Background: Established as a Belgian colony in 1908, the then-Republic of the Congo gained its independence in 1960, but its early years were marred by political and social instability. Col. Joseph MOBUTU seized power and declared himself president in a November 1965 coup. He subsequently changed his name - to MOBUTU Sese Seko - as well as that of the country - to Zaire. MOBUTU retained his position for 32 years through several sham elections, as well as through brutal force. Ethnic strife and civil war, touched off by a massive inflow of refugees in 1994 from fighting in Rwanda and Burundi, led in May 1997 to the toppling of the MOBUTU regime by a rebellion backed by Rwanda and Uganda and fronted by Laurent KABILA. He renamed the country the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), but in August 1998 his regime was itself challenged by a second insurrection again backed by Rwanda and Uganda. Troops from Angola, Chad, Namibia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe intervened to support KABILA's regime. A cease-fire was signed in July 1999 by the DRC, Congolese armed rebel groups, Angola, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zimbabwe but sporadic fighting continued. Laurent KABILA was assassinated in January 2001 and his son, Joseph KABILA, was named head of state. In October 2002, the new president was successful in negotiating the withdrawal of Rwandan forces occupying eastern Congo; two months later, the Pretoria Accord was signed by all remaining warring parties to end the fighting and establish a government of national unity. A transitional government was set up in July 2003. Joseph KABILA as president and four vice presidents represented the former government, former rebel groups, the political opposition, and civil society. The transitional government held a successful constitutional referendum in December 2005 and elections for the presidency, National Assembly, and provincial legislatures in 2006. The National Assembly was installed in September 2006 and KABILA was inaugurated president in December 2006. Provincial assemblies were constituted in early 2007, and elected governors and national senators in January 2007. The next national elections are scheduled for November 2011.
Location: Central Africa, northeast of Angola
Area land: 2,267,048 sq km
Area water: 77,810 sq km
Coastline: 37 km
Country name conventional long form: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Country name conventional short form: DRC
Country name former: Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, Congo/Leopoldville, Congo/Kinshasa, Zaire
Age structure: 0-14 years: 44.4% (male 16,031,347/female 15,811,818); 15-64 years: 53% (male 18,919,942/female 19,116,204); 65 years and over: 2.6% (male 767,119/female 1,066,437) (2011 est.);
Population growth rate: 2.614% (2011 est.)
Birth rate: 37.74 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Death rate: 11.06 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.54 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female; under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female; 15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female; 65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female; total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2011 est.);
Infant mortality rate: total: 78.43 deaths/1,000 live births; male: 82.2 deaths/1,000 live births; female: 74.55 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.);
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 55.33 years; male: 53.9 years; female: 56.8 years (2011 est.);
Total fertility rate: 5.24 children born/woman (2011 est.);
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: NA;
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: NA;
HIV/AIDS - deaths: NA;
Nationality: noun: Congolese (singular and plural); adjective: Congolese or Congo;
Ethnic groups: over 200 African ethnic groups of which the majority are Bantu; the four largest tribes - Mongo, Luba, Kongo (all Bantu), and the Mangbetu-Azande (Hamitic) make up about 45% of the population;
Religions: Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 20%, Kimbanguist 10%, Muslim 10%, other (includes syncretic sects and indigenous beliefs) 10%;
Languages: French (official), Lingala (a lingua franca trade language), Kingwana (a dialect of Kiswahili or Swahili), Kikongo, Tshiluba;
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write French, Lingala, Kingwana, or Tshiluba; total population: 67.2%; male: 80.9%; female: 54.1% (2001 est.);
GDP (purchasing power parity): $23.58 billion (2010 est.); $22.25 billion (2009 est.); $21.64 billion (2008 est.);
GDP (official exchange rate): $12.6 billion (2010 est.);
GDP - real growth rate: 6% (2010 est.); 2.8% (2009 est.); 6.2% (2008 est.);
GDP - per capita (PPP): $300 (2010 est.); $300 (2009 est.); $300 (2008 est.);
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 37.4%; industry: 26%; services: 36.6% (2008 est.);
Population below poverty line: 71% (2006 est.);
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 2.3%; highest 10%: 34.7% (2006);
Labor force: 23.53 million (2007 est.);
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: NA%; industry: NA%; services: NA%;
Unemployment rate: NA%;
Budget: revenues: $700 million; expenditures: $2 billion (2006 est.);
Industries: mining (diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt, coltan, zinc, tin, diamonds), mineral processing, consumer products (including textiles, plastics, footwear, cigarettes, metal products, processed foods and beverages), timber, cement, commercial ship repair;
Industrial production growth rate: NA%;
Electricity - production: 8.217 billion kWh (2007 est.);
Electricity - consumption: 5.997 billion kWh (2007 est.);
Electricity - exports: 1.916 billion kWh (2007 est.);
Electricity - imports: 6 million kWh (2007 est.);
Statistics: CIA World Factbook.
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A string of U.N. successes against rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo may not last unless the underlying cause of the conflict is addressed.
Brutal violence continues to ravage the Democratic Republic of Congo, but the massacres get very little coverage in Western media.
The Kony 2012 video has led to increased U.S. pressure on the Ugandan regime to catch the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) leader.
Elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are expected to be deeply flawed, and a number of situations could lead to further violence and unrest in the war-torn country.