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***DR Congo : facts and figures

by Elco B Sat Jul 29th, 2006 at 03:41:08 AM EST

Sunday, 30 July elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (ex Zaire) for the first time in 46 years.

Political propaganda African style.....

from the frontpage

First thing you always must have in mind is that DR Congo is a big, very big country. Distances are in the range of Paris-Moscow, Helsinki-Athens, London-Warsaw. Imagine the differences in culture, languages, economics... There are 55 to 60 million of inhabitants, based on UN estimates: with a state organisation and infrastructure fallen to pieces, it is not possible to determine exact figures.

After the war from 1998 to 2003, some name it World War III(see European Breakfast), a certain stabilisation began but the UN's largest operation (MONUC) is ongoing till today.

This story is only about some facts and figures to 'paint' what is going on in this country. It is impossible to describe in one article the facts and evolutions in an area which is almost as big as the entire EU.

Geography: Congo is the biggest country of Cental Africa (2,345,000 km²)

Capital: Kinshasa (with 7.8 million inhabitants the third-largest city of Africa, after Cairo and Lagos)

Languages:French (the offical language), Lingala, Swahili, Tshiluba, Kikongo and many others.

Religion: Christians (80%), animists and Muslims.

History (warning: this is from western viewpoint only):
From 1885 to 1908, Congo is pesonal property (!) of King Leopold II of Belgium.
1908-1960 : Belgian colony.

First democratic elections in May 1960, independence on 30 June same year. First president Joseph Kasavubu, prime minister Lumumba.

July 1960: the Katanga province, the richest on minerals, copper, uranium, diamonds goes for separation actively supported by Belgium.

September 1960: First coup d'état by Mobutu.

January 1961: premier Lumumba assassinated (with cooperation of Belgium and the US)
In 1963 and '64: civil war: Katanga and several revolts: Che Guevara (yes, him) fought in Congo in that period. But Belgian and US intervention (military, with heavy bombardements and troops) and their support for the second coup d'état of Mobutu 'reunite' the country. The Katanga secession ended after a UN intervention.
End 1965: general Mobutu installs his dictatorship. With his party MPR he controls most of the country.
Some resistance is always active but never can threaten Mobutu who is protected by Belgium and US for the enormous economical profits.

  1. Mobutu allows multiple political parties. But this leads to a kind of multi-Mobutisme instead of democracy.
  2. revolt against Mobutu starts in the East of Congo. A coalition, the AFDL grows and Kabila becomes one of the most important leaders. Uganda and Rwanda activily support the movement.
17 May 1997: the insurgents arrive in Kinshasa and Kabila becomes the new president. Mobutu is now a fugitive.

August 1998: Rwandan and Ugandan troops enter the country to defeat Kabila but they meet resistance in the Eastern provinces ( the Mayi-Mayi)

1999: The Western countries impose a cease-fire, and an 'intercongolese dialog' must oblige Kabila to share power.

January 2001: Kabila is assassinated by one of his bodyguards. His son Joseph becomes the new president.

17 December 2002: a peace agreement is signed.

2 April 2003: A concept for the new constitution is agreed.

30 June 2003: a new governement, Kabila plus four former rebellion-leaders. They prepare the referendum on the new constitution.
20 June 2005: start of registration of candidates.

18 December 2005: The referendum approves the new constitution by 84%. Now at last elections can be held.

The elections: there are 33 candidates for president, 9,707 candidates for a seat in the 500-seats paliament.

More than 75% of the population has less than a dollar a day to survive and no access to potable water.

This is an 'introduction': more will follow in the coming days, and next week after the elections.

Additional info :
The Invisible Congo Tragedy.
D.R. CONGO: Minerals Flow Abroad, Misery Remains

Most of this story was stolen from free-lance journalist Raf Custers.

...teh good news is that int he last six mons, COngo has fallen fromt he lsit of the worst places on Earth...at least in agreat are of COngo.

Otehr areas seem to have incredible mortality rates due to the wrecked infraestructure. It is just like another Somalia.

