Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (French: République démocratique du Congo) is a country located in Central Africa, with a small length of Atlantic coastline. It is the third largest country (by area) in Africa. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is, with a UN estimated population of 66,020,000, the nineteenth most populous nation in the world, and the fourth most populous nation in Africa, as well as the most populous country where French is an official language.
In order to distinguish it from the neighbouring Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is often referred to as DR Congo, DROC, DRC, or RDC, or is called Congo-Kinshasa after the capital Kinshasa (in contrast to Congo-Brazzaville for its neighbour).
The Democratic Republic of the Congo was formerly, in turn, the Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, Congo-Léopoldville, Congo-Kinshasa, and Zaire (or Zaïre in French). Though it is located in the Central African UN subregion, the nation is economically and regionally affiliated with Southern Africa as a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The Democratic Republic of the Congo borders the Central African Republic and Sudan on the North; Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi on the East; Zambia and Angola on the South; the Republic of the Congo on the West; and is separated from Tanzania by Lake Tanganyika on the East. The country enjoys access to the ocean through a 40-kilometre (25 mile) stretch of Atlantic coastline at Muanda and the roughly nine-kilometre wide mouth of the Congo river which opens into the Gulf of Guinea.
The Second Congo War, beginning in 1998, devastated the country, involved seven foreign armies and is sometimes referred to as the "African World War". Despite the signing of peace accords in 2003, fighting continues in the east of the country. In eastern Congo, the prevalence of rape and other sexual violence is described as the worst in the world. The war is the world's deadliest conflict since World War II, killing 5.4 million people