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update D R Congo

Autumn 2011

Official publication of the Embassy of the Democratic Republic of Congo, London

THE PEOPLE of DR Congo are gearing up to vote in only the second democratic presidential election to have been held in the country. More than 31 million citizens have already registered with the National Independent Electoral Commission to vote in the ballot which will be held on Monday November 28. The result is expected to be announced by Tuesday December 6. Incumbent president Joseph Kabila is likely to face opposition from more than a dozen other candidates.

But following a recent change in election law, there will be no second round run-off between the two leading candidates as there was at the last presidential election in 2006. This will save the country an estimated $350 million. The winning candidate just needs a simple majority. On the same day as the presidential election, voters will also be electing representatives to sit in the National Assembly, the lower house of DR Congo’s two-tier parliament. The majority of members in the

The very idea that democratic elections are being held in DR Congo is a great tribute to sitting President Joseph Kabila. Catapulted into office in January 2001 following the assassination of his father, Laurent Kabila, Joseph Kabila was just 29 years old, the youngest Head of State anywhere in the world. The new president faced what appeared to be an insurmountable challenge. His country was overrun with foreign armies and militias and embroiled in a ferocious civil war which had started in 1998 and would continue until 2003 at a cost of more than four million lives – the deadliest conflict since the Second World War. It was President Kabila’s quiet but purposeful diplomacy which paved the way towards negotiations which finally led to a peace agreement signed in July 2003. With great energy and determination he then set about the task of rebuilding his war-ravaged and deeply divided country. This led in 2006 to the holding of the first democratic presidential election in more than 40 years with President Kabila securing a convincing victory after a second round run-off against Jean-Pierre Bemba, the leader of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo. On the economic front, with the guidance and blessing of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, President Kabila’s government has implemented a series

current National Assembly belong to President Kabila’s People’s Party for Reconstruction & Democracy (PPRD). The main opposition party is the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC). The challenge of gathering enough funds to hold the elections has been ove rco m e by P resi d e n t Ka bila ’ s dogged­ness to see the country take a new shape politically and economically.

Voters gather outside a Kinshasa polling station for the 2006 presidential election




DR Congo gets ready to vote

The President of DR Congo, Joseph Kabila, addresses the United Nations General Assembly

of key financial reforms which has seen DR Congo’s oncespiralling debt brought under control; and the country now offers a stable international exchange rate. Greater foreign investment is being encouraged and DR Congo’s economy is targeted to grow by around 7% during 2011. Born in 1971 in the mountain forests of DR Congo but raised and educated in Tanzania, President Kabila fought as part of the armed forces that helped his father depose former president Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997. He then went to China to undertake further military training before returning to DR Congo. He was promoted to MajorGeneral and headed the country’s Armed Forces until assuming the presidency in 2001. President Kabila is married to Olive Lembe di Sita.

DR Congo Update

Introducing an African giant THE DEMOCRATIC Republic of Congo covers a large swathe of central Africa. Nearly two-thirds the size of western Europe and the second largest country in Africa (after Algeria), it straddles the equator and has borders with nine other African countries: Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, Congo-Brazzaville, the Central African Republic and the world’s newest country, South Sudan. But despite its vast size, the country is landlocked apart from a 40-km stretch of Atlantic coastline. Much of the landscape is dominated by areas of lush jungle and tropical rainforest which – after the Amazon – is the second largest in the world. The Congo River and all its myriad tributaries weave their way across a great swathe of the country. Five of the country’s national parks are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Garamba, Kahuzi-Biega, Okapi, Salonga and Virunga. The population, estimated at more than 70 million, embraces nearly 250 ethnic groups who speak more than 700 local languages and dialects. Around 45% of the people belong to the four largest tribes – Mongo, Luba, Kongo and Mangbtu-Azande. There are also around 600,000 Pygmies who were the original people of DR Congo.

HISTORY ALTHOUGH THE history of the Congo dates back to the time of the Pygmies in the 1st century BC, it was not until the 15th century that a Portuguese navigator became the first European to visit the region. In the 1870s Belgium’s despotic King Leopold ll embarked on an audacious private venture to colonise the area. The Welsh-born explorer Henry Morton Stanley was commissioned to establish the King’s authority in the Congo Basin and after receiving the backing of other key European nations at the Conference of Berlin in 1884, Leopold announced the formation of the Congo Free State – declaring himself as its leader. Ruling by proxy and using a brutal mercenary force to turn the Congolese state into what was effectively


Foreign tourists enjoying the peace and beauty of Kahuzi-Biega – one of DR Congo’s five national parks listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites

factbox Head of State Area Capital Population Unit of currency Languages


Time International dialling code Internet designation

President Joseph Kabila 2, 345, 410 sq km Kinshasa (Pop. 8 million) 70.9 million (Estimated) Congolese franc French (official); Lingala, Swahili, Kikongo, Tshiluba Roman Catholic, Protestant, Revival Movements, Kimbanguist, Muslim, other sects and indigenous beliefs GMT +1 (west) GMT+2 (east) +243 .cd

DR Congo’s massive rainforest is home to many endangered species including mountain gorillas

From despotism to democracy a labour camp, Leopold accumulated a vast personal fortune, first from ivory and then from the harvesting of wild rubber. In 1908 the Belgian state formally annexed Congo but following serious nationalist riots in 1959, independence was declared in June 1960 and the country was renamed Congo-Kinshasa with Joseph Kasa-Vubu as its first president and Patrice Lumumba as prime minister. After a military coup in 1965, Army chief General Mobutu Sese Seko came to power and would remain at the helm for the next 32 years, during which time the country was renamed Zaire in 1971. After Mobutu was deposed by Laurent-Désiré Kabila in 1997, the Democratic Republic of Congo was established.

