Central Africa

Capital City:

total: 342,000 sq km
land: 341,500 sq km
water: 500 sq km

Land boundaries:
Total: 5,008 km

border countries (5):
Angola 231 km,
Cameroon 494 km,
The central African Republic 487 km,
The Democratic Republic of the Congo 1,229 km,
Gabon 2,567 km
Coastline: 169 km
Total: 5077 km

Republic of The Congo

The Republic of Congo



tropical; rainy season (March to June);
dry season (June to October);
persistent high temperatures and humidity;
particularly enervating climate astride the Equator

tropical; rainy season (March to June); dry season (June to October); persistent high temperatures and humidity; particularly enervating climate astride the Equator

mean elevation: 430 m
elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mount Berongou 903 m

Natural resources:
petroleum, timber, potash, lead, zinc, uranium, copper, phosphates, gold, magnesium, natural gas, hydropower

Land use:
agricultural land: 31.1%
arable land 1.6%; permanent crops 0.2%; permanent pasture 29.3%
forest: 65.6%
other: 3.3% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land:
20 sq km (2012)

Population – distribution:
the population is primarily located in the south, in and around the capital of Brazzaville

Natural hazards:
seasonal flooding

184059-004-2A9EFE3E (1)

People and Society

The earliest inhabitants of the region comprising present-day Congo were the Bambuti people. The Bambuti were linked to Pygmy tribes whose Stone Age culture was slowly replaced by Bantu tribes coming from regions north of the present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo about 2,000 years ago, introducing Iron Age culture to the region. The main Bantu tribe living in the region were the Kongo, also known as Bakongo, who established mostly weak and unstable kingdoms along the mouth, north, and south of the Congo River. The capital of this Kongolese kingdom, Mbanza Kongo, later baptized as São Salvador by the Portuguese, is a town in northern Angola near the border with the DRC.

The Republic of the Congo’s sparse population is concentrated in the southwestern portion of the country, leaving the vast areas of tropical jungle in the north virtually uninhabited. Thus, Congo is one of the most urbanized countries in Africa, with 70% of its total population living in a few urban areas, namely in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire or one of the small cities or villages lining the 534-kilometer (332 mi) railway which connects the two cities. In rural areas, industrial and commercial activity has declined rapidly in recent years, leaving rural economies dependent on the government for support and subsistence.



Ethnic groups:
Kongo 48%, Sangha 20%, M’Bochi 12%, Teke 17%, Europeans and other 3%

French (official), Lingala and Monokutuba (lingua franca trade languages), many local languages and dialects (of which Kikongo is the most widespread)

Roman Catholic 33.1%, Awakening Churches/Christian Revival 22.3%, Protestant 19.9%, Salutiste 2.2%, Muslim 1.6%, Kimbanguiste 1.5%, other 8.1%, none 11.3% (2010 est.)

Ethnicity, Language, and Religion

Congo’s population is estimated at 4.95 million, over half of which live in the two major cities of Brazzaville and Pointe- Noire. Rural exoduses since the 20th century and a sparse population have meant that three fourth of the population lives in urban areas, thus making Congo one of Africa’s most urbanized countries. Almost all Congolese are Bantu, a name that refers to the people living in Central, Eastern, and Southern Africa. The Bantu originated from Nigeria and Cameroon and migrated to Southern Africa 2,000 years ago. In present-day Congo, non-Bantu tribes account for only 3% of the population. The Bantu include 74 peoples belonging to different ethnic groups such as the Kongo, the Teke, the Mbochi and the Sangha.

The Bakongo live in the south from Brazzaville to Pointe-Noire on the Atlantic coast. The Bakongo include the Lari around Brazzaville, the Vili near Pointe-Noire, the Yombe ( Bayombe) in the Mayombe Range, the Babembe, the Basoundi, the Bakamba and of course the Bakongo, after the powerful Kings of Kongo. The Mbochi, another major ethnic group includes the Mbochi, Kouyou, Makoua, Bonga, Bobangi, Moye, Ngare and Mboko. Most live in the deep forests of the north and west.

Except for the Pygmies and the Adamawa-Ubangi speaking populations in the northeast, the indigenous peoples all speak Bantu languages. Intergroup communication and trade fostered the development of two trade languages, Lingala and Kituba (Mono kutuba). Lingala is spoken north of Brazzaville, and Kituba is common in the area between the capital and the coast. French is the official language and the medium of educational instruction, as well as the language of the upper classes.

Almost 50% of the population is Christian, with about 90% of all Christians affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. Protestant denominations include Methodists, Seventh-Day Adventists, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. A small number of Christians practice Kimbanquism, a combination of Christian and native customs and beliefs which originated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Less than 2% of the population are Muslim, mostly immigrants from north and west Africa who work or reside in urban centers. The remainder practice traditional indigenous religions or no religion.



