Democratic Republic of the Congo
Location: Central Africa. Bordering
nations--Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic,
Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda,
Area: 2.345 sq. km. (905,063 sq. mi.; about the size of
the U.S. east of the Mississippi).
(pop. 8 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
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.
Population (2008 est.): 66 million.
Annual growth rate (2008 est.): 3.24%.
Ethnic groups: More than 200 African ethnic groups; the
Luba, Kongo, and Anamongo are some of the larger
groupings of tribes.
Religions: Christian 70% (Catholic 50%, Protestant 20%);
Kimbanguist 10%; other sects and traditional beliefs
10%; Muslim 10%.
Language: Official--French. National
languages--Lingala, Swahili, Kikongo, Tshiluba.
Education: Literacy (2004
est.)--65.5% in French or local language. Schooling (2000
est.)--none 41.7%, primary 42.2%, secondary 15.4%,
Health (2006 est.): Infant
mortality rate--129/1,000 live births. Life
Type: Republic; highly centralized with executive power
vested in the president.
Independence: June 30, 1960 (from Belgium).
Constitution: June 24, 1967; amended August 1974;
revised February 15, 1978; amended April 1990;
transitional constitution promulgated April 1994;
Constitutional Act promulgated May 1997; draft
constitution proposed but not finalized March 1998;
transitional constitution adopted on April 2, 2003. A
new constitution was passed by the transitional
parliament on May 2005. The D.R.C. held a constitutional
referendum on December 18-19, 2005. Official results
indicated that 84% of voters approved the constitution.
The new constitution was promulgated in a ceremony on
February 18, 2006.
is head of state. Cabinet is appointed by the ruling
party in the parliament. Prime minister is elected by
the parliament. Legislative--The
500-member lower house of parliament was elected in July
30, 2006 national elections. Provincial Assemblies
elected the Senate in October 29, 2006 elections. The
Senate elected provincial governors. Judicial--Supreme
Court (Cour Supreme).
Administrative subdivisions: Ten provinces and the
capital city, Kinshasa.
Political parties: President Joseph Kabila's party is
Parti du Peuple pour la Reconstruction et le
Développement (PPRD). Two main coalitions represent
President Kabila and his presidential run-off
challenger, former Transitional Vice President
Jean-Pierre Bemba. Other opposition parties include
Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social (UDPS),
Forces du Futur (FDF), Forces Novatrices pour l'Union et
la Solidarite (FONUS), Parti Democrate Social Chrétien (PDSC),
Mouvement Social Démocratie et Développement (MSDD),
Mouvement Populaire de la Révolution--Fait Prive (MPR-FP),
Union des Nationalistes et des Fédéralistes Congolais (UNAFEC),
and Mouvement National Congolais/ Lumumba (MNC/L).
Former rebel movements-turned-political parties include
the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD),
Mouvement pour la Libération du Congo (MLC), and
independent splinter groups of the RCD (RCD/ML, RCD/N,
Suffrage: 18 years of age and universal.
GDP (2007): $9.85 billion.
Annual GDP growth rate (2007): 7%.
Per capita GDP (2007): $300.
Natural resources: Copper, cobalt, diamonds, gold, other
minerals; petroleum; wood; hydroelectric potential.
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%.
and unprocessed minerals; consumer products, including
textiles, plastics, footwear, cigarettes, metal
products; processed foods and beverages, cement, timber.
Currency: Congolese franc (FC).
Trade: Exports (2006)--$1.587
cobalt, copper, coffee, petroleum. Partners--EU,
Japan, South Africa, U.S., China. Imports (2006)--$2.263
goods (food, textiles), capital equipment, refined
petroleum products. Partners--EU,
China, South Africa, U.S.
Total external debt (2006): $11 billion.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (D.R.C.) includes
the greater part of the Congo River basin, which covers
an area of almost 1 million square kilometers (400,000
sq. mi.). The country's only outlet to the Atlantic
Ocean is a narrow strip of land on the north bank of the
The vast, low-lying central area is a basin-shaped
plateau sloping toward the west and covered by tropical
rainforest. This area is surrounded by mountainous
terraces in the west, plateaus merging into savannas in
the south and southwest, and dense grasslands extending
beyond the Congo River in the north. High mountains are
found in the extreme eastern region.
