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Kahuzi-Biega National Park World Heritage Site

Parc national de Kahuzi-Biega, Congo, The Democratic Republic Of The

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Coordinates: 2°52′48″S 23°39′22″E / 2.88°S 23.656°E / -2.88; 23.656

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (French: République démocratique du Congo), sometimes referred to as DR Congo, DRC, Congo-Kinshasa, Congo-Zaire, DROC, or RDC, is a country located in the African Great Lakes region of Central Africa. It is the second largest country in Africa by area and the eleventh largest in the world. With a population of over 75 million, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the nineteenth most populous nation in the world, the fourth most populous nation in Africa, as well as the most populous officially Francophone country.

It is bordered by the Central African Republic and South Sudan to the north; Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi in the east; Zambia and Angola to the south; the Republic of the Congo, the Angolan exclave of Cabinda, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west; and is separated from Tanzania by Lake Tanganyika in the east. The country has access to the ocean through a 40-kilometre (25 mi) stretch of Atlantic coastline at Muanda and the roughly 9 km wide mouth of the Congo River which opens into the Gulf of Guinea. It has the second-highest total Christian population in Africa.

The Second Congo War, beginning in 1998, devastated the country and is sometimes referred to as the "African world war" because it involved nine African nations and twenty armed groups. Despite the signing of peace accords in 2003, fighting continued in the east of the country in 2007. There, the prevalence of rape and other sexual violence has been described as the worst in the world. The war is the world's deadliest conflict since the Chinese Civil War, killing 5.4 million people since 1998. More than 90% were not killed in combat, dying instead from malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition, aggravated by displaced populations living in unsanitary and over-crowded conditions that lacked access to shelter, water, food and medicine. Forty seven percent of those deaths were children under five. Even to this day the ongoing conflicts exacerbate the exhaustion of the country's great agricultural potential. Conflict for control of the mineral wealth is behind some of the most violent atrocities.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo was formerly known as, in chronological order, Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, Republic of the Congo, and Zaïre. Although located in the Central African UN subregion, the nation is also economically and regionally affiliated with Southern Africa as a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).[citation needed]

The name "Democratic Republic of the Congo" was the official name of the country from 1964–71. In 1992, the Sovereign National Conference voted to change to name from "Zaire", but it was never put into practice. It was restored by former president Laurent Kabila following the fall of long time dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

Belgian exploration, and administration took place from the 1870s until the 1920s. It was first led by Sir Henry Morton Stanley, who undertook his explorations under the sponsorship of King Leopold II of Belgium. The eastern regions of the precolonial Congo were heavily disrupted by constant slave raiding, mainly from Arab–Swahili slave traders such as the infamous Tippu Tip, who was well-known to Stanley. Leopold had designs on what was to become the Congo as a colony. In a succession of negotiations, Leopold, professing humanitarian objectives in his capacity as chairman of the front organization Association Internationale Africaine, actually played one European rival against another.[citation needed]

Leopold formally acquired rights to the Congo territory at the Conference of Berlin in 1885 and made the land his private property and named it the Congo Free State. Leopold's regime began various infrastructure projects, such as construction of the railway that ran from the coast to the capital of Leopoldville (now Kinshasa). It took years to complete. Nearly all such projects were aimed at increasing the capital which Leopold and his associates could extract from the colony, leading to exploitation of Africans.

In the Free State, colonists brutalized the local population to produce rubber, for which the spread of automobiles and development of rubber tires created a growing international market. The sale of rubber made a fortune for Leopold, who built several buildings in Brussels and Ostend to honor himself and his country. To enforce the rubber quotas, the army, the Force Publique, was called in and made a practice of cutting off the limbs of the natives as a means of enforcing rubber quotas a matter of policy. During the period of 1885–1908, millions of Congolese died as a consequence of exploitation and disease. In some areas the population declined dramatically; it has been estimated that sleeping sickness and smallpox killed nearly half the population in the areas surrounding the lower Congo River. A government commission later concluded that the population of the Congo had been "reduced by half" during this period, but determining precisely how many people died is impossible, as no accurate records exist.

The actions of the Free State's administration sparked international protests led by British reporter Edmund Dene Morel and British diplomat turned Irish rebel Roger Casement, whose 1904 report on the Congo condemned the practice. Noted writers such as Mark Twain and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle also protested, and Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness was set in the Congo Free State.[citation needed]

In 1908, the Belgian parliament, despite initial reluctance, bowed to international pressure (especially that from the United Kingdom) and took over the Free State from the king. From then on, as a Belgian colony, it was called the Belgian Congo and was under the rule of the elected Belgian government.

In May 1960, a growing nationalist movement, the Mouvement National Congolais or MNC Party, led by Patrice Lumumba, won the parliamentary elections. Patrice Lumumba thus became the first Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The parliament elected as President Joseph Kasavubu, of the Alliance des Bakongo (ABAKO) party. Other parties that emerged included the Parti Solidaire Africain (or PSA) led by Antoine Gizenga, and the Parti National du Peuple (or PNP) led by Albert Delvaux and Laurent Mbariko. (Congo 1960, dossiers du CRISP, Belgium) The Belgian Congo achieved independence on 30 June 1960 under the name "République du Congo" ("Republic of Congo" or "Republic of the Congo" in English). Shortly after independence, the provinces of Katanga (led by Moise Tshombe) and South Kasai engaged in secessionist struggles against the new leadership. Most of the 100,000 Europeans who had remained behind after independence fled the country, opening the way for Congolese to replace the European military and administrative elite.

