Facts & figures
- Full name: Republic of the Congo
- Population: 4.2 million (UN, 2012)
- Capital: Brazzaville
- Area: 342,000 sq km (132,047 sq miles)
- Major languages: French, indigenous African languages
- Major religions: Christianity, indigenous African beliefs
- Life expectancy: 57 years (men), 59 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: 1 CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc = 100 centimes
- Main exports: Oil, timber, plywood, sugar, cocoa, coffee, diamonds
- GNI per capita: US $2,250 (World Bank, 2011)
- Internet domain: .cg
- International dialling code: +242
President: Denis Sassou Nguesso
Mr Sassou Nguesso has been in power since 1979
Denis Sassou Nguesso is one of Africa's longest-serving leaders having first come to power three decades ago.
He gained his latest seven-year term after elections in July 2009 which were boycotted by the opposition, and from which the main opposition candidate was excluded.
Visa & travel advice
All applicants for a visa to the DRC are required to submit the following:
1. A valid Passport (for at least six months of validity remaining)
2. Two (2) application forms properly completed, dated and signed by the traveler.
3. 2 recent passport photos with the applicant facing the camera.
4. A copy of the “Green Card” or I-94 for non US citizens
5. A copy of an International Certificate of Vaccination showing immunization against yellow fever
6. A copy of the travel itinerary from an authorized travel agent
7. A letter from the company assuming all financial responsibilities for the traveler
8. An invitation letter notarized in the DRC.
9. A prepaid mailing envelope for return : Express Mail (United States Postal Service)
Congo’s wet season lasts from October to May. During that time, roads tend to turn into muddy quagmires and unwitting tourists into mosquito bait. Avoid this period, especially if you plan on venturing outside of Brazzaville or Pointe Noire. Instead, visit between June and August or during the shorter dry season in December.
Concerned about your safety as you plan travel to Congo-Brazzaville? We at Africa.com, together with our friends, family and colleagues, travel extensively throughout the continent. Here are the resources we consult when thinking of our safety in Congo-Brazzaville:
- UK Government Congo-Brazzaville Travel Advice Guidance
Africa.com comment: Very timely and frequently updated. Perspective assumes that you ARE going to travel to Congo-Brazzaville, and seeks to give you good guidance so that you understand the risks and are well informed.
- Mo Ibrahim Personal Safety & Rule of Law Score for Congo-Brazzaville
Africa.com comment: An annual ranking of the 54 African countries based on their relative personal security as determined by a highly qualified staff of an African foundation, funded by a successful African philanthropist. See where Congo-Brazzaville ranks relative to the other 54 nations in Africa.
- U.S. State Department Travel Advisory on Congo-Brazzaville
Africa.com comment: Can sometimes be considered as overly conservative and discourage travel altogether to destinations that many reasonable people find acceptably secure. On the other hand, they have the resources of the CIA to inform them, so they know things that the rest of us don’t know. See what they have to say about Congo-Brazzaville.
In precolonial times, the region now called the Republic of Congo was dominated by three kingdoms: Kongo (originating about 1000), the Loango (flourishing in the 17th century), and Tio. After the Portuguese located the Congo River in 1482, commerce was carried on with the tribes, especially the slave trade.
The Frenchman Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza signed a treaty with Makoko, ruler of the Bateke people, in 1880, thus establishing French control. It was first called French Congo, and after 1905 Middle Congo. With Gabon and Ubangi-Shari, it became the colony of French Equatorial Africa in 1910. Abuse of laborers led to public outcry against the French colonialists as well as rebellions among the Congolese, but the exploitation of the native workers continued until 1930. During World War II, the colony joined Chad in supporting the Free French cause against the Vichy government. The Congo proclaimed its independence without leaving the French Community in 1960, calling itself the Republic of Congo.
The Congo's second president, Alphonse Massemba-Débat, instituted a Marxist-Leninist government. In 1968, Maj. Marien Ngouabi overthrew him but kept the Congo on a Socialist course. He was sworn in for a second five-year term in 1975. A four-man commando squad assassinated Ngouabi on March 18, 1977. Col. Joachim Yhombi-Opango, army chief of staff, assumed the presidency on April 4. Yhombi-Opango resigned on Feb. 4, 1979, and was replaced by Col. Denis Sassou-Nguesso.
The arts are particularly important in Congolese life. The government has supported artists, writers, and architects mainly to bolster political agendas. Kinshasa’s Monument to the Martyrs of Independence is an example of this. However, most Congolese artistic activity exists outside of officially sponsored circles.
