Follow TV Tropes


Useful Notes / Democratic Republic of the Congo

Go To

A huge country located right in the middle of Africa, the DR Congo is the second largest country in Africa and has the most natural resources. The Congo River is home to a vast ecosystem of fish. The Kivu region has diamonds. Katanga is home to large supplies of copper and provided the uranium for the bombs dropped in Japan. The troubled eastern region has gold and metals used in electronics. It is home to several unique species including the okapi and bonobo. It has the second largest rain forest in the world.

Originally the Congo Free State, the area now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo has essentially gone From Bad to Worse. In precolonial times, it was the site of three kingdoms: The Kongo Kingdom, the Luba Kingdom, and the Lunda Kingdom, which were civilized societies and had an established rule of law. All of this flew out the window when Europeans came along. The Kongo Kingdom fell to the Portuguese slave trade and the Luba and Lunda kingdoms collapsed due to Zanzibar slave traders. Henry Morton Stanley's expedition to Africa to find Dr. Livingston only made matters worse. News of the source of the Congo River and the riches of Africa caught the attention of King Leopold II of Belgium. He hired Stanley to carve out a piece of the African Cake for Belgium. This began the Scramble for Africa. When the Berlin Conference was held, Leopold successfully acquired the entire country for himself. Not for Belgium, for himself. He owned and ruled the entire area without oversight or accountability and started one of the cruellest and most atrocity-filled European regimes in Africa. Not only that, he did it by inventing a front company called the International African Association, which was supposedly an altruistic venture - lest you think he was merely a man of his time who didn't know what was really going on, he actually talks candidly about the need for cruelty in his diaries, and deliberately burned much of his records before his death to cover up his crimes. Under the exploitative rule of King Leopold II, the local population were enslaved, mostly in the booming rubber market. If you failed to meet the quota, you had your right hand chopped off. Belgian actions in the Congo (including mass rapes, village massacres and the use of the severed hands as currency) created an international scandalnote . Things got so bad even the other colonialist powers (France, the UK, Germany, the USA, Belgium) thought the racism and colonialism was going too far. Leopold responded by waging one of the first modern press wars, including creating fictional accounts of Belgian education systems in the Congo, defaming eyewitnesses to Belgian atrocities and using the international press to denounce their stories as anti-Belgian propaganda. He even attempted to spin the photographic evidence of mounds of severed hands as "cancer treatment". The scandal forced Belgium to annex the Congo Free State as the Belgian Congo from Leopold in 1908. Leopold actually sold the Congo to his government, meaning that even as he lost direct control of the country, he still made an obscene profit from it. He died the following year as (in modern terms) a billionaire. He had never once set foot in the Congo.

While Belgian state control agreed to be better than Leopold, it was still very harsh—Belgian colonial officials were largely the same ones that had governed there under the king. While they did govern with a somewhat lighter hand and had a fair bit of success turning the Congo into a "model colony" with proper infrastructure and education, they were also probably the most blatant racists of all the various colonial powers short of the genocidal ones. They made a point of distinguishing between groups of their colonial subjects even when the distinctions did not previously exist or meant something else entirely (the worst example being the changes to the differentiation between Hutu and Tutsi in neighboring Rwanda, but this happened in the Congo, as well).

After gaining independence on June 30, 1960, the country soon started falling apart. Belgian troops in the province of Katanga encouraged a secession that threatened to tear the country apart. This became known as the Congo Crisis, where the country was split into four regions. The Congo Crisis led to the death of the beloved Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba. Lumumba was a socialist and Pan-Africanist, and firmly democratic. Lumumba begged the UN for help, but it was made clear to him that they were not going to help him put down the Belgian-backed and anti-communist Katangan rebels. After he agreed to a Soviet arms deal in desperation, it should come as little surprise that Lumumba's death came about after two unsuccessful assassination attempts by the CIA. His death was sponsored and requested by the Belgian and American governments. (The Soviets for their part named their "Peoples' Friendship University"—the university in Moscow catering to international students, particularly from the developing world—after him.note ) This conflict is infamous for being the one that killed Dag Hammarskjold, known as one of the best UN Secretary-Generals of all time, when his plane crashed in Zambia en route to negotiating a peace settlement. Conspiracy theories abound.