D.R.C. lies on the Equator, with one-third of the
country to the north and two-thirds to the south. The
climate is hot and humid in the river basin and cool and
dry in the southern highlands. South of the Equator, the
rainy season lasts from October to May and north of the
Equator, from April to November. Along the Equator,
rainfall is fairly regular throughout the year. During
the wet season, thunderstorms often are violent but
seldom last more than a few hours. The average rainfall
for the entire country is about 107 centimeters (42
The population of D.R.C. was estimated at 66 million in
2008. 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
intermediary languages Kikongo, Tshiluba, Swahili, and
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 and Kinshasa. In 1969, it was
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 2000, 41.7% of the population had no
schooling, 42.2% had primary schooling, 15.4% had
secondary schooling, and 0.7% 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
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. Discovered in 1482 by Portuguese
navigator Diego Cao and later explored by English
journalist Henry Morton Stanley, 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.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
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 Désiré Mobutu (later Mobutu Sese Seko)
took over the government and ceded it again to President
Unrest and rebellion plagued the government until 1965,
when Lieutenant General Mobutu, by then 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 Démocratie et le
Progrès Social (UDPS), were active. Mobutu's attempts to
quell these groups drew significant international
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, by heightened international criticism of his
regime's human rights practices, and by 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 Republic-Parliament of Transition (HCR-PT) in
1994, with Mobutu as head of state and Kengo Wa Dondo as
prime minister. Although presidential and legislative
elections were scheduled repeatedly over the next 2
years, they never took place.
By 1996, 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-Désiré Kabila known as the Alliance des
Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération 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
From Dictatorship to Disintegration
Laurent-Désiré Kabila marched into Kinshasa on May
17, 1997 and declared himself president. He consolidated
power around himself and the AFDL and renamed the
country the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.).
Kabila's Army Chief and the Secretary General of the
AFDL were Rwandan, and RPA units continued to operate
tangentially with the D.R.C.'s military, which was
renamed the Forces Armées Congolaises (FAC).
Over the next year, relations between Kabila and his
foreign backers deteriorated. In July 1998, Kabila
ordered all foreign troops to leave the D.R.C. Most
refused to leave. On August 2, fighting erupted
throughout the D.R.C. as Rwandan troops in the D.R.C.
"mutinied," and fresh Rwandan and Ugandan troops entered
the D.R.C. Two days later, Rwandan troops flew to
Bas-Congo, with the intention of marching on Kinshasa,
ousting Laurent Kabila, and replacing him with the newly
formed Rwandan-backed rebel group called the
Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD). The
Rwandan campaign was thwarted at the last minute when
Angolan, Zimbabwean, and Namibian troops intervened on
behalf of the D.R.C. Government. The Rwandans and the
RCD withdrew to eastern D.R.C., where they established
de facto control over portions of eastern D.R.C. and
continued to fight the Congolese Army and its foreign
In February 1999, Uganda backed the formation of a rebel
group called the Mouvement pour la Libération du Congo (MLC),
which drew support from among ex-Mobutuists and ex-FAZ
soldiers in Equateur province (Mobutu's home province).
Together, Uganda and the MLC established control over
the northern third of the D.R.C.
At this stage, the D.R.C. was divided de facto into
three segments--one controlled by Laurent Kabila, one
controlled by Rwanda, and one controlled by Uganda--and
the parties had reached military deadlock. In July 1999,
a cease-fire was proposed in Lusaka, Zambia, which all
parties signed by the end of August. The Lusaka Accord
called for a cease-fire, the deployment of a UN
peacekeeping operation, MONUC, the withdrawal of foreign
troops, and the launching of an "Inter-Congolese
Dialogue" to form a transitional government leading to
elections. The parties to the Lusaka Accord failed to
fully implement its provisions in 1999 and 2000. Laurent
Kabila drew increasing international criticism for
blocking full deployment of UN troops, hindering
progress toward an Inter-Congolese Dialogue, and
suppressing internal political activity.
On January 16, 2001, Laurent Kabila was assassinated. He
was succeeded by his son Joseph, who reversed many of
his father's negative policies. Over the next year,
MONUC deployed throughout the country, and the
Inter-Congolese Dialogue proceeded. By the end of 2002,
all Angolan, Namibian, and Zimbabwean troops had
withdrawn from the D.R.C. Following D.R.C.-Rwanda talks
in South Africa that culminated in the Pretoria Accord
in July 2002, Rwandan troops officially withdrew from
the D.R.C. in October 2002, although there were
continued, unconfirmed reports that Rwandan soldiers and
military advisers remained integrated with RCD/G forces
in eastern D.R.C. Ugandan troops officially withdrew
from the D.R.C. in May 2003.
