uprisings, evasion of the payment of taxes, and the like. The Portuguese appeared at the mouth of the Zaïre River at the end of the 15th century. They attempted to gain a foothold here and transform the river basin into a permanent source of slaves for export to America (between the 15th and 19th centuries, at least 10 million slaves were exported). The Europeans encountered stubborn resistance on the part of the local population. The revolts of the Africans were directed not only against the Europeans but frequently against the local nobility, which sought an alliance with the colonizers in order to strengthen their positions. In 1491 a major uprising of the people of the Kongo Kingdom, brought about by the forced Christianization that followed the baptism of the Kongo ruler and the nobility, was suppressed by the combined efforts of the troops of the ruler and the Portuguese. A rebellion led by Mboula Matadi (the 1570’s and 1580’s) resulted in some restriction of Portuguese activities. An anti-European colonialist movement, known as the Antonian heresy, developed between 1703 and 1709. The internecine struggle and the Portuguese slave trade greatly weakened the states of the Zaïre River basin. At the beginning of the 19th century, there were many small kingdoms in what is now Zaïre, which succeeded in preserving their independence until the last quarter of the 19th century.

Colonial period (last quarter of the 19th century to 1960). In the last quarter of the 19th century the territory of Zaïre became the object of rivalry of the colonial powers. In 1876 the Belgian king Leopold II organized the so-called African International Association under his chairmanship. Under its cover, the king’s emissaries (travelers, officers, missionaries) imposed unilateral agreements on the local tribal chiefs. Taking advantage of the contradictions between Great Britain, France, Germany, and the USA, Leopold II established control over a vast territory. The Berlin Conference of 1884–85 recognized Leopold II as sovereign of the seized territory, which acquired the name the Congo Free State. The subjugation of the local population by the Belgians was completed in ten years and was accompanied by bloody massacres. In spite of the disunity of the Africans, the Europeans frequently suffered crushing defeats. No less than 30 armed clashes alone are known in the last quarter of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century (the largest were the uprisings of the Tetela in 1890–92 and 1895–96, which were suppressed as a result of the large-scale military expeditions of Belgian forces, and the rebellion of 1897–1900, which led to the loss from the Congo Free State of a vast territory between Lakes Kivu and Tanganyika for a long time). The rebellion of the Tetela, which broke out in 1901, rocked the entire southern part of the country and was finally suppressed only after seven years. Punitive expeditions were also instituted against the Azande, Baluba, Basongo, Lunda, and others. A reign of the armed pillage of the populace prevailed in the country as well as parasitic plunder of the natural resources most accessible to exploitation. The authorities annihilated the local inhabitants, burned villages, and lay waste to entire regions for failure to deliver ivory, rubber, and produce and for refusing to fulfill the labor conscription.

In 1908, for a large compensation, Leopold II transferred the Congo Free State to the control of Belgium; it officially became a Belgian colony under the name of the Belgian Congo. A system of the cruelest exploitation led to a decrease in the population from 30 million in 1884 to 15 million in 1915. By the colonial charter of 1908, all authority in the country was transferred to the governor-general, who represented the Belgian parliament, government, and king. After World War I (1914–18) the monopolistic groups of Belgium, Great Britain, and the USA intensified the exploitation of the Belgian Congo’s natural resources. The exploitation of minerals was accompanied by the development of the export branches of agriculture, the mining and manufacturing industries, transportation, and power. The establishment of these branches of the economy enabled a working class to emerge in Zaïre, the major regions of whose concentration became the industrially developed provinces of Katanga (since 1972 called Shaba) and Kivu and the city of Léopoldville (since 1966, Kinshasa). Along with the widespread passive means of resistance against the European colonizers during these years (sabotage, failure to report to work, desertion) peasant uprisings and mutinies broke out in various regions. The uprisings of the peasants of Kivu in 1919–23 were suppressed with extreme brutality. One form of the anticolonial struggle was the religious and political movements and sects, in which various strata of the population took part. Of wide scope from the 1920’s to the 1950’s were the movement of the supporters of S. Kimbangu, which advanced the slogan “The Congo for the Congolese”; the activities of the secret societies of the “leopard men,” which called upon Africans “to take the reins of government of the country into their hands”; and the sect of Adventists of Kitawala, whose social support was the unskilled workers of the mining industries of the southern part of the Belgian Congo. The members of this sect advanced the slogans “Africa for the Africans” and “Equality of the races—equal pay for equal work.”

During World War II (1939–45) the USA and Great Britain exported strategic raw materials from the Belgian Congo (copper, tin, cobalt, zinc, uranium). After the war the Belgian government undertook the so-called Ten-Year Plan for the Economic and Social Development of the Belgian Congo (1950–60), during whose fulfillment the exploitation of the country, which had been transformed into a strategic military base of operations for NATO in Central Africa, was intensified. The anticolonial movement assumed the greatest organization in the 1940’s and particularly in the 1950’s. The African proletariat introduced a new form of struggle— strikes—the largest of which occurred in 1941 and 1953 in Katanga and in 1944, 1945, and at the beginning of the 1950’s in Léopoldville. The strike at the port of Matadi in 1945 grew into an armed uprising (supported by the peasants of the nearby villages), which was suppressed with difficulty by military troops. In 1946 the Africans secured the right to form trade unions. At the beginning of the 1950’s major cultural and educational organizations appeared, which played an important role in forming the national self-consciousness of the Africans. In the mid-1950’s these organizations openly demanded in the press that the Belgian Congo be granted independence (manifestos of the group Conscience Africaine and the Association des Bakongo, the appeal of public figures to the minister of colonies, and other documents). As the liberation movement intensified, the cultural educational organizations developed into political parties: the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC), (founded in 1958), Alliance des Bakongo (Abako; founded in 1950 as the cultural and educational Association des Bakongo; in 1959 it was transformed into a party), the Parti Solidaire Africain (founded in 1959), the Confédération des Associations Tribales du Katanga (Conakat; founded in 1959; in 1965 it became part of the Convention Nationale Congolaise, founded in 1965). The largest party was the MNC led by Patrice Lumumba.