After the takeover by Joseph Mobutu, the country would remain intact and Mobutu would later take control of the country for life in 1965. He renamed the country Zaire in 1971 and began Africanizing everything—including himself, changing his name to Mobutu Sese Seko. The name change was supposedly part of the Africanization, despite "Congo" already being a perfectly African name in its own right (deriving from the above-mentioned Kongo Kingdom). During his rule, Zaire's economy went into the toilet due to his unparalleled corruption. He also paid Muhammad Ali and George Foreman $5 million each to host the Rumble in the Jungle in Kinshasa. Mobutu remained in power until 1997 when troops from Rwanda and Uganda backed rebel leader Laurent-Desire Kabila and overthrew him. The country was renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The First and Second Congo War took place during this time. Also known as the Great War of Africa, it was the second-bloodiest conflict since World War II with around four million deaths (mostly from disease and starvation). Kabila was killed in 2001 and succeeded by his son, Joseph Kabila. The conflict ended in 2002, but the country's eastern region still sees much bloodshed on a daily basis. In 2006, the country held their first elections since gaining independence.

The only time the Democratic Republic of the Congo is ever mentioned in Western media is when TV shows mention how infrequently the Democratic Republic of Congo is mentioned in Western media, which is to say it is commonly used as an example of Western indifference to African tragedies (without getting into any of the specifics of said tragedies). This gives it just enough exposure to be identified as a place that's not getting enough exposure.

Thus it forms the stereotypical image of African troubles with all its common tropes potholed in the preceding description.

If you've read this far and somehow still aren't convinced the DRC is a Crapsack World, try Googling descriptions of the civil war there, including war rape.

If you want to see the lighter side of the country, the DR Congo pioneered a genre of soul music called Soukous or African Rumba that spread throughout Africa in the 50s through the eighties, and even for a time found in London and Paris discos. It suffered from the war, but remains relatively popular in the DRC. More recently, the Congolese band Konono n°1 has gained worldwide popularity among indie music circles, creating and popularizing a genre sometimes known as "Congotronics", which is essentially traditional Congolese music played with homemade electronic instruments and amplification. It's about as trippy as you'd expect.

Not to be confused with the neighboring Republic of the Congo, which is located along the west side of the Congo River. To prevent confusion of the two nations, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is often called "Congo-Kinshasa", while the Republic of the Congo is "Congo-Brazzaville", after their capital cities.note  This dates back to when they were both named simply "Republic of the Congo", with the current Democratic Republic going by "Congo-Leopoldville" (based on Kinshasa's former name).

