Congo, Republic of the

Introduction Upon independence in 1960, the former French region of Middle Congo became the Republic of the Congo. A quarter century of experimentation with Marxism was abandoned in 1990 and a democratically elected government took office in 1992. A brief civil war in 1997 restored former Marxist President Denis SASSOU-NGUESSO, and ushered in a period of ethnic and political unrest. Southern-based rebel groups agreed to a final peace accord in March 2003, but the calm is tenuous and refugees continue to present a humanitarian crisis. The Republic of Congo was once one of Africa's largest petroleum producers, but with declining production it will need to hope for new offshore oil finds to sustain its oil earnings over the long term.

The earliest inhabitants of the area were Pygmy peoples. They were largely replaced and absorbed by Bantu tribes during Bantu expansions. The Bakongo are Bantu groups that also occupied parts of present-day Angola, Gabon, and Democratic Republic of the Congo, forming the basis for ethnic affinities and rivalries among those states. Several Bantu kingdoms—notably those of the Kongo, the Loango, and the Teke—built trade links leading into the Congo River basin. The first European contacts came in the late 15th century, and commercial relationships were quickly established with the kingdoms—trading for slaves captured in the interior. The coastal area was a major source for the transatlantic slave trade, and when that commerce ended in the early 19th century, the power of the Bantu kingdoms eroded.

Following independence as the Congo Republic on August 15, 1960, Fulbert Youlou ruled as the country's first president until labor elements and rival political parties instigated a three-day uprising that ousted him. The Congolese military took charge of the country briefly and installed a civilian provisional government headed by Alphonse Massamba-Débat.

Under the 1963 constitution, Massamba-Débat was elected President for a five-year term but it was ended abruptly with an August 1968 coup d'état. Capt. Marien Ngouabi, who had participated in the coup, assumed the presidency on December 31, 1968. One year later, President Ngouabi proclaimed Congo to be Africa's first "people's republic" and announced the decision of the National Revolutionary Movement to change its name to the Congolese Labour Party (PCT). On March 16, 1977, President Ngouabi was assassinated. An 11-member Military Committee of the Party (CMP) was named to head an interim government with Col. (later Gen.) Joachim Yhombi-Opango to serve as President of the Republic.

After decades of turbulent politics bolstered by Marxist-Leninist rhetoric, and with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Congo completed a transition to multi-party democracy with elections in August 1992. Denis Sassou Nguesso conceded defeat and Congo's new president, Prof. Pascal Lissouba, was inaugurated on August 31, 1992.

However, Congo's democratic progress was derailed in 1997. As presidential elections scheduled for July 1997 approached, tensions between the Lissouba and Sassou camps mounted. On June 5, President Lissouba's government forces surrounded Sassou's compound in Brazzaville and Sassou ordered members of his private militia (known as "Cobras") to resist. Thus began a four-month conflict that destroyed or damaged much of Brazzaville and caused tens of thousands of civilian deaths. In early October, Angolan troops invaded Congo on the side of Sassou and, in mid-October, the Lissouba government fell. Soon thereafter, Sassou declared himself President. The Congo Civil War continued for another year and a half until a peace deal was struck between the various factions in December 1999.

Sham elections in 2002 saw Sassou win with almost 10% of the vote cast. His two main rivals Lissouba and Bernard Kolelas were prevented from competing and the only remaining credible rival, Andre Milongo, advised his supporters to boycott the elections and then withdrew from the race. A new constitution, agreed upon by referendum in January 2002, granted the president new powers and also extended his term to seven years as well as introducing a new bicameral assembly. International observers took issue with the organization of the presidential election as well as the constitutional referendum, both of which were reminiscent in their organization of Congo's era of the single-party state.

