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The Republic of Congo
ø Located in central Africa, on the West coast of the continent, the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville or Congolese Republic) has a surface of 341 821 km² and stretches on 1200 km on both sides of the equator. Its capital, Brazzaville, is separated by the river Congo de Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (ex Zaire).
This country has common borders with: in north, the Central African Republic, in the east and the south, the Democratic Republic of Congo, in south-west, Angola (Cabinda enclave), in the west, Gabon and in the North-West Cameroun (maps). Its particular form can evoke "a mom, sitting, looking towards the ocean and nursing its baby". This country is located at 7 000 km in the south of France, in the same time zone.
ø Bordered in the west by the Atlantic Ocean, the Republic of Congo has 169 km of coasts.
Parallels with those, are plains of around fifty kilometers wide, dominated by savanna.
While going towards the center of the country, a mountainous zone parallel at the coast is, Mayombe. This solid mass cuts the Republic of Congo, while going from Gabon in the North-West with the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Cabinda enclave in south-east. With the very broken relief, this mountainous solid mass relatively low is almost entirely covered with forests.
After this solid mass the valley of Niari, river affluent the Kouilou river. This valley opens in north on the mounts of Chaillu, solid mass which extends in Gabon. We find here the climax of the Republic of Congo, with the Mount Berongou (903 m).
Then extends the Pool, area of hills, deforested by the action of man and which faces towards north with a succession of covered plateau of savanna.
The latter, the Téké Plateau or Batéké, are separated the deep valleys where various affluents of the Congo river run.
Follows the Basin, zone semi-watery where the rivers form a grid through a dense forest almost always flooded.
The extrem north of the country, towards the borders with Cameroun and the Central Africa Republic is a crossed forest belt of many rivers.

ø the hydrous network of this country is very important, with very numerous rivers, but also with lakes and lagoons. The principal river is the Congo river, 4000 km length and second larger flow in the world. It forms with one of its affluents, Oubangui, a part of the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
ø the zones of equatorial forests cover more than a half of the surface of the Republic of Congo, being divided primarily into three large blocks: the area of Kouilou with the forests of Mayombe, the areas of Niari and Lékoumou with the forests of the mounts of Chaillu and finally the forests of the Congo basin, in the north of the country. The country has on its territory 10 % of the African forests.

ø the climate, of a tropical type, is characterized by two great seasons: Sight of the camp of the Triangle during the rain season
       · The rain season, from October to April, very frequent rain and high temperature (of 25°C with 35°C), stopped from January to February by one period of weak rains, period known as "small dry season".
      · The dry season, from May to September, characterized by very few rains, moderate temperatures (between 18-20°C and 25°C) and an important and low cloudy
cover, suitable to the formation of fogs, important in forest and that the Congolese often calls "snow".
ø the average temperature in Brazzaville and Pointe Noire is of 25°C. The average annual level of precipitations is 1 200 mm, even if important variations are observed from one year to another. Average moisture is about 88 %. Lastly, the average annual sunning is 1 519 hours (1 400 - 2 000) at Pointe Noire, with a maximum in March (6,1 h/j) and a minimum in September (2,4 h/j).

Administrative organization
ø the country is divided into a commune, Brazzaville, and nine areas, each one having a place chief and districts: coast towards the interior, Kouilou, Niari, Bouenza, Lékoumou, the Pool, the Plates, the Basin (sometimes divided into Basin and Basin-West), Sangha and Likouala.
ø Republican system; National festival the 15 of august; President in 2006: General Denis Sassou-Nguesso.
ø the official and administrative language is French.
ø Currency: CFA franc (1 euro being worth approximately 655,96 CFA).

ø the Republic of Congo counts 3 900 000 people in 2004, the congolese. In 2003, life expectancy at birth was 51, 7 years old and the birth rate of 6,3 children by women. AIDS touches a great number of people, with in particular 4,9 % of the 15-49 years are reached (fidurs quantified, www.worlbank.com). More than half of the population lives downtown, primarily in Pointe Noire and Brazzaville. The latter saw doubling its population between 1980 and 1990. Lastly, let us note that this country is a land of welcome, especially following the conflicts in the area of the large lakes, with approximately 91 000 refugees in the 1° January 2004.
ø the majority ethnic group is the one of the Kongos (especially localised in the area of Brazzaville; but various ethnic groups are connected to them, like the vilis, living on the coast) then we find the Sanghas, the Batékés, and the M'bochis. This country still counts some populations of pigmés (Bakas).
ø half of the population is Christian (catholics and Protestants), the other half practice the African traditional religions and 2 % of the Congolese are Moslem.
ø Among the principal languages spoken apart from the French, we can quote the lingala (50 % of the population), the monokutuba, the kikongo and the lari.