1959 was a critical year in the struggle for independence. The participation of the urban and rural masses in the national liberation movement under the slogan “Independence in 1959’ decided the outcome of the struggle. The attempts of the ruling circles in Belgium to slow down the anticolonial movement by terror and partial reforms failed. On the demand of the bloc of progressive parties headed by the MNC, Belgium was forced to announce its agreement to grant the Belgian Congo independence at a round-table conference in Brussels in January-February 1960.

After the achievement of independence. On June 30, 1960, the Belgian Congo was declared the independent Republic of the Congo. The government was headed by Lumumba, since the MNC and the parties forming a bloc with it had received the majority of votes in the parliamentary elections that May. J. Kasavubu was elected president. In September 1960 the Republic of the Congo became a member of the United Nations. The imperialistic powers, using the differences between the leaders representing not only different peoples but also different social strata of the society, sabotaged all the economic and political measures of the republic’s government. An outflow of foreign capital and specialists from the Congo began; in July-August 1960 the country’s two most economically developed provinces were torn away. Katanga (reunited in 1963) and Kasai (reunited in 1962); a mutiny was organized in the army. In July 1960, Belgian forces were brought into the country under the pretense of defending the lives and property of the Europeans. In September 1960 the national government was removed from power with the connivance of the administration and the UN forces, which were summoned into the country by Lumumba in order to repulse the Belgian aggression. The persecution of patriotic figures was begun. Lumumba was arrested, sent to Katanga, and villainously murdered in January 1961. The patriots of the Congo did not cease the struggle for true independence. In July 1961 a parliament was created under their pressure, and a government headed by C. Adoula was formed, declaring its loyalty to Lumumba’s policies. However, under pressure from the imperialistic powers, the parliament was again dispersed, and repressions against the democratic forces were renewed. Under these conditions an armed insurrectional movement developed, the directing staff of which was the Conseil National de Liberation created in October 1963. In September 1964 the patriots proclaimed the People’s Republic of the Congo (PRC) with its capital at Stanleyville (since July 1966, Kisangani) and undertook measures to create organs of civilian authority and ensure the economic development of the PRC. Only the direct aggression of NATO’s forces (November 1964) against the PRC prevented the insurgents, weakened moreover by differences in the Conseil National, from gaining victory. In the beginning of July 1964 Adoula’s government was replaced by the proimperialist government of M. Tshombe, which existed until October 1965. The rivalry among the numerous political groups in the struggle for power was accompanied by a deterioration of the country’s economic condition, the plunder of its national wealth by foreign monopolies, and a decline in the standard of living.

On Nov. 24, 1965, the army took power into its hands. Its commander in chief, Lieutenant General Mobutu, was declared president of the republic (which, beginning in 1964, was called the Democratic Republic of the Congo). The army command dissolved the parliament, prohibited all political parties and public organizations, and carried out a number of administrative reforms aimed at consolidating the authority of the central government (the number of provinces was reduced from 22 to nine, the provincial assemblies were transformed into provincial councils with a deliberative vote, the governments of the provinces were abolished, and the executive power in the provinces was transferred to the governors).

The Mouvement Populaire de la Revolution (MPR) which was created in May 1967, became the governing and sole party. The existing trade unions were united into a single organization—the Union Nationale des Travailleurs Zairois (UNTZ) and the various youth and student societies were united into the youth section of the MPR. Lumumba was proclaimed a national hero, a pioneer in the struggle for independence who had fallen victim to an imperialist conspiracy. Encouraging the development of private national capital, the authorities took some measures to ensure the prerogatives of the state and to decrease its economic dependence on foreign capital (see below: Economic geography). Also realized were a number of socioeconomic measures (increasing the guaranteed minimum wage and allowances to large families, decreasing the salaries of provincial officials, granting women the right to vote). A monetary reform was implemented in 1967 (the new monetary unit, the zai’re, replaced the Congolese franc), which made it possible to improve somewhat the country’s financial situation. In accordance with the new constitution passed in 1967, a presidential form of government was introduced. At the end of 1970, Mobutu was elected president; parliamentary elections were held. On Oct. 27, 1971, the state assumed a new name—the Republic of Zaïre (Zaïre is the name for the Congo River, which was distorted by the Portuguese; Nzari and Mwanza in local languages).

In foreign policy the government has taken steps to normalize intergovernmental relations with neighboring countries and to increase Zaïre’s role in the Organization of African Unity and other organizations of the African continent. Diplomatic relations with the USSR were established in July 1960.


Martynov, V. A.Kongo pod gnetom imperializma. Moscow, 1959.
Zusmanovich, A. Z.Imperialisticheskii razdel basseina Kongo (1876–1894). Moscow, 1962.
Merlier, M.Kongo: Ot kolonizatsii do nezavisimosti. Moscow, 1965. (Translated from French.)
Vinokurov, lu. N.Kongo: Trudnyi put’ k nezavisimosti. Moscow, 1967.
Lumumba, P.La Pensée politique. Paris, 1963.
Cornevin, R.Histoire du Congo (Léopoldville). Paris, 1963.
Lopez Alvarez, L.Lumumba ou I’Afrique frustrée. Paris, 1965.
Bouvier, P.L’Accession du Congo Beige à I’indépendance. Brussels, 1965.
Zajaczkowski, A.Niepodlegtołi Konga a kolonialism belgijski. Warsaw, 1968.
Weiss, H.Political Protest in the Congo. Princeton, N. J., 1967.


The MPR was founded in May 1967. It is the ruling party and only party in the country. UNTZ was founded in June 1967 as a result of the unification of all the country’s trade unions.