The Republic of Congo intends to use education as a key lever for development in order to ensure its economy is well integrated into the global economy. In particular, education is seen as a way to produce a well-trained and qualified workforce. 12.6% of the Congolese budget is spent on education; 40% on primary education, 31% on the secondary level, and 27% on the tertiary level. Only 1% goes to pre-primary education. Education in Congo takes 13 years, from the first level of Primary School to the Higher Certificate. According to the 2005 UNDP report, 66.8% of Congolese are literate.

Primary level education in the Republic of the Congo takes six years. The average age at which children arrive at school is 5½ years. Primary school consists of six grades; two preparatory, two elementary, and two medium classes. At the end of the second medium class, the young learner is required to do the Secondary School Entry Test, on which his entry to secondary level is hinged.

The secondary school takes seven years. It consists of two parts, the first one being “college”, and the second “lycée”. The term “lycée” (or lycee) on the other hand refers to the three subsequent grades of Secondary Level, including Grades 11, 12 and 13. There are three kinds of lycées in the country: Agricultural, Technical, and General Lycées. At Grade 13, every student is required to do the Senior School Higher Certificate Examination, no matter which lycée they are studying in.

tertiary education institutions include the Christian Polytechnic & Professional Institute of Arts, the Institute of Business & Economic Development, the Mondongo Higher Institute of Agricultural Sciences, and Marien Ngouabi University. The latter was founded in 1971 as the University of Brazzaville and re-named a few years later after an assassinated president. In its heyday, it produced a wide variety of graduates. Its current status is uncertain.



The Republic of the Congo’s economy is a mixture of subsistence farming, an industrial sector based largely on oil and support services, and government spending. Oil has supplanted forestry as the mainstay of the economy, providing a major share of government revenues and exports. Natural gas is increasingly being converted to electricity rather than being flared, greatly improving energy prospects. New mining projects, particularly iron ore, which entered production in late 2013, may add as much as $1 billion to annual government revenue. The Republic of the Congo is a member of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) and shares a common currency – the Central African Franc – with five other member states in the region.

While some progress has been made in transforming its natural resources into economic growth, the country has not fully succeeded in leveraging them to achieve robust socio-economic outcomes. Overall, the heavy reliance on hydrocarbon resources has crowded out the development of sectors such as agriculture and forestry.

Though oil production increased in 2017 with a new field (Moho Nord) coming on stream and oil prices start recovering, the increase in oil GDP did not off-set the contraction of non-oil activities. The latter sharply decreased by 9.2 percent in 2017 as a tight financial situation linked to the accumulation of government arrears forced many companies to reduce activities and staff. The non-oil sector was mostly affected by reduced activities in Telecommunications, Transport, and Construction.

Economic growth is projected to slowly recover at 1.4 percent an average over 2018-2020. This recovery is supported by higher oil production and an increase in ICT and manufacturing output, as the Dangote cement plant has started production in November 2017. Non-oil production will continue its gradual recovery for reaching the peak in 2019. Average inflation is expected to stand below the CEMAC norm of 3 percent. As a result, overall fiscal and external balances are expected to be contained over 2018-2020 in the hopes of successful implementation of the fiscal and economic reforms.

GDP (purchasing power parity):
$29.16 billion (2017 est.)
$30.26 billion (2016 est.)
$31.13 billion (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate):
$7.799 billion (2017 est.)

GDP – real growth rate:
-3.6% (2017 est.)
-2.8% (2016 est.)
2.6% (2015 est.)

GDP – per capita (PPP):
$6,700 (2017 est.)
$7,100 (2016 est.)
$7,500 (2015 est.)

Gross national saving:
13.5% of GDP (2017 est.)
-26.3% of GDP (2016 est.)
-2.2% of GDP (2015 est.)

GDP – composition, by sector of origin:
agriculture: 8.9%
industry: 50.8%
services: 40.3% (2017 est.)

Agriculture – products:
cassava (manioc, tapioca), sugar, rice, corn, peanuts, vegetables, coffee, cocoa; forest products

petroleum extraction, cement, lumber, brewing, sugar, palm oil, soap, flour, cigarettes

Population below poverty line:
46.5% (2011 est.)

revenues: $2.516 billion
expenditures: $3.336 billion (2017 est.)



Agriculture in the Republic of the Congo is mostly at the subsistence level. Self-sufficiency in food production is yet to be achieved. Cassava (manioc) is the basic food crop everywhere in the country except in the southern region, where bananas and plantains are prevalent. Among the cash crops, the most important are sugarcane and tobacco, though palm kernels, cacao, and coffee are also cultivated to some extent. The main consumption crops are bananas, manioc, peanuts, plantains, sugarcane, and yams. Subsistence agriculture is the country’s most significant employer, and it is one of the three most important economic sectors.