Somalia and Iraq seem now on top...followed by Darfur and areas of East Congo...as the worst places in Earth. Places whcih we should be ashamded they exist. I do not mean poverty , I do not mean not having a western system of health or just have agriculture problems...I mean pure hell on earth..no community, no food, no infraestucture, killings and violent death...

hell on earth.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Wed Jul 26th, 2006 at 04:45:21 AM EST
As you said this is only the beginning and can not cover nearly everything. Two things I think is important in the recent history, though I do not remember them very well:

The 1996 rebellion started in the aftermath of the Rwandan disaster, but I do not remember the details.

And a number of other african countries has been involved in the conflict, at least Zimbabwe, Angola, Chad, Sudan and Namibia. On the Kabila side, IIRC.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Jul 26th, 2006 at 08:35:58 AM EST
Thanks for this story! I did some cleanup. (I note one spelling error I see you make consistently is to write "party's" instead of "parties" -- the latter is plural, the former refers to ownership.)

What you wrote about Congo's size surprised me to the extent of looking it up -- I find Paris-Moscow is just short of 2500 km, while DR Congo is 2350 km across Northwest-Southeast, so it's true! However, the EU is almost 4 million km², and even the EU-15 was 3.24 million km².

premier Lumumba assassinated (with cooperation of Belgium and the US)

Wasn't he assassinated by Belgian agents after he was kidnapped?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jul 26th, 2006 at 08:57:30 AM EST
Congo is roughly like five times Spain (or France or Germany)..So you may join France, Germany, Spain, United Kingdom and Poland..and you may still have some space free.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Wed Jul 26th, 2006 at 09:43:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for your attention, DoDo.
Yes, I know. I exaggerated a bit about the size of the country. I did this on purpose : the country is that big that it escapes our 'European notion' of a country.
( Congo is about 80 times the size of Belgium).
Second reason : large parts of the country are not under control of the central transition-government. They are controlled by former or new rebellion groups. Weapons traffic increased to top levels the latest month's because if something go's wrong with the elections many leaders (now part of the government) will go back to their (armed) bases. But more on this later..

The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)
by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Wed Jul 26th, 2006 at 11:12:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wikipedia has an excellent article about the murder.
Even the creepy details were confirmed by a retired Belgian officer in an interview in 2004.

The Belgian commission's 2001 report led to an official apology. In February of 2002, the Belgian government apologized to the Congolese people, and admitted to a "moral responsibility" and "an irrefutable portion of responsibility in the events that led to the death of Lumumba." In July of the same year documents released by the United States government revealed that while the CIA had been kept informed of Belgium's plans, they had no direct role in Lumumba's eventual death. [4]

However, this same disclosure showed that US perception at the time was that Lumumba was a Communist. Eisenhower's apparent call for Lumumba's elimination must have been brought on by this perception. Both Belgium and the United States were clearly influenced in their unfavourable stance towards Lumumba by the cold war. He seemed to gravitate around the Soviet Union. Arguably that was because that was the only place he could find support in his country's effort to rid itself of colonial rule, and not because he was a communist.

Note : the murder took place on 17 jan 1961. It took the Belgians till 2001 to admitthey played a role in it.

The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)

by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Wed Jul 26th, 2006 at 11:41:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
U. N. Secreatary General Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld - usually referred to as "Dag" - was killed in related action in what is now Zambia. Many at the time, and since, believed that he was also viewed as a communist by the U.S. and was assinated.

He was in the region trying to broker a peace in the Katanga succession.


by dualnational (melvinhecht @ comcast. net) on Wed Jul 26th, 2006 at 02:38:06 PM EST
All these diaries about Congo intrigue me. I'll write one about Inga rapids when the diary on nuclear waste management is completed.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Thu Jul 27th, 2006 at 09:36:44 AM EST
Oh yes: the Inga project is worth a diary on his own.
The importance of it was always underestimated.
It was a point of military action many times, economical manipulation and political ambition. European country's turned around Inga like vulture's...

The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)
by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Thu Jul 27th, 2006 at 10:35:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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