Congo Kinshasa & Congo Brazzaville News and Links ( Zaire News, Belgian Congo News, French Congo News )

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The New York Times, March 17, 1878:

THE CONGO AND STANLEY.

    --The mouth of the Congo has been known since the Portuguese, in the fifteenth century, began to creep down the African coast, and Tuckey, in the beginning of the present century, traced it about 150 miles to the lower cataracts. Its origin and course was one of the few, probably the greatest, of remaining mysteries in geography.
    Long ago the Pombeiros and other travelers came across streams inland from the Portuguese possessions in south-west Africa, which run northward, and latterly Livingstone made known the great river Lualaba, which, however, against all evidence, he believed to be connected with the Nile. One of the principal streams known, at least since the time of the Pombeiros, is the Casai, a considerable river running northward, and which some geographers maintained must be the upper course of the Congo. Others again maintained, and the reports of the natives seemed to confirm it, that in the region between Nyangwé on the Lualaba and the sea, was a great lake into which that and other rivers flowed, while some seemed to think that the Lualaba ran southward...

    The solution of the problem was a task well calculated to fascinate a man like Stanley, a task in which all his rare qualities as an explorer would be developed to the utmost...
    In the course of a few months, by the daring genius of one man, there has been thrown open to our knowledge a river of the first rank, watering a region of apparently exhaustless resources for both the man of science and the trader. It is about 3,000 miles long, has many large tributaries, themselves affording many hundred miles of navigable water; waters a basin of nearly 1,000,000 square miles, and pours into the sea a volume estimated at 1,800,000 cubic feet per second. Such a piece of work is surely enough to immortalize a man.
--Nature.

The New York Times, June 23, 1883, p.4:

THE BASIN OF THE CONGO.

    The conflicting claims of European powers in the heart of the Dark Continent have attracted but little attention since the beginning of hostilities in Madagascar and Annam. While the French were bombarding the Hova ports and shipping troops to Tonquin, STANLEY was pushing his way up the Congo River, and it is now announced that he has reached Brazzaville with 1,000 followers, and has met there M. DE BRAZZA, who is said to have made but little progress.

    Mr. STANLEY is the agent of the international and neutral organization known as the Comité d' Etudes du Haut Congo, at the head of which is the King of the Belgians. The Association Internationale Africaine, of which King LEOPOLD is the moving spirit, undertook to open a path from Zanzibar, on the east coast, to the great lakes of the interior. A path was opened and a station was established on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika.
    The other organization undertook to explore the course of the great River Congo from its mouth on the west coast to its source, and to make roadways around the cataracts that divide the basin of the Upper Congo from the navigable waters, which extend for 115 miles eastward from the river's mouth.

    The roadways were built and a steamer was placed in the waters above the cataracts, at Stanley Pool, beyond which navigation is unimpeded for nearly one thousand miles into the heart of the continent. All this work was done under a neutral flag by an association which represents no nation, and that advocates the opening of the rich valley and basin of this great river to the commerce of all nations. Already the trade of this region is great, the gross exports and imports amounting, it is said, to $10,000,000 a year.
    The association that undertook to make a path westward from Zanzibar granted out of its funds 20,000f. to a French committee that desired to do part of the work. The committee sent out M. DE BRAZZA as its agent. He discovered another and better route from the western coast to the Upper Congo by avoiding the Lower Congo and the cataracts and following the course of the River Ogowe, that empties into the Atlantic north of the Congo.

    The spirit of acquisition and annexation that has take possession of the French nation took possession of M. DE BRAZZA. He passed from the service of a neutral organization into the service of France, induced a native chief to cede to France the northern shore of Stanley Pool, and raised the French Flag upon this territory.

    In this way the French gained a foothold in the basin of the Congo. The Portuguese suddenly discovered that the King of Congo had been their vassal since 1491, and laid claim to the region above and below the mouth of the river. So that the international scientific and philanthropic associations that have undertaken to open a belt across the continent, and have already accomplished so much, are confronted by the pretensions of two European nations.
    This could have been forseen. The great wealth of the basin east of the mountains, covering thirteen degrees of longitude and fourteen degrees of latitude, having been revealed by bold explorers, aroused the predatory instincts of Europe, and the peaceful work of King LEOPOLD and his associates must soon give way to a struggle between colonizers and conquerors.

    There will be great changes in Southern and Central Africa in the next fifty years. A large area of rich land is to be explored and opened to civilization. The colonizing nations of Europe may contend among themselves for a division of the spoil. Ancient and forgotten claims, like the claim brought forward by Portugal, will be revived by other powers, and the Dark Continent may be lighted up by the fires of great conflicts.