The Republic of Congo’s agricultural sector is limited and cannot satisfy domestic demand. Approximately 40% of the population is engaged in subsistence agricultural production, which contributes just 4.0 % of Congo’s gross domestic product (GDP). Only a small percentage of arable land is currently under cultivation; the exact percentage is not known, but it is certainly less than 10%, and the quantity under cultivation has not increased appreciably in recent years. The country relies heavily on food imports, which account for about 80% of domestic food consumption. Imported foodstuffs come mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo, France, and the United States. France is the largest source of the Republic of Congo’s agricultural imports.

Agriculture is mainly in the peri-urban and remote areas of Congo where the main crops grown are manioc (Cassava), plantains, bananas, peanuts, palm oil, fruits, vegetables, yams, beans, peas, and maize. Rice is cultivated in the Niari Valley and in the Djambala District. Exports are limited to sugar, forest-based products, coffee, tobacco, and rubber, with sugar and timber being profitable items of export.

Livestock husbandry has traditionally been performed on a limited scale in the country, with cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and poultry being reared. In an effort to increase the availability of meat in rural areas, the government instituted a lend-lease system. Farmers would be lent animals by the state with the requirement to pay back the same number of animals at a later date.

Opportunities exist for exporting food products to the Republic of Congo, as well as setting up operations in the Republic of Congo for the production and/or processing of food. South African farmers have recently leased land for food production in the Republic of Congo, and the U.S.-based NGO International Partnership for Human Development (IPHD) has successfully prototyped large-scale industrial farming in three different areas of the country.

Electricity access:
population without electricity: 2,600,000
electrification – total population: 42%
electrification – urban areas: 62%
electrification – rural areas: 5% (2013)
Electricity – production:
1.676 billion kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – consumption:
900.5 million kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – exports:
22 million kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – imports:
18 million kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – installed generating capacity:
545,000 kW (2015 est.)
Electricity – from fossil fuels:
61.7% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Electricity – from nuclear fuels:
0% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)

Telephones – fixed lines:
total subscriptions: 17,000
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: less than 1 (July 2016 est.)
Telephones – mobile cellular:
total: 5.424 million
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 109 (July 2016 est.)

Internet country code:
Internet users:
total: 362,000
percent of population: 7.6% (July 2016 est.)

Industry and Mining

The manufacturing sector is limited by small domestic markets, dependence upon foreign investment, and a lack of skilled labor. Most factories are located in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, Kayes, Loubomo, and towns in the Niari valley. Products include processed foods (particularly flour and sugar), beer and other beverages, cigarettes, textiles and clothing, footwear, processed wood and paper, chemicals, cement and bricks, glassware, and metal goods such as nails and metal furniture. The first petroleum refinery went into operation in 1976 at Pointe-Noire. Handicrafts include carvings, pottery, needlework, tiles, and bricks.

The Republic of Congo is the fourth largest oil producing country in sub-Saharan Africa and is expected to produce 260,000 barrels per day by the end of the last quarter of 2017. Oil accounts for over 90% of Congolese exports. By 2018, production is expected to grow to 350,000 barrels per day as new offshore fields come online. Despite new finds and better drilling technology, oil production is still expected to decline to 275,000 barrels per day by 2020 as older oil fields are retired.

Eighty percent of the Republic of Congo’s 22.5 million hectare rainforest is commercially viable. The rainforest covers about 60% of the country’s total area. Timber is the Republic of Congo’s second main export after oil. Okoume, a light hardwood used for plywood, is the most commercially active (accounting for about 50 % of production), but some two dozen species can be marketed. Crude logs make up to 90% of timber exports; the remainder is processed woods, mainly plywood. China buys 90% of Congo’s forestry sector exports.

International organizations including Forest Monitor are currently working with the government to reform the timber industry to improve and enforce transparency, simplify the tax code, expand responsible logging practices, and put in place a new and improved Forest Law. The current Forest Law requires all logging companies to process at least 80% of their production domestically, but compliance has been limited given the Republic of Congo’s current lack of technical capacity in this regard. Congo is also striving to increase the number of forest concessions that are FSC certified.


Banking and Finance

The Congolese financial sector is one of the least developed in Africa. However, the recent acceleration in growth, improved infrastructure, and ample liquidity have laid the ground for sustained financial deepening. However, financial intermediation remains low, with a liquidity ratio (M2/GDP) of 22.4% in 2011 and financial depth remains an issue at only 6.5 percent. The main barriers limiting credit supply include insufficient investor protection, weak contract enforcement, low project bankability, lack of property ownership and bottlenecks in land registration.

