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Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

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Democratic Republic of the Congo or Congo-Kinshasa, nation in central Africa, a vast country of dense forests traversed by the powerful Congo River. Rich in natural resources, the country is nonetheless economically stunted due to decades of misrule in the second half of the 20th century, under dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. The region was first united as the Congo Free State, a colony created by Belgian king Leopold II in the late 19th century. The colony was called the Belgian Congo from 1908 until 1960, when it gained independence as the Republic of the Congo. Its name was changed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1964 and then to Zaire in 1971.

Mobutu seized control of the country in 1965. During his 32-year-long rule he grew wealthier as the economy stagnated. After he was overthrown in 1997 the country’s name was changed back to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). After Mobutu’s overthrow the DRC endured years of civil war. Although the war officially ended in 2003, regional armed conflict and a humanitarian crisis continued. By mid-2007 an estimated 5.4 million people had died from violence, malnutrition, and disease. The conflict ranked as the world’s deadliest since World War II (1939-1945).

The DRC is bounded on the north by the Central African Republic and Sudan; on the east by Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Lake Tanganyika (which separates the DRC from Tanzania); on the south by Zambia and Angola; and on the west by the Republic of the Congo and the Angolan exclave of Cabinda. The equator crosses the northern DRC. Kinshasa is the capital and largest city.

Sources

For younger readers

Congo … in Pictures. Lerner, 1999. For readers in grades 4 to 7.

Heale, Jay. Democratic Republic of the Congo. Marshall Cavendish, 1999. For readers in grades 4 to 7.

Willis, Terri. Democratic Republic of the Congo. Scholastic, , 2004. For readers in grades 5 to 9.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Edgerton, Robert. The Troubled Heart of Africa: A History of the Congo. St. Martin's, 2002. An introduction to the country's tragic past.

Hochschild, Adam. King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa. Houghton Mifflin, 1998. Sometimes grim chronicle of Leopold II's reign of terror in the Belgian Congo and the beginning of the century's first major human-rights campaign.

Jenike, David, and Mark Jenike. A Walk Through a Rain Forest: Life in the Ituri Forest of Zaire. Franklin Watts, 1995. Portrait of the Ituri Forest's indigenous people and extraordinary plant and animal life. For younger readers.

Joris, Lieve.Trans. Stacey Knecht. Back to the Congo. Simon & Schuster, 1992. Flemish journalist's travels and observations.

Lemarchand, Rene. Political Awakening in the Belgian Congo. University of California Press, 1964. Reprint, Greenwood, 1982. Effects of inexperience and foreign administration on a new country.

Nzongola-Ntalaja, ed. The Crisis in Zaire: Myths and Realities. Africa World, 1988. Essays on the country after independence.

Winternitz, Helen. East Along the Equator: A Journey up the Congo and into Zaire. Atlantic Monthly, 1987. Lush nature, poor people, and corrupt politics.

Contributors

Fegley, Randall Arlin, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Instructor of Political Science, Pennsylvania State University. Author of Equatorial Guinea: An African Tragedy and other books.

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