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Ministry of Education.

Democratic Republic of the Congo and Republic of Congo

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Note NB: This resource contains links to content on media sharing sites where the public can upload and comment on videos and other media. This resource also contains articles discussing conflict and human suffering in and around conflict zones. Teachers are strongly advised to preview this content before sharing with students.
General information

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is geographically located in Central Africa.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is distinct from the Republic of Congo.

To help differentiate between the two, several alternative names have been/are used. The most popular are listed below and the name commonly used in this document is in bold:

  • Democratic Republic of the Congo: Congo-Kinshasa, DR Congo, DRC, DROC (previously known as Zaire)
  • Republic of Congo: Congo-Brazzaville, Congo, and Little Congo

The focus of this resource is DRC but Congo will also be discussed where appropriate.

 In terms of colonial history, DRC was a Belgian colony whilst Congo was a French colony.

The CIA World Factbook has good background information on DRC and Congo.
Click this link to access the BBC country profiles for DRC and Congo.
Wikipedia will provide you with a less formal discussion of DRC and Congo.
Democratic Republic of Congo map and flag
Republic of Congo map and flag

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The Congo Delta region of Africa was originally populated by indigenous Pygmy populations that were displaced and absorbed by Bantu tribes.

 Currently 5% to 10% of the Congo population is Pygmy, many of whom live as slaves.

Source: African Pygmies, earliest inhabitants of the Congo Delta.

Source: King Leopold II (who never visited his private colony)

The Portuguese first arrived in the Congo Delta region in the 1500s, which is when they established trading relationships with the Bantu tribes. In the 1870s DRC came under the control of Belgium and later became the private property of King Leopold II. In 1908, however, DRC was established as a Belgium colony. In contrast, the 1880s saw Congo become a French colony.

This article (originally posted in New African) reviews a book by Adam Hochschild on King Leopold II, which provides a wider context and discussion of other colonial activity.

Both DRC and Congo gained independence in 1960
With independence, Congo followed a socialist path aligning itself with the Eastern Bloc and the Soviet Union and has since been run as a single party state. The current president, Denis Sassou Nguesso, has held power for all but a few years, since taking the position in 1979.

Image Source: Denis Sassou Nguesso, current President of Congo

Image Source: Joseph-Desire Mobutu, former president of Zaire

DRC's modern history is far bleaker. Independence saw democracy rapidly arrive and depart, with a succession of short lived governments, coups, foreign interference, and assassinations.

 In 1971 Joseph-Desire Mobutu came to power, supported by western governments opposed to Communism. Mobutu renamed the country Zaire and established a one-party system that survived with him as head of state until 1997. Mobuto's regime was brutal and corrupt. His departure saw the country once again renamed - to the present day DRC - in order to break the negative association between country and leader.

DRC has a wealth of natural resources, most notably diamonds, but also metals. This mineral wealth is arguably what has kept DRC in a state of continual conflict. When Mobuto's power faded, Rwandan and Ugandan forces invaded Zaire to take control of the resources. They were initially welcomed by opposition politicians as a means to remove Mobuto from power. However, the invaders did not leave with Mobuto and the resulting war led to further devastation of the civilian population through disease and famine.

Source: Refugee camp in Kiwanja

It is estimated that over 5 million people have died as a result of this war. The war continues, particularly in the East, and civilians continue to suffer and die.

The United Nations has maintained a peace-keeping force in the region since 2001 ( MONUSCO)

Refugees International has field reports and other online material for DRC, some in French

Image Source: Joseph Kabila, current President of DRC.

Image Source: Patrice Lumumba, first Prime Minister of the DRC

The BBC's timeline for DRC and Congo is a useful resource that provides more history on both these countries.

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Online dictionaries The national language of both countries is French. Lingala is common in both DRC and Congo, and Swahili is spoken in DRC.
Lexilogos offers links to a variety of online Swahili dictionaries with English translations.

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Landscape and People Many of the images from the DRC show conflict and suffering. To provide balance, John Rankin captured images of happiness and warmth in a collection called Cheka Kidogo (smile a little, in Swahili). BBC have articles on the collection.