The Bank of the Central African States (BEAC), headquartered in Cameroon, regulates the banking system. Overall authority for Republic of Congo’s banking system rests with the Ministry of Finance. The Republic of Congo’s banking system includes eleven commercial banks. Commercial banks offer most corporate banking services or can procure them from overseas. Local credit to the private sector is limited and expensive but available to both foreign and local investors on equal terms. The country’s main economic actors, the oil companies, finance themselves outside of the Republic of Congo. Commercial banks have transferred excess liquidity to correspondent banks outside the region.

The country’s banking sector appears to have been largely insulated from the effects of the global financial crisis, thanks, in part, to its limited integration with world markets, low exposure to toxic assets, and relatively strong compliance with regional banking regulations. Most banks appear to be sound and the sector generally maintains high liquidity, with risk ratio coverage above the regulatory 8 percent minimum and total weighted risks limits of over 15 percent of equity capital maintained. As of 2012, 9 commercial banks were operating in the country with only 58 branches and 62 ATMs.

As part of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), The Republic of Congo shares a common currency with other member states and delegates monetary policy to the Bank of Central African States (BEAC). In 1993, CEMAC established a Banking Commission (COBAC) to administer, regulate, and supervise banks that are part of the BEAC region. BEAC offers a form of deposit insurance, the FOGADAC, a regional deposit insurance fund that was created in 1994 and is managed by the national banking association with a monitoring role by the COBAC.


A land of steamy jungles hiding half the world’s lowland gorillas, masses of forest elephants, and hooting, swinging troops of chimpanzees, the Republic of Congo is on the cusp of becoming one of the finest ecotourism destinations in Africa. Boasting three excellent and little-visited national parks where everything from luxurious safaris to bush camping is possible, the main attraction to this alluring slice of West Africa is the raw, untrammeled call of nature. However, Congo-Brazzaville (as it’s often called to distinguish it from Democratic Republic of Congo, south of the Congo River) also enjoys a pleasantly laid-back capital city in Brazzaville, some decent beaches on its Atlantic coastline and the warm and welcoming Congolese culture. For those ready to heed the call of the wild – and are not afraid of adventure – the Congo awaits.

The upscale lodges at Odzala National Park provide a glimpse of what is possible at the high end of the tourism market. The American NGO Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is also prototyping tourism – on a potentially more affordable scale – in a few of the national parks (Nouabalé-Ndoki and Conkouati) and could be a source of guidance to serious, competent investors hoping to develop tourism in the region. The Republic of Congo government, as well as WCS, is committed to welcoming tourism as a way to provide sustainable employment for people living near the national park areas.

Place of Attractions

The capital and largest city of the Republic of Congo, Brazzaville is located on the mighty Congo River, just opposite the sprawling city of Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Diosso is a town in the Republic of Congo, situated about 15 miles (25km) north of Pointe Noire in the Kouilou Department. The town is conveniently close to Pointe Noire and has a few attractions including a small museum, a mausoleum, and the nearby Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Centre which will interest animal lovers, but it is not generally the village that attracts tourists.

The Odzala-Kokoua National Park is in the northwest of the Republic of Congo and is one of the most amazing protected wilderness areas in the world. The park was founded in 1935 and remains one of the most important strongholds for forest elephants and western gorilla conservation in Central Africa.

Pointe Noire is the second largest city in the Republic of Congo, the commercial hub of the country, and a very popular destination with tourists in the Congo. It is the center of the oil industry in the region and a major seaport.


  • Prehistory

    The earliest inhabitants of the region comprising present-day Congo were the Bambuti people. The Bambuti were linked to Pygmy tribes whose Stone Age culture was slowly replaced by Bantu tribes coming from regions north of the present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo about 2,000 years ago, introducing Iron Age culture to the region. The main Bantu tribe living in the region were the Kongo, also known as Bakongo, who established mostly weak and unstable kingdoms along the mouth, north, and south of the Congo River. The capital of this Kongolese kingdom, Mbanza Kongo, later baptized as São Salvador by the Portuguese, is a town in northern Angola near the border with the DRC.

    The researchers identified an ancestral and autochthonous lineage of mtDNA shared by Pygmies and Bantus, suggesting that both populations were originally one and that they started to diverge from common ancestors around 70,000 years ago. After a period of isolation, during which current phenotype differences between Pygmies and Bantu farmers accumulated, Pygmy women started marrying male Bantu farmers (but not the opposite). This trend started around 40,000 years ago and continued until several thousand years ago. Subsequently, the Pygmy gene pool was not enriched by external gene influxes.