    Administrative divisions 
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is divided into twenty six provinces. Listed population is as of a 2015 estimate.
  • Bas-Uele
    Capital: Buta
    Population: 1,138,000 (26th)
The province hosts a half of the country's total chimpanzee population.
  • Équateur
    Capital: Mbandaka
    Population: 1,528,000 (24th)
  • Haut-Katanga
    Capital: Lubumbashi
    Population: 4,617,000 (6th)
Lubumbashi is the country's second-largest city and a mining center. Oscar Tshiebwe, the consensus NCAA Division I men's basketball player of the year in 2022 with the University of Kentucky, is a native of the city. Half of the world's cobalt production is in the Katanga region.
  • Haut-Lomami
    Capital: Kamina
    Population: 2,957,000 (11th)
  • Haut-Uele
    Capital: Isiro
    Population: 1,864,000 (20th)
Garamba National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located on the border with South Sudan, it is one of Africa's oldest parks and hosts a variety of wildlife, including the country's last remaining giraffe population.
  • Ituri
    Capital: Bunia
    Population: 3,650,000 (7th)
The Ituri Forest has the UNESCO-certified Okapi Wildlife Reserve, home to a quarter of the world's okapis.
  • Kasaï
    Capital: Luebo
    Population: 2,801,000 (12th)
  • Kasaï-Central
    Capital: Kananga
    Population: 3,317,000 (8th)
  • Kasaï-Oriental
    Capital: Mbuji-Mayi
    Population: 3,145,000 (9th)
  • Kinshasa
    Capital: Kinshasa
    Population: 11,575,000 (1st)
Formerly Léopoldville (after the infamous Leopold II of the Belgians, who ran the country as his personal fief), Kinshasa is the country's humongous capital and a fast-rising world metropolis, accounting for over 80% of the DR Congo's economy. According to a UN estimate, nearly 400,000 people immigrate to the city annually, swelling its population from 2.6 million during the 1980s (the last official census) to around 12 million during The New '10s and it's projected to rise further in the coming years. Fun fact: Kinshasa is the world's largest officially Francophone city. Yes, it dwarfs Paris, whose urban population is about two million less than Kinshasa. However, French is used mainly in government and education; most speak the Lingala vernacular as a day-to-day language. Former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo, now a member of the sport's Hall of Fame, is a native, and has also become noted for his humanitarian efforts in his homeland, most notably providing a large chunk of the funding for a modern hospital in the city.
  • Kongo Central
    Capital: Matadi
    Population: 5,575,000 (4th)
Contains the country's only coastline, a thin strip sandwiched between Angola's territory (Angola has an exclave, called Cabinda, separated from the rest of the country by the DR Congo's coastline). Muanda is the largest settlement, while Banana to its south is a small port town housing the country's navy.
  • Kwango
    Capital: Kenge
    Population: 2,152,000 (18th)
  • Kwilu
    Capital: Bandundu
    Population: 5,490,000 (5th)
  • Lomami
    Capital: Kabinda
    Population: 2,443,000 (15th)
  • Lualaba
    Capital: Kolwezi
    Population: 2,570,000 (13th)
  • Mai-Ndombe
    Capital: Inongo
    Population: 1,852,000 (21st)
  • Maniema
    Capital: Kindu
    Population: 2,333,000 (17th)
  • Mongala
    Capital: Lisala
    Population: 1,740,000 (22nd)
Lisala is the birthplace of the country's longest-serving president and dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko (born Joseph-Désiré Mobutu).
  • Nord-Kivu
    Capital: Goma
    Population: 6,655,000 (2nd)
Established in 1925, the Virunga National Park is Africa's oldest park and home to the eastern mountain gorillas. Mount Stanley/Ngaelima on the border with Uganda, at 5,109 m in height the country's highest peak and Africa's third highest. It is so high that even though it is located less than a degree from the equator, there are glaciers up there. In the south, near Lake Kivu and the provincial capital of Goma, is Mount Nyiragongo, a highly active volcano known for having the world's largest lava lake.
  • Nord-Ubangi
    Capital: Gbadolite
    Population: 1,269,000 (25th)
  • Sankuru
    Capital: Lusambo
    Population: 2,110,000 (19th)
  • Sud-Kivu
    Capital: Bukavu
    Population: 5,772,000 (3rd)
Kahuzi-Biéga National Park has the country's largest population of eastern gorillas, who live east of the Congo River (as opposed to the numerically superior western gorillas, a distinct species found west of the Congo). The First Congo War first broke out in this region, which used to host refugee camps housing ethnic Hutu who fled Rwanda.
  • Sud-Ubangi
    Capital: Gemena
    Population: 2,458,000 (14th)
  • Tanganyika
    Capital: Kalemie
    Population: 3,062,000 (10th)
Named after Lake Tanganyika, which forms the provinces's eastern "coast".
  • Tshopo
    Capital: Kisangani
    Population: 2,352,000 (16th)
  • Tshuapa
    Capital: Boende
    Population: 1,600,000 (23rd)
Bonobos are endemic to the Salonga National Park and its surroundings, located between the Congo and Kasai rivers.

Appears in the following works:

