Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
Location: Central Africa. Bordering nations–Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia.
Area: 2.345 sq. km. (905,063 sq. mi.; about the size of the U.S. east of the Mississippi).
Cities: Capital–Kinshasa (pop. approx. 9 million). Regional capitals–Bandundu, Bukavu, Goma, Kananga, Kindu, Kisangani, Lubumbashi, Matadi, Mbandaka, Mbuji-Mayi.
Terrain: Varies from tropical rainforests to mountainous terraces, plateaus, savannas, dense grasslands, and mountains.
Climate: Equatorial; ranges from tropical rainforest in the Congo River basin, hot and humid in much of the north and west, cooler and drier in the south central area and the east.
The area known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo was populated as early as 10,000 years ago and settled in the 7th and 8th centuries A.D. by Bantus from present-day Nigeria. Portuguese navigator Diego Cao was the first European known to have visited the area (in 1482), and English journalist Henry Morton Stanley later explored much of the region in the mid to late 19th century. The area was officially colonized in 1885 as a personal possession of Belgian King Leopold II as the Congo Free State. In 1907, administration shifted to the Belgian Government, which renamed the country the Belgian Congo. Following a series of riots and unrest, the Belgian Congo was granted its independence on June 30, 1960. Parliamentary elections in 1960 produced Patrice Lumumba as prime minister and Joseph Kasavubu as president of the renamed Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Mobutu Era
Within the first year of independence, several events destabilized the country: the army mutinied; the governor of Katanga Province attempted secession; a UN peacekeeping force was called in to restore order; Prime Minister Lumumba died under mysterious circumstances; and Col. Joseph Desire Mobutu (later Mobutu Sese Seko) took over the government and ceded it again to President Kasavubu.
Unrest and rebellion plagued the government until 1965, when Mobutu, by then a lieutenant general and commander-in-chief of the national army, again seized control of the country and declared himself president for 5 years. Mobutu quickly centralized power into his own hands and was elected unopposed as president in 1970.
Embarking on a campaign of cultural awareness, Mobutu renamed the country the Republic of Zaire and required citizens to adopt African names. Relative peace and stability prevailed until 1977 and 1978 when Katangan rebels, staged in Angola, launched a series of invasions into the Katanga region. The rebels were driven out with the aid of Belgian paratroopers.
During the 1980s, Mobutu continued to enforce his one-party system of rule. Although Mobutu successfully maintained control during this period, opposition parties, most notably the Union pour la Democratie et le Progres Social (UDPS), were active. Mobutu’s attempts to quell these groups drew significant international criticism.
As the Cold War came to a close, internal and external pressures on Mobutu increased. In late 1989 and early 1990, Mobutu was weakened by a series of domestic protests, heightened international criticism of his regime’s human rights practices, and a faltering economy. In April 1990, Mobutu agreed to the principle of a multi-party system with elections and a constitution. As details of a reform package were delayed, soldiers in September 1991 began looting Kinshasa to protest their unpaid wages. Two thousand French and Belgian troops, some of whom were flown in on U.S. Air Force planes, arrived to evacuate the 20,000 endangered foreign nationals in Kinshasa.
In 1992, after previous similar attempts, the long-promised Sovereign National Conference was staged, encompassing more than 2,000 representatives from various political parties. The conference gave itself a legislative mandate and elected Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo as its chairman, along with Etienne Tshisekedi, leader of the UDPS, as prime minister. By the end of the year Mobutu had created a rival government with its own prime minister. The ensuing stalemate produced a compromise merger of the two governments into the High Council of the Republic-Parliament of Transition (HCR-PT) in 1994, with Mobutu as head of state and Leon Kengo Wa Dondo as prime minister. Although presidential and legislative elections were scheduled repeatedly over the next 2 years, they never took place.
Beginning in late 1994, the war and genocide in neighboring Rwanda had spilled over to Zaire. Rwandan Hutu militia forces (Interahamwe), who fled Rwanda following the ascension of a Tutsi-led government, were using Hutu refugee camps in eastern Zaire as bases for incursions against Rwanda.