The Federal Reserve Bank's estimated consumer price index shows that $1 in 1883 was equivalent to $23.05 in 2008.

The New York Times, April 16, 1899, p.4:

THE CONGO FREE STATE

Belgian Parliament Discussing the Question of Its Annexation.
RICH IN IVORY AND RUBBER.
Leopold II Now Its Absolute Ruler--
The Natives Make Good Workingmen if Kindly Treated.

    BRUSSELS, March 24.--In view of the probable annexation in 1900 of the Congo Free State [Belgian Congo, later Zaire, later Democratic Republic of Congo] to Belgium, (which annexation is under discussion just now in the Parliament at Brussels,) the work published lately by A. J. Watuens is of great present interest. The volume in question, L'Etat Independent du Congo, is by far the most comprehensive work yet published on the Congo...

    As at present constituted, the Congo Free State is an absolute monarchy, Leopold II., a constitutional monarch in Europe, being the sole arbiter of his African subjects' destinies... In virtue of the convention of July 3, 1890, Belgium has the right to annex the Free State in 1900. Moreover King Leopold has, as is well known, bequeathed the State to Belgium in the event of his death...

    At the time when the Belgians first made their appearance in the Lower Congo, the only products exported from the district were palm oil, cocoanuts, and ivory. A few years later, owing to the rapid progress made by the Belgians in settling the country, attention was given to the rubber industry. Ivory and india rubber have, so far, been the principal articles of export. But now that the Matadl-Leopoldville Railway (which will carry freight at low rates,) is open to traffic, a great number of other products will be exported.

THE CONGO IVORY TRADE.

    The figures relating to the ivory trade in the Congo are significant. According to the latest statistics the annual production of ivory in the world is about 700 tons, of which Africa produces 600 tons. It may, therefore, be said that, with the exception of a small stock of fossilized ivory derived from India and Liberia, the entire production of ivory is furnished by the Dark Continent.
    Half a century ago all this African ivory came from Egypt and Zanzibar, but to-day the Congo Free State holds the first rank among ivory-exporting countries. In 1897 no less than 245 tons were exported to Europe, this being half the total output from Africa.

    The Antwerp ivory market, which started on July 31, 1888, with a sale of fifteen tons, had already surpassed the Liverpool market in 1890 and the London market in 1895. The Antwerp ivory market is to-day by far the most important in the world. Four great public sales take place there every year, at the beginning of February, May, August, and November.

    The following statistics show the quantity of ivory sold on the Antwerp market from 1889 to 1897:

    In 1889 90,000 pounds were sold, the total value of which was $264,000.
    In 1890 152,000 pounds were sold, the total value of which was $339,000.
    In 1891 118,000 pounds were sold, the total value of which was $249,600.
    In 1892 236,000 pounds were sold, the total value of which was $450,000.
    In 1893 446,000 pounds were sold, the total value of which was $718,000.
    In 1894 370,000 pounds were sold, the total value of which was $559,800.
    In 1895 546,000 pounds were sold, the total value of which was $885,400.
    In 1896 492,000 pounds were sold, the total value of which was $781,200.
    In 1897 560,000 pounds were sold, the total value of which was $976,400.

    The average price of ivory on the Antwerp market, at present, is $3.47.

    The question naturally arises "How is the ivory obtained which the Congo Free State exports in such large quantities?" Some imaginative writers are responsible for wonderful legends circulated, from time to time, concerning those "fabulous cemetaries of elephants hidden in the depths of the Congo forests, mysterious spots where ivory tusks have been accumulating for centuries."
    The truth of the matter is far simpler. Herds of elephants are still extremely numerous in the immense virgin forests of Central Congo. The natives hunt these animals, more on account of their flesh, which the Congolese greatly appreciate, than for their tusks. But these hunts are, on the whole, far from lucrative, and furnish only a small proportion of the tusks exported to Europe; most of these came from former harvests.

    Thus, during 1897, of the 29,985 tusks sold on the Antwerp market, 8,539 alone came from freshly-killed animals, the remaining 21,446 tusks being what the natives term "dead ivory."

    For centuries the aborigines have been gathering and collecting elephant tusks, which they considered as of little intrinsic value in themselves, but useful as articles of exchange. The ivory accumulated in this manner remained hidden for a long time, there being practically no demand for it in the remote districts of the Congo.
    The Khartoum merchants were the first to discover these hidden reserves of ivory, first in the region of the Upper Nile, in the district of Bahr-el-Ghazal. Later on, the Zanzibar traders pushed on to Katanga, and thence to the very heart of the Congo, with the result that the ivory trade soon became the principal industry of the country.