As the neighboring French colony of Middle Congo (Moyen Congo) also chose the name "Republic of Congo" upon achieving its independence, the two countries were more commonly known as "Congo-Léopoldville" and "Congo-Brazzaville", after their capital cities. Another way they were often distinguished during the 1960s, such as in newspaper articles, was that "Congo-Léopoldville" was called "The Congo" and "Congo-Brazzaville" was called simply "Congo".[citation needed]

On 5 September 1960, Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba from office. Lumumba declared Kasavubu's action unconstitutional and a crisis between the two leaders developed. (cf. Sécession au Katanga – J.Gerald-Libois -Brussels- CRISP)

On 17 January 1961, Katangan forces and Belgian paratroops – supported by the United States CIA and Belgium – kidnapped Patrice Lumumba, and after being beaten and tortured, Lumumba was shot and killed. Amidst widespread confusion and chaos, a temporary government was led by technicians (Collège des Commissaires) with Evariste Kimba. The Katanga secession was ended in January 1963 with the assistance of UN forces. Several short-lived governments, of Joseph Ileo, Cyrille Adoula and Moise Tshombe, took over in quick succession.

Lumumba had previously appointed Joseph Mobutu chief of staff of the new Congo army, Armée Nationale Congolaise (ANC).[citation needed] Taking advantage of the leadership crisis between Kasavubu and Lumumba, Mobutu garnered enough support within the army to create mutiny. With financial support from the United States and Belgium, Mobutu paid his soldiers privately. The aversion of Western powers to communism and leftist ideology influenced their decision to finance Mobutu's quest to maintain "order" in the new state by neutralizing Kasavubu and Lumumba in a coup by proxy. A constitutional referendum after Mobutu's coup of 1965 resulted in the country's official name being changed to the "Democratic Republic of the Congo." In 1971 it was changed again to the "Republic of Zaïre".[citation needed]

The new president had the support of the United States because of his staunch opposition to Communism, believing that his administration would serve as an effective counter to communist movements in Africa. A one-party system was established, and Mobutu declared himself head of state. He periodically held elections in which he was the only candidate. Although relative peace and stability were achieved, Mobutu's government was guilty of severe human rights violations, political repression, a cult of personality and corruption. (Mobutu demanded every Congolese banknote be printed with his image, hanging of his portrait in all public buildings, most businesses, and on billboards. It was common for ordinary people to wear his likeness on their clothing.)[citation needed]

Corruption became so prevalent the term "le mal Zairois" or "Zaïrean Sickness", meaning gross corruption, theft and mismanagement, was coined, reportedly by Mobutu himself. By 1984, Mobutu was said to have $4 billion (USD), an amount close to the country's national debt, deposited in a personal Swiss bank account. International aid, most often in the form of loans, enriched Mobutu while he allowed national infrastructure such as roads to deteriorate to as little as one-quarter of what had existed in 1960. Zaïre became a "kleptocracy" as Mobutu and his associates embezzled government funds.

In a campaign to identify himself with African nationalism, starting on 1 June 1966, Mobutu renamed the nation's cities: Léopoldville became Kinshasa [the country was now Democratic Republic of The Congo – Kinshasa], Stanleyville became Kisangani, Elisabethville became Lubumbashi, and Coquihatville became Mbandaka. This renaming campaign was completed in the 1970s.

In 1971, Mobutu renamed the country the Republic of Zaïre, its fourth name change in 11 years and its sixth overall. The Congo River was renamed the Zaïre River. In 1972, Mobutu changed his own legal name from Joseph-Désiré Mobutu to Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (translated as "the all powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, shall go from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake"), although he only ever used the first three of his new names. Furthermore, he decreed that Christian names had to be Africanized and prohibited the wearing of Western-style clothing by anyone in his country.[citation needed]

During the 1970s and 1980s, he was invited to visit the United States on several occasions, meeting with U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. In June 1989, Mobutu was the first African head of state invited for a state visit with newly elected President George H.W. Bush. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, however, U.S. relations with Mobutu cooled, as he was no longer deemed necessary as a Cold War ally. Opponents within Zaïre stepped up demands for reform. This atmosphere contributed to Mobutu's declaring the Third Republic in 1990, whose constitution was supposed to pave the way for democratic reform. The reforms turned out to be largely cosmetic. Mobutu continued in power until the conflict forced him to flee Zaire in 1997. Thereafter, the nation chose to reclaim its name of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, since the name Zaïre carried strong connections to the rule of Mobutu.[citation needed]