ø Ways of transportationExample of a Congolese track
       - Roads: they are in general difficult ; in 1996 we could count 12 800 km of roads, including only 1242 km of tarred roads.
      - Railways: 894 km in 2000; the principal line, often stopped during the interior conflicts, binds Brazzaville to Pointe Noire, the economic capital and only true harbor of the country;
      - Ways navigales: the rivers are the principal transportation roads; 1120 km are navigable.
      - Airports: about thirty are distributed in the country but only 4 had tracks tarred in 2000; two more important, where arrive in particular the main part of the international flights are those of Brazzaville and Pointe Noire.
ø Information flow
      - television remains not very widespread, with in 1999 less than 40 receivers for 1000 inhabitants. The electrical supply network is very little developed, existing especially in the principal cities and prone to many cuts.
      - the "traditional" telephone, is also not very developed with less than 11 lines for 100 inhabitants in 1997. The development of the portable telephone is on the other hand into full expansion, especially since the beginning of the years 2000.
      - the access to Internet develops also more and more since the beginning of the years 2000.

ø the Pygmies seem to have been the first inhabitants of the area. Populations of Bantoue language, using with skill the work of iron and agriculture, appeared during the 1° thousand-year before our era. Several bantoues kingdoms, in particular the Kongo kingdom, built a network of exchanges on the scale of the basin of the river Congo (the name of this river comes from the name of the Kongos people).
ø the first contacts with Europeans took place in the XV° century and trade developed with the local kingdoms. In the XVI° century, Portuguese baptized Punta Negra the future site of the town of Pointe Noire.
The coasted area was a major place for the draft of slaves. The stop in the XIX° century of this draft brought the decline of the bantoues kingdoms and allowed the development of colonialism.
ø the European penetration really began in 1875 with Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, French explorer of Italian extraction and creater of the town of Brazzaville. The colony of French Congo was founded in 1891 and some concessionary companies divided the territory. At the time of the creation of the French Equatorial Africa, in 1910, with like capital Brazzaville, the territories explored by Mr. de Brazza were divided into two countries, in the west Gabon and in the east Congo.
ø In 1911, the concessionary companies, guilty companies of exactions towards the local populations, was in great part desseased from their territories. But the anticolonialism reaction was initiated especially between the two world wars. Father Fulbert Youlou benefitted from this context in 1955 to supplant the local political chiefs and to reach in 1958 the place of prime minister. He brought the country to total independence in 1960.
ø Fulbert Youlou was reversed in 1963 by a popular revolution (the Three glorious ones) and replaced by Massemba-Debate. This one was in its turn relieved in 1968 by the army. A period of instability settled then which saw the accension of the captain Gouabi.
This last gave to the country its title of popular Republic of Congo, name of the country of 1969 to 1992. Assassinated in 1977, Gouabi was not replaced by the General Yhombi-Opango, relieved in his turn in 1979 by its second, colonel Sassou Guessou. First of all pro-Soviet and Marxist-Leninist, the regim evolved in years 1980 to a pragmatic liberalism. But only one party remained to power : the Congolese Labour Party or PTC.
ø In 1990, under the pressure of the trade unions and the churches, the government authorized the multi-party system. In November 1992, a civil, Pascal Lissouba reached the presidency (prime minister, André Milongo). As soon as elected, P.Lissouba decided to apply the theory of the tribe-class which it had developed in its youth when he was an ideologist of Congolese socialism. For him the "class struggle" conceived by Karl Marx could not applied in Africa. It was imperatively to be adapted to the traditional social structures: the tribe replaced the class.
ø In less than three months, the political climate was degraded. It resulted from it a political agitation and social which resulted in strikes and demonstrations from the streets. The conflicts burst in November 1992 in Brazzaville between the militia of P.Lissouba and B.Kolélas, mayor of Brazzaville. The victory with the legislative elections of 1993 of the coalition to the power was strongly disputed by the opposition. The militia of the latter opposed violently the pro-governmental militia and the army. This first civil war will end only on January 30, 1994, when P.Lissouba carried out a spectacular reversal and was combined temporarily with its adversary. It caused the death from 3 to 4000 people.
ø the conflict of 1997 - the country was impoverished between 1992 and 1997, mortgaging its resources by a policy of loans guaranteed on the future oil receipts. In 1997, the presidential elections were engaged, adverse the president in place and the General Sassou-Nguesso, former president. It is at the beginning of June that the engagements between the two parties burst. France took part by imposing a mediator: Gabonese president Omar Bongo. This one imposed with difficulty a truce and talks. September 15 proceeded the "top of Libreville" in Gabon, bringing together the presidents of the close countries and the opponents Congolese. They ruled on the need for an international mediation to restore a democratic capacity. In the days which followed, P.Lissouba lost the control of Brazzaville. He left the Palace of the People with his entourage. The Sassou-Nguesso General took then the head of the country. He was proclaimed president in October 25, 1997.
ø political climate between the end of 1998 and the beginning of 1999 - the tensions were orchestrated by the former militians of the various camps (Ninjas, at the origin pro-Kolélas, mayor of Brazzaville, Cocoyes, pro-Lissouba and Cobras, pro-Sassou Nguesso), become plunderers. The things accelerate with the resurgence of the Ninjas and the crisis of the Pool, at the end of the summer 1998. October 24, will take place a dialogue of the World Council of Christian  Churches on the crisis of the Pool and establishment a committee of mediation. However in November 14, 6 members of this committee were killed in Mindouli and the crisis worsened with the beginning of the implication of Cocoyes. The beginning of December saw the intervention in the Pool of Angolan units of the army. The fixings were done increasingly many in the south of Brazzaville. Since September 1998, 30 000 people would have fled the Pool, 20 000 in direction of Brazzaville and Black Pointe, 10 000 in Democratic Republic of Congo. Thousands would have taken refuge in forest. December 18, the Ninjas entered the southern districts of Brazzaville. Then began the blockade and the "cleaning" of these districts. The districts of Bacongo and Makelekele were reopened only in May 1999. This period was characterized by massacres, plunderings and knowing the exact truth remains difficult, to establish the responsibilities even more. But the number of refugees amounts of ten thousands. Spring and summer 1999 transfer the resumption of discussions. Congo-Brazzaville, since the end of 1999 and the agreements signed under the good auspices of Gabon, seems to know a return to a certain political stability.
ø 2002: Re-election of Sassou Nguesso to the presidency - Drafting of a new constitution, reinforcing his power.