    The early inhabitants of these eras were farmer-trappers, fishing peoples, and Pygmy hunters. People lived in households that included kin and unrelated individuals; at the center of the household was a “big man,” who represented the group. Mobility—of individuals, groups, goods, and ideas—figured prominently and created a common social environment. Such intercommunication is evident from the closely related Bantu languages of the region. Speakers of Adamawa-Ubangi languages lived in the north but maintained ties with their forest neighbors. Research now suggests that agriculture emerged among the western Bantu of the savannas adjacent to the lower Congo River in the 1st millennium BCE—much earlier than previously thought.

    Larger-scale societies based on clans whose members lived in different villages, village clusters with chiefs and small forest principalities emerged between 1000 and 1500 CE. Chiefdoms on the southern fringes became more complex, and three kingdoms eventually developed: Loango, at the mouth of the Kouilou River on the Atlantic coast; Kongo, in the far southwest; and Tio (Anziku), which grew out of small chiefdoms on the plains north of Malebo Pool. Rulers derived power from control over spirit cults, but trade eventually became the second pillar of power.

  • The Kingdom of Loango

    The origins of the kingdom are obscure. The most ancient complex society in the region was at Madingo Kayes, which was already a multi-site settlement in the first century CE. At present archaeological evidence is too scarce to say much more about developments until the late fifteenth or early sixteenth centuries. Loango is not mentioned in early travelers’ accounts of the region, nor is it mentioned in the titles of King Afonso I of Kongo in 1535, though Kakongo, Vungu, and Ngoyo, its southern neighbors. It is therefore unlikely that there was a major power on the coast of Central Africa north of the Congo River.

    Dutch visitors recorded the first traditional account of the kingdom’s origin in the 1630s or ’40s. The region where Loango would be constructed was populated by a number of small polities including Mayumba, Kilongo, Piri and Wansi, “each with their own leader” who “made war on each other.” He recorded that the founder of Loango, who boasted hailing from the district in Nzari in the small coastal kingdom of Kakongo, itself a vassal of Kongo, triumphed over all his rivals through the skillful use of alliances to defeat those who opposed him, particularly Wansa, Kilongo and Piri, the latter two of which required two wars to subdue. Once this had been effected, however, a range of more northern regions, including Docke and Sette submitted voluntarily. Having succeeded in the conquest, the new king moved northward and after having founded settlements in a variety of places, eventually built his capital in Buali in the province of Piri (from which the ethnic name “Muvili” eventually derived).

    The ruler who had died sometime before 1625 had ruled for 60 years and thus had taken the throne around 1565. The documentary chronology thus makes it very likely that Njimbe was the founder and first ruler mentioned in the traditions, and this supposition is supported by traditions recorded around 1890 by R. E. Dennett which also named Njimbe as the first ruler the basis of later traditions from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that linked the founding of Loango to that of Kongo, Phyllis Martin posited a much earlier foundation, the late fourteenth or early fifteenth centuries. She then argues that the absence of Loango from early titles of the king of Kongo is evidence that Loango was already independent at that time. The kingdom is certain to have come to an end with the Conference of Berlin (1884–1885) at the latest when European colonial powers divided most of Central Africa between them

  • The Kingdom of Kongo

    The Kingdom of Kongo was an African kingdom located in west central Africa in what is now northern Angola, the Republic of the Congo, the western portion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as the southernmost part of Gabon. At its greatest extent, it reached from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Kwango River in the east, and from the Congo River in the north to the Kwanza River in the south. The kingdom consisted of several core provinces ruled by the Manikongo, the Portuguese version of the Kongo title ‘Mwene Kongo’, meaning lord or ruler of the Kongo kingdom, but its sphere of influence extended to neighboring kingdoms, such as Ngoyo, Kakongo, Ndongo, and Matamba.

    The first king of the Kingdom of Kongo Dya Ntotila was Lukeni lua Nimi (circa 1380-1420). The name Nimi a Lukeni appeared in later oral traditions and some modern historians, notably Jean Cuvelier, popularized it. Lukeni lua Nimi, or Nimi a Lukeni, became the founder of Kongo when he conquered the kingdom of the Mwene Kabunga (or Mwene Mpangala), which lay on a mountain to his south. He transferred his rule to this mountain, the Mongo dia Kongo or “mountain of Kongo”, and made Mbanza Kongo, the town there, his capital. Two centuries later the Mwene Kabunga’s descendants still symbolically challenged the conquest in an annual celebration. The rulers that followed Lukeni all claimed some form of relation to his kanda, or lineage and were known as the Kilukeni.