Image from Cheka Kidogo

Source: Cheka Kidogo


Source: Mother and child


Source The hills of Djugu


Source: Building huts in a refugee camp


Source: On the move

Source Doruma, near Sudan

Source Small farms displaced by cattle pasture

Source: Hut for family

Source: Living off the river

Source: UN military escort

Source River jungle in N Kivu

Source: Old post boxes in Kindu

Source: Transporting bananas to market

Source: Children and women in North Kivu

Source: Savanna

Source: Apartments

Source: Aid arriving in Doruma

Source: Woman from DRC


Source: Colonial administrator’s home

Source: An old gatehouse from colonial times

Source: Aid arriving in Doruma

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The staple food for most of Africa is fufu, a dumpling made from mashed cassava (or plantain), which is then cooked in a stew. Corn millet and yam are also common. For many, this is the extent of their diet. Meat is not commonly available and is only eaten on special occasions. Bush meat, hunted from the jungle, is more commonly eaten than farmed meat.

 The congo cookbook has a recipe for fufu and many other African dishes as well as some beautiful old pictures related to food and farming.

Source Preparing the flour to make the dumpling

Source: Fufu - on the right

Source: Cassava

Source: Christmas dinner

Source: Cooking with charcoal

Source: Grubs

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Source: Children dancing to express their thanks for a new school

Source: Pende mask

Source: Pende mask

Source unknown: Contemporary art

Congolese drumming and dancing.
Source: Some amazing dancing from a Congolese dance company in New York.
Culture — Music

There is a large and diverse contemporary music scene in DRC and Congo as well as a great musical history.

Titos Sompa blends traditional drums and jazz.

Preview the above before sharing with students

This recording on archive.com discusses how Congolese music has been influenced by history.

Tu es Digne by Matou Samuel of DRC

Tata N'Zambe by Bisso Na Bisso of Congo

Community Audio has a large collection of traditional music

Source: Tree frog

Source: Tiger

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Faith Religious influences in DRC are mainly Christian - Roman Catholicism (55%), Protestantism and Kimbanguism (35%) - with other religious faiths that include Islam (5%), Animism (2.4%), Baha’i (0.4%), and Hinduism (0.2%).

Source: Catholic Church in Basoko

Economy The years of war have had a major impact on the economy. The majority of individual activity is focused on survival, in particular finding food. What domestic economic activity there is exists underground.

Source: The main livelihood for river dwellers

Source: Prosperity in Kindu before the war - once thriving river ports have declined as travel has became too dangerous

Subsistence agriculture accounts for most of the industry in DRC. Recently cattle farming has increased, displacing traditional farming practices and changing the landscape.

Source: Old fields replaced with cattle pasture

Copper and iron are important exports for DRC, while Congo exports oil. Diamonds are also a major export for DRC, much of which is on the black market and until recently provided the funds for war in this region. CNN has an article on diamond mining in DRC.
The Encyclopedia Britannica is a good resource with information on the economies of DRC and Congo.

In a country with few roads and a large number of displaced people, health services are poor.

Source: Village maternity room. There is an 8 hour walk to a better equipped centre.


Source: Village school

Source: Lessons

This video gives information about a UNICEF programme promoting education for DRC indigenous children.

 Preview before sharing with students

Another UNICEF report focusing on the availability of education for all children in the DRC.

 Preview before sharing with students

A report on providing education for children displaced by the war.

 Preview before sharing with students

Readers, eBooks, comics, magazines, podcasts
There are many childrens' books recorded in French on LibriVox including Hans Christian Andersen, and Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
There are 17 children's titles in Swahili and 52 in French at www.childrenslibrary.org.
Click here to read Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.in English.
Click here to hear a very short introduction to Swahili.
Newspapers The BBC country profiles for DRC and Congo have a list of newspapers and other publications, many with their own websites.

Download the word document:

Our_cultural_village_Democratic_Republic_of_the_Congo_and_Congo (Word 7MB)

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Updated on: 17 Apr 2019