Skip to main content

On This Day
Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 March, 2003, 12:21 GMT
Country profile: Democratic Republic of Congo
A vast country with immense economic resources, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) has been at the centre of what could be termed Africa's world war.

But a peace deal signed in December 2002 appeared to signal the end of the four-year conflict, which pitted government forces, supported by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, against rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda.



Rights organisations estimate that 2.5 million people have been killed, either as a direct result of fighting or because of disease and malnutrition. It has been called possibly the worst emergency to unfold in Africa in recent decades.

The war has had an economic as well as a political side. Fighting was fuelled by the country's vast mineral wealth, with all sides taking advantage of the anarchy to plunder its natural resources.

The history of DR Congo has been one of civil war and corruption. After independence in 1960, the country immediately faced an army mutiny and an attempt at secession by its mineral-rich province of Katanga.

A year later, its prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, was seized and killed by troops loyal to army chief Joseph Mobutu.

In 1965 Mobutu seized power, later renaming the country Zaire and himself Mobutu Sese Seko. He turned Zaire into a springboard for operations against Soviet-backed Angola and thereby ensured US backing. But he also made Zaire synonymous with corruption.

After the Cold War, Zaire ceased to be of interest to the US. Thus, when in 1997 neighbouring Rwanda invaded it to flush out extremist Hutu militias, it gave a boost to the anti-Mobutu rebels, who quickly captured the capital, Kinshasa, installed Laurent Kabila as president and renamed the country DR Congo.

Nonetheless, DR Congo's troubles continued. A rift between Kabila and his former allies sparked a new rebellion, backed by Rwanda and Uganda. Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe took Kabila's side, turning the country into a vast battleground. The government has no control over large parts of the country.



Population: 52 million
Capital: Kinshasa
Major languages: French, Lingala, Kiswahili, Kikongo, Tshiluba
Major religions: Christianity, Islam
Life expectancy: 47 years (men), 51 years (women)
Monetary unit: 1 Congolese franc = 100 centimes
Main exports: Diamonds, copper, coffee, cobalt, crude oil
Average annual income: US $100
Internet domain: .cd
International dialling code: +243



President: Joseph Kabila

Joseph Kabila was barely 30 and a political novice when he became president in January 2001 following the murder of his father, Laurent.

DR Congo President Joseph Kabila
Joseph Kabila: reportedly lacks his father's charisma
Within days of coming to power, Kabila surprised diplomats and observers by declaring that he wanted to seek a peaceful end to his country's civil war.

For many Congolese the young Kabila was an unknown quantity. Unlike his father, he was perceived to be shy, unassuming and quietly-spoken.

Joseph Kabila fought in his father's rebel army during the military campaign that brought him to power. He went on to serve in the army as major-general and chief of staff, and headed the government forces in the fight against former rebel allies.

Joseph Kabila is the eldest of 10 children fathered by Laurent Kabila. He spent much of his early life in East Africa, where his dissident father lived in exile. He received military training in Rwanda and Uganda.

Rebels and opposition:

DR Congo's largest rebel groups are the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) and the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC). The RCD received backing from Rwanda while Uganda supported the MLC.

Under a peace deal signed in December 2002, both groups will each have one vice president, along with the political opposition and supporters of President Kabila.

There are many other rebel groups, usually ethnically-linked and with fluid political allegiances.

A government ruling in May 2001 allowed conventional political parties to operate, as long as they informed the government in writing that they intended to do so.



The press has been able to criticise government bodies, and some publications serve as mouthpieces for opposition parties, despite the fact that these were suspended shortly after Laurent Kabila became president in 1997.

About 15 newspapers appear regularly in the capital, Kinshasa, and even more are published sporadically.

In addition, there are eight television channels and about 10 radio stations, five of which broadcast news.

Church radio networks are growing, but the state-controlled broadcasting network reaches the largest numbers of citizens.

The UN Mission in DRCongo (MONUC) and a Swiss-based organisation, Fondation Hirondelle, launched Radio Okapi in early 2002. The network's mostly-Congolese staff broadcast news, music and information about MONUC activities. Radio Okapi aims to become the only media outlet with national coverage and to enable dialogue across the political divides.

A government ban on the rebroadcasting of foreign radio stations was lifted in 2001. The BBC and Voice of America can be heard in Kinshasa via Raga FM. Kinshasa listeners can also listen to Radio France Internationale's broadcasts from neighbouring Brazzaville.

The press

  • L'Analyste - daily
  • Boyoma - daily
  • Elima - evening daily
  • Mjumbe - daily
  • L'Palmares
  • Le Potentiel
  • La Reference
  • Le Soft


  • Radio-Television Nationale Congolaise (RTNC) - state-controlled terrestrial and satellite TV
  • Television Congolaise - government commercial station run by RTNC
  • Antenne A - private commercial channel
  • Canal Z - commercial channel
  • Canal Kin 1 - private channel
  • Canal Kin 2 - private channel
  • Radiotelevision Kin Malebo (RTKM)- private channel


  • La Voix du Congo - state-controlled, operated by RTNC, broadcasting in French, Swahili, Lingala, Tshiluba and Kikongo
  • Radio Okapi - UN-backed politically-independent network
  • Raga FM - privately-run network
  • Elikya - Catholic station

    News agencies

  • Agence Congolaise de Presse (ACP) - state-controlled
  • Documentation et Informations Africaines (DIA) - Roman Catholic news agency


    1960: Independence
    Belgian King Baudouin confers independence on Congo republic

    1960: Patrice Lumumba
    DR Congo's first prime minister recalls the struggle for independence from Belgium

    1960: Lumumba
    Deposed prime minister denounces coup leader Mobutu

    1997: Mobutu's last stand
    Zairean president vows to sit out rebel onslaught

    1997: Laurent Kabila
    Rebel leader calls on Mobutu to step down

    2001: Joseph Kabila
    New president pays tribute to his assassinated father

    2001: Joseph Kabila
    says ending the civil war is more important than his political future

    Compiled by BBC Monitoring

    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

    E-mail services | Desktop ticker | News on mobiles/PDAs

    Back to top ^^

    News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
    UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
    Have Your Say | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
    BBCi Homepage >> | BBC Sport >> | BBC Weather >> | BBC World Service >>
    Help | Feedback | News sources | Privacy
    bannerwatch listen bbc sport AmericasAfricaEuropeMiddle EastSouth AsiaAsia Pacific