National Dialogue, Transitional Government, and
In October 2001, the Inter-Congolese Dialogue began
in Addis Ababa under the auspices of Facilitator
Ketumile Masire (former president of Botswana). The
initial meetings made little progress and were
adjourned. On February 25, 2002, the dialogue was
reconvened in South Africa. It included representatives
from the government, rebel groups, political opposition,
civil society, and Mai-Mai (Congolese local defense
militias). The talks ended inconclusively on April 19,
2002, when the government and the MLC brokered an
agreement that was signed by the majority of delegates
at the dialogue but left out the RCD/G and opposition
UDPS party, among others.
This partial agreement was never implemented, and
negotiations resumed in South Africa in October 2002.
This time, the talks led to an all-inclusive agreement,
which was signed by delegates in Pretoria on December
17, 2002, and formally ratified by all parties on April
Following nominations by each of the various signatory
groups, President Kabila on June 30, 2003 issued a
decree that formally announced the transitional
government lineup. The four vice presidents took the
oath of office on July 17, 2003, and most incoming
ministers assumed their new functions within days
A transitional constitution was adopted on April 2,
2003; a new constitution was promulgated February 2006.
Extensive executive, legislative, and military powers
are vested in the president. The legislature does not
have the power to overturn the government through a vote
of no confidence. The judiciary is nominally
independent; the president has the power to dismiss and
appoint judges. The president is head of a 35-member
cabinet of ministers.
President Joseph Kabila has made significant progress in
liberalizing domestic political activity, establishing a
transitional government, and undertaking economic
reforms in cooperation with the World Bank and
International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, serious
human rights problems remain in the security services
and justice system. The eastern part of the country is
characterized by ongoing violence and armed conflict,
which has created a humanitarian disaster and
contributed to civilian deaths (more than 3.8 million,
according to a prominent international non-governmental
organization). MONUC continues to play an important
peacekeeping role in the D.R.C., and in October 2004,
its authorized force strength increased to 16,700.
On July 30, 2006 the D.R.C. held its first free,
democratic, multi-party elections in more than 40 years.
The D.R.C.'s 25 million registered voters were charged
with electing a president (from a field of 33
candidates) and 500 deputies to the National Assembly
(out of a total of 9,709 candidates). Despite technical
and logistical difficulties, coupled with isolated
incidents of violence and intimidation, the elections
were held in a largely calm and orderly fashion. Voter
turnout nationwide was high, particularly in the eastern
provinces, compared to the December 2005 constitutional
The Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) on August 20,
2006 announced official provisional results from the
July 30 presidential elections. According to CEI
figures, incumbent Joseph Kabila won 44.81% of the votes
cast versus Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba's 20.3%. As
no candidate won a majority of votes in the first round
and in accordance with the country's electoral law, the
top two recipients, Kabila and Bemba, faced off in a
second round of balloting. The D.R.C.'s transitional
process was threatened by military clashes in Kinshasa
just hours after provisional election results were
announced. This crisis was exclusively confined to the
Gombe area of central Kinshasa and was essentially a
clash between Vice President Bemba and President
Kabila's militias. The runoff presidential elections
were held on October 29, 2006. On November 27, 2006 the
Congolese Supreme Court declared President Kabila the
winner over Vice President Bemba by a margin of 58% to
42%. Kabila was inaugurated on December 6, 2006.
Voters in July 2006 also chose from among 9,709
legislative candidates to fill 500 seats in the National
Assembly, representing 169 electoral districts.
Approximately one-third of these districts elected one
deputy by a simple majority. The rest were multiple-seat
districts, ranging from two representatives to a maximum
of 17 (in one of Kinshasa's voting districts). In these
areas, deputies were chosen by proportional
representation using open party lists. To select the
winners in multiple-seat districts, all valid votes cast
were first divided according to political party. Next,
an "electoral quotient" was determined by dividing the
number of votes cast by the number of representatives to
be elected. Finally, the number of votes a party
received was divided by this "electoral quotient" to
determine how many seats the party would win. The
candidates ultimately elected were those who received
the highest number of votes within their particular
party lists. National Assembly deputies serve five-year
terms and there is no restriction on the number of times
they can be re-elected.
Organizing the D.R.C.'s July 2006 elections presented
significant logistical challenges. Supported in large
part by the MONUC peacekeeping mission, the Independent
Electoral Commission opened more than 50,000 polling
stations nationwide and employed some 300,000 poll
workers on election day and to oversee the ballot
counting process. The presidential and legislative
ballots were printed in South Africa and altogether
weighed nearly 1,800 tons, requiring 75 round-trip
flights between the D.R.C. and South Africa.
