THE NARRATION OF “CONGO” AS SEPARATE SOVEREIGN STATES

THE NARRATION OF “CONGO” AS SEPARATE SOVEREIGN STATES

The development team

Principal Investigator: L. Dweba

Article Coordinator: D. Fraser

Content Writer:  L. Dweba

Content Reviewer:  N. Thobela/T. Fiko

Language Editor:   M. van der Merwe

“Rooted in deep academic and military discipline for optimal results”.

Key words. Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, Congo, D.R.C., Zaire, Republic of Congo, Democratic, Republic of the Congo, Central Africa.

INTRODUCTION

There seems to be a lot of confusion about what exactly is meant by “Congo” or “D.R.C.”.  People tend to use the abbreviation “D.R.C.” to refer to a country called Congo somewhere in Africa.  Most people with whom the GI ADVISORY had interacted about the matter, confirmed that such confusion indeed exists. The GI ADVISORY engaged a number of people on the Southern African region to clarify the confusion.  The understanding of most respondents is that D.R.C. refers to a country that is embroiled in a protracted armed conflict, and that this country’s full name is “the Republic of the Congo” or “the Democratic Republic of the Congo”.  This is the essence of the confusion and a particular reason why this article is written.  In this manner some insights can be shared on the topic.

The article supports Mungwini’s work, which addresses the challenge of how postcolonial Africa can engage with its past.  His work promotes conversations that do not perpetuate colonial derogation, are not stereotypical, are not manifestly predictive and do not falsify indigenous African reality and culture (Mungwini, 2011:1).

GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATIONS AND BACKGROUND

The United Nations’ Geoscheme divides the African continent into five distinct sub-regions.  They are Northern Africa, Western Africa, Central Africa, Eastern Africa, and Southern Africa.

https://www.worldatlas.com/geography/regions-of-africa.html

There are two sovereign states in Africa with “Congo” in their official names. They are the Republic of Congo, also known as Congo-Brazzaville, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (D.R.C), also known as Congo-Kinshasa. Both countries gained independence in 1960, but were colonised by different countries. Congo-Brazzaville was colonised by France while Congo-Kinshasa was a Belgian colony.

Lingala and French are official languages of both countries but are certainly not the only languages spoken in each country.  For instance, Teke, Mbochi and Kituba are spoken in Congo-Brazzaville. In contrast many other languages are spoken in Congo-Kinshasa, including Swahili in the east of the country, and Kikongo, Tshiluba and many more in the country as a whole.

Congo-Brazzaville and Congo-Kinshasa are in Central Africa and share the following sub-regional memberships: the AU, ECCAS, PEAC, CICOS and the COIFAC.

https://www.worldatlas.com/geography/regions-of-africa.html

To mention a few, ECCAS is (the Economic Community of Central African States) a sub-regional organisation, headquartered in Libreville, Gabon.  The organisation has 11 Member States, which include Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of the Congo, São Tomé and Príncipe.

The PEAC is the Central African Energy Pool, headquartered in the Namemba Tower, Congo-Brazzaville.  The PEAC is responsible for the implementation of energy policy, the monitoring of studies and the construction of community infrastructure and the organisation of trade in electricity and related services in the ECCAS region (Africa Renewable Energy Initiative).

Congo-Brazzaville is bordered by five countries, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Congo-Kinshasa is flanked by seven countries, which are the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola and the Republic of Congo.

THE TWO SOVEREIGN STATES

Congo-Brazzaville

In 1968, eight years after it became a fully independent State, Congo-Brazzaville faced a coup d’etat which was led by Captain Ngouabi.  Once in power, President Ngouabi changed the country’s name to the People’s Republic of the Congo, declaring it the first Marxist-Leninist state in Africa. Ngouabi founded the Congolese Workers’ Party as the country’s sole legal political party.  In 1977 President Ngouabi was assassinated. After the assassination of Ngouabi, Denis Nguesso became the new head of state but the country remained a one-party Marxist-Leninist state. Nguesso signed a friendship pact with the USSR.

By reviewing literature from various scholars and key international actors, the country’s transition to democracy can be associated with the fall of communism and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 and thus the end of the Cold War.  The Cold War was mainly about conflict of ideologies, and not about the proliferation of nuclear weapons and military might, as it is also reflected in the history of Congo-Brazzaville.  After the collapse of the USSR, Congo-Brazzaville began a transition to multi-party democracy.  In June 1991, a national conference was held to end a long history of single-party Marxist rule.  June 10 is a public holiday in Congo-Brazzaville to celebrate the anniversary of the 1991 Congo’s national conference (https://anydayguide.com/calendar/2182).

Congo-Kinshasa.

On June 30th of each year, the Congo-Kinshasa observes Independence Day as a public holiday.  This day marks independence from Belgium in June 1960. During the 19th century, the King of Belgium, King Leopold II, acquired the ‘rights’ over the Congo territory.  In 1885, Leopold named the land the Congo Free State. According to the officeholidays.com, after years of abuse of the local population, the Belgian parliament took control of the Congo Free State in 1908, creating the Belgian Congo.  The same source then points out that the name Republic of the Congo proved confusing as Congo-Brazzaville was also called the Republic of the Congo at the time.  Therefore, to make a distinction, the two countries were more commonly known as Congo-Léopoldville (ex-Belgian) and Congo-Brazzaville (ex-French), after their capital cities.  In 1971, Congo-Léopoldville was named Zaire.  A popular rebellion in Zaire in 1996, led to the adoption of its current name, the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1997. (https://www.officeholidays.com).

Broadly speaking, the abbreviation “D.R.C.” does not denote “a country called Congo somewhere in Africa”.  There are two sovereign states in Africa with “Congo” in their official names.  They are the Republic of the Congo, also known as Congo-Brazzaville, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (D.R.C.), also known as Congo-Kinshasa.  Both countries gained independence in 1960, but were colonised by different countries.  Congo-Brazzaville was colonised by France while Congo-Kinshasa was colonised by Belgium.  Both countries are in the Central Africa sub-region and share regional memberships.  June 10 is a public holiday in Congo-Brazzaville to celebrate the anniversary of the 1991 Congo’s national conference, while June 30th is a public holiday in Congo-Kinshasa to celebrate Independence Day.

 

REFERENCES

Mungwini, P. (2011). Philosophy and Tradition in Africa’: Critical Reflections on the Power and Vestiges of Colonial Nomenclature. Department of Philosophy and Systematic Theology. University of South Africa.

https://www.officeholidays.com/holidays/dr-congo/dr-congo-independence-day.

https://anydayguide.com/calendar/2182.

https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Regions-of-Africa-as-defined-by-the-United-Nations-geoscheme.

https://indd.adobe.com/.

https://www.worldatlas.com/geography/regions-of-africa.html

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