General state of the economy. Zaïre is an agrarian country with a developed mining industry, which in the international capitalist division of labor plays the role of an important supplier of raw mineral and plant materials. Zaïre occupies first place in the capitalist world in the amount of mined cobalt and industrial diamonds, fifth place in the output of copper, and a prominent position in the output of tin, zinc, manganese ore, and a number of other minerals. It is the world’s third leading producer of palm kernel (after Nigeria and Brazil) and palm oil (after Nigeria and Malaysia). Among most countries of tropical Africa, Zaïre is also noted for the relatively high level of development of its manufacturing industry, in particular the primary processing of products for export (primarily nonferrous metallurgy). In 1969 the gross domestic product of Zaïre was estimated (at current market values) at 879.4 million Zaïres, broken down as follows: agriculture, 20.9 percent (including the commodity sector, 12 percent; natural sector, 8.9 percent); the mining industry, 11 percent; metallurgy, 19 percent; other branches of the manufacturing industry, 5 percent; power, 1.0 percent; construction and public works, 3 percent; transportation and communications, 6 percent; commerce, 12 percent; and other branches, 22.1 percent. The per capita gross national product is US$790968).

The positions of foreign monopolistic groups of Belgium, Great Britain, the USA, and other countries are strong in Zaïre’s economy. The struggle that developed among these monopolies following the declaration of independence (I960) was based on the attempts to retain control over the richest sources of mineral raw materials. By a decision of the Zairian government, the concessions and assets of the largest company, the Union Minière du Haut Katanga were transferred to the seminational (since May 1968, national) mining industry company, the Générales des Carrieres et des Mines du Zaïre (GECAMINES), which was created in 1967. Subsequently, the Zairian government and the former concessionaire arrived at an agreement on compensation for nationalized property and for the former concessionaire’s participation in the sales of output. The Zairian government is conducting a policy of attracting the capital of foreign monopolies by granting them great advantages. Along with this, the government has undertaken measures to expand and consolidate the state sector to some degree: in 1966 the lands, forests, and mineral deposits that were in the hands of foreign concession companies were declared national property. Ocean, river, and rail transportation and civil aviation belong to the state. The government is stimulating the creation of mixed companies with the participation of foreign capital as well as the investment of private national capital.

The economy of Zaïre was adversely affected by continuing military actions for a long time after the declaration of independence. The production and export of agricultural products decreased, some enterprises ceased work, and so forth. Since the end of the 1960’s the country’s economic and financial situation has gradually improved, and the volume of production in most branches of the economy has shown a tendency toward growth (although in many of them it has not achieved the previous level). Zaïre is an associate member of the European Economic Community (the so-called Common Market).

Agriculture. Agriculture serves as the source of the means of existence for most of the population of Zaïre. The country’s total land area is broken down as follows (1962, in hectares): cultivated lands—7,200,000; pasture lands (primarily different types of savannas)—65,500,000; tree-covered lands—129,141,000; and lands that cannot be used in farming and forestry, 32,700,000. Most of the agricultural goods are provided by the small peasant farms of the indigenous population, which are based on the communal ownership of land. The peasants are primarily engaged in extensive slash-and-burn agriculture of the fallow type; stock breeding, the development of which is limited because of the prevalence of the tsetse fly, is of less significance. The large plantations and livestock farms of European companies (on which African peasants are exploited), which are oriented primarily toward export, have also been preserved. African farms also contribute commodities for export, but on the whole they still to a significant extent retain a subsistence or semisubsistence nature.

Of the export crops the most important is the oil palm, which is also an important source of vegetable fats for the indigenous population. Oil palm plantations are widespread primarily in Bandundu (in the lower reaches of the Kasai, Kwango, and Kwilu rivers and in the vicinity of Lake MaiNdombe), Equateur (along the middle course of the Zaïre and its tributaries) and Bas Zaïre provinces (the region of Mayumbe). About 70 percent of the output comes from plantations and about 30 percent from natural palm groves. Other important export crops include coffee (Robusta coffee in the Central Basin and along its edges, primarily in Equateur and Bas Zaïre provinces, as well as in the Mayumbe region; Arabica coffee in the mountainous regions in the east primarily in Kivu Province), and heveas and cocoa (in the Central Basin, primarily in Equateur Province, and the Mayumbe region). Also grown for export are tea, pyrethrum, cinchona, rauwolfia, and essential oil crops (in Kivu Province) and sweet varieties of bananas (in the Mayumbe region). Cotton is grown primarily on African farms: in the south primarily in Kasai Occidental, Kasai Oriental, and Shaba provinces and in the north, in the northern regions of Equateur and Haut Zaïre provinces. Of the other industrial crops, sugarcane peanuts, tobacco, and fibrous plants (urena, punga, sisal) are produced primarily for domestic consumption. The main food crops, which are grown mainly on African farms (for domestic consumption and export) are manioc, sweet potatoes, yams, maize (corn), rice, millet, sorghum, legumes, plantains, and various vegetables (see Table 2 for the sown area and the total yield of principal agricultural crops).

STOCK BREEDING. In 1969–70 the number of livestock totaled 900,000 head of cattle, 442,000 pigs, 570,000 sheep, and 1,600,000 goats. Most African-owned livestock is concentrated in the mountainous regions in the east of Haut Zaïre and Kivu provinces; stock breeding on African farms on the whole is distinguished by low productivity and low market-ability. The marketable European-owned livestock farms (meat and dairy type) are located for the most part near the large cities and industrial centers (mainly in Shaba and Bas Zaïre provinces), which serve as markets for the sale of their products. However, they do not entirely meet the needs of the urban population for meat products, as a result of which Zaïre must import large quantities of meat.