The Republic of the Congo is an African nation with close musical ties to its neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Democratic Republic of the Congo's homegrown pop music, soukous, is popular across the border, and musicians from both countries have fluidly travelled throughout the region playing similarly styled music, including Nino Malapet and Jean Serge Essous. Brazzaville had a major music scene until unrest in the late 1990s, and produced popular bands like Bantous de la Capitale that played an integral role in the development of soukous and other styles of Congolese popular music . The Hip-Hop group "Bisso na Bisso" also hails from Congo-Brazzaville.
The national anthem of the Republic of the Congo is La Congolaise. It was adopted upon independence in 1959, replaced in 1969 by Les Trois Glorieuses but reinstated in 1991. The words were written by Jacques Tondra and Georges Kibanghi, the music was composed by Jean Royer and Joseph Spadilière.
The Republic is home to the Sub-Saharan African music traditions of the Kongo (48%), Sangha (20%), M'Bochi (12%) and Teke (17%) people, as well as 3% Europeans and others, in a population of about 4,492,689 (July 2013 est.).
Folk instruments in the Republic of the Congo include the xylophone and mvet. The mvet is a kind of zither-harp, similar to styles found elsewhere in both Africa and Asia. The mvet is made of a long tube with one or two gourds acting as resonators
In the Congo, as in the majority of African countries occupied by French colonial forces at the end of the last century, the French language was established very slowly and literature written in French has only recently made its appearance. A few rare pieces of literary writing go back to before World War II (those of Tchicaya de Boempire (1937) or Dadet Damongo for example), but it is Jean Malonga who is regarded as the most senior Congolese writer, partly because he is the author of one of the first Congolese works of literature, Coeur d'Aryenne [Heart of Aryenne], published in 1954, and partly because of his ability to mark out an original direction on the fringe of the Negritude movement. In his excellent Overview of Congolese Literature, the author and literary critic Jean-Baptiste Tati-Loutard emphasises the momentum given to Congolese literature by the journal Liaison. This journal, which appeared for ten years (from 1950 to 1960) was "a veritable training ground for the intellectuals of the 1950s". Among those of note are Jean Malonga, Patrice Lhoni, Tchicaya U tam'Si, Sylvain Bemba, Guy Menga, Martial Sinda and others.
Following Independence, a few new authors emerged to take their place beside earlier writers, but this period is marked, above all, by a broadening of the literary field and by the success of Guy Menga in the theatrical domain. During the 1970s several authors appeared who would later become famous in Congolese literary circles. Among the best known are Makouta-Mboukou, Henri Lopès, Emmanuel Dongala, Tchichelle Tchivela as well as Sony Labou Tansi, all of whom attained international fame during the following decades. At the turn of the millenium, authors such as Alain Mabanckou and others have added to the success of Congolese literature, although many authors are now living abroad due to political or economic reasons.
Women writers only appeared on the literary scene at the beginning of the 1970s. In 1971, Paule Etoumba published a small volume of poems entitled Un mot fracasse un avenir [A Future Shattered by a Word]. In 1980, two collections of poetry by Amélia Néné and Marie-Léontine Tsibinda opened the way to further publications: Brigitte Yengo's autobiography the following year, another collection of poetry by Cécile-Ivelyse Diamoneka, and novels by Jeannette Balou-Tchichelle and Francine Laurans. In more recent times, many women writers have contributed to the expansion of Congolese literature in publishing a wide variety of articles and texts: tales by Adèle Caby-Livannah, short-stories by Ghislaine Sathoud, chronicles by Binéka Danièle Lissouba, novels by Noëlle Bizi Bazouma, Aleth Felix-Tchicaya, Marie-Louise Abia and Flore Hazoumé (who is Congolese on her mother's side and has lived in the Ivory Coast since the 1980s). Two autobiographies shedding light on the Congo of the 1960s are also worthy of mention : Mambou Aimée Gnali (2001) and Marceline Fila Matsocota (2003).
- Famous monuments
- Architecture history
The Republic of Congo is one of the most urbanized countries in Africa, with almost two-thirds of the population living in the urban conglomeration from Brazzaville to Pointe Moiré. Urban houses are made of concrete, often with a small garden attached. Villages are arranged with one large dirt street in the middle and many smaller streets running perpendicular to it. Many houses are built of mud brick with thatched or metal roofs. Cooking takes place in the front of the house, along with social interaction.