Current economic situation
ø Agriculture Tubers of manioc
The self-subsistence is the rule in rural environment (40 % of the population). Agriculture rests between the hands of the women who use the traditional techniques ofecobuage, of burn-beating etc.
The manioc is the basic food, cultivated with secondary plants such as sweet potato, the taros, pea, groundnut or corn. The commercial cultures are based on the production of coffee, rice and of tobacco on the plateau like the cocoa located in the area of the "Basin".
Some productions of fruit and vegetables are in the south. Savannas of the south nourish the ovine and porcine herds and breeding. The rest of the country practises a traditional small animal breeding.
Hunting in forest and fishing at sea and lakes are auxiliary activities (certain ethnic groups, as it is the case in the area of Conkouati, depend on it to 80 %). They are practised by the men.
ø Industry - Various Economic Situation
From the economic point of view, the foreign debt is three times today higher than Gross domestic product (GDP). In 1995, with a GDP of 680 $ (world average, 4 880 $), the Republic of Congo came just behind Gabon (3 490 $) and in front of these other frontier countries. But its foreign debt is one of the most important of central Africa with 12 243 million dollars in 1995 (against 5 512 for the DRC or 900 for Cameroun). Moreover, the foreign investment is very weak (1 million dollars for the direct investment in 1993-95 against 71 in Cameroun) and the assistance with the development represents nothing per person but 4 $
in 1995 (against 34 in Cameroun, 48 in DRC or 133 in Gabon). The country is far from self-sufficiency food and the problems of provisioning impose high prices. The cost of living is consequently with the second rank in Africa after Gabon. The situation of this country is thus still precarious in 2005.
First resource of the country: the oil, exploited primarily starting from the stations offshore oil rig with broad of Pointe Noire. The first layer was discovered in 1960. In 1999, the oil sector contributed for 47,5 % of the GDP at constant prices, ensured 91,2 % of the export earnings and 60,2 % of the budget of the State. The Republic of Congo is the fourth sub-Saharan producer country.
Cutting of wood in the forest Second resource by its importance, wood. The old French administration set up the forestry development at ends of export. The forestry developments are located mainly along the Niari river, in the south. In 1999, forestry development represents 9 % of the GDP.
At the mining level, geological knowledge remains still badly established. The country however seems equipped with
diversified mineral resources. Gold is present in the solid mass of Chaillu and Ivindo, in the chain of Mayombe and the basin of Sembé-Ouesso. It is exploited in an artisanal way by the gold washers. To diversify the bases of the economy, the government intends to develop the mining sector.
Congolese manufacturing industry is little developed and covers mainly the fields of the textile, agro-alimentary and the brewery. The industrial activities gather in the south of the areas of the Pool, Bouenza and Kouilou. It would represent hardly 8 % of the GDP. This sector was dominated a long time by the public companies, characterized by the important ones and massive losses, a heavy debt, a very bad management and plethoric manpower. The sector suffers in addition, of the narrowness of the domestic market, the high cost of the factors of production, of a labour little qualified and problems of transport. It undergoes the competition of the abstract sector more and more. The market of drinks constitutes the 2/3 of the total sales turnover of manufacturing industry.