    By the time of the first recorded contact with the Europeans, the Kingdom of Kongo was a highly developed state at the center of an extensive trading network. Apart from natural resources and ivory, the country manufactured and traded copperware, ferrous metal goods, raffia cloth, and pottery. The Kongo people spoke in the Kikongo language. The eastern regions, especially that part known as the Seven Kingdoms of Kongo dia Nlaza (or in Kikongo Mumbwadi or “the Seven”), were particularly famous for the production of cloth.

    In 1483 the Portuguese landed in Kongo. Initially, relations between the Congolese and Portuguese rulers were good. Characterized by the exchange of representatives and the sojourn of Congolese students in Portugal, this period was a harbinger of late 20th-century technical assistance. Unfortunately, the need of Portuguese planters on São Tomé for slaves had undermined this amicable arrangement by the 1530s.

  • The Kongo-Portuguese War

    The First Kongo-Portuguese War (~1580) began initially because of a Portuguese campaign against the Kasanze Kingdom, which was conducted ruthlessly. From there, the army moved to Nambu a Ngongo, whose ruler, Pedro Afonso, was held to be sheltering runaway slaves as well. Although Pedro Afonso, facing an overwhelming army of over 20,000, agreed to return some runaways, the army attacked his country and killed him.

    Following its success in Nambu a Ngongo, the Portuguese army advanced into Mbamba in November. The Portuguese forces scored a victory at the Battle of Mbumbi. There they faced a quickly gathered local force led by the new Duke of Mbamba and reinforced by forces from Mpemba led by its marquis. Both the Duke of Mbamba and the Marquis of Mpemba were killed in the battle. Portuguese residents of Kongo, frightened by the consequences for their business of the invasion, wrote a hostile letter to Correia de Sousa, denouncing his invasion.

    Following the defeat of the Portuguese at Mbandi Kasi, Pedro II declared Angola an official enemy. The king then wrote letters denouncing Correia de Sousa to the King of Spain and the Pope. Meanwhile, anti-Portuguese riots broke out all over the kingdom and threatened its long-established merchant community. Portuguese throughout the country were humiliatingly disarmed and even forced to give up their clothes. Pedro, anxious not to alienate the Portuguese merchant community, and aware that they had generally remained loyal during the war, did as much as he could to preserve their lives and property, leading some of his detractors to call him “king of Portuguese”.

    As a result of Kongo’s victory, the Portuguese merchant community of Luanda revolted against the governor, hoping to preserve their ties with the king. Backed by the Jesuits, who had also just recommenced their mission there, they forced João Correia de Sousa to resign and flee the country. The interim government that followed the departure was led by the bishop of Angola. They were very conciliatory to Kongo and agreed to return over a thousand of the slaves captured by Correia de Sousa, especially the lesser nobles captured at the Battle of Mbumbi.

  • The Battle of Mbwila

    The Dutch were convinced that they could avoid committing their forces to any further wars. Queen Njinga had been active against the Portuguese, and the Dutch felt secure. When Portuguese reinforcements managed to defeat her at Kavanga in 1646, the Dutch felt obliged to be more aggressive. The Dutch convinced Kongo to join them and Queen Njinga in another venture against the Portuguese. In 1647, Kongo troops participated in the Battle of Kombi, where they soundly defeated the Portuguese field army, after forcing them to fight defensively. A year later, Portuguese reinforcements from Brazil forced the Dutch to surrender Luanda and withdraw from Angola in 1648. The new Portuguese governor, Salvador de Sá, sought terms with Kongo, demanding the Island of Luanda, the source of Kongo’s money supply of nzimbu shells.

    Although neither Kongo nor Angola ever ratified the treaty, sent to the king in 1649, the Portuguese gained de facto control of the island. The war resulted in the Dutch losing their claims in Central Africa. Portugal began pressing claims over southern vassals of Kongo, especially the country of Mbwila, following Portuguese restoration at Luanda. Mbwila, a nominal vassal of Kongo, had also signed a treaty of vassalage with Portugal in 1619. It divided its loyalty between the Colony of Angola and Kongo in the intervening period. Though the Portuguese often attacked Mbwila, they never brought it under their authority.

    Kongo began working towards a Spanish alliance, especially following António I’s succession as king in 1661. Although it is not clear what diplomatic activities he engaged in with Spain itself, the Portuguese clearly believed that he hoped to repeat the Dutch invasion, this time with the assistance of Spain. António sent emissaries to the Dembos region and to Matamba and Mbwila, attempting to form a new anti-Portuguese alliance. The Portuguese had been troubled, moreover, by Kongo support of runaway slaves, who flocked to southern Kongo throughout the 1650s. At the same time, the Portuguese were advancing their own agenda for Mbwila, which they claimed as a vassal. In 1665, both sides invaded Mbwila, and their rival armies met each other at Ulanga, in the valley below Mbanza Mbwila, capital of the district.

