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« The Aging Process and Women's Psychology | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #13 of 54: Congo (Kinshasa) »

May 18, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #12 of 54: Congo (Brazzaville)

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) --- 12. CONGO-Brazzaville) Flag of People's Republic of the Congo

Formal Name: People’s Republic of the Congo.

Term for Citizens: Congolese.

Capital: Brazzaville. Population: 1, 360,000.

Independence Achieved: August 5, 1960, from France.

Major Cities: Stanley, Brazzaville.

Geography:

Congo-Brazzaville is in South West Africa. Congo-Kinshasa, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Central African Republic border it. Congo Brazzaville has an area of 132, 047 square miles. It has four natural regions: Coastal plain, Niari Valley in the central area, which contains most of the fertile soil, Central highlands of plateaus and rolling plains, and Congo Basin composed of dense equatorial forest and in its upper region, savanna. The climate is tropical with two well-defined seasons, wet and dry. The rainy season is from April to October and the dry season is from November to March.

Society:

The population of Congo Brazzaville is estimated at 3,724,000. The heaviest concentrations of people are in the South of the country. About 50% of the population lives in urban areas (mainly at Brazzaville, by Stanley Pool, right opposite Kinshasha, the capital of The Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Ethnic Groups: There are many ethnic groups, most of whom are Bantu, and speak the Bantu languages of Lingala and Monokutuba.

Languages: Lingala and Monokutuba. French is the official language.

Religion: 70% Christian, 2% Muslim and the rest indigenous beliefs.

Education: Elementary education is free and compulsory, scant secondary school attendance and even scantier university level education. Literacy rate is estimated at 65.5%.

Economy: Agriculture plays more than 60% role in the economy. Timber harvesting is a key sector of the commercial economy. Potassium chloride mining is a growing part of the manufacturing economy. GDP estimate: $2.5 billion; Per Capita GDP: $770. Monetary Unit: CFA Franc BEAC (XAF)

History and Government:

Congo was colonized by France and gained its independence in 1960. The country’s government is modeled after the French but the president tends to be the strongest of the three branches of government. Congo has had periods of political instability and military intervention in government but seems to be stabilizing. The country is divided into ten administrative regions, and six communes, each under the authority of a government commissioner; the regions are further subdivided into districts and towns.


CONTEMPORARY HISTORY AND POLITICS


The history of modern Republic of Cong (aka Congo Brazzaville) began with the French explorer, Brazza, in the late nineteenth century. Of course, prior to him, there were people living in that real estate. The first known people living there were the Pygmy. The Pygmy were later displaced by the various Bantus tribes.

The Bantus formed the Bakongo Empire that stretched from present day Gabon to the Republic of Congo, Congo Democratic Republic and to Angola.

The Europeans, that is, the Portuguese visited the Kongo Empire during the fifteenth century and both had spirited relationships, a relationship that, unfortunately, became perverted into trading in human beings. Many Congolese were sold to the Americas as slaves and later to the Arab world.

With the end of the trade in human beings, the various Kongo Empires collapsed, for their basis for existence, selling of Africans to Europeans and Arabs was no longer tenable. They lost their sole economic resource: revenue from selling Africans.

The French came to the area during the last quarter of the nineteenth century and what is now the Republic of Congo became part of French Equatorial Africa (AEF). Out of that conglomeration of tribes emerged modern Gabon, Chad, Central African Republic and Republic of Congo.

During the Second World War, when the Germans occupied France, Brazzaville, for three years, served as the capital of Free France (1940-1943). This gave Brazzaville a head’s up in economic development. Railway lines and roads were built into the interior of the country.
In 1960, France gave Congo Republic independence. Fulbert Youlou became the first President. He was ousted in 1963 by Alphonse Massamba-Debat, who, in turn, was ousted by another military coup d’etat in 1968 by Captain Marien Ngouabi. In 1977, President Ngouabi was assassinated and another military junta took over, under Joachim Yhombi-Opango.

Opango was, in turn, displaced by a member of his military junta, Dennis Sassou-Nguesso. During the 1990s, African countries were under a lot of international pressure to hold elections and become democratic, if they wanted to continue receiving Western economic assistance. Sassou held an election in 1992 and was defeated by Pascal Lissouba. Mr. Lissouba ruled for the prescribed five years and planned an election in 1997.

During the 1997 Presidential elections the key candidates were Sassou-Nguesso and Pascal Lissouba. For four months, during the summer of that year, the two camps engaged in war; militias obedient to each party fighting the other. There seemed a deadlock. With the aid of Angolan troops, Sassou defeated Lissouba’s militia and declared himself the president. In the 2002 election, Sassou essentially prevented his opponents from running against him and was proclaimed the winner with 90% of the votes.

Having consolidated power, Sassou changed the constitution and made his term seven years (from five years).

The new constitution divided the Republic of Congo into 10 regions, which are further subdivided into 46 districts. There is a National Assembly and a Supreme Court, both of which are under the control of the president.

Mr. Sassou, however, is not home free in his new unfettered reign, for his rivals are in the background plotting, biding their time for a chance to cut his throat. And he knows that given the opportunity that his throat would be cut, so he devotes a great portion of the country’s resources to protecting himself.
Nevertheless, Congo Republic is financing large scale development projects and has averaged 5% annual growth rate in its GDP. The income per capita of the country, unfortunately, is still very low, US $770 (World Bank, 2005).

Currently, revenue from oil is the main source of funds for financing the government and developmental activities, but like most African countries, the majority of the people still irk out their marginal living from subsistence agriculture.

Mr. Sassou-Nguesso leans towards the West and appears to be managing the economy as well as can be expected of a man who hangs on to power precariously. Like other extant African dictators, he has learned to manage the Press by allowing it to exist and seem able to criticize the government without reporters going missing. The major media, radio and television, are owned by the government and reflect the views of the government.

The Republic of Congo appears to be enjoying a Carthaginian peace that could be shattered at any moment when the many enemies of Sassou-Nguesso find new life for their quest to oust him. There is no true democracy in the Republic of Congo, yet Mr. Sassou-Nguesso is the current Chair person of the fifty three members Africa Union.

Ozodi@africainstituteseattle.org

Posted by Administrator at May 18, 2006 10:10 AM

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