By 1996, following the Rwandan Civil War and genocide and the ascension of a Tutsi-led government, Rwandan Hutu militia forces (Interahamwe) fled to eastern Zaïre and used refugee camps as a base for incursion against Rwanda. They allied with the Zairian armed forces (FAZ) to launch a campaign against Congolese ethnic Tutsis in eastern Zaïre. A coalition of Rwandan and Ugandan armies invaded Zaïre to overthrow the government of Mobutu, and ultimately control the mineral resources of Zaïre, launching the First Congo War. The coalition allied with some opposition figures, led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila, becoming the Alliance des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo-Zaïre (AFDL). In 1997, Mobutu fled and Kabila marched into Kinshasa, naming himself president and reverting the name of the country to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Kabila later requested that foreign military forces return to their countries because he was concerned that the Rwandan officers running his army were plotting a coup in order to give the presidency to a Tutsi who would report directly to the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame. Rwandan troops retreated to Goma and launched a new Tutsi led rebel military movement called the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie (RCD) to fight against Kabila, while Uganda instigated the creation of new rebel movement called the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), led by the Congolese warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba. The two rebel movements, along with Rwandan and Ugandan troops, started the Second Congo War by attacking the DRC army in 1998. Angolan, Zimbabwean and Namibian militaries entered on the side of the government.

Kabila was assassinated in 2001 and was succeeded by his son Joseph Kabila, who called for multilateral peace talks. UN peacekeepers, MONUC, now known as MONUSCO, arrived in April 2001. Talks led to the signing of a peace accord in which Kabila would share power with former rebels. By June 2003 all foreign armies except those of Rwanda had pulled out of Congo. A transitional government was set up until the election was over. A constitution was approved by voters, and on 30 July 2006 DRC held its first multi-party elections. An election result dispute between Kabila and Jean-Pierre Bemba turned into an all-out battle between their supporters in the streets of Kinshasa. MONUC took control of the city. A new election was held in October 2006, which Kabila won and on December 2006 he was sworn in as President.

However, Laurent Nkunda, a member of a RCD branch integrated to the army, RCD-Goma, defected along with troops loyal to him and formed the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), which began an armed rebellion against the government, starting the Kivu conflict. They were believed to be again backed by Rwanda as a way to tackle the Hutu group, Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). In March 2009, after a deal between the DRC and Rwanda, Rwandan troops entered the DRC and arrested Nkunda and were allowed to pursue FDLR militants. The CNDP signed a peace treaty with the government, in which it agreed to become a political party and its soldiers integrated into the national army in exchange for the release of its imprisoned members. In 2012, the leader of the CNDP, Bosco Ntaganda, and troops loyal to him, mutinied and formed the rebel military March 23 Movement, claiming a violation of the treaty by the government. In the resulting M23 rebellion, M23 briefly captured the provincial capital of Goma in November 2012. Neighboring countries, particularly Rwanda, have been accused of using rebels groups as proxies to gain control of the resource rich country and of arming rebels, a claim they deny. In March 2013, the United Nations Security Council authorized the United Nations Force Intervention Brigade, the first offensive United Nations peacekeeping unit, to neutralize armed groups. On November 5, 2013, M23 declared an end to its insurgency.

Additionally, in northern Katanga, the Mai-Mai created by Laurent Kabila slipped out of the control of Kinshasa with Gédéon Kyungu Mutanga's Mai Mai Kata Katanga briefly invading the provincial capital of Lubumbashi in 2013 and 400,000 persons displaced in the province as of 2013. On and off fighting in the Ituri conflict occurred between the Nationalist and Integrationist Front (FNI) and the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) who claimed to represent the Lendu and Hema ethnic groups, respectively. In the northeast, Joseph Kony's LRA moved from their original bases in Uganda and South Sudan to DR Congo in 2005 and set up camps in the Garamba National Park.

In 2009, people in the Congo may still be dying at a rate of an estimated 45,000 per month, and estimates of the number who have died from the long conflict range from 900,000 to 5,400,000. The death toll is due to widespread disease and famine; reports indicate that almost half of the individuals who have died are children under five years of age. There have been frequent reports of weapon bearers killing civilians, destroying property, widespread sexual violence, causing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes or otherwise breaching humanitarian and human rights law. A new study says more than 400,000 women are raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo every year.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is located in central sub-Saharan Africa, bounded by (clockwise from the southwest) Angola, the South Atlantic Ocean, the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania across Lake Tanganyika, and Zambia. The country lies between latitudes 6°N and 14°S, and longitudes 12° and 32°E. It straddles the Equator, with one-third to the North and two-thirds to the South. The size of Congo, 2,345,408 square kilometres (905,567 sq mi), is slightly greater than the combined areas of Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, and Norway.

As a result of its equatorial location, the DRC experiences high precipitation and has the highest frequency of thunderstorms in the world. The annual rainfall can total upwards of 2,000 millimetres (80 in) in some places, and the area sustains the Congo Rainforest, the second largest rain forest in the world (after the Amazon). This massive expanse of lush jungle covers most of the vast, low-lying central basin of the river, which slopes toward the Atlantic Ocean in the west. This area is surrounded by plateaus merging into savannas in the south and southwest, by mountainous terraces in the west, and dense grasslands extending beyond the Congo River in the north. High, glaciated mountains are found in the extreme eastern region (Rwenzori Mountains).[citation needed]

The tropical climate has also produced the Congo River system which dominates the region topographically along with the rainforest it flows through, though they are not mutually exclusive. The name for the Congo state is derived in part from the river. The river basin (meaning the Congo River and all of its myriad tributaries) occupies nearly the entire country and an area of nearly 1,000,000 km2 (390,000 sq mi). The river and its tributaries (major offshoots include the Kasai, Sangha, Ubangi, Aruwimi, and Lulonga) form the backbone of Congolese economics and transportation.