Ecological situation
ø Congolese forests
We estimate at twenty million hectares the surface of the Congolese forests, of which 80 % are considered commercially productive. They have a great biological diversity with more than three hundred species. They are distributed between three principal solid masses, different the ones from the others from the point of view of their extent, their floristic composition and their development:       - solid mass of Kouilou-Mayombe, a surface of 1, 4 million hectares approximately, the least wide solid mass; its exploitation started timidly at the beginning of the years 1930 and was accentuated after the Second World War. Today, it knows an exhaustion due to the overexploitation supported by the proximity of the Wearing of Pointe Noire. It currently contributes to the national production with height of a little more than 70.000 m3 grumes/an, that is to say 11 %. L Okoumé (Aucoumea klaineana) and Limba (Terminalia superba) are the principal 
      - solid mass of Chaillu - Niari, second solid mass with a surface from approximately 3, 5 million hectares; its exploitation started in the years 1960 with the startup of the railway Comilog. Okoumé is the principal 
specie (70 % of volume on foot), followed of Limba. The solid mass knows also a certain exhaustion and takes part in the national production with 150.000 m3 height grumes/an, that is to say 21 % approximately.
      - solid mass of North - the Congo, most important in term of surface (15 million easily flooded hectares approximately including 7 million) and of the potentialities. Two principal 
species are exploited: Sipo (Entandrophragma useful) and the sapelli (Entandrophragma cylindricum). This solid mass takes part in the national production with 480.000 m3 height grumes/an, that is to say 68 % approximately.
The Congolese forest potential is still badly known, since hardly five million hectares (approximately 25 % of the forest surface of the country) were inventoried, at some very low rates of survey (0,2- 2,5 %), on the basis of cartography often not very recent. Nevertheless, the potential of exploitation of these forests sharpen many appetites. Thus, the possibilities of annual production are estimated around two million m3 barks.
To this natural potential, are added 73.000 hectares of forest plantations, made up mainly of eucalyptus (60.000 hectares), limba (7.500 hectares), pines (4.500 hectares) and other 
species (1.000 hectares).
Forest products others than wood, in other words produced secondary or not woody are numerous and play an important part in the Congolese economy: wild vegetables, fruits, lianas, canes, caterpillars, etc. The consumption of these products touches the fields food, medical or cultural. Various studies made it possible to identify 166 
species of food plants belonging to 55 families, 800 species of medicinal plants belonging to 1000 families and several other species used for the various needs (construction, basket making, culture etc).
Statistical data consulted in a document going back to 2001 on www.fao.org
ø protected surfaces and their management
The Republic of Congo counts approximately 36 500 km² surfaces protected (from nearly 17 000 km² in 1977), that is to say overall 11,6 % of the territory. This figure includes in particular:
    1°) of the zones protected at the international level:
      · a site RAMSAR (International Convention for the protection of the wetland), the Tele-Likouala lake with Grasses in the North-East, in the area of Likouala;
      · a Reserve of Biosphere, the reserve of Dimonika, in the north of Pointe Noire.
of the zones protected by the national legislation:
      · Reserves of Fauna or hunting of which reserves of Lékoli-Pandaka (50 000 ha, in the North-West), of Tsoulou (30 000 ha, in south-west), of the Mount Fouari (16 000 ha, in the area of Niari), of Léfini (630 000 ha, north of Brazzaville);
      · Three national parks : the National park of Odzala-Kokoua (Area of the Basin - Created in 1935 - Extension in 2001 to 13 600 km²), the National park of Nouabalé-Ndoki (Northern west - Created in 1993 - 4200 km² - Integrated with the National park Lobéké into Cameroun and of Dzanga-Ndoki in RCA in a plan of management tri-national), and of Conkouati-Douli (Kouilou - Created in 1999 starting from the Reserve of Conkouati -5050 km² )
But the protected zones would be more and more important in the near future. Thus, in February 2004, the Republic of Congo announced a plan of extention of these zones, far-sighted:
    1°) the creation of the National park of Bambama-Likana, which will constitute a transborder surface protected with the National park from the Bateke plateau in Gabon;