In October 1996, Rwandan troops (RPA) entered Zaire, simultaneously with the formation of an armed coalition led by Laurent-Desire Kabila known as the Alliance des Forces Democratiques pour la Liberation du Congo-Zaire (AFDL). With the goal of forcibly ousting Mobutu, the AFDL, supported by Rwanda and Uganda, began a military campaign toward Kinshasa. Following failed peace talks between Mobutu and Kabila in May 1997, Mobutu left the country.
Nationality: Noun and adjective–Congolese.
Population (2011 est.): 71,712,867.
Annual population growth rate (2008 est.): 3.24%.
Ethnic groups: Approximately 250 African ethnic groups; the Luba, Kongo, and Anamongo are some of the larger groups.
Religions: Christian 70% (Catholic 50%, Protestant 20%); Kimbanguist 10%; other sects and traditional beliefs 10%; Muslim 10%.
Languages: French, Lingala, Swahili, Kikongo, Tshiluba.
Education: Literacy (2008 est.)–French or local language: 55% (women), 76% (men).Schooling (2007 est.)–none 21%, primary 46%, secondary 30%, university 3%.
Health (2007 est.): Infant mortality rate–92/1,000 live births. Life expectancy (2008 est.)–51.3 yrs.
The population of the D.R.C. was estimated at 71 million in 2011. As many as 250 ethnic groups have been distinguished and named. Some of the larger groups are the Kongo, Luba, and Anamongo. Although 700 local languages and dialects are spoken, the linguistic variety is bridged both by the use of French and the native languages Kikongo, Tshiluba, Swahili, and Lingala.
About 70% of the Congolese population is Christian, predominantly Roman Catholic. Most of the non-Christians adhere to either traditional religions or syncretic sects. Traditional religions include concepts such as monotheism, animism, vitalism, spirit and ancestor worship, witchcraft and sorcery, and vary widely among ethnic groups; none is formalized. The syncretic sects often merge Christianity with traditional beliefs and rituals. The most popular of these sects, Kimbanguism, was seen as a threat to the colonial regime and was banned by the Belgians. Kimbanguism, officially “the church of Christ on Earth by the prophet Simon Kimbangu,” now claims about 3 million members, primarily among the Bakongo tribe of Bas-Congo Province and Kinshasa. In 1969, it became the first independent African church admitted to the World Council of Churches.
Before independence in 1960, education was largely in the hands of religious groups. The primary school system was well developed at independence; however, the secondary school system was limited, and higher education was almost nonexistent in most regions of the country. The principal objective of this system was to train low-level administrators and clerks. Since independence, efforts have been made to increase access to education, and secondary and higher education have been made available to many more Congolese. According to estimates made in 2007, 21% of the population had no schooling, 46% had primary schooling, 30% had secondary schooling, and 3% had university schooling. At all levels of education, males greatly outnumber females. The largest state-run universities are the University of Kinshasa, the University of Lubumbashi, and the University of Kisangani. The elite continue to send their children abroad to be educated, primarily in Western Europe.
GDP (2010): $13.1 billion.
Annual GDP growth rate (2010): 6.1%.
Per capita GDP (2010): $189.
Natural resources: Copper, cobalt, diamonds, gold, other minerals; petroleum; wood; hydroelectric potential.
Agriculture: Cash crops–coffee, rubber, palm oil, cotton, cocoa, sugar, tea. Food crops–manioc, corn, legumes, plantains, peanuts.
Land use: Agriculture 3%; pasture 7%; forest/woodland 77%; other 13%.
Industry: Types–processed and unprocessed minerals; consumer products, including textiles, plastics, footwear, cigarettes, metal products; processed foods and beverages, cement, timber.
Currency: Congolese franc (FC). The U.S. dollar is also used as legal tender.
Trade: Exports (2010)–$7.5 billion. Products–diamonds, gold, cobalt, copper, coffee, petroleum, wood. Main partners–EU, Japan, South Africa, U.S., China. Imports (2010)–$7.0 billion. Products–consumer goods (food, textiles), capital equipment, refined petroleum products. Partners–EU, China, South Africa, U.S.
Official debt (est.): $13.5 billion.
Sparsely populated in relation to its area, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to vast natural resources and mineral wealth. Nevertheless, the D.R.C. is one of the poorest countries in the world, with per capita annual income of about U.S. $189 in 2010. This is the result of years of mismanagement, corruption, and war. Agriculture is the mainstay of the Congolese economy, accounting for 42.5% of GDP in 2007.
