The Democratic Republic of Congo is located on the Equator in the center of the African continent, and is bordered to the south by Angola and Zambia. It shares its eastern border with Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda. It's northern border is shared with Sudan, Central African Republic, and Republic of Congo. Most of the inland is tropical rain forest, drained by tributaries of the Congo River.
Republic of Congo was dominated by Kongo , the Loango and Tio. After the Portuguese located the Congo River in 1482, commerce was carried on with the tribes, especially the slave trade.
The Frenchman Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza signed a treaty with Makoko in 1880, thus establishing French control. It was first called French Congo, and after 1905 Middle Congo. With Gabon and Ubangi-Shari, it became the colony of French Equatorial Africa in 1910. Abuse of laborers led to public outcry against the French colonialists as well as rebellions among the Congolese, but the exploitation of the native workers continued until 1930. During World War II the colony joined Chad in supporting the Free French cause against the Vichy government. The Congo proclaimed its independence without leaving the French Community in 1960, calling itself the Republic of Congo.
Alphonse Massemba-Débat, Congo's second president instituted a Marxist-Leninist government. In 1968, Maj. Marien Ngouabi overthrew him but kept Congo on a Socialist course. He was sworn in for a second five-year term in 1975. A four-man commando squad assassinated Ngouabi on March 18, 1977. Col. Joachim Yhombi-Opango, army chief of staff, assumed the presidency on April 4. Yhombi-Opango resigned on Feb. 4, 1979, and was replaced by Col. Denis Sassou-Nguesso.
In July 1990 the leaders of the ruling party voted to end the one-party system. A national political conference, hailed as a model for sub-Saharan Africa, renounced Marxism in 1991 and scheduled the country's first free elections for 1992. Pascal Lissouba became the country's first democratically elected president.
When the opposition's rejection of the results developed into violence, political and ethnic tensions intensified in 1993 after legislative elections, A peace agreement was signed between the government and the opposition in Aug. 1994. A four-month civil war (June 5–Oct. 15, 1997) devastated Brazzaville, the capital. Buttressed by military aid from Angola, former Marxist dictator Denis Sassou-Nguesso overthrew President Lissouba. In late 1999 a peace agreement was signed between Sassou-Nguesso, who comes from the north, and the rebels representing the populous south. The postwar period has been traumatic for the desperately poor country.
In March 2002, President Sassou-Nguesso was reelected with 89.4% of the vote. His opponents were either barred from the country or withdrew from the election. Ninja rebels continued to battle government forces, each attempting to gain or maintain control of the country's rich oil reserves and each seemingly unconcerned about the toll this new outbreak of violence took on civilians. In May 2003, the government and Ninja rebels signed an agreement to end hostilities.
The majority of the population are from Bantu societies, of which the largest is the Kongo, with smaller groups of Sangha and Teke. The Ubangi comprise the other major ethnicity, among whom the Mboshi are most numerous, and the forests shelter a small number of Binga Pygmies who are descended from the nation's original inhabitants. French is the official language and is taught in all the schools. Lingala is a trade language that is widely spoken, as is Kikongo. Christianity is prevalent in the Congo Republic, and the majority of Christians are Roman Catholic. Many Congolese adhere to animist beliefs or combine these with their Christianity. There are also several independent African churches, such as the Church of Jesus Christ on Earth, developed by the prophet Simon Kimbangu. The small number of Muslims are primarily immigrants.
The art of the Congo Republic is some of the best in Africa, and the energetic traditions of both Kongo and Teke woodcarvers are highly prized. Carved figures with realistic features often represent ancestors. Some of the more stylized, stiffly posed figures are fetishes, believed to be inhabited by a spirit. The country also has a history of distinguished literary accomplishment. One of the first important writers was Sylvain Bemba, whose career as a journalist informed his novels and plays. His works explore historical and contemporary questions of great importance in appealing ways.