An Introduction to the DR Congo and Mayumbe
A former Belgian colony and an independent Republic since 1960, the Congo occupies the greatest part of the Congo basin. The country has as its borders –the Cabinda and the Congo enclave Brazzaville; to the Northeast, Sudan; to the East, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania; to the South, Zambia and Angola. The estuary of the Congo (35Km) limits its sea front.
Inland, the Congolese depression is marshy and encircled by high plateaus. To the East, high mountains alternate (Ruwenzori, 5.120m) and depressions are formed by the Great Lakes of Albert, Kivu, Edouard and Tanganyika.
Lush forests cover these central regions which have a humid and hot equatorial climate. The confines of the country, due to their altitude, enjoy a less harsh climate. The fluvial network formed by the Congo River is cut by rapids. Its affluents are the Oubangui, the Kasaï, the Lomami and numerous rivers. Forests and savannas are home to diverse wild life.
In Congo there are more than two hundred ethnic groups speaking different languages and having their own customs.
The most important ethnic groups are the Bantus, then the Sudanese. Thereafter follow the Nilotics and also, as in Congo-Brazzaville, the wandering tribes of Pygmies.
The Congo is one of the richest African countries in mineral resources.
Congo’s modern history began in 1876, when the King of the Belgians, Léopold II, passionately fond of Stanley’s explorations, found in Brussels an African International Association in order to explore Black Africa and protect its populations against slavery. Soon afterward, Léopold II employed Stanley and sought to create a colonial territory, while Portugal claimed the mouth of the Congo and France claimed, through the intermediary of Savorgnan de Brazza, the Right Bank of the Congo and the Oubangui.
The International Conference of Berlin in 1885 elaborated for Africa the theory of the zones of influence. The Congo was declared independent under the personal government of the King of the Belgians. But the latter, incapable of meeting the expenses of this vast colony, he sold it to Belgium for twenty five million francs in 1908.
On 30 June 1960, the Belgian government granted independence to the Congo
- Area of the Congo: 2.345.000 Km2
- Population: more or less 65.71 million inhabitants
- Capital: Kinshasa
- Monetary unit: the Congolese Franc
- Languages spoken: French, Bantu dialects and Sudanese
When opening a geographic map, it’s easy to locate on the Atlantic coast of the African Continent the mouth of the Congo River. This is where, in the XV century, the Portuguese.
Navigators discovered, centered South of the river, the former kingdom of Congo, one of the post powerful countries of Central Africa. Later, the coast was left defenseless, as pirates and slave traders ravaged these regions and decimated the neighboring populations.
The popular narrations and legends have not, to date, clarified when the emigration to the North of the river of the important ethnic Yombe group took place.
Emigration, in any event, came prior to the Portuguese settling. It also appears that the mass of the Yombe population counts as its direct ancestry the former Congo kingdom. Nine of the Mayumbe tribes succeeded in crossing the Congo River and occupied without striking a blow almost the entire region lying between the Congo River and Tshiloango River. This is how they established themselves in the North of Boma in areas where they are still found today, between Cabinda and the ex-French Congo.
It is precisely in Boma in 1877 that Stanley completes his perilous journey across the “dark Continent”. Ten years later, the forces of the Independent State decided to occupy Mayumbe. Everywhere they encountered resistance of the stout populations. Several times, the latter victoriously resisted foreign invaders. The natives rose against the arrival of foreigners and strongly refused any occupation of the territory. This was because they were, for a long time, acquainted with the White man and his trading practices. They were neither fierce nor wild, or inhospitable. But experience taught them not to trust him and to face him with a tight, secret and united fist. It is only after 1894 that the resistance was quelled, with the governmental promise that the natives of Mayumbe would be stopped, until new orders, from reverting to public force.
In 1895, the construction of a railway destined to link Boma to the Tshéla region, situated in the heart of Mayumbe, was started. The region is not without riches. With easy access to the sea, it soon became and remains to date one of the most prosperous of Central Africa. This region is in fact a real eldorado. Gold, diamonds, bauxite and silver are found. The equatorial forest overflows with rare essences and woodlands such as Wengé. Besides fisheries, the Atlantic Ocean supplies an offshore oil industry. The agro-industrial sector has always been prosperous. Coffee, cocoa, palm plantations abound. Among the most remarkable infrastructures of the region, are the Inga hydroelectric dam, Matadi harbor, the future deep-water port of Banana, Kinlao oil-refinery, in the coastal region, and the Kitona military base constructed in 1956.
© Marie-rose Kasavubu