The sources of the Congo are in the Albertine Rift Mountains that flank the western branch of the East African Rift, as well as Lake Tanganyika and Lake Mweru. The river flows generally west from Kisangani just below Boyoma Falls, then gradually bends southwest, passing by Mbandaka, joining with the Ubangi River, and running into the Pool Malebo (Stanley Pool). Kinshasa and Brazzaville are on opposite sides of the river at the Pool (see NASA image). Then the river narrows and falls through a number of cataracts in deep canyons (collectively known as the Livingstone Falls), and then running past Boma into the Atlantic Ocean. The river also has the second-largest flow and the second-largest watershed of any river in the world (trailing the Amazon in both respects). The river and a 37 km wide strip of coastline on its north bank provide the country's only outlet to the Atlantic.[citation needed]

The previously mentioned Albertine Rift plays a key role in shaping the Congo's geography. Not only is the northeastern section of the country much more mountainous, but due to the rift's tectonic activities, this area also experiences volcanic activity, occasionally with loss of life. The geologic activity in this area also created the famous African Great Lakes, three of which lie on the Congo's eastern frontier: Lake Albert (known during the Mobutu era as Lake Mobutu Sese Seko), Lake Edward (known during the Amin era as Lake Idi Amin Dada), and Lake Tanganyika. Lake Edward and Lake Albert are connected by the Semliki River.[citation needed]

The Rift valley has exposed an enormous amount of mineral wealth throughout the south and east of the Congo, making it accessible to mining. Cobalt, copper, cadmium, industrial and gem-quality diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, germanium, uranium, radium, bauxite, iron ore, and coal are all found in plentiful supply, especially in the Congo's southeastern Katanga region.[citation needed]

On 17 January 2002 Mount Nyiragongo erupted in Congo, with the lava running out at 64 km/h (40 mph) and 46 m (50 yards) wide. One of the three streams of extremely fluid lava flowed through the nearby city of Goma, killing 45 and leaving 120,000 homeless. Four hundred thousand people were evacuated from the city during the eruption. The lava poisoned the water of Lake Kivu, killing fish. Only two planes left the local airport because of the possibility of the explosion of stored petrol. The lava passed the airport but ruined the runway, entrapping several airplanes. Six months after the 2002 eruption, nearby Mount Nyamulagira also erupted. Mount Nyamulagira also erupted in 2006 and again in January 2010.[citation needed]

World Wide Fund for Nature ecoregions located in the Congo include:

World Heritage Sites located in Democratic Republic of Congo are: Virunga National Park (1979), Garamba National Park (1980), Kahuzi-Biega National Park (1980), Salonga National Park (1984) and Okapi Wildlife Reserve (1996).

The country is divided into ten provinces and one city-province. The provinces are subdivided into districts which are divided into territories.

The rainforests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo contain great biodiversity, including many rare and endemic species, such as the common chimpanzee and the bonobo, the African forest elephant, mountain gorilla, okapi and white rhino. Five of the country's national parks are listed as World Heritage Sites: the Garumba, Kahuzi-Biega, Salonga and Virunga National Parks, and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the most biodiverse African country. The civil war and resultant poor economic conditions have endangered much of this biodiversity. Many park wardens were either killed or could not afford to continue their work. All five sites are listed by UNESCO as World Heritage in Danger. Over the past century or so, the DRC has developed into the center of what has been called the Central African "bushmeat" problem, which is regarded by many as a major environmental as well as socio-economic crisis. "Bushmeat" is another word for the meat of wild animals. It is typically obtained through trapping, usually with wire snares, or otherwise with shotguns, poisoned arrows or arms originally intended for use in the DRC's numerous military conflicts.[citation needed]

Bas-Congo landscape

A male silverback gorilla

Hippopotamus

The African forest elephant

The "bushmeat crisis" has emerged in the DRC mainly as a result of the poor living conditions of the Congolese people and a lack of education about the dangers of eating it. A rising population combined with deplorable economic conditions has forced many Congolese to become dependent on bushmeat, either as a means of acquiring income (hunting the meat and selling), or are dependent on it for food. Unemployment and urbanization throughout Central Africa have exacerbated the problem further by turning cities like the urban sprawl of Kinshasa into the prime market for commercial bushmeat.[citation needed]

This combination has caused not only widespread endangerment of local fauna, but has forced humans to trudge deeper into the wilderness in search of the desired animal meat. This overhunting results in the deaths of more animals and makes resources even more scarce for humans. The hunting has also been facilitated by the extensive logging prevalent throughout the Congo's rainforests (from corporate logging, in addition to farmers clearing out forest for agriculture), which allows hunters much easier access to previously unreachable jungle terrain, while simultaneously eroding away at the habitats of animals.Deforestation is accelerating in Central Africa.