Geography Location: Western Africa, bordering the South Atlantic Ocean, between Angola and Gabon
Geographic coordinates: 1 00 S, 15 00 E
Map references: Africa
Area: total: 342,000 sq km
land: 341,500 sq km
water: 500 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Montana
Land boundaries: total: 5,504 km
border countries: Angola 201 km, Cameroon 523 km, Central African Republic 467 km, Democratic Republic of the Congo 2,410 km, Gabon 1,903 km
Coastline: 169 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 200 nm
Climate: tropical; rainy season (March to June); dry season (June to October); persistent high temperatures and humidity; particularly enervating climate astride the Equator
Terrain: coastal plain, southern basin, central plateau, northern basin
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mount Berongou 903 m
Natural resources: petroleum, timber, potash, lead, zinc, uranium, copper, phosphates, gold, magnesium, natural gas, hydropower
Land use: arable land: 1.45%
permanent crops: 0.15%
other: 98.4% (2005)
Irrigated land: 20 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 832 cu km (1987)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.03 cu km/yr (59%/29%/12%)
per capita: 8 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: seasonal flooding
Environment - current issues: air pollution from vehicle emissions; water pollution from the dumping of raw sewage; tap water is not potable; deforestation
Environment - international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography - note: about 70% of the population lives in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, or along the railroad between them

The most important of the many political parties are the Democratic and Patriotic Forces or FDP [Denis Sassou Nguesso, president], an alliance consisting of:
Convention for Alternative Democracy
Congolese Labour Party (PCT)
Liberal Republican Party
National Union for Democracy and Progress
Patriotic Union for the National Reconstruction
National Republic Party of Helasia
Union for the National Renewal

Other significant parties include:
Congolese Movement for Democracy and Integral Development or MCDDI [Michel Mampouya]
Pan-African Union for Social Development or UPADS [Martin Mberi]
Rally for Democracy and Social Progress or RDPS [Jean-Pierre Thystere Tchicaya, president]
Rally for Democracy and the Republic or RDR [Raymond Damasge Ngollo]
Union for Democracy and Republic or UDR leader NA
Union of Democratic Forces or UFD, Sebastian Ebao

The Republic of the Congo is divided into 10 régions (regions) and one commune, the capital Brazzaville. These are:Bouenza
Commune of Brazzaville Likouala

The regions are subdivided into forty-six districts.