Fishing serves as an important source of food for the population. The fishing industry is concentrated in the coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean and in Lake Tanganyika. The total catch in 1968 numbered 110,200 tons (including about 12,000 tons from the ocean and about 98,000 tons from inland waters).

Hunting retains some economic significance (especially among the pygmies) in the forest regions.

FORESTRY. The large timber resources of Zaïre have been exploited on a comparatively small scale and extremely ir-regularly. Logging areas are primarily found in the Mayumbe region, in the region of Lake Mai-Ndombe, and along the banks of the Zaïre River, in the upper reaches and especially in the middle reaches, as well as along some railroad lines. The vast tracts of forests located far from the main routes of communication remain partially developed. The export of commercial lumber decreased from 1,678,000 cu m in 1959 to

Table 2. Land under cultivation and yield of principal crops
 Land under cultivation (hectares)Yield (tons)
1 Average per year 2 1969 3 1948/49–1952’53 4 1961–62–1965’66 , 5 1970/71
Rice (unpolished)151,000102,000135,000152,000109,000140,000
Sweet potatoes and yams57,00037,00050,0002353,000209,000350,0002
Palm kernel117,000109,700110,000
Peanuts (unshelled)250,000366,000320,000155,000244,000200,000
Cotton fiber333,00097,000100,00046,00014,00017,000
Natural rubber9,80033,60036,000

1,588,000 cu m in 1968–69; the volume of procuring firewood is 9 million to 10 million cu m a year. Most procured commercial lumber (60 percent in 1969) is used within the country; the rest is exported in processed or unprocessed form. The output of copal (a wood resin used in preparing high quality varnishes) is of some economic value.

Industry. The leading branches of industry are the mining industry and nonferrous metallurgy, which developed on the basis of the very rich mineral resources of Zaïre and are oriented toward export. The main mining region is the Copperbelt in the southern part of Shaba Province with three basic groups of deposits: the southeastern (the mine of Kipushi), the central (the mines of Kambove and Kakanda), and the western (Kamoto, Musonoi, Ruwe, and Kolwezi). Cobalt, zinc, cadmium, germanium, silver, and other metals are mined in addition to copper. The extraction of uranium ore (the deposit of Shinkolobwe), which was of great importance, has been suspended since 1961. Metallurgical works are found in Lubumbashi (copper), Likasi (copper, cobalt, cobalt alloys), Kolwezi (zinc, cadmium, germanium), and Luilu (copper and cobalt).

Tin and associated minerals (columbotantalite, wolframite, and beryl) are mined in the north of Shaba Province and in Kivu Province. Part of the tin ore that is obtained is processed before being exported at the tin works in Manono. The exploitation of deposits of pyrochlorite and monazite has begun (in Kivu Province). Manganese ore is extracted in Kisengwe, in the west of Shaba Province. The mining of gold is concentrated primarily in Haut Zaïre (the main centers are Kilo and Moto) and Kivu provinces. In Kasai Occidental and Kasai Oriental provinces rich diamond deposits (primarily industrial) are mined; most of the output comes from the vicinity of Mbuji-Mayi. Coal (the Luena and Lukuga basins of Shaba Province) and building materials are extracted in Zaïre for local needs.

Electric energy is based primarily on the exploitation of rich hydroelectric power resources, but the extent of their use is insignificant. The established capacity of electric power plants totals about 750,000 kW, including hydroelectric power plants with a capacity of 690,000 kW. Much of the production of electric energy comes from four hydroelectric power plants in the south of Shaba Province: Le Marinel (258,000 kW), Delcommune (108,000 kW) on the Lualaba River, and Francqui (72,000 kW) and Bia (42,000 kW) on the Lufira River, which form a single power system. The Zongo hydroelectric power plant (75,000 kW) on the Inkisi River, near Kinshasa, is also important. Some of the electric energy is exported to Zambia and Burundi. The Inga hydroelectric power plant is under construction (1972) in the lower reaches of the Zaïre River.

The manufacturing industry, besides nonferrous metallurgy, is represented by branches connected with the primary processing of raw agricultural and timber materials (for export and domestic use) and with the maintenance of the leading branches of the economy. An important branch of the food-processing industry is the oil-pressing industry, which is primarily concentrated in regions where the oil palm is grown as well as at key transportation points (Kinshasa, Matadi, Boma). There are two sugar refineries (at Moerbeke, Bas Zaïre Province, and at Kiliba, near Uvira, Kivu Province), a margarine plant (Kinshasa), a creamery (Lubumbashi), and breweries, cigarette factories, flour mills, bakeries, confectioneries, and coffee and rice mills, among other enterprises. Enterprises of the textile industry, primarily cotton, the raw materials for which are supplied by local cotton ginning plants, are located in Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Kalima, and Bukavu. Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, and Kalima also have clothing and knitted-good factories and enterprises for the production of blankets, sacks, and other goods. There are shoe factories in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi. The chemical industry (the main centers in Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, and Likasi) is represented by plants producing sulfuric acid, sodium chloride, glycerine, fatty acids, explosives, oxygen and acetylene, paint and varnish, and soap and by enterprises manufacturing plastic and rubber goods, perfumes, and pharmaceutical products. An oil refinery (an annual capacity of 600,000 tons of crude oil) was put into operation in the city of Moanda in 1968. The building materials industry is represented by cement works (Lukala, Lubudi, Likasi, Katana, Kalima) and enterprises for the production of asbestoscement articles, limestone, brick, and ceramics. There is a glass factory (for the production of bottles) in Kinshasa. The sawmill industry is centered in the main logging regions as well as in Kinshasa, Matadi, and Boma; the centers of the plywood industry are Lemba, Lukula, Nioki, and Kinshasa. Machine building and metalworking are centered primarily in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi. There are shipyards (in Kinshasa, for the construction and repair of river boats) and automobile and bicycle assembly plants (see Table 3 for the output of the principal industrial products).