    At the Battle of Mbwila in 1665, the Portuguese forces from Angola had their first victory against the kingdom of Kongo since 1622. They defeated the forces under António I killing him and many of his courtiers as well as the Luso-African Capuchin priest Manuel Roboredo (also known by his cloister name of Francisco de São Salvador), who had attempted to prevent this final war.

  • The Civil War of the 1670s

    In the aftermath of the battle, there was no clear succession. The country was divided between rival claimants to the throne. The two factions, Kimpanzu and Kinlaza, hardened, and partitioned the country between them. Pretenders would ascend to the throne, and then be ousted. The period was marked by an increase in BaKongo slaves being sold across the Atlantic, the weakening of the Kongo monarchy and the strengthening of Soyo. During this chaos, Kongo was being increasingly manipulated by Soyo. In an act of desperation, the central authority in Kongo called on Luanda to attack Soyo in return for various concessions. The Portuguese invaded the county of Soyo in 1670.

    Garcia II, being roundly defeated by Soyo’s forces at the Battle of Kitombo on 18 October 1670, The kingdom of Kongo was to remain completely independent. Though still embroiled in civil war, thanks to the very force (Portuguese colonials) it had fought so long to destroy. This Portuguese defeat was resounding enough to end all Portuguese ambitions in Kongo’s sphere of influence, until the end of the nineteenth century. The battles between the Kimpanzu and Kinlaza continued plunging the kingdom into a chaos not known in centuries. The fighting between the two lineages led to the sack of São Salvador in 1678.

    Ironically, the capital built by the pact of Mpemba and Mbata was burned to the ground, not by the Portuguese or rival African nations but by its very heirs. The city and hinterland around Mbanza Kongo became depopulated. The population dispersed into the mountaintop fortresses of the rival kings. These were the Mountain of Kibangu east of the capital and the fortress of the Águas Rosadas, a line founded in the 1680s from descendants of Kinlaza and Kimpanzu, the region of Mbula, or Lemba where a line founded by the Kinlaza pretender, Pedro III ruled; and Lovota, a district in southern Soyo that sheltered a Kimpanzu lineage whose head was D Suzanna de Nóbrega. Finally, D Ana Afonso de Leão founded her own center on the Mbidizi River at Nkondo and guided her junior kinsmen to reclaim the country, even as she sought to reconcile the hostile factions.

    In the interim, however, tens of thousands fleeing the conflict or caught up in the battles were deported as slaves to English, French, Dutch and Portuguese merchants every year. One human stream led north to Loango, whose merchants, known as Vili (Mubires in the period) carried them primarily to merchants from England and the Netherlands, and others were taken south to Luanda, where they were sold to Portuguese merchants bound for Brazil. By the end of the seventeenth century, several long wars and interventions by the now independent Counts of Soyo (who restyled themselves as Grand Princes) had brought an end to Kongo’s golden age.

  • The End of the Slave trade

    In 1839 the Portuguese government, acting on British pressure, abolished the slave trade south of the equator which had so damaged Central Africa. During this period social structure changed as well. New social organizations, Makanda, emerged. This Makanda, nominally clans descended from common ancestors, were as much trading associations as family units. These clans founded strings of villages connected by fictional kinship along the trade routes, from Boma or the coast of Soyo to São Salvador and then on into the interior. A new oral tradition about the founder of the kingdom often held to be Afonso I, described the kingdom as originating when the king caused the clans to disperse in all directions. The histories of these clans, typically describing the travels of their founder and his followers from an origin point to their final villages, replaced in many areas the history of the kingdom itself.

    Despite violent rivalries and the fracturing of the kingdom, it continued to exist independently well into the 19th century. The rise of the clans became noticeable in the 1850s at the end of the reign of Henrique II. In 1855 or 1856, two potential kings emerged to contest the succession following his death. Álvaro Ndongo claimed the throne on behalf of the Kinlaza faction of Matari (ignoring the existence of Andre’s group at Mbanza Puto), calling himself Álvaro XIII and Pedro Lelo claimed the throne on behalf of the Mbidizi Valley faction of the Kinlaza from a base at Bembe. Pedro won the contest.

    In 1866, citing excessive costs, the Portuguese government withdrew the garrison. Pedro continued his rule, however, though he faced increasing rivalry from clan-based trading magnates who drained his authority from much of the country. The most dangerous of these was Garcia Mbwaka Matu of the town of Makuta. This town had been founded by a man named Kuvo, who probably obtained his wealth through trade since he and Garcia made plenty of control markets. Though this was a great challenge in the 1870s, after Garcia’s death in 1880, Makuta became less problematic.

