Democratic Republic Of The Congo - Tips

Democratic Republic of the Congo Bureau of African Affairs
June 2007

Background Note: Democratic Republic of the Congo

Flag of Democratic Republic of the Congo is sky blue field divided diagonally
from lower hoist corner to upper fly corner by red stripe bordered by two
narrow yellow stripes; yellow, five-pointed star appears in upper hoist
corner.

PROFILE

OFFICIAL NAME:
Democratic Republic of the Congo

Geography
Location: Central Africa. Bordering nations--Angola, Burundi, Central African
Republic, Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia.
Area: 2.345 sq. km. (905,063 sq. mi.; about the size of the U.S. east of the
Mississippi).
Cities: Capital--Kinshasa (pop. 6.5 million). Regional capitals--Bandundu,
Bukavu, Goma, Kananga, Kindu, Kisangani, Lubumbashi, Matadi, Mbandaka,
Mbuji-Mayi.
Terrain: Varies from tropical rainforests to mountainous terraces, plateau,
savannas, dense grasslands, and mountains.
Climate: Equatorial; ranges from tropical rainforest in the Congo River
basin, hot and humid in much of the north and west, cooler and drier in the
south central area and the east.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Congolese.
Population (2004 est.): 58 million.
Annual growth rate (2004 est.): 2.99%.
Ethnic groups: More than 200 African ethnic groups; the Luba, Kongo, and
Anamongo are some of the larger groupings of tribes.
Religions (2004 est.): Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 20%, other syncretic
sects and traditional beliefs 10%, Kimbanguist 10%, Muslim 10%.
Language: Official--French. National languages--Lingala, Swahili, Kikongo,
Tshiluba.
Education: Literacy (2004 est.)--65.5% in French or local language. Schooling
(2000 est.)--none 41.7%, primary 42.2%, secondary 15.4%, university 0.7%.
Health (2004 est.): Infant mortality rate--94.69/1,000 live births. Life
expectancy--49 yrs.

Government
Type: Republic; highly centralized with executive power vested in the
president.
Independence: June 30, 1960 (from Belgium).
Constitution: June 24, 1967; amended August 1974; revised February 15, 1978;
amended April 1990; transitional constitution promulgated April 1994;
Constitutional Act promulgated May 1997; draft constitution proposed but not
finalized March 1998; transitional constitution adopted on April 2, 2003. A
new constitution was passed by the transitional parliament on May 2005. The
D.R.C. held a constitutional referendum on December 18-19, 2005. Official
results indicated that 84% of voters approved the constitution. The new
constitution was promulgated in a ceremony on February 18, 2006.
Branches: Executive--President is head of state. Cabinet is appointed by the
ruling party in the parliament. Prime minister is elected by the parliament.
Legislative--The 500-member lower house of parliament was elected in July 30,
2006 national elections. Provincial Assemblies elected the Senate in October
29, 2006 elections. The Senate elected provincial governors. Judicial
--Supreme Court (Cour Supreme).
Administrative subdivisions: Ten provinces and the capital city, Kinshasa.
Political parties: President Joseph Kabila's party is Parti du Peuple pour la
Reconstruction et le Developpement (PPRD). Two main coalitions represent
President Kabila and his presidential run-off challenger, former Transitional
Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba. Other opposition parties include Union pour
la Democratie et le Progres Social (UDPS), Forces du Futur (FDF), Forces
Novatrices pour l'Union et la Solidarite (FONUS), Parti Democrate Social
Chretien (PDSC), Mouvement Social Democratie et Developpement (MSDD),
Mouvement Populaire de la Revolution--Fait Prive (MPR-FP), Union des
Nationalistes et des Federalistes Congolais (UNAFEC), and Mouvement National
Congolais/ Lumumba (MNC/L). Former rebel movements-turned-political parties
include the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie (RCD), Mouvement pour
la Liberation du Congo (MLC), and independent splinter groups of the RCD
(RCD-ML, RCD-N).
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal and compulsory.

