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Democratic Republic of Congo
Facts
Area: 2.34 million sq km
Population: 66 million
Languages: French, Lingala, Kiswahili, Kikongo, Tshiluba
Religions: Christian, Muslim
GNI per capita: US$150
Currency: 1 Congolese franc = 100 centines
 
Established as a Belgian colony in 1908, the Republic of the Congo gained its independence in 1960, but its early years were marred by political and social instability. Joseph Mobutu seized power and declared himself president in a November 1965 coup. In 1965 Mobutu seized power, later renaming the country Zaire. Upon his defeat by rebels in 1997 the country’s official name became The Democratic Republic of Congo. Rebel forces still occupy parts of the country today. The war claimed an estimated three million lives, either as a direct result of fighting or because of disease and malnutrition. It has been called possibly the worst emergency to unfold in Africa in recent decades. 
 
The Congolese people enjoy beautiful landscapes consisting of mountain ranges with volcanoes, lush tropical forests, rivers, and hundreds of lakes. With all these natural resources, the country could be one of the richest countries in southern Africa. However, due to government instability, the economy has suffered drastic decline since the mid-1980s.
 
More than 70 percent of the population lives in rural areas. Many Congolese laborers work on farms, producing cassava, corn, bananas, rice, coffee, tea, palm oil, rubber, and cotton.
 
Forty-eight percent of Congolese children have no access to schools or education of any sort. Many of them work on farms, or anywhere else they can find work to help generate an income for their families.

Some children have been kidnapped and enslaved by rebel soldiers fighting in civil war skirmishes throughout the country. Nearly 2 million children lack proper nutrition and three-fourths of Congolese people are undernourished, struggling to survive on an inadequate food supply.

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