A case that has particularly alarmed conservationists is that of primates. The Congo is inhabited by three distinct great ape species  — the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), the bonobo (Pan paniscus) and the western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). It is the only country in the world in which bonobos are found in the wild. Much concern has been raised about great ape extinction. Because of hunting and habitat destruction, the chimpanzee and the gorilla, both of whose population once numbered in the millions, have now dwindled down to only about 200,000 gorillas, 100,000 chimpanzees and possibly only about 10,000 bonobos. Gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos are all classified as Endangered by the World Conservation Union, as well as the okapi, which is also native to the area geography.

After a four-year interlude between two constitutions, with new political institutions established at the various levels of government, as well as new administrative divisions for the provinces throughout the country, a new constitution came into effect in 2006 and politics in the Democratic Republic of the Congo finally settled into a stable presidential democratic republic. The 2003 transitional constitution had established a parliament with a bicameral legislature, consisting of a Senate and a National Assembly. The Senate had, among other things, the charge of drafting the new constitution of the country. The executive branch was vested in a 60-member cabinet, headed by a President and four vice presidents. The President was also the Commander-in Chief of the armed forces. The transitional constitution also established a relatively independent judiciary, headed by a Supreme Court with constitutional interpretation powers.[citation needed]

The 2006 constitution, also known as the Constitution of the Third Republic, came into effect in February 2006. It had concurrent authority, however, with the transitional constitution until the inauguration of the elected officials who emerged from the July 2006 elections. Under the new constitution, the legislature remained bicameral; the executive was concomitantly undertaken by a President and the government, led by a Prime Minister, appointed from the party able to secure a majority in the National Assembly. The government – not the President – is responsible to the Parliament. The new constitution also granted new powers to the provincial governments, creating provincial parliaments which have oversight of the Governor and the head of the provincial government, whom they elect. The new constitution also saw the disappearance of the Supreme Court, which was divided into three new institutions. The constitutional interpretation prerogative of the Supreme Court is now held by the Constitutional Court.[citation needed]

Mobutu Sese Seko ruled the DRC, which he renamed Zaïre, from 1965 to 1997. A relative explained how the government illicitly collected revenue: "Mobutu would ask one of us to go to the bank and take out a million. We'd go to an intermediary and tell him to get five million. He would go to the bank with Mobutu's authority, and take out ten. Mobutu got one, and we took the other nine." Mobutu institutionalized corruption to prevent political rivals from challenging his control, leading to an economic collapse in 1996. Mobutu allegedly stole as much as US$4 to US$5 billion while in office; in July 2009, a Swiss court determined that the statute of limitations had run out on an international asset recovery case of about $6.7 million of deposits of Mobutu's in a Swiss bank, and therefore the assets should be returned to Mobutu's family.

President Joseph Kabila established the Commission of Repression of Economic Crimes upon his ascension to power in 2001.

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 2006 expressed concern that in the post-war transition period, the promotion of women's human rights and gender equality is not seen as a priority. The east of the country in particular, has been described as the "rape capital of the world" and the prevalence of sexual violence has been described as the worst in the world. Violence against women seems to be perceived by large sectors of society to be normal. In July 2007, the International Committee of the Red Cross expressed concern about the situation in eastern DRC. A phenomenon of 'pendulum displacement' has developed, where people hasten at night to safety. According to Yakin Ertürk, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women who toured eastern Congo in July 2007, violence against women in North and South Kivu included 'unimaginable brutality'. "Armed groups attack local communities, loot, rape, kidnap women and children, and make them work as sexual slaves", Ertürk added. In December 2008 GuardianFilms of The Guardian released a film documenting the testimony of over 400 women and girls who had been abused by marauding militia.

In June 2010, UK aid group Oxfam reported a dramatic increase in the number of rapes occurring in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while researchers from Harvard discovered that rapes committed by civilians had increased seventeenfold.

In 2003, Sinafasi Makelo, a representative of Mbuti pygmies, told the UN's Indigenous People's Forum that during the war, his people were hunted down and eaten as though they were game animals. In neighbouring North Kivu province there has been cannibalism by a group known as Les Effaceurs ("the erasers") who wanted to clear the land of people to open it up for mineral exploitation. Both sides of the war regarded them as "subhuman" and some say their flesh can confer magical powers.

The global growth in demand for scarce raw materials and the industrial surges in China, India, Russia, Brazil and other developing countries require that developed countries employ new, integrated and responsive strategies for identifying and ensuring, on a continual basis, an adequate supply of strategic and critical materials required for their security needs. Highlighting the DR Congo's importance to United States national security, the effort to establish an elite Congolese unit is the latest push by the U.S. to professionalize armed forces in this strategically important region.[citation needed]

There are economic and strategic incentives to bringing more security to the Congo, which is rich in natural resources such as cobalt. Cobalt is a strategic and critical metal used in many diverse industrial and military applications. The largest use of cobalt is in superalloys, which are used to make jet engine parts. Cobalt is also used in magnetic alloys and in cutting and wear-resistant materials such as cemented carbides. The chemical industry consumes significant quantities of cobalt in a variety of applications including catalysts for petroleum and chemical processing; drying agents for paints and inks; ground coats for porcelain enamels; decolourisers for ceramics and glass; and pigments for ceramics, paints, and plastics. The country contains 80% of the world's cobalt reserves.

