Democratic Republic of the Congo History

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The basic assumption is that the major ethnic groups that came to populate Congo, notably the Bakongo, Bateke, and the Mbochi, encountered on their arrival a territory largely uninhabited except for the Pygmies, remnants of whom are still found in small and inaccessible bands in the far north of the country.

Nearly 80 percent of the country’s two and half million people (1994) currently reside in the south between Brazzaville and Point Noire. In 1994 more than 40 percent of the population resided in the capital, Brazzaville. The sparsely populated northeastern two-thirds of the country currently contain 20 percent of the population. Congo is now one of the continent’s most urbanized countries.[1]

History

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the southernmost country located in Central Africa. It is sometimes referred to by its former name of Zaire, which was its official name between 1971 and 1997. The DRC borders the Central African Republic to the north; South Sudan to the northeast; Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to the east; Zambia to the south; Angola to the southwest; and the Republic of the Congo and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.

In the 1870s, just before the onset of the Scramble for Africa, European exploration of the Congo Basin was carried out, first led by Henry Morton Stanley under the sponsorship of King Leopold II of Belgium. Leopold formally acquired rights to the Congo territory at the Berlin Conference in 1885 and made the land his private property, naming it the Congo Free State. During the Free State, the colonial military unit, the Force Publique, forced the local population to produce rubber, and from 1885 to 1908, millions of Congolese died as a consequence of disease and exploitation. In 1908, Belgium, despite initial reluctance, formally annexed the Free State, which became the Belgian Congo.

The Belgian Congo achieved independence on 30 June 1960 under the name Republic of the Congo. Conflict arose over the administration of the territory, which became known as the Congo Crisis. The provinces of Katanga, and South Kasai attempted to secede. After Lumumba turned to the Soviet Union for assistance in the crisis, the U.S. and Belgium became wary. In 1971, the country was renamed Zaire. The country was run as a dictatorial one-party state, with his Popular Movement of the Revolution as the sole legal party.

Destabilisation in the east resulting from the 1994 Rwandan genocide and disenfranchisement among the eastern Congolese Tutsi population led to a 1996 invasion led by Tutsi FPR-ruled Rwanda, which began the First Congo War. Tensions between President Kabila and the Rwandan and Tutsi presence in the country led to the Second Congo War from 1998 to 2003. The name was reverted to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Ultimately, nine African countries and around twenty armed groups became involved in the war, which resulted in the deaths of 5.4 million people. The two wars devastated the country.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is extremely rich in natural resources but has had political instability, a lack of infrastructure, issues with corruption and centuries of both commercial and colonial extraction and exploitation with little holistic development. As of 2018, around 600,000 Congolese have fled to neighbouring countries from conflicts in the centre and east of the DRC. The fighting has displaced 4.5 million people.
[1]

Timeline

1885 – 1908 Millions of Congolese died as a consequence of exploitation and disease, population declined dramatically and determining precisely how many people died is impossible, as no accurate records exist
1908 - The Belgian parliament voted in favor of annexing the Congo as a Belgian colony
2960 - The Belgian Congo achieved independence under the name "République du Congo" or the Republic of the Congo in English
1965 - A constitutional referendum 1965 resulted in the country's official name being changed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo
1971 - The name Democratic Republic of the Congo was changed in 1971 to the Republic of Zaire its fourth name change in 11 years and its sixth overall


  1. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Congo,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 2000.