Congo

 
History/Politics

First inhabited by Pygmies, Congo was later settled by Bantu groups. 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.

The area came under French sovereignty in the 1880s, mostly due to Pierre Savorgnon de Brazza, a French empire builder. Formal independence was granted to Congo in August 1960. Since then, the country has undergone a series of governments, uprising, civil wars, and constitutions. In 1992, Congo completed a transition to multi-party democracy, ending a long history of one-party Marxist rule, which culminated in August 1992 with multi-party presidential elections. Sassou-Nguesso conceded defeat and Congo’s new President, Prof. Pascal Lissouba, was inaugurated on August 31, 1992. After a series of civil wars in the late 1990s, Sassou-Nguesso took power again.

A new constitution was formed in 2002 and Sassou-Nguesso was elected President. The basic composition of the government includes:

  1. Executive-president (chief of state) and Council of Ministers (cabinet);
  2. Legislative-bicameral legislature composed of a Senate and a National Assembly;
  3. Judicial-Supreme Court, Court of Accounts and Budgetary Discipline, Courts of Appeal, and the Constitutional Court;
  4. Other-Economic Council and Human Rights Commission.

The country has 10 administrative subdivisions, each of which is divided into districts, plus the capital district.

Geography/Economics

  • The northeast of the country is very marshy and sparsely populated.
  • The Congo River has extreme rapids that make it impossible to navigate inland. Goods are sent north of rapids by train and then they are moved by boat. The river is strong enough to produce electricity for the whole country, but the distribution system is so faulty that even the closest city has regular power outages.
  • The country’s infrastructure is poor. Most people travel by air when they need to go from city to city.
  • The train between Pointe Noir and Brazzaville has accidents regularly and is frequently attacked by bandits.
  • The Congo’s economy is based primarily on its petroleum sector, which is by far the country’s major revenue earner.
  • The country’s abundant northern rain forests are the source of timber.

Language
French is the official language. Additionally, there are two national languages: Lingala, Munukituba. Lingala is used all over the country and Munukituba is used primarily in the densely-populated southern area. Almost all people have to be bilingual in their native tongue and at least one of the two trade languages. Many people also speak varying degrees French. Congo has a total of 62 languages, of which only a few have any Scripture at all.
Education
Education is free and compulsory for students between the ages of 6 and 16. The six-year primary education course includes instruction in agriculture, manual skills, and domestic science. On the secondary level courses are offered in vocational training, academic and technical training, general education, and teacher training. Institutions of higher learning include the Marien Ngouabi University in Brazzaville and colleges and centers for specialized and technical learning. Rates of literacy vary depending on the source. According to The World Factbook, the 2003 estimate for persons age 15 and over who can read and write is 83.8% of the total population (Male: 89.6%, Female: 78.4%)
Religion and Culture
Traditional beliefs 48%, Roman Catholic 35%, other Christian 15%, Muslim 2%. The three major groupings of Christians are Catholic, Eglise Evangelique du Congo (the major protestant denomination), and the revival churches.