Democratic Republic of Congo – Profile part 1
Belgian control 1885-1908
Below is the first part of a profile of the Democratic Republic of Congo that will be developed over the coming months. Our thanks to George Jameson who researched and wrote the material below.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is a country that is situated in Central Africa. It is the second largest country on the African continent after Algeria. The Congo is the largest country in sub-Saharan Africa making it the world’s 11th largest country and with a population of just over 71 million people makes it the 19th most populous nation on earth. Given its size the Congo borders many different nations which include the Central African Republic and South Sudan to the north, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi to the east, Zambia and Angola to the south and The Republic of the Congo to its west. The country has a short 40km stretch of coastline which touches the Atlantic ocean at Muanda.
The Democratic Republic of Congo like many other African nations before the scramble for Africa was a much more tranquil place governed by traditional native African tribes.
By the 1880’s the Scramble for Africa had intensified to the point where each individual European powers invaded, occupied and colonized African territory. This period saw Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the UK divide the continent up between them. Each of these colonial powers had differing ideas as to how their newly acquired lands should be managed.
Belgium, under the leadership of King Leopold II decided to run his new colonial territories in his own unique style. While publicly advocating humanitarianism and denouncing slavery, privately this was not the case and for almost 30 years the inhabitants of this Congo Free State as it would be soon called suffered the most unimaginable and gruelling hardships which are only matched in gruesomeness by WW1 and WW2.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is crossed by the equator which means that the seasons are reversed in the north and south. Both of these areas have two short wet seasons as well as two short dry seasons while the central part of the country enjoys a tropical hot and humid climate with temperatures in Kinshasa averaging between 18 and 32 degrees celsius. This tropical land boasts a huge range of fruits and vegetables, arable land and vast natural resources which include many highly valued minerals; Colbat, Copper, Rubber and industrial Diamonds. The amount of raw materials in the DR Congo that are untapped have been estimated to be worth in the region of US $24 trillion. However, many decades of political turmoil and civil wars have meant that this potential wealth has not been able to be exploited by the Congolese themselves. Some illegal mining has been taking place in areas of the DR Congo but the lucrative profits of these actions are not collected in tax by the government but are instead used to fund militias and their violent campaigns.