Introducing Democratic Republic Of The Congo
Virunga © Cai Tjeenk Willink
People have inhabited the Democratic Republic of Congo's territory for almost 90,000 years. It is home to fascinating biodiversity and dramatic vistas, as well as a complex history involving Bantu kingdoms, slavery, colonialism, and dictatorial rule.
Kinshasa, the sprawling capital of the DRC, is situated on the banks of the Congo River, opposite Brazzaville, capital of the neighbouring Republic of the Congo. The Congo River, made famous by the explorer Henry Morton Stanley, runs across the north of the country and remains an important transportation artery into the country's impenetrable interior. The roads and railway built by the Belgium colonial regime have long-since been reclaimed the by the jungle.
Everyday life in the Democratic Republic of Congo can be extremely chaotic. This vast country (the third largest on the continent) currently exists in a state of fragile peace after decades of civil war. In early 2019, Felix Tshisekedi became the new president after the first transfer of power since the country gained independence from Belgium in 1960.
For 59 years, the former president, Joseph Kabila, ruled the country and thwarted attempts for democratic elections, which led to instability. It's still early days of the DRC and it is difficult to say what the future holds in terms of development of the country. Despite continued tensions however, international investors are being drawn to the country by its enormous mineral wealth.
Tourism in the country is also on the rise. Most are drawn to the Virunga National Park in the far east of the country, one of the few places where visitors can still find mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Bordering Uganda's Rwenzori Mountains and the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Virunga was established in 1925 as Africa's first national park.
Most of the DRC is off limits for mainstream tourism; however, businessmen, diplomats, aid workers and others with essential business are well-catered for in some good hotels and restaurants, chiefly in Kinshasa's affluent Gombe district.
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