With an estimated population of approximately 67 million residents, the Congo has more than 250 ethnic groups. According to Nexticle, the most important groups (Luba, Kongo, Mongo, Azande and Lunda) do not exceed three million people each, thus not having a majority at the national level, even if each represents the predominant group in a region. In addition to French, Lingala, Kikongo, Tshiluba and Swahili are officially recognized languages, the most widespread among the more than 700 languages present in the country. French remained the language used by institutions and in higher education. One third of the population is illiterate, while only one sixth has received secondary education and less than 1% has a degree. 70% of the Congolese profess themselves at least nominally Christian, of which 50% Catholic and the remaining 20% Protestant.
Human, civil and political rights are seriously disregarded and the cyclical violence to which the country is subject exposes citizens to the risk of arbitrary arrest, abuse, exploitation and slavery, rape, exactions, forced labor. The number of children and young soldiers is also high. Impunity for crimes is widespread and, in the case of sexual violence, generates a dramatic mechanism of decriminalization of this criminal behavior, which the government tries very hard to remedy. Extreme poverty gives rise to situations of strong social hardship which translate, especially in the urban area, into extremely serious phenomena such as accusations of witchcraft and child neglect. Despite investments, international aid and the presence on the territory of a large number of humanitarian organizations, Congo is the penultimate country in terms of human development index.
Since 2012, UNHCR has estimated a number of internal refugees equal to 2.2 million people, and 400,000 Congolese reside in other states. Resettlement of displaced persons constitutes one of the greatest challenges for the stability of the country. Given the regional instability, Congo is also a land of asylum: there are at least 153,000 refugees. In the east, the majority are Ugandan and Rwandan citizens, while in the west it is mainly Angolans who cross the border in search of employment. The crisis in the Central African Republic has also caused an influx of refugees to the Equator region. Refugees are often subject to political tensions, when not used as a real pressure tool for international relations: Congo and Angola cyclically provide for expulsions and repatriations. One of the major disputes with Rwanda is related to the presence of Hutu Interahamwe.
History. – Since independence (1960), Democratic Republic of the Congo was ruled with authoritarian methods and with a pro-Western orientation by President F. Youlou, who however, with the intent of national reconciliation, appointed J. Opangault as minister and then vice-president (January 1961), member of the opposition. On March 2, 1961, the first constitution entered into force. In August 1963 the opposition of the trade unions and the army forced President Youlou to retire and brought Minister A. Massemba-Débat to power: even in Democratic Republic of the Congo there was a move towards the affirmation of a single party (National Revolutionary Movement, congress of 1964 and “Charter” of 1966), supported by a popular militia, while tribal and social tensions persisted between the tribes of the north (Kouyou and Mbochi).
The tension between the army and the government, which began in 1966, is at the origin of the serious crisis opened in 1968: Massemba-Débat in the attempt of a moderate restoration, took the place of the prime minister and dissolved the Assembly and the executive board of the party; the armed forces took power, exercised through a Revolutionary National Council, in which the commander Marien Ngouabi (head of state from 31 December 1968) emerged. The new leader established a regime of declared Marxist inspiration: in December 1969 the Parti congolais du Travail (PCT) replaced the MNR, a constitution came into force on January 3, 1970, which made Democratic Republic of the Congo a people’s republic. Subversive attempts were soon denounced and oppositions emerged from elements and circles of more authentic Marxist profession: Ngouabi reacted by reconstituting in March 1970 a popular militia in defense of the party, reshaping the government and the governing bodies of the party itself, creating in 1973 a Revolutionary court that severely condemned alleged conspirators.
In 1973 a new constitution came into force (31 August) and elections were held for the National People’s Assembly and local administrations; a Supreme Defense and Security Council has existed since 1974. Indeed, strong internal tensions remain, with even tribal connections. Democratic Republic of the Congo is among the most clearly pro-communist African states (intense relations with the USSR, China and Eastern Europe); in 1973 Ngouabi visited numerous socialist countries. Moreover, close technical-economic cooperation with France remains (agreements renewed in 1974) and relations with other African countries have recently been extended, including those of a different political orientation.