Congo, Democratic Republic of the at English => English (The Britannica Concise) Of Explained:
Republic, central Africa. Area: 905,356 sq mi (2,344,872 sq km). Population (1997): 46,674,000. Capital: Kinshasa. Bantu-speakers, incl. the Mongo, Kongo, and Luba, form a majority of the country's population; among non-Bantu speakers are Sudanese groups of the north. Languages: French, English (official). Religion: Christianity. Currency: Congolese franc. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, with the third-largest land-area in Africa, occupies the heart of the Congo River basin, from which high plateaus rise in every direction. At its narrow strip of Atlantic coast the Congo empties into the sea. The country straddles the equator; its climate is humid and tropical. It is one of the poorest countries in the world; its economy is based on mining and agriculture. Export crops include coffee, palm products, tea, cocoa, and cotton; mining products include copper, cobalt, and industrial diamonds. It is ruled by a military regime; the head of state is the president, which office was taken by the regime's leader in the late 1990s. Prior to European colonization, several native kingdoms had emerged in the region, incl. the 16th-cent. Luba kingdom and the Kuba federation, which reached its peak in the 18th cent. European development began late in the 19th cent. when King Leopold II of Belgium financed H. M. Stanley's exploration of the Congo River. The 1884-85 Berlin W. Africa Conference recognized the Congo Free State with Leopold as its sovereign. The growing demand for rubber at the turn of the century helped finance the exploitation of the Congo, but abuses against native peoples outraged Western nations and forced Leopold to grant the Free State a colonial charter as the Belgian Congo (1908). Independence was granted in 1960, and the country's name was changed to Zaire. The post-independence period was marked by unrest, culminating in a military coup that brought Gen. Mobutu Sese Seko to power in 1965. Mismanagement, corruption, and increasing violence devastated the infrastructure and economy. Mobutu was deposed in 1997 by L. Kabila, who restored the country's name to Congo. Instability in neighboring countries and desire for Congo's mineral wealth led to military involvement by numerous African countries.