The main cash crops include coffee, palm oil, rubber, cotton, sugar, tea, and cocoa. Food crops include cassava, plantains, maize, groundnuts, and rice. However, commercial agricultural production or processing remains limited, with many producers engaged in subsistence food production. Industry accounted for 28.4% of GDP in 2007, of which 6.4% was from manufacturing, and services accounted for 29.1% of GDP in 2007. The export of goods and services constituted 28.2% of GDP in 2007. The D.R.C.’s formal economy is dominated by the mining sector. Minerals account for the vast majority of the D.R.C.’s exports and represent the single largest source for foreign direct investment (FDI). Copper, cobalt, gold, coltan, tin, and zinc are the big metals being mined and produced in the D.R.C. The D.R.C.’s main copper and cobalt interests are dominated by Gecamines, the state-owned mining giant. Gecamines production has been severely affected by corruption, civil unrest, world market trends, and failure to reinvest. The diamond sector currently accounts for about 10% of the D.R.C.’s export revenue. This is from both gem and industrial-grade diamond sales that were around $875 million in 2008 and were projected to approach an estimated $1 billion in 2009. Production by the D.R.C. parastatal, MIBA, has significantly declined from past decades; operations stopped during 2009 due to technical and financial difficulties. MIBA is currently working to restructure its operations and administration. All diamond production in the D.R.C. is currently artisanal.
For decades, corruption and misguided policy have created a dual economy in the D.R.C. Individuals and businesses in the formal sector operated with high costs under arbitrarily enforced laws. As a consequence, the informal sector now dominates the economy. In order to combat corruption, in September 2009, President Kabila launched a “zero-tolerance” campaign. Within this framework, he established the D.R.C. Financial Intelligence Unit to combat money laundering and misappropriation of public funds.
In recent years, the Congolese Government approved a new investment code and a new mining code and designed a new commercial court. The goal of these initiatives was to attract investment by promising fair and transparent treatment to private business. The D.R.C. Government recently established an inter-ministerial committee called the “Steering Committee for Investment and Business Climate Improvement” to support reforms that would improve the business climate. In December 2009, the Congolese parliament approved a law authorizing the D.R.C.’s accession to the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA), and President Kabila promulgated this law in February 2010. The Government of the D.R.C. officially launched the National OHADA Commission in April 2010. The D.R.C. expected to sign and deposit the instrument of OHADA accession by November 2010, and the OHADA treaty was supposed to take effect in the D.R.C. on January 1, 2011. However, President Kabila ordered that judges be trained in the OHADA law first before signing and depositing the instrument of OHADA accession. As of January 2011, no new date had been given for depositing the instrument of OHADA accession. Other measures undertaken by the Government of the D.R.C. to improve the business and investment climate include President Kabila’s promulgation of a new customs code and new law related to the value-added tax (VAT) in August 2010. The new customs code took effect on February 20, 2011. In 2007, shortly after the Joseph Kabila administration took office, the government launched a wholesale review of mining contracts that had been entered into from 1997-2002. In theory, the purpose of this contract review was to determine which negotiations may have been colored by corruption and revisit/renegotiate their terms as needed. In practice, this process itself was opaque and plagued with numerous delays, with little information provided by the government to foreign (including American) investors. The Government of the D.R.C. reached agreement in December 2008 with the vast majority of the companies under review and formally announced the completion of the process in November 2009. In October 2010, the Government of the D.R.C. reached agreement with the final remaining company, a U.S. investor.
A visa and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required by all visitors for entry and they are expensive. You may be asked to show you have sufficient funds to support your stay. Passports are required by everyone with the exception of children less than 6 years of age; they may travel on their parents passports. Some travelers arriving in Congo-Kinshasa without proper proof of yellow fever vaccination have been temporarily detained, had their passports confiscated, or been required to pay a fine. Visas should be obtained from an Embassy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa) prior to arrival. In years past, travelers entering with visas and/or entry/exit stamps from Rwanda, Uganda or Burundi have sometimes experienced difficulties at ports of entry. Additional information about visas may be obtained from the Embassy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo , 1726 M Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20036, tel. (202) 234-7690, or Congo-Kinshasa’s Permanent Mission to the U.N, 866 United Nations Plaza, Room 511, New York, NY 10017, tel. 212-319-8061, fax: 212-319-8232. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Congolese embassy or consulate.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated special procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship to the person traveling with the child and permission for the child’s travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
Before visiting the Democratic Republic of the Congo, you may need to get the following vaccinations and medications for vaccine-preventable diseases and other diseases you might be at risk for at your destination: (Note: Your doctor or health-care provider will determine what you will need, depending on factors such as your health and immunization history, areas of the country you will be visiting, and planned activities.)
