Overview of Democratic Republic Of Congo
The Portuguese first arrived at the Congo River in 1483 and established a long term trading relationship with the Kongo Kingdom . By about 1750, Europeans had become heavily involved in the slave trade, procuring slaves from most parts of Africa, including the Congo. King Leopold II of Belgium claimed possession of the Congo in 1885, which was then named the Congo Free State.
Exploitation of the mineral resources of the Congo Free State commenced, and other industries such as rubber plantations and ivory trading were also established. In response to growing criticism of the treatment of the African population, the Belgian parliament annexed the colony in 1908 and renamed it the Belgian Congo.
In 1960, the Congo held its first elections and became an independent republic with Patrice Lumumba as Prime Minister, Joseph Kasavubu as President and Joseph-Desire Mobutu (later Mobutu Sese Seko) as Chief of Staff. The new republic was plagued by unrest, including army mutinies and a secessionist war with the Katanga Region, in which United Nations troops intervened on behalf of the national government. By the end of 1960, Mobutu had seized power. Lumumba was murdered in early 1961 whilst under arrest. In 1965, Mobutu named himself President.
In 1971, the country's name was changed to Zaire . Foreign-owned businesses and industries were expropriated and nationalised, including the large copper-cobalt mines on the Copperbelt in the Katanga (now Shaba ) Region. Economic chaos resulted, and attempted invasions of the Shaba Region from Angola and Zambia were carried out by Zairian insurgents. Troops from France and Belgium were required to defeat the insurgents.
Following the end of the Cold War, Mobutu came under increasing pressure from Western countries to institute democratic and economic reforms and to cease human rights abuses. By this time, the national economy was in ruins, and unpaid troops mutinied in 1990, resulting in widespread violence and looting, again requiring French and Belgian troops to restore order.
In 1996, the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda caused tension and armed conflict between Hutus and Tutsis in eastern Zaire. The alliance of the Zairian army with Hutu militias resulted in open conflict by Tutsi militia in rebellion against Mobutu. Rwanda and Uganda supported the Tutsi uprising and a coalition known as the Alliance des Forces Democratiques pour la Liberation du Congo-Zaire (AFDL) under Laurent-Desire Kabila was formed. The AFDL had early military success, resulting in peace talks between Mobutu and Kabila. Mobutu was forced to leave the country in 1997 and Kabila took over the government, named himself President and renamed the country the Democratic Republic of Congo.
By 1998, however, Kabila had lost the confidence of one of his main allies, the Movement pour la Liberation du Congo (MLC), who attacked from the east, again supported by Uganda and Rwanda . Meanwhile, Zimbabwe , Namibia and Angola sent troops to the DRC to support Kabila. A ceasefire was signed in 1999 between the six countries involved in the conflict, however the rebellion continued until 2001 when Kabila was assassinated. Joseph Kabila succeeded his father as president and immediately set about negotiating a multilateral peace deal. As a result of his efforts and the intervention of South Africa, the Pretoria Peace Accord was signed in 2002. Under the accord, Joseph Kabila remained in office until the democratic election, originally scheduled for mid-2005 but postponed to 2006 was held. A run off election between Joseph Kabila and John Pierre Mbemba was held in October 2006, confirming Joseph Kabila as President for a 5 year term.
Joseph Kabila is widely supported by the international community (the UN has approximately 18,500 personnel in the DRC), and financial assistance from the World Bank and the IMF has been forthcoming for the first time in over a decade. The DRC is currently more stable than it has been for many years, and it is hoped that stability will bring development and general prosperity to the country. Infrastructure rehabilitation is underway, and large investments have been made in telecommunications development. Renewed interest in mining investments is also evident, with a number of international mining companies acquiring mining interests in the Copperbelt including Phelps Dodge (Tenke Fungurume), First Quantum (Lonshi, Likasi Tailings), Anvil Mining (Dikulushi), the Forrest Group (Kolwezi area), International Panorama Resources (Kambove and Kakanda Tailings) and American Mineral Fields (Kolwezi Tailings). AngloGoldAshanti Limited have acquired mining interests to the southeast of Moto's project area in Kilo Premier gold belt.
The DRC Parliament passed a new Mining Code in June 2003. The code was developed under the auspices of the World Bank with input from interested parties, and has been based loosely on similar codes in Chile and Zambia.