    At the Conference of Berlin in 1884–1885, European powers divided most of Central Africa between them. Portugal claimed the lion’s share of what remained of independent Kongo; however, Portugal was not then in a position to make “effective occupation”. The area north of the Congo River came under French sovereignty in 1880 as a result of Pierre de Brazza’s treaty with King Makoko of the Bateke. The formal proclamation of the colony of French Congo came in 1891. Early French efforts to exploit their possession led to the ruthless treatment of the local people and the subjection of the territory to extreme exploitation by concessionary companies.

  • Colonial France

    The Congo Colony became known first as French Congo, then as Middle Congo in 1903. In 1908, France organized French Equatorial Africa (AEF), comprising Middle Congo, Gabon, Chad, and Oubangui-Chari (the modern Central African Republic). The French designated Brazzaville as the federal capital. Economic development during the first 50 years of colonial rule in Congo centered on natural-resource extraction. The methods were often brutal. The French were preoccupied with acquiring labor, Forced labor, head taxes, the compulsory production of cash crops, and draconian labor contracts forced Africans to build infrastructure and to participate in the colonial economy.

    No project was more costly in African lives than the Congo-Ocean Railway, built between 1921 and 1934 from Pointe-Noire to Brazzaville; between 15,000 and 20,000 Africans died. Brazza returned in 1905 to lead an inquiry into these excesses. In 1910 the French joined Congo with neighboring colonies, creating a federation of French Equatorial Africa, with its capital at Brazzaville. In 1940, French Equatorial Africa joined the Free French movement and the Allied war effort against the Axis powers.

    During the Nazi occupation of France during World War II, Brazzaville functioned as the symbolic capital of Free France between 1940 and 1943. The Brazzaville Conference of 1944 heralded a period of major reform in French colonial policy. Congo benefited from the postwar expansion of colonial administrative and infrastructure spending as a result of its central geographic location within AEF and the federal capital at Brazzaville. It also received a local legislature after the adoption of the 1946 constitution that established the Fourth Republic. The first territorial assembly was elected in 1947.

    In a referendum held on 28 September 1958, the territory of Middle Congo voted to become an autonomous republic within the French Community. The Territorial Assembly of the Middle Congo proclaimed the Republic of the Congo on 28 November 1958. On 8 December, Fulbert Youlou, mayor of Brazzaville and leader of the Democratic Union for the Defense of African Interests (UDDIA), was elected to head the provisional government. The adoption of a constitution on 20 February 1959 transformed the provisional government into the first official government of the republic. Legislative elections were held that June. The new National Assembly elected Fulbert Youlou prime minister on 27 June and president on 21 November.

  • Independent Congo

    The Republic of the Congo received full independence from France on 15 August 1960. Fulbert Youlou ruled as the country’s first president until labor elements and rival political parties instigated a three-day uprising that ousted him. The Congolese military took charge of the country briefly and installed a civilian provisional government headed by Alphonse Massamba-Débat. Under the 1963 constitution, Massamba-Débat was elected President for a five-year term. During Massamba-Débat’s term in office, the regime adopted “scientific socialism” as the country’s constitutional ideology.

    In 1965, Congo established relations with the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, and North Vietnam. Massamba-Débat was unable to reconcile various institutional, tribal and ideological factions within the country and his regime ended abruptly with a bloodless coup d’état in September 1968. Marien Ngouabi, who had participated in the coup, assumed the presidency on 31 December 1968. One year later, President Ngouabi proclaimed Congo Africa’s first “people’s republic”, the People’s Republic of the Congo, and announced the decision of the National Revolutionary Movement to change its name to the Congolese Labour Party (PCT).

    Ngouabi survived an attempted coup in 1972 but was assassinated on 16 March 1977. An 11-member Military Committee of the Party (CMP) was then named to head an interim government with Joachim Yhombi-Opango to serve as President of the Republic. Two years later, Yhombi-Opango was forced from power and Denis Sassou Nguesso become the new president. Pascal Lissouba, who became Congo’s first elected president (1992–1997) during the period of multi-party democracy, attempted to implement economic reforms with IMF backing to liberalize the economy.

    In early October 1997, the Angolan régime began an invasion of Congo to install Sassou in power. In mid-October, the Lissouba government fell. Soon thereafter, Sassou declared himself president. In the controversial elections in 2002, Sassou won with almost 90% of the vote cast. Sassou also won the following presidential election in July 2009. In the last Presidential elections were held on 20 March 2016. It was the first election to be held under the constitution passed by referendum in 2015. President Denis Sassou Nguesso, who had exhausted the two-term limit imposed by the previous constitution, was allowed to run again due to the adoption of the new constitution. He won re-election in the first round of voting, receiving 60% of the vote.