The Central Bank of the Congo is responsible for developing and maintaining the Congolese franc, which serves as the primary form of currency in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2007, The World Bank decided to grant the Democratic Republic of Congo up to $1.3 billion in assistance funds over the next three years. Kinshasa is currently negotiating membership of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA).

The Democratic Republic of Congo is widely considered to be the richest country in the world regarding natural resources; its untapped deposits of raw minerals are estimated to be worth in excess of US$ 24 trillion. The Congo has 70% of the world's coltan, a third of its cobalt, more than 30% of its diamond reserves, and a tenth of its copper. Despite such vast mineral wealth, the economy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has declined drastically since the mid-1980s. The African country generated up to 70% of its export revenue from minerals in the 1970s and 1980s, and was particularly hit when resource prices deteriorated at that time. By 2005, 90% of the DRC's revenues derived from its minerals (Exenberger and Hartmann 2007:10). The country's woes mean that, despite its potential, its citizens are among the poorest people on earth, the Congolese being consistently assigned the lowest, or near lowest, nominal GDP per capita in the world. The DRC is also one of the twenty lowest ranked countries on the Corruption Perception Index.

The Congo is the world's largest producer of cobalt ore, and a major producer of copper and diamonds, the latter coming from the Kasai province in the West. By far the largest mines in the Congo are located in the Katanga (formerly Shaba) province in the south, and are highly mechanized, with a maximum capacity of several millions of tons per year of copper and cobalt ore, and with the capability of refining it into metal. In terms of annual carats produced, the DRC is the second largest diamond-producing nation in the world, with artisanal and small-scale miners accounting for most production.

At the time of its independence in 1960, DRC was the second most industrialized country in Africa after South Africa, it boasted a thriving mining sector and its agriculture sector was relatively productive. The two recent conflicts (the First and Second Congo Wars), which began in 1996, have dramatically reduced national output and government revenue, have increased external debt, and have resulted in deaths of more than five million people from war, and associated famine and disease. Malnutrition affects approximately two thirds of the country's population.[citation needed]

Foreign businesses have curtailed operations due to uncertainty about the outcome of the conflict, lack of infrastructure, and the difficult operating environment. The war has intensified the impact of such basic problems as an uncertain legal framework, corruption, inflation, and lack of openness in government economic policy and financial operations.

Conditions improved in late 2002 with the withdrawal of a large portion of the invading foreign troops. A number of International Monetary Fund and World Bank missions have met with the government to help it develop a coherent economic plan, and President Joseph Kabila has begun implementing reforms. Much economic activity lies outside the GDP data. A United Nations Human Development Index report shows human development to be one of the worst in decades. Through 2011 the Democratic Republic of the Congo had the lowest Human Development Index of the 187 ranked countries, classified lower than Niger despite a higher margin of improvement than the latter country from 2010's numbers.[citation needed]

The economy of the second largest country in Africa relies heavily on mining. However, the smaller-scale economic activity occurs in the informal sector and is not reflected in GDP data.A third of the DRC's diamonds are believed to be smuggled, making quantifying production very difficult. In 2002, tin was discovered in the east of the country, but, to date, mining has been on a small scale. Smuggling of the conflict minerals, coltan and cassiterite (ores of tantalum and tin, respectively), has helped fuel the war in the Eastern Congo.

In September 2004 the state-owned Gécamines, signed an agreement with Global Enterprises Corporate (GEC), a company formed by the merging of Dan Gertler International in partnership with Beny Steinmetz Global, to rehabilitate and operate the Kananga and Tilwezembe copper mines. The deal was ratified by presidential decree. In 2007 a World Bank report reviewed The Democratic Republic of Congo's three biggest mining contracts finding that the 2005 deals including one with Global Enterprises Company, a company co-owned by Dan Getler, were approved with "a complete lack of transparency" (Mahtani, 3 January 2007). Gertler and Steinmetz placed Global Enterprises Corporate (GEC)'S 75% share in KOV into Nikanor Plc registered in the Isle of Man, which reached a market capitalization of $1.5 billion by 2007. In February 2007, 22% of the Nikanor Mining company was owned by the Gertner Family Trust and 14% by Dan Gertler. In January 2008 Katanga Mining acquired Nikanor PLC for $452m.

In April 2006 Gertler's DGI took a major stake in DEM Mining. a cobalt-copper mining and services company based in Katanga. In June 2006 Gertler bought Tremalt, which had a half share in the Mukondo Mine for about $60m from the Zimbabwean businessman John Bredenkamp. In 2007 Tremalt was owned by Prairie International Ltd, of which Dan Gertler's family trust was a major shareholder. Tremalt owned 80% of Savannah Mining, which held concessions C17 and C18 in Katanga Province and 50% of the Mukondo project. The other 50% of Mukonda was held by Boss Mining, which in turn was 80% owned by Central African Mining & Exploration Company (CAMEC). Boss Mining had rented and operated Bredenkamp's half of Mukondo. Gertler terminated this arrangement.