Table 3. Output of the principal industrial products
1By content of metal in the ore 2 With the former territory of Rwanda-Urundi 31959 4 1968
Copper,1 mined (tons).............302,300288,600356,400
Electrolytic copper (tons).........175,900223,600236,000
Cobalt (tons).............8,2008,40010,600
Zinc concentrates1 (tons).........109,200117,40099,900
Zinc, electrolytic (tons)..........53,40057,00063,700
Tin concentrates1 (tons)...........9,3006,3006,600
Tin, metallic (tons)............2,5001,8001,900
Manganese ore1 (tons)........206,900176,100165,000
Gold (kg).....................9,88322,8125,330
Silver (tons).....................123.347.849.3
Diamonds (carats)................13,453,00012,504,00013,423,000
Coal (tons).....................163,000114,00084,000
Electric energy (KW-hr)..............2,456,0002,686,0002,912,000
Cement (tons).....................200,000141,000142,000
Lumber materials (m3)............200,000248,000322,000
Palm oil (tons).............233,700162,400224,000
Sugar (tons)...............42,00038,00040,000
Cotton fabric (m2)................60,400,000369,100,000123,000,0004

Transportation. The transportation system is based on the combined use of waterways and railroads; of particular importance is the so-called national route from Shaba Province to the lower reaches of the Zaïre River, which includes the Lubumbashi-Ilebo railroad, the water route along the Kasai and Zaïre rivers from Ilebo to Kinshasa, and the KinshasaMatadi railroad. There are more than 5,000 km of railroads and about 16,000 km of river and lake routes (of which about 14,000 km are used). The most important river port is Kinshasa. There are about 150,000 km of roads (mostly dirt roads); the number of motor vehicles totals 46,100 passenger cars and 26,200 trucks (1968). The principal seaport is Matadi in the lower reaches of the Zaïre River; at its estuary are the ports of Boma, Banana, and Ango-Ango (the oil outport of Matadi). A prominent role in the transport of Zaïre’s foreign trade goods, particularly the export of the mining products of Shaba Province, is played by the ports of Lobito (in Angola), Beira (in Mozambique), and Dar-es-Salaam (in Tanzania), with which Shaba is connected by railroad or river-rail routes. Most of the cities of Zaïre are connected by domestic air service. There are several international airports (the most important are in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi).

Foreign trade. Zaïre has a favorable balance of foreign trade. The value (1970) of exports is 400 million Zaïres and that of imports, 281 million Zaïres. Mineral raw materials (copper, diamonds, cobalt, tin, zinc, manganese ore) make up about 80 percent of the value of exports. Of the other ex-ported items the most important are palm products, coffee, rubber, wood, and cocoa. Machines and equipment, means of transportation, produce, fuels, ferrous metals, textiles, medicines, and other commodities are imported. A leading role in Zaïre’s foreign trade is played by the countries of the Common Market, which in 1969 accounted for 80.2 percent of Zaïre’s exports and 58.1 percent of the imports (in value). First among them is Belgium, which (along with Luxembourg) in 1969 accounted for 54.2 percent of Zaïre’s exports and 24.2 percent of the imports. The other major trade partners of Zaïre are the USA, Great Britain, and Japan. The monetary unit is the Zaïre (1 Zaïre = US$2).


Martynov, V. A.Kongo pod gnetom imperializma. Moscow, 1959.
Annuaire de la République Democratique du Congo. Kinshasha, 1969.


The armed forces consist of a ground force, an air force, a navy, and a police force and in 1970 numbered more than 45,000 persons, including 7,000 members of the police force. The supreme commander in chief (and also the minister of defense) is the president. The commander in chief has direct control of the army. Recruitment of personnel is realized through the hiring of volunteers, although in accordance with the constitution there is military conscription; the term of active military service, however, is not defined. The ground force (about 36,000 persons) has two separate brigades (infantry and airborne) and 16 army groups, which include the infantry, airborne, and police battalions; the battalions of the national guard; and small units of the service. The arms are of foreign make. The air force (about 2,000 persons) consists of three aviation groups and ten squadrons and has about 50 obsolete combat planes, over 70 auxiliary planes, and about 15 helicopters. The navy, numbering about 200, has several patrol cutters.

Medicine and public health. In 1968 the birthrate was 43 per 1,000 population, and the overall death rate was 20 per 1,000 population. Child mortality was 104 per 1,000 live births. The average life expectancy is 38 years for men and 40 for women. Infectious and parasitic pathology prevails. Natural smallpox, intestinal infections, influenza, tuberculosis, leprosy, and veneral diseases, among others, are widespread everywhere. Malaria is endemic (mainly tropical malaria, more rarely quartan malaria) in all regions below 1,500 m above sea level. In Equateur, Kivu, and Haut Zaïre provinces from 7 to 22 percent of the population suffers from yaws. Onchocerciasis has been recorded in the savanna regions, the seats of which are the banks of rivers with rapids (Uele, Lomami, Sankuru). The inhabitants of the tropical forests suffer more frequently from loaiasis, which is found everywhere. The seats of wuchereriasis and acanthocheilonemiasis are primarily the river valleys and lake shores: along the Zaïre and Kwango Rivers and near the cities of Boma and Matadi. Intestinal schistosomiasis is widespread in the north and northeast (the region of Lake Mobutu Sese Seko), the east (in the region of Lakes Idi Amin, Kivu, and Tanganyika), the south and southeast (Shaba and Kasai Oriental provinces), and the west (Bandundu Province). The seats of urinary schistosomiasis are found in the southeast of Shaba Province (the cities of Lubumbashi, Likasi, Kongolo, and Kindu) and in Bandundu Province (Mateba Island). Of the noninfectious diseases, malnutrition and protein deficiency are the most frequent.