For the July 2006 elections, the CEI reported that there
were approximately 25.42 million voters registered and a
voter participation rate of 70.54%. Of the 17.9 million
ballots cast, 993,704 (approximately 5%) were
disqualified due to empty ballots or marking errors. In
2005, approximately 25.7 million Congolese registered as
voters (out of an original estimate of 28 million
eligible to do so). In the D.R.C.'s December 2005
constitutional referendum, roughly two-thirds of all
registered voters participated.
The D.R.C. legislature held its first session on
September 22, 2006. On February 26, 2007, Prime Minister
Antoine Gizenga and the new Congolese cabinet formally
took office. In May 2007, Kengo wa Dongo was elected
The Continuing Search for a Lasting Peace
On September 8, 2007, the Governments of the D.R.C.
and Uganda reached an agreement in Ngurdoto, Tanzania,
in which they mutually agreed to strengthen bilateral
efforts to eliminate all "negative forces" (illegal
armed groups) operating in and from the two countries.
On November 9, 2007, the Governments of the D.R.C. and
Rwanda, with facilitation by the UN and witness of the
United States and the European Union, signed the Nairobi
Communiqué, which was designed to put an end to the
presence in the D.R.C. of all foreign armed groups,
particularly the ex-FAR/Interahamwe (later the Forces
Démocratique de Libération du Rwanda, FDLR). These
groups were to be disarmed, demobilized, and
On January 23, 2008, the Government of the D.R.C. and
over 20 armed groups signed a peace accord in Goma,
D.R.C., under which the parties agreed on the need for
immediate cessation of hostilities, the disengagement of
troops, improved adherence to human rights standards,
and the creation of UN buffer zones between and among
the various factions.
As of October 1, 2008, none of these agreements had been
fully implemented, and the eastern part of the country
in particular continues to suffer from the activities of
numerous illegal armed groups that operate largely with
Principal Government Official
Sparsely populated in relation to its area, the
Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to a vast
potential of 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
$300 in 2007. This is the result of years of
mismanagement, corruption, and war.
In 2001, the Government of the D.R.C. under Joseph
Kabila undertook a series of economic reforms aimed at
stabilizing the macroeconomic situation and promoting
economic growth. Reforms were monitored by the IMF and
included liberalization of petroleum prices and exchange
rates and adoption of disciplined fiscal and monetary
policies. The reform program reduced inflation from over
500% per year in 2000 to only about 7% per year in 2003.
Inflation rose to 15-20% percent in 2006.
In June 2002, the World Bank and IMF approved new
credits for the D.R.C. for the first time in over a
decade. Bilateral donors, whose assistance has been
almost entirely dedicated to humanitarian interventions
in recent years, also are beginning to fund development
projects in the D.R.C. In October 2003, the World Bank
launched a multi-sector plan for development and
In July 2003, the D.R.C. became eligible for external
debt relief ("decision point") under the Heavily
Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. However, the
D.R.C. lost its eligibility for interim debt relief when
it failed to make its sixth IMF review in 2006 due to
fiscal slippages and slow implementation of key
structural reforms. If the D.R.C. successfully completes
its current non-disbursing staff-monitored program with
the IMF and qualifies for a new IMF disbursement
program, it will be back on track for HIPC debt relief.
This debt relief will help alleviate the D.R.C.'s
external sovereign debt burden and provide critically
needed resources for poverty reduction programs.
In early 2008, the D.R.C. concluded an agreement with a
consortium of Chinese companies to create a joint
venture to exploit mining resources and develop
Congolese infrastructure. The project will be financed
by a $9 billion loan arranged by the consortium. To
ensure debt sustainability, some of the loan agreement's
provisions must be clarified in order to qualify the
D.R.C. for a new IMF Poverty Reduction and Growth
Facility (PRGF) program.
The D.R.C. Government is working to implement the
Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) approved in
mid-2006 by the IMF and World Bank boards. The
government's five-year program, approved by the National
Assembly in February 2007, is based on the PRSP and
focuses heavily on President Kabila's five priority
areas: infrastructure, employment, education,
water/electricity, and health.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the Congolese economy,
accounting for 45.7% of GDP in 2006. The main cash crops
include coffee, palm oil, rubber, cotton, sugar, tea,
and cocoa. Food crops include cassava, plantains, maize,
groundnuts, and rice. Industry, especially the mining
sector, is underdeveloped relative to its potential in
the D.R.C. In 2006, industry accounted for only 27.7% of
GDP, with 6.5% attributed to manufacturing. Services
reached 26.6% of GDP. The D.R.C. was the world's
fourth-largest producer of industrial diamonds during
the 1980s, and diamonds continue to dominate exports,
accounting for over half of exports ($642 million) in
2003. 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.