Katanga Mining Limited, a Swiss-owned company, owns the Luilu Metallurgical Plant, which has a capacity of 175,000 tonnes of copper and 8,000 tonnes of cobalt per year, making it the largest cobalt refinery in the world. After a major rehabilitation program, the company restarted copper production in December 2007 and cobalt production in May 2008.

In April 2013, anti-corruption NGOs revealed that tax authorities in the country had failed to account for $88 million from the mining sector, despite booming production figures and positive industrial performance. The missing funds date from 2010 and tax bodies should have reportedly paid them into the central bank.

Ground transport in the Democratic Republic of Congo has always been difficult. The terrain and climate of the Congo Basin present serious barriers to road and rail construction, and the distances are enormous across this vast country. Chronic economic mismanagement and internal conflicts have led to long-term under-investment. The Democratic Republic of Congo has thousands of kilometres of navigable waterways, and traditionally water transport has been the dominant means of moving around approximately two-thirds of the country. All air carriers certified by the DRC have been banned from European Union airports by the European Commission, due to inadequate safety standards.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there are both coal and crude oil resources that were mainly used domestically in 2008. The Democratic Republic of Congo has infrastructure for hydro-electricity from the Congo River at the Inga dams. The Democratic Republic of Congo also possesses 50% of Africa's forests and a river system that could provide hydro-electric power to the entire continent, according to a UN report on the country's strategic significance and its potential role as an economic power in central Africa.

In 2001 the literacy rate was estimated to be 67.2% (80.9% male and 54.1% female). The education system in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is governed by three government ministries: the Ministère de l'Enseignement Primaire, Secondaire et Professionnel (MEPSP), the Ministère de l'Enseignement Supérieur et Universitaire (MESU) and the Ministère des Affaires Sociales (MAS). The educational system in the DRC is similar to that of Belgium. In 2002, there were over 19,000 primary schools serving 160,000 students; and 8,000 secondary schools serving 110,000 students. Primary education in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is not free and compulsory, even though the Congolese constitution says it should be (Article 43 of the 2005 Congolese Constitution).

Gross enrollment ratios are based on the number of students formally registered in primary school and therefore do not necessarily reflect actual school attendance. In 2000, 65% of children ages 10 to 14 years were attending school. As a result of the 6-year civil war, over 5.2 million children in the country receive no education.

The Hospitals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo include the General Hospital of Kinshasa. DRC has the world's second-highest rate of infant mortality (after Chad). In April 2011, through aid from Global Alliance for Vaccines, a new vaccine to prevent pneumococcal disease was introduced around Kinshasa.

The Congolese National Police (PNC) are the primary police force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Over 200 ethnic groups populate the Democratic Republic of the Congo, of which the majority are Bantu peoples. Together, Mongo, Luba and Kongo peoples (Bantu) and Mangbetu-Azande peoples constitute around 45% of the population.

In 2009, the United Nations estimated the country's population to be 66 million people, a rapid increase from 39.1 million in 1992 despite the ongoing war. As many as 250 ethnic groups have been identified and named. The most numerous people are the Kongo, Luba, and Mongo. About 600,000 Pygmies are the aboriginal people of the DR Congo. Although several hundred local languages and dialects are spoken, the linguistic variety is bridged both by widespread use of French and intermediary languages such as Kongo, Tshiluba, Swahili, and Lingala.

Given the situation in the country and the condition of state structures, it is extremely difficult to obtain reliable data. However, evidence suggests that DRC continues to be a destination country for immigrants in spite of recent declines. Immigration is seen to be very diverse in nature, with refugees and asylum-seekers – products of the numerous and violent conflicts in the Great Lakes Region – constituting an important subset of the population in the country. Additionally, the country's large mine operations attract migrant workers from Africa and beyond and there is considerable migration for commercial activities from other African countries and the rest of the world, but these movements are not well studied. Transit migration towards South Africa and Europe also plays a role. Immigration in the DRC has decreased steadily over the past two decades, most likely as a result of the armed violence that the country has experienced. According to the International Organization for Migration, the number of immigrants in the DRC has declined from just over 1 million in 1960, to 754,000 in 1990, to 480,000 in 2005, to an estimated 445,000 in 2010. Official figures are unavailable on migrant workers, partly due to the predominance of the informal economy in the DRC. Data are also lacking on irregular immigrants, however given neighbouring country ethnic links to nationals of the DRC, irregular migration is assumed to be a significant phenomenon in the country.

Figures on the number of Congolese nationals abroad vary greatly depending on the source, from 3 to 6 million. This discrepancy is due to a lack of official, reliable data. Emigrants from the DRC are above all long-term emigrants, the majority of which live within Africa and to a lesser extent in Europe; 79.7% and 15.3% respectively, according to estimates on 2000 data. New destination countries include South Africa and various points en route to Europe. The DRC has produced a considerable number of refugees and asylum-seekers located in the region and beyond. These numbers peaked in 2004 when, according to UNHCR, there were more than 460,000 refugees from the DRC; in 2008, Congolese refugees numbered 367,995 in total, 68% of which were living in other African countries.

Since 2003, more than 400,000 Congolese migrants have been expelled from Angola.