People Population: 3,800,610
note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 46.3% (male 885,039/female 873,753)
15-64 years: 50.8% (male 958,992/female 973,445)
65 years and over: 2.9% (male 44,994/female 64,387) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 16.7 years
male: 16.4 years
female: 17 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.639% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 42.16 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 12.59 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: -3.17 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.013 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.985 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.699 male(s)/female
total population: 0.988 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 83.26 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 88.93 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 77.42 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 53.29 years
male: 52.1 years
female: 54.52 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 5.99 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 4.9% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 90,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 9,700 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne disease: malaria and African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness)
animal contact disease: rabies (2008)
Nationality: noun: Congolese (singular and plural)
adjective: Congolese or Congo
Ethnic groups: Kongo 48%, Sangha 20%, M'Bochi 12%, Teke 17%, Europeans and other 3%
Religions: Christian 50%, animist 48%, Muslim 2%
Languages: French (official), Lingala and Monokutuba (lingua franca trade languages), many local languages and dialects (of which Kikongo is the most widespread)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 83.8%
male: 89.6%
female: 78.4% (2003 est.)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Republic of the Congo
conventional short form: Congo (Brazzaville)
local long form: Republique du Congo
local short form: none
former: Middle Congo, Congo/Brazzaville, Congo
Government type: republic
Capital: name: Brazzaville
geographic coordinates: 4 15 S, 15 17 E
time difference: UTC+1 (six hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: 10 regions (regions, singular - region) and 1 commune*; Bouenza, Brazzaville*, Cuvette, Cuvette-Ouest, Kouilou, Lekoumou, Likouala, Niari, Plateaux, Pool, Sangha
Independence: 15 August 1960 (from France)
National holiday: Independence Day, 15 August (1960)
Constitution: approved by referendum 20 January 2002
Legal system: based on French civil law system and customary law
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Denis SASSOU-NGUESSO (since 25 October 1997, following the civil war in which he toppled elected president Pascal LISSOUBA);
head of government: Prime Minister Isidore MVOUBA (since 7 January 2005)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a seven-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held 10 March 2002 (next to be held in 2009)
election results: Denis SASSOU-NGUESSO reelected president; percent of vote - Denis SASSOU-NGUESSO 89.4%, Joseph Kignoumbi Kia MBOUNGOU 2.7%
Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (66 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms) and the National Assembly (137 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: Senate - last held 11 July 2002 (next to be held in July 2008); National Assembly - last held 24 June and 5 August 2007 (next to be held in 2012)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - FDP 56, other 10; National Assembly - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PCT 46, MCDDI 11, UPADS 11, MAR 5, MSD 5, independents 37, other 22
Judicial branch: Supreme Court or Cour Supreme
Political parties and leaders: Action Movement for Renewal or MAR; Congolese Movement for Democracy and Integral Development or MCDDI [Michel MAMPOUYA]; Congolese Labour Party or PCT; Movement for Solidarity and Development or MSD; Pan-African Union for Social Development or UPADS [Martin MBERI]; Rally for Democracy and Social Progress or RDPS [Jean-Pierre Thystere TCHICAYA, president]; Rally for Democracy and the Republic or RDR [Raymond Damasge NGOLLO]; Union for Democracy and Republic or UDR; Union of Democratic Forces or UFD [Sebastian EBAO]; many less important parties
Political pressure groups and leaders: Congolese Trade Union Congress or CSC; General Union of Congolese Pupils and Students or UGEEC; Revolutionary Union of Congolese Women or URFC; Union of Congolese Socialist Youth or UJSC
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Serge MOMBOULI
chancery: 4891 Colorado Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20011
telephone: [1] (202) 726-5500
FAX: [1] (202) 726-1860
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Robert WEISBERG
embassy: BDEAC Building, 4th Floor, Brazzaville
mailing address: NA
telephone: [242] 81-1480
FAX:: [243] 81-5324
Flag description: divided diagonally from the lower hoist side by a yellow band; the upper triangle (hoist side) is green and the lower triangle is red
note: uses the popular pan-African colors of Ethiopia
Culture Culture of the Republic of the Congo - Half of Congolese people follow traditional beliefs, there are 15 principle Bantu groups and more than 70 subgroups. The other 50% is constructed of 35% Roman Catholic, 15% other Christian and 2% are Muslim.