In 1968 there were 2,054 hospital institutions with 61,500 beds (3.7 beds per 1,000 population); there were 599 doctors (1 doctor per approximately 27,000 population), of whom 170 were natives of Zaïre. Doctors train at the National University. Schools for tropical medicine and advanced training of nurses and midwives have opened in Kinshasa, Kisangani, and Lubumbashi. Special schools train secondary medical personnel from among the local population; there are 11 institutions for training male medical aides, three schools for nurses and midwives, 33 schools for midwives’ aides, and 70 schools for male assistant medical personnel.

In 1963 the USSR donated 35,000 doses of smallpox vaccine to the people of Zaïre; in 1969 2.5 million doses of polio vaccine.


Veterinary services. Natural endemic diseases predominate. Most of the territory is not suited for livestock breeding because the tsetse fly, the carrier of pathogens of trypanosomiasis (1,712 cases in 1962–67), is widespread everywhere. In the eastern provinces piroplasmoses (theileriasis—2,089 cases; anaplasmosis—673; babesiosis 755 in 1962–67) are found among the cattle, as well as streptotrichosis (61 cases recorded in Shaba Province alone). In the east, rickettsiosis of animals and dermatitis nodularis necrotica have been confirmed. Emphysematous carbuncles, salmonelloses, coccidioses, Newcastle disease in birds, and tuberculosis are widespread. In all stock breeding areas, helminthiases have been confirmed (fascioliasis, dicroceliasis, filariasis), which are extremely harmful to stock breeding. Tertian malaria of cattle has been recorded; brucellosis of cattle and goats is enzootic. Leptospirosis has been confirmed. Two cases of African swine fever were recorded in 1969. There are about 60 veterinarians in the country (1970).

According to the data for 1967, about 90 percent of the adult population of Zaïre is illiterate. In spite of the law enacted by Lumumba’s government on the separation of church and state and of schools from the church (1960), many primary and secondary educational institutions belong to the missionaries and are subsidized by the state. Free primary and secondary education was introduced in 1968. Instruction is in French. Children of at least six years of age are admitted to the six-year primary school. Secondary school has two cycles (two years and four years). The first cycle, which is the same for all students, is the orientation cycle. In the second cycle specialized courses of instruction are given in the following areas: humanities (classics section and African studies), the natural sciences (physics and mathematics section and chemistry and biology section), pedagogy, and technology (commercial and industrial sections). During the 1968–69 academic year 2.7 million pupils were studying in primary schools (about 70 percent of the children of the corresponding age), about 95,000 students at the first cycle of secondary school, and about 56,000 at the second cycle.

After the reorganization of the system of higher education (1971), the previously existing universities in Kinshasa (Lovanium University), Lubumbashi, and Kisangani were combined into one National University at Kinshasa. There are also specialized educational institutions (institutes and schools): pedagogical, architecture, construction, plastic arts, the Conservatoire National de musique et d’ Art Dramatique, and others. During the 1968–69 academic year there were 7,900 students in the institutions of higher learning.

The largest library is at the National University. In Kinshasa there is the Musée de la Vie Indigène.


Separate scientific centers for the study of local fauna, flora, and tropical diseases began to appear only at the end of the 19th century (the Institut de Medecine Tropicale was founded in 1899 in Kinshasa). Scientific activity was entirely in the hands of European researchers (mainly Belgians). After the country achieved independence (1960), the organization of scientific research and the training of national scientific personnel was begun. The main scientific center is the National University in Kinshasa. At the university a regional atomic center with a nuclear reactor was created. At the Institut de Médicine Tropicale, the Bureau Permanent Interafricain de la Trypanosomiase was established. The Institut pour la Recherche Scientifique en Afrique Central (IRS AC) in Bukavu, which has several scientific stations and laboratories in Mabali and Lubumbashi, began studying problems of botany, zoology, medicine, and other areas. The Institut National pour 1’Etude et la Recherche Agronomique (INERA) in Kisangani has undertaken work in the area of agriculture. The scientific centers of Zaïre are coordinated by the Office National de la Recherche et du Development (established in 1967). Its branches organize research connected with practical work. The Service Géologique and the Institut Géographique are located in Kinshasa.


The World of Learning, 1970–1971. London [1971].


About 70 newspapers and magazines are published in Zaïre, most of which were renamed in February 1972. Four large daily newspapers are published in Kinshasa: Mioto, previously called L’Etoile (since 1963; circulation, 8,000–10,000);Salongo, previously called Le Progrès (circulation, 10,000);Elombe, previously called La Tribune africaine (circulation, 8,000); and Elima, previously called Le Courier d’Afrique (circulation, 8,000–10,000). Other newspapers include the weekly Nkumu, previously called Actualités africaines (circulation, 5,000–6,000); the weekly magazine Zaïre (circulation, 10,000); and the newspaper Tribune du travailleur, the organ of the Union Nationale des Travailleurs Zarios. Three large (two daily and one weekly) newspapers are published in Lubumbashi, the capital of Shaba Province: Taifa, previously called L’Essor du Congo, (founded in 1927 asL’Essordu Katanga’, circulation, 34,000);Mwa≪ga, previously called La Dépêche (circulation, 3,800); and Ukweli, previously called La Voix du Katanga, a weekly (since 1959; circulation, 12,000). The government information agency L’Agence Zaïre-Presse (AZP) was founded in 1957.

The Zairizn national radio and television broadcasting is a government service; it was created in 1949. There are seven radio stations, the largest being in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi. Broadcasts are in French, Lingala, Kikongo, and other African languages. There have been national television stations in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi since 1967. N.IUR’EV

The people of Zaïre have a rich centuries-old tradition of oral folklore. Recording and publication of folklore began at the end of the 19th century, primarily by the efforts of the missionaries. Scholarly research has been under way since the 1920’s. Local researchers have also appeared—P. Mushiete and others—in the postwar period.