Christianity is the majority religion in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, followed by about 95% of the population according to Pew Research Center, and 80% according to CIA World Factbook. Indigenous beliefs accounts for about 1.8-10%, and Islam for 1.5-10%.

Of a population of 75 million, there are about 35 million Catholics in the country, representing nearly half of the total population. There are six archdioceses and 41 dioceses. The impact of the Roman Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo is difficult to overestimate. Schatzberg has called it the country's "only truly national institution apart from the state." Its schools have educated over 60% of the nation's primary school students and more than 40% of its secondary students. The church owns and manages an extensive network of hospitals, schools, and clinics, as well as many diocesan economic enterprises, including farms, ranches, stores, and artisans' shops.[citation needed]

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 has about three million members, primarily among the Bakongo of Bas-Congo and Kinshasa.

Sixty-two of the Protestant denominations in the country are federated under the umbrella of the Church of Christ in Congo or CCC (in French, Église du Christ au Congo or ECC). It is often simply referred to as 'The Protestant Church', since it covers most of the 35% of the population who are Protestants.[citation needed]

According to the Pew Forum, Islam is the faith of 1.5% of the population. According to the CIA World Factbook, Muslims make up 10% of the population. Islam was introduced and mainly spread by traders/merchants. Congolose Muslims are divided into Sunnis, Shias, Ahmadis, Sufis, and non-denominational Muslims

The first members of the Baha'i Faith to live in the country came from Uganda in 1953. Four years later the first local administrative council was elected. In 1970 the National Spiritual Assembly (national administrative council) was first elected. Though the religion was banned in the 1970s and 1980s, due to misrepresentations of foreign governments, the ban was lifted by the end of the 1980s. In 2012 plans were announced to build a national Baha'i House of Worship in the country.

Traditional religions embody such concepts as monotheism, animism, vitalism, spirit and ancestor worship, witchcraft, and sorcery and vary widely among ethnic groups. The syncretic sects often merge elements of Christianity with traditional beliefs and rituals and are not recognized by mainstream churches as part of Christianity. New variants of ancient beliefs have become widespread, lead by US inspired Pentecostal churches which have been in the forefront of witchcraft accusations particularly against children and the elderly[clarification needed]. Children accused of witchcraft are sent away from homes and family, often to live on the street. The usual term for these children is enfants sorciers (child witches) or enfants dits sorciers (children accused of witchcraft) and can lead to physical violence against these children[clarification needed]. Non-denominational church organizations have been formed to capitalize on this belief by charging exorbitant fees for exorcisms. Though recently outlawed, children have been subjected to often-violent abuse at the hands of self-proclaimed prophets and priests.

French is the official language of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is meant to be an ethnically neutral language, to ease communication among the many different ethnic groups of the Congo.

Approximately 242 languages are spoken in the country, but only four have the status of national languages: Kikongo (Kituba), Lingala, Tshiluba and Swahili. Although some people speak these regional, or trade languages, as first languages, most of the population speak them as a second language after their own tribal language. Primary education tends to be in the national Bantu language of the region, and secondary education, and beyond, tends to be in French. Lingala was made the official language of the colonial army, the "Force Publique" under Belgian colonial rule. But since the recent rebellions, a good part of the army in the East also uses Swahili where it is prevalent. When the country was a Belgian colony, it had already instituted teaching and use of the four national languages in primary schools, making it one of the few African nations to have had literacy in local languages during the European colonial period. During the colonial period both Dutch and French were the official languages but French was by far the most important. About 24,320,000 people of DRC speak French either as a first or second language.[citation needed]

The culture of the Democratic Republic of the Congo reflects the diversity of its hundreds of ethnic groups and their differing ways of life throughout the country  — from the mouth of the River Congo on the coast, upriver through the rainforest and savanna in its centre, to the more densely populated mountains in the far east. Since the late 19th century, traditional ways of life have undergone changes brought about by colonialism, the struggle for independence, the stagnation of the Mobutu era, and most recently, the First and Second Congo Wars. Despite these pressures, the customs and cultures of the Congo have retained much of their individuality. The country's 60 million inhabitants are mainly rural. The 30% who live in urban areas have been the most open to Western influences.

Another notable feature in Congo culture is its sui generis music. The DROC has blended its ethnic musical sources with Cuban rumba, and merengue to give birth to soukous. Other African nations produce music genres that are derived from Congolese soukous. Some of the African bands sing in Lingala, one of the main languages in the DRC. The same Congolese soukous, under the guidance of "le sapeur", Papa Wemba, has set the tone for a generation of young men always dressed up in expensive designers' clothes', they became to be known as the 4th generation of the Congolese music and they mostly come from the former well known band Wenge Musica. The Congo is also known for its art. Traditional art includes masks and wooden statues.

Many sports are played in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including football and rugby. The sports are played in numerous stadiums throughout the country, including the Stade Frederic Kibassa Maliba.

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  • WDPA ID4328
  • NameKahuzi-Biega National Park
  • Original NameParc national de Kahuzi-Biega
  • Country / TerritoryCOD
  • Sub locationNot Reported
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  • English DesignationWorld Heritage Site
  • Designation TypeInternational
  • StatusInscribed
  • Status Year1980
  • Reported Area km26000.0
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