    2°) the widening of the marine reserves located along the coast, by connecting the National park of Conkouati-Douli to the National park of Mayumba, in Gabon, in order to protect the beaches, the marshes and the coastal forests, which are of a world importance, in particular some of these zones being one of the most important sites of reproduction for the marine tortules.
    3°) creation in the south of a transborder surface protected along the borders from Angola and the Democratic Republic from Congo.
In this country, we counts also four important sanctuaries for great monkeys: the sanctuary of the chimpanzees of
H.E.L.P. Congo, the sanctuary of chimpanzees of Tchimpounga, the sanctuary of Gorillas of Lésio-Louma and the sanctuary of gorillas of Lossi.
The environmental protection is at the charge of the Ministry for the forest Economy and the Environment. Many problems, lacks of financial means or competences in particular, handicap the management of protected spaces. The World Bank, by the means of the GEF (Total Environmental Fund), was implied financially until 1999 through the PROGECAP (Project of Management and Conservation of the Protected Surfaces). The socio-policies events of the end of the Nineties brought at the time to the almost total stop of the environmental programs in the country. The return to a more stable situation, the development of the initiative "Forests of the Congo Basin", or the implication increased from certain large ONGS as the WCS (Wordlife Society Conservation) make it possible to see the comeback of the conservation of these zones protected like a priority.
ø environmental Impacts of the human activities
    1°) Deforestation - For one very recent time, the forests in the Republic of Congo have been subjected to a phenomenon of increasing deforestation. The principal causes are itinerant agriculture, the irrational forestry development and the exploitation for the requirements out of wood for heating. The evaluation of the forest resources carried out by FAO in 1990 indicates a rate of deforestation of about 0,10-0,15 %, that is to say 25-35.000 hectares per annum.
    2°) fires of savanna - they are extremely numerous, more still in rain season. With the origin, the hunters light them to attract game in environment discovered thanks to the new grass growths. Currently they concern only the tradition because the game disappeared. Fires impoverish the ground considerably and thus maintain a close-cropped pseudo-steppe which can be characterized of anthropoclimax, i.e. an environmet which balance is maintained by the man.
    3°) cultures on stubble-burnong - the principal culture is the one of the manioc. It is practised in an itinerant way. The general tendency is that to rather exploit the surfaces regained by the secondary forests than to deforest the primary forest.
    4°)Pièce of poaching Poaching - the consequences of the poaching are felt on the evolution of the forests, in more of the threats which it makes weigh directly on many animal species. Indeed, the large mammals suchas the gorillas or the elephants, become rare, take part in the dispersion of seeds, the elimination of a certain vegetation etc. Forest dynamics is modified because of their rarefaction.
But the activity of poaching becomes the principal source of income for certain ethnic groups and especially the object of an intensification, exceeding the framework of remaining. More and more the bush meat becomes the object of a very lucrative traffic. Indeed, the markets of Brazzaville and Pointe Noire offer a very important outlet, the urban population increasing and consuming little meat of breeding (very little developed in the Republic of Congo). We can speak sometimes about true networks of poaching. The hunters are often final links, driving out for others, the latter being owners of the weapons and ammunitions.
In addition, each zone open to the forestry development is synonymous with roads and access facilitated to the forest. Thus, the forestry development worsens the poaching. Certain forest companies recruit even hunters to nourish in situ their meat workers with bush food.


To know some more
ø Some sites among others: http://www.republique-congo.com / www.congo-site.net / www.worldbank.org / fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/R%C3%A9publique_du_Congo / www.congo-brazzaville.ifrance.com
a book, important for better understanding the civil war 1998-1999: "Congo-Brazzaville - political Drifts, humane catastrophe, desires of peace". Collection Rupture-Solidarity - Nouvemme series N° 1 19999 - Karthala Editor, 22-24 Arago boulevard, 75013 Paris, France.

The Republic of Congo in figures: The World Bank

© H.E.L.P. International - 2006 // last update 22/02/2007