    The Congo ivory, as indeed all African ivory, is far more highly prized and sought after than the Asiatic product. It is harder, of a finer grain, lends itself more easily to workmanship, and has fewer fissures.
    The tusks of Congolese elephants are, as a rule, very large, and weigh on an average 60 pounds. Some of them are of extraordinary size. At the Brussels Exhibition a pair of tusks were exhibited from the Congo, each of which weighed 156 pounds.

    By a decree passed in 1889 elephant hunting is forbidden throughout the whole territory of the Free State without special permission from the Government. The carcasses of all animals killed in violation of this law are confiscated by the State.

GREAT QUANTITIES OF RUBBER.

    The great future wealth of the Congo, however, will not be ivory, but india-rubber. There is small probability of even coffee or oleoaginous substances taking a preponderating position over india-rubber as an article of export.
    The india-rubber industry in the Free State is a recent one. Some forty years ago the first Europeans who settled in the Lower Congo regions began to develop this industry, but on a very small scale; and it was only in 1889 that the Belgians turned their attention to the great gutta-percha forests of the Upper Congo.
    Since then the progress made in the rubber trade has been such that at the present moment the Free State holds the first place among the rubber-producing countries of Africa, with an annual output of nearly 2,000 tons.

    In 1897 the total production of rubber in the world was about 34,000 tons, 22,000 of which came from South America, 10,000 from Africa, and 2,000 from Asia and Australasia.

    Stanley had, at the time of his first exploration, already pointed out the great future of the india-rubber trade in the Congo. "On the islands of the river alone," said he, "I estimate that enough rubber can be gathered in a year to pay the expenses of building the railroad.!"
    Cameron is even more emphatic. He says: "The day will come when enough rubber will be gathered in the forests and jungles of the Congo to meet all the requirements of the civilized world."

    The most numerous species of rubber plants in the Congo are the Landolphias, which produce a first-class grade of rubber; but there are several other varieties of the plant. In the Summer of 1898 Mr. Hennebert discovered great numbers of Kickxia Africana in the districts of Lagos and Accra, where new rubber factories have been established in the past few months. Other varieties of gutta-percha plants have been found at Bangaso, Kwango, and Wamba.
    Since the development of the rubber trade in the Free State the natives have been in the habit of cutting the entire bark of the gutta-percha plants, instead of making incisions, thus obtaining a great deal of gum in a short space of time. Were this process to continue the plants would soon be exhausted. By decree of the sovereign it has recently been forbidden to gather the rubber otherwise than by incisions.

POPULATION OF THE STATE.

    Concerning the population of the Congo Free State... in 1888... estimated the figure at more than twenty millions... Stanley places the number... at twenty-nine millions...
    The population is very unequally scattered over the territories of the State... The regions of the Falls, from Noki to Kimpese, the banks of the Congo River between the Pool and Bolobo, the Lower Ubangi, and certain districts of the Romu Basin, have but few inhabitants. While certain regions of the great forest, notably the basin of Lopori, have a large population, there are others, notably those which Stanley and Dhanis expeditions explored, between Basoko and the Falls to Lake Albert, which are hardly inhabited...
    According to the explorer Costermans, the country extending between the Pool and the Kwanga is very thickly populated. In the district of Sankuru are to be found the largest villages in the Free State, one of them, Mutombo, has, so Major Parmenter relates, a population of at least 10,000 inhabitants. The natives along the shore of Lake Leopold II. number about 20,000, and those of Lake Tumba, 35,000...
see also: Gabon News - Cameroon - Sudan - Uganda - Rwanda - Tanzania
    Angola News - Zambia News

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  DRC: Congo Kinshasa (Zaire)

    Established as a Belgian colony in 1908, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC; formerly called Zaire) gained its independence in 1960, but its early years were marred by political and social instability.

    Col. Joseph MOBUTU seized power and declared himself president in a November 1965 coup. He subsequently changed his name - to MOBUTU Sese Seko - as well as that of the country - to Zaire. MOBUTU retained his position for 32 years through several sham elections, as well as through the use of brutal force.

    Ethnic strife and civil war, touched off by a massive inflow of refugees in 1994 from fighting in Rwanda and Burundi, led in May 1997 to the toppling of the MOBUTU regime by a rebellion backed by Rwanda and Uganda and fronted by Laurent KABILA. He renamed the country the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), but in August 1998 his regime was itself challenged by a second insurrection again backed by Rwanda and Uganda. Troops from Angola, Chad, Namibia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe intervened to support KABILA's regime. A cease-fire was signed in July 1999 by the DRC, Congolese armed rebel groups, Angola, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zimbabwe but sporadic fighting continued.