To have the most benefit, see a health-care provider at least 4–6 weeks before your trip to allow time for your vaccines to take effect and to start taking medicine to prevent malaria, if you need it.
Even if you have less than 4 weeks before you leave, you should still see a health-care provider for needed vaccines, anti-malaria drugs and other medications and information about how to protect yourself from illness and injury while traveling.
CDC recommends that you see a health-care provider who specializes in Travel Medicine. If you have a medical condition, you should also share your travel plans with any doctors you are currently seeing for other medical reasons.
If your travel plans will take you to more than one country during a single trip, be sure to let your health-care provider know so that you can receive the appropriate vaccinations and information for all of your destinations. Long-term travelers, such as those who plan to work or study abroad, may also need additional vaccinations as required by their employer or school.
Be sure your routine vaccinations are up-to-date. Check the links below to see which vaccinations adults and children should get.
Routine vaccines, as they are often called, such as for influenza, chickenpox (or varicella), polio, measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), and diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) are given at all stages of life.
Routine vaccines are recommended even if you do not travel. Although childhood diseases, such as measles, rarely occur in the United States, they are still common in many parts of the world. A traveler who is not vaccinated would be at risk for infection.
|Vaccination or Disease||Recommendations or Requirements for Vaccine-Preventable Diseases|
|Routine||Recommended if you are not up-to-date with routine shots such as, measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) vaccine, poliovirus vaccine, etc.|
|Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG)||Recommended for all unvaccinated people traveling to or working in countries with an intermediate or high level of hepatitis A virus infection where exposure might occur through food or water. Cases of travel-related hepatitis A can also occur in travelers to developing countries with “standard” tourist itineraries, accommodations, and food consumption behaviors.|
|Hepatitis B||Recommended for all unvaccinated persons traveling to or working in countries with intermediate to high levels of endemic HBV transmission, especially those who might be exposed to blood or body fluids, have sexual contact with the local population, or be exposed through medical treatment (e.g., for an accident).|
|Typhoid||Recommended for all unvaccinated people traveling to or working in Central Africa, especially if staying with friends or relatives or visiting smaller cities, villages, or rural areas where exposure might occur through food or water.|
|Polio||Recommended for adult travelers who have received a primary series with either inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) or oral polio vaccine (OPV). They should receive another dose of IPV before departure. For adults, available data do not indicate the need for more than a single lifetime booster dose with IPV.|
|Yellow Fever||Yellow fever vaccination requirement for travelers to the Democratic Republic of the Congo:Required upon arrival from all countries for travelers ≥1 year of age.
Recommended for all travelers ≥9 months of age, except as mentioned below.
Generally not recommended for travelers whose itinerary is limited to Katanga Province.
Vaccination should be given 10 days before travel and at 10 year intervals if there is on-going risk. Find an authorized U.S. yellow fever vaccination clinic.
|Rabies||Recommended for travelers spending a lot of time outdoors, especially in rural areas, involved in activities such as bicycling, camping, or hiking. Also recommended for travelers with significant occupational risks (such as veterinarians), for long-term travelers and expatriates living in areas with a significant risk of exposure, and for travelers involved in any activities that might bring them into direct contact with bats, carnivores, and other mammals. Children are considered at higher risk because they tend to play with animals, may receive more severe bites, or may not report bites.|
Areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo with Malaria:
If you will be visiting an area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo with malaria, you will need to discuss with your doctor the best ways for you to avoid getting sick with malaria. Ways to prevent malaria include the following:
- Taking a prescription antimalarial drug
- Using insect repellent and wearing long pants and sleeves to prevent mosquito bites
- Sleeping in air-conditioned or well-screened rooms or using bednets
All of the following antimalarial drugs are equal options for preventing malaria in the Democratic Republic of the Congo:
Atovaquone/proguanil, doxycycline, or mefloquine
Note: Chloroquine is NOT an effective antimalarial drug in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and should not be taken to prevent malaria in this region.