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 2002, with
the population of the D.R.C. estimated at 56 million,
only 230,000 Congolese working in private enterprise in
the formal sector were enrolled in the social security
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. In 2007, shortly after
the Joseph Kabila administration took office, the
government launched a wholesale review of mining
contracts that had been entered into under previous
governments. 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 need be. In practice, this process has itself
been opaque, with little information provided by the
government to foreign (including American) investors.
The World Bank also is supporting efforts to restructure
the D.R.C.'s large parastatal sector, including
Gecamines, and to rehabilitate the D.R.C.'s neglected
infrastructure, including the Inga Dam hydroelectric
The outbreak of war in the early days of August 1998
caused a major decline in economic activity. As was
noted above, the country was divided de facto into
different territories, and commerce among these
territories had halted. With the installation of the
transitional government in July 2003, the country was
reunified, and economic and commercial links began to
reconnect. Economic growth resumed in 2002 with a 3%
growth rate, continuing in 2007 at 7%.
In June 2000, the United Nations established a Panel of
Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Congolese
Resources to examine links between the wars and natural
resource exploitation. Reports issued by the panel
indicate that countries involved in the war in Congo
developed significant economic interests in the D.R.C.
that complicated Congolese Government efforts to control
its resources and the mining sector. Although the
original Panel of Experts was disbanded when its mandate
ended in late 2003, a separate UN Group of Experts
continues to look into these issues due to the apparent
links between the illegal armed groups in the eastern
part of the D.R.C. and natural resource exploitation.
The Group of Experts is scheduled to issue a final
report on these issues by the end of 2008.
The D.R.C.'s location in the center of Africa has made
the country a key player in the region since even before
independence. Because of its size, mineral wealth, and
strategic location, Zaire under Mobutu was able to
capitalize on Cold War tensions to garner support from
the West. In the early 1990s, however, Cold War-era
tolerance of human rights abuses faded, and the mounting
evidence of such abuses led Western support for the
Mobutu regime to wane just as internal pressure for
D.R.C.'s relations with neighboring countries have often
been driven by security concerns, leading to intricate,
interlocking, and shifting alliances. Domestic conflicts
in the Central African Republic, Sudan, Uganda, Angola,
Rwanda, and Burundi have at various times created
bilateral and regional tensions. The current situation
in eastern D.R.C. arose from foreign insurgents' use of
D.R.C. territory as a base for attacking their home
countries as well as the Congolese Government's
inability to secure its own borders.
In December 2006, the D.R.C. inaugurated its first
democratically elected president in over 40 years, the
culmination of both the Congolese people's efforts to
choose their leaders through a peaceful, democratic
process and international support for numerous domestic
and international peace agreements. The United States is
proud to have played a role in the peace process in the
D.R.C., and continues to encourage Congolese peace,
prosperity, democracy, and respect for human rights.
The United States remains a partner with the D.R.C. and
other central African nations in their quest for
stability and growth on the continent. The United States
facilitated the signing of a tripartite agreement on
regional security in the Great Lakes region among the
D.R.C., Rwanda, and Uganda in October 2004. (Burundi
formally joined the Tripartite Commission in September
2005, and the Tripartite Commission is now Tripartite
Plus.) The United States also strongly supported UN
efforts to create a Joint Verification Mechanism to
monitor the border between the D.R.C. and Rwanda. The
United States has pursued an active diplomatic strategy
in support of these objectives. The United States seeks
to strengthen the process of internal reconciliation and
democratization in D.R.C., as in all the states of the
region, so that the D.R.C. and its neighbors can jointly
address mutual security interests and develop mutually
beneficial economic relations.
The United States appointed its current ambassador to
the D.R.C. in November 2007. The D.R.C. appointed its
current ambassador to the United States in 2000. The
State Department has consistently issued cautionary
travel information about Zaire/D.R.C. since 1977.
Principal U.S. Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Samuel V. Brock
located at 310 Avenue des Aviateurs, Kinshasa (tel.
243-81-2255872; fax 243-81-3010561). Mailing address is
American Embassy Kinshasa, Box 31550, APO AE 09828.