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:
- Executive-president (chief of state) and Council of Ministers (cabinet);
- Legislative-bicameral legislature composed of a Senate and a National Assembly;
- Judicial-Supreme Court, Court of Accounts and Budgetary Discipline, Courts of Appeal, and the Constitutional Court;
- Other-Economic Council and Human Rights Commission.
The country has 10 administrative subdivisions, each of which is divided into districts, plus the capital district.
- 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.
CIA – The World Factbook. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/cf.html
State Department. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2825.htm