Only the most seasoned, committed African travelers should visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is not a nation for the typical “tourist,” like as backpackers, vacationers, or those looking for luxury safaris or planned cultural activities. The DRC remains one of Africa’s least developed nations, with the world’s second-lowest GDP per capita, behind only Somalia. The DRC’s heart, which is mostly covered in lush tropical rainforest, is similar to the Amazon (the only larger rainforest on Earth). The Congo River is the country’s backbone, transporting barges full of Congolese (and the odd daring Westerner) and merchants sending their huge pirogues loaded with commodities, fruit, and indigenous bushmeat out to sell to those on the barges.
Since colonialism, the nation has had a sad and turbulent history. King Leopold II of Belgium plunders it for rubber and palm oil, which he extracts forcefully from the Congolese via heinous methods such as cutting off hands for “crimes” such as output below quota. The country and its central government disintegrated just weeks after independence in 1960, and its leaders have been far more concerned with quelling rebels and keeping the country together since then than with building infrastructure, improving education and healthcare, or doing anything else to improve the lives of Congolese. The country’s eastern jungles saw the worst fighting since World War II ended from 1994 and 2003, with occasional violence continuing since then. Millions of people have been uprooted in the last 20 years as a result of rebel murder and mass rape, and hundreds of thousands of people remain in refugee camps today, housed by the world’s biggest UN peacekeeping operation (MONUC).
Those who brave the weather to get here will be in for a real treat. In the east, mist-shrouded volcanic summits soar hundreds of meters above the surrounding jungle. Hikers may climb Mount Nyiragongo, which towers above Goma, and camp on the rim above an active lava lake (one of only four in the world!). A limited number of visitors are allowed to travel to gorilla families in the surrounding forests each day—one of our species’ closest living cousins. Every year, a small group of tourists spend weeks floating hundreds of kilometers down the Congo River aboard barges filled with goods and Congolese. Don’t forget to look for masks and other handicrafts at the country’s bustling marketplaces.
The DRC is enormous. It is almost three and a half times the size of Texas, at 2,345,408 square kilometers (905,567 square miles). It is bigger than the combined regions of Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, and Norway.
The country’s distinguishing characteristic is the world’s second biggest rainforest. Rivers, both big and tiny, weave their way across the nation, and with a limited road network, rivers are still the primary mode of transportation. The Congo River is the world’s third biggest river by discharge, and it even flows into the Atlantic, creating an underwater canyon that stretches 50 miles (80 kilometers) to the continental shelf’s edge! It is also known for being one of the world’s deepest rivers, reaching depths of up to 220 meters (720 ft). The Congo River is home to a high number of endemic species due to its enormous volume of water, depth, and rapids. The Congo River “begins” at Kisangani at Boyoma Falls. The river is known as the Lualaba River above these falls, and its longest tributary flows into Zambia. Before flowing into the Congo River, the Obangui River forms a boundary between the DRC and the CAR/Congo-Brazzaville.
The Albertine Rift, which is a branch of the East African Rift, extends along the DRC’s eastern border. Lakes Tanganyika, Kivu, Edward, and Albert are all under its jurisdiction. The fissure is bordered by a number of extinct volcanoes as well as two active volcanoes. The Rwenzori and Virunga Mountains, which run along Rwanda’s border, are very beautiful, rising from the middle of lush tropical woods and sometimes covered in mist. Several summits rise over 4000 meters (13,000 feet). One of only four continuous lava lakes in the world is found on Mount Nyiragongo.
The only area of the nation not covered with lush woods is the south, which is mainly savannah and grasslands surrounding the Kasai Province.
With one-third to the north and two-thirds to the south, the nation straddles the Equator. The Congo receives a lot of rain and has the greatest frequency of thunderstorms in the world as a consequence of its tropical position. Annual rainfall may reach 80 inches (2,032 mm) in certain areas, and the region is home to the world’s second biggest rain forest (after that of the Amazon). This huge swath of lush rainforest occupies the majority of the river’s broad, low-lying middle basin, which descends westward into the Atlantic Ocean. This region is bounded on the south and southwest by plateaus that merge into savannahs, on the west by hilly terraces, and on the north by thick grasslands that stretch beyond the Congo River. The far eastern area has high, glaciated mountains.
Economy and infrastructure
The Congolese franc, which is the principal form of money in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is developed and maintained by the Central Bank of the Congo. The World Bank agreed in 2007 to provide up to $1.3 billion in assistance money to the Democratic Republic of Congo over the next three years. Kinshasa is in the process of applying to join the Organization for the Harmonization of African Business Law (OHADA).