The Belgian colonial authorities assisted in developing writing systems for the local languages (Luba, Kongo, Lingala, and others) for the purpose of disseminating Christianity. Missionary publishing enterprises printed religious literature, newspapers, and school textbooks in these languages. The existence of a written language created the conditions for the development of a national literature, although prior to World War II (1939–45) only isolated works of written literature had appeared in Zaïre. The first such work, printed in Belgium, was a song in memory of the martyrs of Uganda (on the religious struggle in Uganda at the end of the 19th century) by the abbot S. Kaose (1921, in French). After World War II, many poets and writers appeared in Zaïre, writing in French and the local languages, more rarely in Flemish. In the 1940’s and 1950’s the number of periodical publications published, as a rule, by missionaries increased significantly. Literary contests were held regularly, and prizes were awarded for the best works. The Belgian colonial and church authorities concentrated the entire leadership of the development of the national literature in their hands. They directed it along the path of folklore, ethnographic, and moral-religious themes. Only rarely did such works as the poems of P. Kabongo Peace to the People of Good Will (1950) appear in print. The well-known Zairian poet, A.-R. Bolamba (born 1913), is also a journalist and publicist. He is the author of the collections of poems First Attempts (1947) and Esanzo, Songs for My Country (1955). The principal theme of Bolamba’s works is the glorification of traditional Africa; they are characterized by the motifs of romantic nationalism and the desire to see Africa free. European modernism had some influence on Bolamba. But his poetry, which is close to folk poetry is noted for its unique imagery and winning rhythm. Bolamba is also the author of studies on the folklore of the Bakongo and Mongo, as well as short stories and the book Problems of the Evolution of the Black Woman. An important place in the literature of Zaïre is occupied by religious poetry, which has reflected to some extent the sentiments of Kimbanguism—an African religious and anticolonial movement of the 192()’s through the 1950’s. In 1960 one of its representatives, A. Nsambu, published the first collection of anticolonial psalms in French. O. Ngongo (born 1928) is a great religious poet. The anticolonial theme intensified in poetry on the eve of the declaration of independence. In those years anonymous poems appeared in the newspapers of Zaïre and Belgium of a very sharp political tenor. In 1960, Patrice Lumumba (1925–61) came out with poems permeated with enthusiasm for the struggle for true independence.

The short story on a folklore or moral everyday theme predominates in the prose of Zaïre. The long narrative form is a rarer phenomenon. The best known writer is D. Mutombo, the author of the stories “Our Ancestors,” “The Silent Battle” (both are about the patriarchal past), and “The Triumph of Love.” A. R. Bokwango wrote two stories imbued with the Christian spirit: “And the White Man Came …” (recollections about the first missionaries who appeared on the land of his tribe) and “Mongondomela, the Invincible Brussa” (a historical tale imbued with sentimental idealization of the patriarchal past). P. Lomami Tshibamba (b. 1914), the author of articles about the folk art and folklore of the peoples of Zaïre, wrote short stories of a historical and ethnologic nature and the fantastical story “Ngando” (“The Crocodile,” 1949–50), which the author himself calls a fairy tale; one can sense the ideas of Kimbanguism in this work. P. Edme, a prose writer from Shaba, published the story “Kunda Kalumbi, Daughter of Africa” and the collection of short stories Scenes of Negro Life.


V ritmakh tam-tama: Poety Afriki. Introductory article by E. Gal’-perina. Moscow, 1961.
Jadot, J. M.Lcs Ecrivains africains du Congo Beige et de RuandaVrundi. Brussels, 1959.
Mudimbe, V. Y. “La Littérature de la République démocratique du Congo.”Afrique littéraire et artistique, 1970, no. 11.


The native dwellings of Zaïre are predominantly windowless wattle or mud huts, which are characteristic of several African countries; cylindrical or square-shaped, they have conical or test-shaped roofs covered with grass and branches. In some countries the walls are painted with colorful geometric designs or symbolic markings. The cities that developed at the turn of the 20th century (Kinshasa and others) are distinctly divided into two parts: the comfortable “white” section, which is lined with multistory buildings and adapted to conditions of the tropical climate, and the uncomfortable native section. Since 1960, blocks of standard houses have been built for the workers and the appearance of the cities is being improved. Metal structures and new building materials are being used in architecture.

The wood sculpture of Zaïre is noted for its exceptional stylistic diversity: along with realistic, true-to-life figures there are extremely schematized, conventional figures. The figures of the kings of the Bakuba people (18 figures are known, the earliest dating to the end of the 16th century), who for many centuries headed the state of Kuba (or Bushongo), are static and solemn. From generation to generation the masters followed firm traditions, revealing the solemn countenance of the rulers; individuality is expressed by purely external features (the symbol of the given monarch is placed at his feet). The “caryatids” (generally female figurines of the Baluba people) are expressive and dynamic, carrying on their heads and raised arms chair seats, thrones, drums, or stands for arrows. Their inner tension is achieved by the expressive rhythm of lines, the daring juxtaposition of volumes, and heightened expressiveness in conveying a general emotional state. The faces with high foreheads, heavily drooping eyelids, narrow almond-shaped eyes, and characteristic tatooing express suffering, anger, or apathy. Among the diverse sculpture of the other peoples of Zaïre there are the highly stylized figurines of the Bena-Lulua people, which are not devoid of elegance; the generalized figurines of the Bayaka; and grotesque figures of the Basongo. Masks are a special type of carved wood sculpture; some of them are noted for expressing mood (the masks of the Chokwe), others for laconism taken to the extreme (the masks of the Barega), and still others for the search for expressive geometrized solutions, revealing the anatomic structure of the face (the masks of the Bakongo). During the period of colonial rule, the sculpture of Zaïre in many respects lost its independence and showed mediocre craftsmanship. Sculptors began imitating European standards and borrowing subjects from the religion and life of the Europeans. Painters appeared in the late 1940’s: “primitives”—the landscape artist A. Mongita and the portrait painter A. Kiabelua—and a group of artists who created bright decorative compositions in which plants and animals were interwoven into a fantastically colorful design—Pilipili, Mwenze, and others. A painting of the artist Kabei won a silver medal at the World’s Fair in Montreal (1967).