    Laurent KABILA was assassinated in January 2001 and his son, Joseph KABILA, was named head of state. In October 2002, the new president was successful in negotiating the withdrawal of Rwandan forces occupying eastern Congo; two months later, the Pretoria Accord was signed by all remaining warring parties to end the fighting and establish a government of national unity. A transitional government was set up in July 2003. Joseph KABILA as president and four vice presidents represented the former government, former rebel groups, the political opposition, and civil society.

    The transitional government held a successful constitutional referendum in December 2005 and elections for the presidency, National Assembly, and provincial legislatures in 2006. KABILA was inaugurated president in December 2006. The National Assembly was installed in September 2006. Its president, Vital KAMERHE, was chosen in December. Provincial assemblies were constituted in early 2007, and elected governors and national senators in January 2007.
    CIA World Factbook: Congo Dem. Rep.


Dem. Rep. of the Congo
Area: 2,345,410 sq km
    slightly less than ¼ the size of the US

Population: 65,751,512 July 2007 estimate

Languages:
French official
Lingala lingua franca for trade
Kingwana dialect of Kiswahili or Swahili
Kikongo, Tshiluba

Capital: Kinshasa


  Dem. Rep. of Congo Reference Articles & Links

Wikipedia: Democratic Republic of the Congo
    History of Democratic Republic of the Congo
BBC Country Profile: Congo Kinshasa
UK Foreign Office: Congo Kinshasa Profile
US State Department: Congo Kinshasa Profile

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1885 Map of Africa

US Embassy, Kinshasa
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  Congo News Websites

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  ROC: Congo Brazzaville

    Upon independence in 1960, the former French region of Middle Congo became the Republic of the Congo. A quarter century of experimentation with Marxism was abandoned in 1990 and a democratically elected government took office in 1992.

    A brief civil war in 1997 restored former Marxist President Denis SASSOU-NGUESSO, and ushered in a period of ethnic and political unrest. Southern-based rebel groups agreed to a final peace accord in March 2003, but the calm is tenuous and refugees continue to present a humanitarian crisis.

    The Republic of Congo was once one of Africa's largest petroleum producers, but with declining production it will need to hope for new offshore oil finds to sustain its oil earnings over the long term.
    CIA World Factbook: Rep. of the Congo


Republic of the Congo
Area: 342,000 sq km slightly smaller than Montana

Population: 3,800,610 July 2007 estimate

Languages:
French official
Lingala, Monokutuba lingua franca for trade
Kikongo & other local languages & dialects

Capital: Brazzaville


  Republic of Congo Reference Articles & Links

Wikipedia: Republic of the Congo
    History of Republic of the Congo
BBC Country Profile: Congo Brazzaville
UK Foreign Office: Congo Brazzaville Profile
US State Department: Congo Brazzaville Profile

Maps of Congo Brazzaville
Historic Maps of Africa
1885 Map of Africa

Congo Brazzaville Embassy, Washington D.C.
US Embassy, Brazzaville
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WikiTravel: Congo Brazzaville
US State Dept RO Congo Brazzaville Travel

  Congo News Websites

All Africa: Congo Brazzaville
UN IRIN: Congo Brazzaville
Les Depeches de Brazzaville in French
Le Choc in French
Jeune Afrique in French

APA: Congo Brazzaville
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NATIVES EASILY CIVILIZED.

    The Congolese negroes, with few exceptions, adapt themselves easily to civilization, and make excellent workingmen if they are kindly and justly treated. The history of the Congo Railroad, from Matadi to Leopoldville, is in itself proof sufficient of the adaptability of the Congolese to the habits of civilized life.
    It took no less than five years to build the first twenty-four miles of the railroad. During these five years the negro laborers employed on the road were treated with extreme harshness, practically like slaves, with whip and rattan being frequently used by the Belgian overseers.

    It was only after the unsatisfactory results of the first five years that the company decided to change their system of coercing the blacks. From that time on the negro laborers were no longer treated like slaves, and kept at work by the whip, but were put on exactly the same level as working men in Belgium, or in any other civilized country, and paid, not by the day, but according to the actual labor performed.
    Stimulated in this manner by the prospect of gain in proportion to their efforts, the natives then showed what they were really capable of doing, and in four years the remaining 216 miles of the railroad were covered, as against twenty-four miles for the first five years...
BRADFORD COLT DE WOLF.   

The Federal Reserve Bank's estimated consumer price index shows that $1 in 1899 was equivalent to $25.82 in 2008.

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