Economy Economy - overview: The economy is a mixture of subsistance agriculture, an industrial sector based largely on oil, and support services, and a government characterized by budget problems and overstaffing. Oil has supplanted forestry as the mainstay of the economy, providing a major share of government revenues and exports. In the early 1980s, rapidly rising oil revenues enabled the government to finance large-scale development projects with GDP growth averaging 5% annually, one of the highest rates in Africa. The government has mortgaged a substantial portion of its oil earnings through oil-backed loans that have contributed to a growing debt burden and chronic revenue shortfalls. Economic reform efforts have been undertaken with the support of international organizations, notably the World Bank and the IMF. However, the reform program came to a halt in June 1997 when civil war erupted. Denis SASSOU-NGUESSO, who returned to power when the war ended in October 1997, publicly expressed interest in moving forward on economic reforms and privatization and in renewing cooperation with international financial institutions. Economic progress was badly hurt by slumping oil prices and the resumption of armed conflict in December 1998, which worsened the republic's budget deficit. The current administration presides over an uneasy internal peace and faces difficult economic challenges of stimulating recovery and reducing poverty. Recovery of oil prices has boosted the economy's GDP and near-term prospects. In March 2006, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) treatment for Congo.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $13.97 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $6.848 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 2.8% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $3,700 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 5.6%
industry: 57.1%
services: 37.3% (2006 est.)
Labor force: NA
Unemployment rate: NA%
Population below poverty line: NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 7% (2007 est.)
Investment (gross fixed): 31.5% of GDP (2007 est.)
Budget: revenues: $3.639 billion
expenditures: $2.104 billion (2007 est.)
Agriculture - products: cassava (tapioca), sugar, rice, corn, peanuts, vegetables, coffee, cocoa; forest products
Industries: petroleum extraction, cement, lumber, brewing, sugar, palm oil, soap, flour, cigarettes
Industrial production growth rate: -1% (2007 est.)
Electricity - production: 7.341 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 0.3%
hydro: 99.7%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption: 5.272 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports: 1.8 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports: 6 million kWh (2005)
Oil - production: 235,900 bbl/day
Oil - consumption: 7,000 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports: 229,700 bbl/day (2004 est.)
Oil - imports: 11,410 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - proved reserves: 1.506 billion bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 115.1 million cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 115.1 million cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 0 cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 86.9 billion cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: $1.094 billion (2007 est.)
Exports: $6.455 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Exports - commodities: petroleum, lumber, plywood, sugar, cocoa, coffee, diamonds
Exports - partners: US 35.9%, China 31.4%, Taiwan 9.9%, South Korea 8% (2006)
Imports: $1.724 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Imports - commodities: capital equipment, construction materials, foodstuffs
Imports - partners: France 23.5%, China 13.2%, US 7.6%, India 7%, Italy 5.6%, Belgium 5.3% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient: $1.449 billion (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $2.242 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external: $5 billion (2000 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $NA
Currency (code): Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XAF); note - responsible authority is the Bank of the Central African States
Currency code: XAF
Exchange rates: Communaute Financiere Africaine francs (XAF) per US dollar - 483.6 (2007), 522.59 (2006), 527.47 (2005), 528.29 (2004), 581.2 (2003)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 15,900 (2005)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 490,000 (2005)
Telephone system: general assessment: services barely adequate for government use; key exchanges are in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, and Loubomo; intercity lines frequently out of order; fixed-line infrastructure inadequate providing less than 1 connection per 100 persons; mobile-cellular subscribership has surged reaching 16 per 100 persons
domestic: primary network consists of microwave radio relay and coaxial cable
international: country code - 242; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 5, shortwave 3 (2001)
Radios: 341,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 1 (2001)
Televisions: 33,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .cg
Internet hosts: 3 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2000)
Internet users: 70,000 (2006)
Transportation Airports: 31 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 5
over 3,047 m: 2
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 26
1,524 to 2,437 m: 7
914 to 1,523 m: 10
under 914 m: 9 (2007)
Pipelines: gas 89 km; liquid petroleum gas 4 km; oil 758 km (2007)
Railways: total: 894 km
narrow gauge: 894 km 1.067-m gauge (2006)
Roadways: total: 17,289 km
paved: 864 km
unpaved: 16,425 km (2004)
Waterways: 1,125 km (commercially navigable on Congo and Oubanqui rivers) (2006)
Merchant marine: registered in other countries: 1 (Congo, Democratic Republic of the 1) (2007)
Ports and terminals: Brazzaville, Djeno, Impfondo, Ouesso, Oyo, Pointe-Noire
Military Military branches: Congolese Armed Forces (Forces Armees Congolaises, FAC): Army, Navy, Congolese Air Force (Armee de l'Air Congolaise), Gendarmerie, Special Presidential Security Guard (GSSP) (2008)
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age for voluntary military service; women allowed to serve (2007)
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 688,628
females age 18-49: 685,388 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 18-49: 406,016
females age 18-49: 394,745 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually: males age 18-49: 38,464
females age 18-49: 38,082 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 3.1% (2006)
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: Congo hosts about 63,000 refugees from neighboring states, primarily from the Pool border area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; the location of the boundary in the broad Congo River with the Democratic Republic of the Congo is indefinite except in the Pool Malebo/Stanley Pool area
Refugees and internally displaced persons: refugees (country of origin): 56,380 (Democratic Republic of Congo), 6,478 (Rwanda)
IDPs: 48,000 (multiple civil wars since 1992; most IDPs are ethnic Lari) (2006)