  • Ali ends with Muhammad Ali going to Zaire and engaging in the Rumble in the Jungle with George Foreman, at the behest of President Mobutu.
  • Tintin's second adventure Tintin - Tintin in the Congo is a pro-colonialist comic book. It was incredibly racist and showed disregard for wildlife, showing a scene of a rhino being blown up with dynamite. Since Tintin is a Belgian comic, you can see the conflict of interest. Considered an Old Shame by its author, who later redrew the worst pages.
  • The Daily Show's America (The Book) features a section where they point out the fact that the longer and nicer sounding the country's name gets, the more terrible a place to live it is.
  • The Onion atlas, Our Dumb World, featured the Democratic Republic of the Congo as its own personal Despair Event Horizon. In a work filled with Black Comedy, it managed to be the bleakest part of the book.
  • Heart of Darkness takes place in the Belgian Congo and illustrates just what a mess it was during colonial times.
  • The Poisonwood Bible covers about forty years of Congolese history, from the beginnings of the Congo Crisis in the late '50s up to Mobutu's death and the country's renaming in 1997.
  • A significant percentage of The Nun's Story occurs in the Congo, when Sister Luke is sent there as a nurse/missionary.
  • In Tarzan of the Apes (first published in 1912) a group of African tribesmen escape the Congo Free State and establish a new village in the jungle where Tarzan lives. The 2016 film The Legend of Tarzan moved Tarzan himself to the Free State, with colonial politics driving the action.
  • Johnny Clegg's song "Congo" is meant as a pick-me-up for those living in the area.
  • John Green does a Crash Course on the DRC Congo and Africa's World War, mainly on the The Congo Wars.
  • Non-documentary film War Witch is entirely filmed in the DRC and tells the story of child soldiers.
  • Ruined is a 2008 stage play about the Congo Wars and how women are victims of violence.
  • Virunga is a documentary about conservationists in Virunga National Park and the European oil company eager to despoil the park.
  • Splinter Cell: Double Agent Version 1 and Version 2 have their 9th and 7th missions respectively take place in a hotel in Kinshasa, with Version 1 also having two sections in a warzone on the streets.
  • SEAL Team Season 2 Episode 14 has Bravo Team deployed to the DRC outside of Kinshasa to capture an Expy of notorious African warlord Joseph Kony.
  • The Siege of Jadotville, based on the event of the same name that took place during the Congo Crisis of 1961.
  • SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs has three missions in the Congolese jungle.
  • Alur Mythology
  • Mongo Mythology

The Congolese flag
The sky blue field symbolizes (the still-elusive) peace, crossed by a diagonal stripe colored red with the (much-shed) blood of the fallen throughout the country's turbulent history; its yellow fimbriations symbolize wealth; and the golden star at the canton symbolizes hopes for a better future.

The Congolese national anthem

Debout Congolais,
Unis par le sort,
Unis dans l'effort pour l'indépendance.
Dressons nos fronts, longtemps courbés
Et pour de bon prenons le plus bel élan,
Dans la paix.

Ô peuple ardent
Par le labeur
Nous bâtirons un pays plus beau qu'avant
Dans la paix.

Entonnez l'hymne sacré de votre solidarité
Saluez l'emblème d'or de votre souveraineté

Don béni, Congo!
Des aïeux, Congo!
Ô pays, Congo!
Bien-aimé, Congo! Nous peuplerons ton sol
et nous assurerons ta grandeur.
Trente juin, ô doux soleil
Trente juin, du trente juin
Jour sacré, soit le témoin,
Jour sacré, de l'immortel
Serment de liberté
Que nous léguons
À notre postérité
Pour toujours.

Arise, Congolese,
united by fate,
United in the struggle for independence,
Let us hold up our heads, so long bowed,
And now, for good, let us keep moving boldly
ahead, in peace.

Oh, ardent people,
by hard work we shall build,
In peace, a country more
beautiful than before.

sing the sacred hymn of your solidarity,
salute the golden emblem of your soverignity, Congo.

Blessed gift Congo
of our forefathers Congo,
Oh country Congo
that we love Congo,
We shall people your soil
and ensure your greatness.
30th June Oh gentle sun
30th June of 30th June,
Sacred day Be witness
sacred day of the immortal
oath of freedom
That we hand on
to our children

  • Unitary semi-presidential constitutional republic
    • President: Félix Tshisekedi
    • Prime Minister: Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde
    • President of the Senate: Modeste Bahati Lukwebo
    • President of the National Assembly: Christophe Mboso N'Kodia Pwanga
    • President of the Constitutional Court: Dieudonné Kaluba Dibwa

  • Capital and largest city: Kinshasa
  • Population: 105,044,646
  • Area: 2,345,409 km² (905,567 sq mi) (11th)
  • Currency: Congolese franc (FC) (CDF)
  • ISO-3166-1 Code: CD
  • Country calling code: 243
  • Highest point: Mount Stanley (5109 m/16,762 ft) (25thnote )
  • Lowest points: Atlantic Ocean (3,646 m/11,962 ft) (-)

Alternative Title(s): Zaire