The Democratic Republic of Congo is generally regarded as one of the world’s wealthiest nations in terms of natural resources, with undeveloped raw material reserves valued at more than US$24 trillion. Congo contains 70% of the world’s coltan, a third of the world’s cobalt, more than 30% of the world’s diamond deposits, and a tenth of the world’s copper.
Despite its enormous natural riches, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s economy has been in steep decline since the mid-1980s. In the 1970s and 1980s, minerals accounted for up to 70% of the African country’s export income, and it was especially hard affected when resource prices fell. Mineral revenues accounted for 90% of the DRC’s income in 2005. (Exenberger and Hartmann 2007:10). Due to the country’s problems, its inhabitants are among the poorest on the planet, despite its potential. The Democratic Republic of Congo regularly has the world’s lowest, or almost lowest, nominal GDP per capita. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is also one of the twenty nations with the lowest Corruption Perception Index scores.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to over 200 ethnic groups, the majority of which are Bantu. Mongo, Luba, and Kongo (Bantu) peoples, as well as Mangbetu-Azande peoples, make up around 45 percent of the population. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Kongo are the biggest ethnic group.
Despite the continuing conflict, the United Nations projected the country’s population to be 66 million people in 2009. This is a fast rise from 39.1 million in 1992. There have been about 250 ethnic groupings recognized and named. The Kongo, Luba, and Mongo are the most numerous people. The Pygmies are a group of 600,000 Pygmies that live in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite the extensive use of French and the national intermediate languages Kituba, Tshiluba, Swahili, and Lingala, the linguistic diversity is bridged by the widespread use of French and the national intermediary languages Kituba, Tshiluba, Swahili, and Lingala.
According to a 2010 Pew Research Center estimate, Christianity is the predominant religion in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with approximately 95 percent of the people practicing it, and 80 percent according to the CIA World Factbook and Pew Research Center 2013 statistics. Indigenous beliefs account for 1.8–10% of the population, whereas Islam accounts for 10–12%.
With six archdioceses and 41 dioceses, the nation has approximately 35 million Catholics.
It’s impossible to overstate the Roman Catholic Church’s influence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is the country’s “sole genuinely national institution separate from the state,” according to Schatzberg. Its schools have educated more than 60% of the country’s primary school pupils and more than 40% of secondary school students. The church owns and operates a large network of hospitals, schools, and clinics, as well as a number of diocesan economic businesses such as farms, ranches, stores, and artisan shops.
The Belgians outlawed kimbanguism because it was regarded as a threat to the colonial authority. Kimbanguism, officially “the church of Christ on Earth by the prophet Simon Kimbangu,” currently claims approximately three million adherents, the majority of whom are Bakongo from Bas-Congo and Kinshasa.
The Church of Christ in Congo is a confederation of 62 Protestant groups. It is often referred to as the Protestant Church since it encompasses the majority of Protestants in the DRC. It is one of the biggest Protestant organizations in the world, with over 25 million members.
Islam is the religion of 12% of the population, according to the Pew Forum. Muslims comprise about 10% of the population, according to the CIA World Factbook. Traders/merchants were the ones who brought Islam and primarily propagated it. Sunnis (50 percent), Shias (10 percent), Ahmadis (6 percent), and non-denominational Muslims make up the Congolose Muslim population (14 percent ). In 2013, the Allied Democratic Forces, an Al-Qaeda-linked organization, started carrying out assaults in Congo, killing mainly Christians people.
In 1953, the first Baha’i Faith followers arrived in the nation from Uganda. The first local administrative council was chosen four years later. The National Spiritual Assembly (national administrative council) was elected for the first time in 1970. The religion was outlawed in the 1970s and 1980s owing to misrepresentations by foreign governments, but by the end of the decade, the prohibition had been removed. Plans to construct a national Baha’i House of Worship in the country were revealed in 2012.
Monotheism, animism, vitalism, spirit and ancestor worship, witchcraft, and sorcery are all examples of traditional religions, which vary greatly across ethnic groups. Syncretic cults typically combine aspects of Christianity with ancient beliefs and rituals, and they are not accepted as Christians by mainstream churches. New versions of old beliefs have proliferated, spearheaded by Pentecostal churches influenced by the United States, which have been at the forefront of allegations of witchcraft, especially against youngsters and the elderly. Children suspected of witchcraft are removed from their homes and families, and are often forced to live on the streets, which may result in physical abuse against them. Enfants sorciers (child witches) or enfants dits sorciers are two terms used to describe these children (children accused of witchcraft). Exorcisms are expensive, therefore non-denominational religious groups have sprung up to cash in on this idea. Children have been exposed to often-violent abuse at the hands of self-proclaimed prophets and priests in these exorcisms, which were recently banned.