D R Congo Update  Autumn 2011

Laurent Kabila wanted to make DR Congo a selfsufficient country by investing heavily in manufacturing industries

Laurent Kabila wanted to make DR Congo a self-sufficient country by investing heavily in manufacturing industries. But his ambitious plans were thwarted when he was assassinated in 2001. A crisis committee called on his son, Joseph Kabila, to lead the country. He immediately set about organising the first democratic and transparent elections in the history of DR Congo. These were held in 2006 with the backing of the international community. With the president’s commitment to democratic principles continuing to attract increasing support from the international community as well as potential investors, DR Congo’s second d ­ emocratic elections will be held in November this year.

THE DEMOCRATIC Republic of Congo is potentially one of the richest countries in the world as it’s blessed with vast natural resources and mineral wealth. It was recently estimated to have $24 trillion worth of untapped deposits of raw mineral ores including 5% of the world’s copper, vast quantities of gold, silver, uranium and diamonds and the world’s largest reserves of cobalt, a strategic and critical metal used in many commercial, industrial, and military applications. Historically, the primary use of cobalt was in super-alloys used to make parts for gas turbine engines. But in recent years the rapid growth in the use of rechargeable batteries has seen a big increase in cobalt being used to make battery electrodes. A n d a cco r d i n g t o respected market research company, Merchant Research & Consulting, worldwide Rock of demand for cobalt is likely to riches: DR increase still further in response Congo has the world’s to growing interest in hybrid eleclargest cobalt reserves trical vehicles. It said DR Congo’s global market share in cobalt production increased to 41% in 2010, with its nearest competitor, Australia, producing just 12%. It was in 1914 that massive deposits of cobalt were first discovered in Katanga province. Officially recognised in 1735 by the Swedish chemist Georg Brandt, cobalt compounds had been used for centuries to impart a rich blue colour to glass, glazes and ceramics.


Cobalt charges ahead amid a multitude of minerals

UN troops are helping DR Congo’s government to clear the country of foreign armed groups

HELP US TO BANISH THE SMUGGLERS Rampant smuggling of DR Congo’s minerals is costing its government billions of dollars in lost revenue. And it’s now calling on the international community to play a much more active role in preventing illegal exports. DR Congo’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom, H.E. Barnabé Kikaya-bin-Karubi, said: “This is not a matter which can be resolved solely by the Government of DR Congo. It requires the commitment and support of foreign governments and commercial organisations. They need to stop engaging and trading with rebel movements. Such actions only serve to undermine the legitimate and democraticallyelected Government of DR Congo. It also provides funding and encouragement to those armed groups which are exploiting the

valuable mineral resources in eastern Congo.” The Ambassador called for the introduction of an internationallyrecognised scheme similar to the United Nations-backed Kimberley Process. Established in 2003, the certification scheme aims to prevent the sale of so-called “blood diamonds” from financing rebel movements. It also gives an assurance to consumers that the diamonds they have purchased are not financing a war or supporting human rights abuses. DR Congo currently benefits from having the second largest United Nations’ peacekeeping force based in the country with more than 19,000 troops, police and military observers supporting government initiatives to disarm, demobilize and repatriate foreign armed groups.

The whole world’s calling for coltan DR Congo provides the vital mineral which makes mobiles work

RELATIVELY FEW people will have heard of coltan; but if you own a mobile phone, DVD player or laptop, there is a good chance some of the essential components will have come from DR Congo as the country houses more than 70% of the world’s coltan reserves. With ever-increasing demand from electronic companies in China, the United States and Europe, coltan has become one of the most prized minerals in the world with prices soaring to hundreds of dollars per kilogram.

In its rawest form, coltan comes from a black, heavy metal called tantalite, a blend of iron and manganese ore which yields the metal tantalum whose strength, chemistry and electronic properties make it ideal for use in many hi-tech and medical applications. It is used to create pinhead capacitors which can store energy in the form of an electronic charge. Mining of the mineral is relatively simple, involving pans, sluices and sifting – reminiscent of the techniques used during the California Gold Rush of 1849.

Autumn 2011  D R Congo Update 


DR Congo Update

URBAN LIFE PROVIDES INSPIRATION FOR ETHNIC ARTIST CLAUDY KHAN The Democratic Republic of Congo is known for its world-famous Rumba music that has dominated the African music scene for decades. But very little is known about other forms of Congolese culture including sculpture, paintings, textiles and woven art. Very successful artists such as Lema Kusa, Alfred Liyolo, Roger Botembe, Nshole and Mavinga do not have the exposure they deserve. Today, one of the most prolific Congolese artists is Claudy Khan (right). Born in Kinshasa in 1958, he was educated at the Academie Beaux Arts and the School of Architecture in Nantes, France. His work explores the popular culture of major Congolese cities where people of different backgrounds live and there is an ethnically diverse culture. Claudy Khan uses aspects of that integrated cultural life together with a historic perspective to produce some of the most beautiful paintings coming out of the Congolese artistic scene. Claudy Khan has won many awards in DR Congo and in France including “Best Congolese Artist” in 1983, the “Prix Goya” presented by Lions Club International; and the “Prix La Rue aux Artistes” in Blois, France. Claudy Khan is also the creator of a Blois-based art studio, the Artkhan Creation, which specialises in precious woodwork. We are pleased to present a selection of Claudy Khan’s works.

DR Congo Update is produced on behalf of the Embassy of the Democratic Republic of Congo, 45-49 Great Portland Street, London W1W 7LD. Tel: +44 (0) 20 7580 7940. Fax: +44 (0) 20 7580 8713 Editor: Peter Lilley. Design:

DR Congo Update  

News from the London, UK, embassy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

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