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Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

Desire Kabila, Congo Free State, Lake Tanganyika, Belgian Congo, rebels

Congo, Democratic Republic of the 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. In 1965 Mobutu seized control of the country, ruling for more than 30 years until he was overthrown in 1997 by rebels under the leadership of Laurent-Desire Kabila. Kabila changed the country’s name back to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The DRC is bounded on the north by the Central African Republic and the Republic of the 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.

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