Airlines to the Congo
Things to do in Congo
Ma Vallee (Bodies of water, forest)
Zongo Falls (Waterfalls)
Musee National de Kinshasa (Art Museum)
Kinshasa University (Educational Site, Museums)
Mount Nyiragongo (Volcanos, Mountains)
Lake Kivu (Bodies of water)
Kinkole Fish Market
Chute de Lukie (Lake)
Kisanto Botanical Gardens
La Ciboulette: French cuisine, 15 Ave Lt. Colonel Lukusa, Kinshasa, D.R.C….243-999-94-2710
Chez Maman Colonel: African cuisine, 10, Avenue Bayaka Kimbondo, Kinshasa, D.R.C.
Restaurant L’Orangeraie: International cuisine, Boulevard du 30 Juin, Kinshasa, D.R.C.
Le Cercle Gourmand: French, International cuisine, Cercle de Kinshasa (Golf Club), Kinshasa
Le Café Conc: French and Continental cuisine, Avenue de Aviateurs, Kinshasa, D.R.C.
Chez Philo: African and Belgian cuisine, Near Boulvard 31 Juin, Kinshasa
Hunga Busta: Fast Food, Boulevard du 30 juin, Kinshasa, D.R.C…243-998-23-9796
Extreme: Pizza, Av. De L’equateur from Boulevard 30 Juin, Kinshasa, D.R.C.
Green Garden: Indian cuisine, Ave. Colonel Ebeya C/Gombe, Kinshasa, D.R.C.
Le Chantilly: Bakery, 707 Avenue Colonel Lukusa, Kinshasa, D.R.C…243-81-993-0300
New Relais: Indian cuisine, Avenue de 30 Juin, Kinshasa, D.R.C.
Taverna Communaute Hellenique: Greek cuisine, 3000 Avenue Lumumba, Lubumbashi, D.R.C.
Restaurant les Artistes: French cuisine, complex La Plage|Route du Golf, Katanga, D.R.C.
Boulevard Kanyamahanga, near Rwanda border, Goma, D.R.C.
Av. Kabinda, Cite RTNC Lingwala, Kinshasa, D.R.C.
Grand Hotel Kinshasa
Avenue Batetela Kinshasa Gombe, Kinshasa, D.R.C.
117 Avenue Colonel Tshatshi, Combe, Kinshasa, D.R.C.
5 Av. De Tchad, BP 68, Kinshasa, D.R.C.
Good for: Business travel, luxury travel, Historical travel
Hotel Ave Maria
Avenue Colonel Ebeya, 3, Zone de la Gombe, Kinshasa, D.R.C.
306, Avenue de la Gombe, Kinshasa, D.R.C.
Flats Hotel Luntu
Avenue de L’oua, Kinshasa, D.R.C.
30, Avenue de la Justice, Commune de la Gombe, Kinshasa, 7248, D.R.C.
Guest House Residence
Avenue Songye 24337 | Commune de Ngaliema Q/museyi, Kinshasa 00243, D.R.C.
50 Avenue Munongo (coin Kasai/Mzee Kabila), Lubumbashi, D.R.C.
Avenue Du 30 Juin at Avenue Djamena, Lubumbashi, D.R.C.
15, Avenue Lomami, Lubumbashi, D.R.C.
VIP Palace Goma
Bld Kanyamuhanga | Goma North Kivu, Goma, D.R.C.
Bord du Lac Kivu, Goma, D.R.C.
Hotel La Versaille
Near la Mairie de Goma, in the centre town, Goma, D.R.C.
Cercle Sportif, Goma, D.R.C.
Orchids Safari Club
Lake Kivu | Bukavu, Bukavu, D.R.C.
BP 54 | Gyangugu, Bukavu, D.R.C.
Alpajob Guest House
Kichai Katwa, Butembo, D.R.C.
North Kibu, Butembo, D.R.C.
Avenue de Liberation | Bunia, Bunia, D.R.C.