The making of wood and clay dishes has been developed (most interesting are the bowls of the Bakuba and Mangbetu in the form of a human head). The wicker items of raffia fibers (mats, bags), which have a velvety texture and a two-color geometric drawing (the so-called Kasai velvet), are widespread; one also finds baskets of different forms and sizes. Ornaments of wood, iron, and copper are also made (including elegant wood combs decorated with stylized decorative compositions).


O’lderogge, D. A.Iskusstvo narodov Zapadnoi Afriki v muzeiakh SSSR. Moscow-Leningrad, 1958.
Lebedev, lu. D.Iskusstvo zapadnoi tropicheskoi Afriki. Moscow, 1962.
Gaffé, R.La Sculpture au Congo Beige. Paris-Brussels, 1945.
Périer, G. D.Les Arts populates au Congo Beige. Brussels, 1948.
L’Art nègre du Congo Belge. Ghent, 1950.
“L’Art au Congo Belge.”Les Artsplastiques. Brussels, 1951, no. 1.
L’Art au Congo Beige. Brussels, 1951.
Bruyère, M.Contribution a l’étude des habitations pour indigènes au Congo Beige. Brussels, 1952.
Kochnitzky, L.Negro Art in the Belgian Congo, 4th ed. New York, 1958.
Olbrechts, F. M.Les Arts plastiques du Congo Beige. Brussels-Anvers-Amsterdam, 1959.
Bodrogi, T.Afrikanische Kunst. Budapest, 1967.

The process of developing a musical culture and of forming and organizing the professional musical culture of the Bakongo, Mongo, Balengola, Lokele, Bangala, Bateke, Baluba, and other peoples had already begun in the early class state formations on the territory of Zaïre: Bushongo, Kongo, Lunda, and other kingdoms. The leaders and rulers maintained court musicians, singers, dancers, orchestras, and choirs. Singernarrators participated in folk celebrations and glorified the military feats, wisdom and generosity of their leaders.

The appearance of the Portuguese on the territory of Zaïre at the end of the 15th century and the development of the slave trade long delayed the development of the culture of the African peoples. The Belgian penetration into Zaïre at the end of the 19th century and the dominance of Catholicism impeded any form of musical professionalism. Therefore, many archaic features were preserved in folk music, especially among the pygmies. The existing musical instruments are rich and diverse, although the construction of many instruments has not changed significantly. Widespread are the Ngoma, Ikonko, and other drums, which are used not only for conveying messages (great skill has been achieved in this art), but also as accompaniment to singers and dancers. The “language of the drums” is taught from childhood. Also popular are stringed instruments (the lyre, harp, zither, the musical bow), wind instruments (trumpets, flutes, horns), and various types of rattles and bells, which create the rhythmic background in the orchestra. The cultural educational organizations that arose in the early 195(Ts have taught and propagandized the African folk-music culture and created societies of amateur musical activity.

Independence (1960) brought about changes in the cultural life, which were also reflected in music. There appeared the so-called guitarist style, characterized by the use of European instruments (guitars, saxophones, and others) on the basis of African folk music. Professional orchestras have been formed; training has been provided for musicians, who are popular not only in Zaïre but outside the country as well. Musical groups from Zaïre have won awards at the festivals of African art at Dakar (1966) and Algiers (1969). In 1968 the Conservatoire National de Musique et d’Art Dramatique was created in Kinshasa.


Boone, O.Les Xylophones du Congo Beige. Tervuren, 1936.(Annalles du Musee du Congo Beige: Ethnographic, series 3, vol. 3.)
Carrington, J.A Comparative Study of Some Central African Gong-Languages. Brussels, 1949.


Since ancient times dramatized spectacles have existed among the peoples of Zaïre (as a rule, improvised, with elements of dancing and singing); these were connected with work, daily life, and hunting. In the 1940’s amateur groups arose and dramaturgy appeared. In 1955 the artist and playwright A. Mongita organized the Litterature et Folklore du Congo group (it existed until the mid-1960’s) in Léopoldville (now Kinshasa), which performed the comedies and plays of Mongita and plays on fairy-tale and everyday themes.

The development of the amateur theater continued in the republic after 1960. In the 1960’s the greatest popularity was achieved by the Union Theatrale Africaine (UTAF) and the Union Theatrale du Congo (UTECO), which were under the influence of missionary organizations. Plays on historical and religious topics predominated in their repertoire: Ngongo lutete by D. Bolamba (1966) and The Martyrs of Uganda by M. Andrain (1968) in UTAF and Ngombe by Mongita (1968) and Genevieve the Martyr of Idiofa by Bolamba (1967) in UTECO. The Theater of Twelve (organized in 1965, Léopoldville) presented primarily topical plays, in which the stagnation of traditional life and customs was condemned:The Optimist by S. Naigisiki (1966), The Pot of Koka Mbala and The Oracle by G. Menga (1966, 1968), and The Secret of Choice by E. Luboya (1967).

The National Troupe, directed by N. Mikanza, was organized with government support in Kinshasa in 1969. The best productions include Do Not Shoot the Antelope by P. Mushiete and N. Mikanza (1969) and The Black Messiah, Simon Kimbangu by P. Elebe (1971), about the founder of the religious sect and participant in the national liberation struggle in Africa.


Jadot, J. M.Les Ecrivains africains du Congo Beige et du Ruanda-Urundi. Brussels, 1959.
Rop, A. de.Théàtre Nkundó. Léopoldville, 1959.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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