Democratic Republic of the Congo Overview

By | March 29, 2021

Village in the east of the DR Congo

Village in the east of the DR Congo

The total population of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is estimated at 83.2 million people (2018). Over 10 million live in the capital Kinshasa alone. Calculated over the total area of the country, the population density is 35.8 residents / km².

The proportion of the urban population is 40.5% (2018). The population distribution shows a strong concentration on the capital Kinshasa and the resource-rich regions in the east, south-east and south of the country.

The population growth of a city is made up of two factors: firstly, the influx of people from rural areas and from further urban areas (external population growth) and secondly, the growth of the population already living in the city (internal population growth). External and internal population growth are the same in Kinshasa, for example, and are reflected in the number of national population growth of 3.16% (2018).


River boat on the Congo

River boat on the Congo

The transport system in the DR Congo is very underdeveloped. Except for some Chinese road and other infrastructure projects, it has barely improved in recent years.

The causes for this are manifold. The rapid population growth demands a transport system that is adaptable to the situation, the geographical conditions – rainforest, large rivers, swampy regions and heavy rain make the construction of roads and bridges very expensive and complex to maintain, the location of the capital Kinshasa on the edge of the huge country and poor organization, unreliable administration and ubiquitous corruption block the transport system.

In addition to flight connections, combined rail and inland waterway transport are also important, with railways bypassing non-navigable parts of the rivers, especially the Congo. The stretch from Kinshasa to the Matadi seaport is particularly important here, as the river is not navigable here due to the rapids.

In the DR Congo there are a total of 15,000 km of navigable waterways, of which the largest and longest river Congo alone can be used for 3,000 km. The state shipping company is currently not operational. The large push boats that connect and supply the inland from Kinshasa are operated by private shipping companies. The transports are tedious, lengthy and very unreliable.

The rail network is in a desolate state. Attempts to make individual routes passable fail because of the necessary maintenance measures. The rail network is hardly of any significance for the economy.

There are only 3,000 km of tarred roads that are passable all year round in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a major country in African continent according to recipesinthebox. Road maps that also say something about the possibilities of “getting through” are only available occasionally. Impassable bridges and inoperable ferries block traffic in almost all regions of the country, especially in the rainy season. The state road service has no resources, is poorly organized and in many places too corrupt to carry out the necessary repairs.

State Government

Federalism, the Constitution and the separation of powers

Beginning with the colonial era and considering the size of the country, the question of a functioning administration of the area of today’s Democratic Republic of the Congo has always arisen. So it is not surprising that the organization and administration of the country have changed frequently.

In the constitution passed in 2005, a new administrative division of the DR Congo was established. The 26 provinces have been set up since June / July 2015. All provinces are administered by acting heads appointed by the president. In the remote new provinces in particular, the necessary physical and personal infrastructure for proper administration has so far been lacking.

The provinces and the decentralized units (city, municipality, sector, chief districts: chefferies) are administered by local organs (parliament and government in the individual provinces, councils in the cities, municipalities, sectors and chief districts). Governors and lieutenant governors are also appointed by the President of the Republic.

The new constitution, which came into force on February 18, 2006, defines a moderate form of presidential government. The system is shaped by both centralist and federalist elements.

The president is directly elected for five years. This happens in only one ballot; the simple majority decides. There is a bicameral system – Senate and National Assembly.

Relevant events

Developments in Eastern DR Congo

The northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been marked by waves of violence since the genocide in Rwanda (1994). The background to this is the immeasurable greed of the most diverse weapon carriers for raw materials such as coltan, gold and diamonds. At times 14 different armed groups and rebel organizations moved in the area.

The problem of the whereabouts of the FDLR (Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda), the remnant Hutu army that has been wreaking havoc in the entire region – including Rwanda – since the end of the genocide in 1994 remains unsolved.

On January 8, 2013, the African Union decided to send 4,000 soldiers, mainly from SADC countries, to the region.

On March 28, 2013, MONUSCO received from the United Nations, with Resolution 2098, for the first time a “combat mission”, which gave around 4,000 blue helmet soldiers the task of forcing pacification in the region by force.

Under the leadership of Ugandan, a peace treaty was signed on December 13, 2013 between the Congolese government and representatives of the M-23.

The M-23 then formally dissolved. Since then, the ex-M-23 fighters have lived in camps in Uganda and Rwanda. However, many of these military forces are still armed.

At the end of 2013, “insurgents” again attacked public buildings in Kinshasa, Lubumbashi and Kindu.

How many fighters have invaded the Democratic Republic of the Congo since then is unknown. The fighting strength of the various rebel groups – above all those close to the FDLR – remains unbroken. The active attacks and fighting by MONUSCO that began in October and November 2015 have so far not changed the situation.

More than 100,000 refugees are still looking for protection in and around Goma, they are fleeing to remote regions as far as Rwanda. The supply is poor and thousands have already lost their lives.

MONUSCO has currently existed for 21 years. Even if there is no lack of criticism from the DR Congo and critical voices from UN circles, it is a learning military-political force. For example, cooperation with traditional forces and Congolese civil society has improved significantly. Her mandate expired in March 2020 – it was extended until March 2021. The current annual budget is $ 1,086,000.00.

In April 2020 the MONUSCO contingent consisted of the following units:

13,590 soldiers

2,970 civilians

1,185 police officers

Nobel Peace Prize 2018 for Dr. Denis Mukwege

On October 5th, 2018 the gynecologist Dr. Denis Mukwege from the Democratic Republic of the Congo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Since 1996, when the brutal civil war began in the east of the country, Dr. Mukwege and his team fight against sexual violence as a weapon in wars and conflict areas.

In 1999, he founded the Panzi Reference Hospital in the metropolis of Bukavu, where he has so far given thousands of girls and women who have been victims of sexual violence, torture and armed conflict health and dignity back through gynecological and surgical help.

Even today, more than 100 injured girls and women are treated every day under his leadership, and he also offers psychological, legal and financial support. Through his enormous commitment, together with civil society at Panzi Hospital, Dr. Denis Mukwege this form of war crimes by making them public so that the perpetrators can be held accountable and the victims receive justice.

Dr. Denis Mukwede receives the Nobel Peace Prize 2018 together with the Iraqi human rights activist Nadia Murad.

60 years of independence

On June 30th, 2020 the Democratic Republic of the Congo celebrated 60 years of independence from the Belgian colonial era. Finally, due attention is paid to this inglorious chapter of Belgian history. After 75 years of colonial times, from 1835 to 1909 (until 1885 the Congo was the private property of the Belgian king, after which it became a Belgian colony), with over eight million deaths, the Belgian king today finally expresses his regret for the atrocities of the Congo. But the “iconoclasm” has only just begun in Belgium, the monuments of King Leopold II are toppled six decades later.