Economy
GDP (2003): $5.6 billion.
Annual GDP growth rate (2005): 6%.
Per capita GDP (2005): $120.
Natural resources: Copper, cobalt, diamonds, gold, other minerals; petroleum;
wood; hydroelectric potential.
Agriculture: Cash crops--coffee, rubber, palm oil, cotton, cocoa, sugar, tea.
Food crops--manioc, corn, legumes, plantains, peanuts.
Land use: Agriculture 3%; pasture 7%; forest/woodland 77%; other 13%.
Industry: Types--processed and unprocessed minerals; consumer products,
including textiles, plastics, footwear, cigarettes, metal products; processed
foods and beverages, cement, timber.
Currency: Congolese franc (FC).
Trade: Exports (2002)--$1.040 billion. Products--diamonds, cobalt, copper,
coffee, petroleum. Partners--E.U., Japan, South Africa, U.S., China. Imports
(2002)--$1.216 billion. Products--consumer goods (food, textiles), capital
equipment, refined petroleum products. Partners--E.U., China, South Africa,
U.S.
Total external debt (2002): $8.211 billion. (Currently under revision due to
HIPC decision point in 2003.)

GEOGRAPHY
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (D.R.C.) includes the greater part of
the Congo River basin, which covers an area of almost 1 million square
kilometers (400,000 sq. mi.). The country's only outlet to the Atlantic Ocean
is a narrow strip of land on the north bank of the Congo River.

The vast, low-lying central area is a basin-shaped plateau sloping toward the
west and covered by tropical rainforest. This area is surrounded by
mountainous terraces in the west, plateaus merging into savannas in the south
and southwest, and dense grasslands extending beyond the Congo River in the
north. High mountains are found in the extreme eastern region.

D.R.C. lies on the Equator, with one-third of the country to the north and
two-thirds to the south. The climate is hot and humid in the river basin and
cool and dry in the southern highlands. South of the Equator, the rainy
season lasts from October to May and north of the Equator, from April to
November. Along the Equator, rainfall is fairly regular throughout the year.
During the wet season, thunderstorms often are violent but seldom last more
than a few hours. The average rainfall for the entire country is about 107
centimeters (42 in.).

PEOPLE
The population of D.R.C. was estimated at 58 million in 2004. As many as 250
ethnic groups have been distinguished and named. Some of the larger groupings
of tribes are the Kongo, Luba, and Anamongo. Although 700 local languages and
dialects are spoken, the linguistic variety is bridged both by the use of
French and the intermediary languages Kikongo, Tshiluba, Swahili, and
Lingala.

About 50% of the Congolese population is Christian, predominantly Roman
Catholic. Most of the non-Christians adhere to either traditional religions
or syncretic sects. Traditional religions include concepts such as
monotheism, animism, vitalism, spirit and ancestor worship, witchcraft, and
sorcery and vary widely among ethnic groups; none is formalized. The
syncretic sects often merge Christianity with traditional beliefs and
rituals. The most popular of these sects, Kimbanguism, was seen as a threat
to the colonial regime and was banned by the Belgians. Kimbanguism,
officially "the church of Christ on Earth by the prophet Simon Kimbangu," now
claims about 3 million members, primarily among the Bakongo tribe of
Bas-Congo and Kinshasa. In 1969, it was the first independent African church
admitted to the World Council of Churches.

Before independence, education was largely in the hands of religious groups.
The primary school system was well developed at independence; however, the
secondary school system was limited, and higher education was almost
nonexistent in most regions of the country. The principal objective of this
system was to train low-level administrators and clerks. Since independence,
efforts have been made to increase access to education, and secondary and
higher education have been made available to many more Congolese. According
to estimates made in 2000, 41.7% of the population has no schooling, 42.2%
has primary schooling, 15.4% has secondary schooling, and 0.7% has university
schooling. At all levels of education, males greatly outnumber females. The
largest state-run universities are the University of Kinshasa, the University
of Lubumbashi, and the University of Kisangani. The elite continue to send
their children abroad to be educated, primarily in Western Europe.

HISTORY
The area known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo was populated as early
as 10,000 years ago and settled in the 7th and 8th centuries A.D. by Bantus
from present-day Nigeria. Discovered in 1482 by Portuguese navigator Diego
Cao and later explored by English journalist Henry Morton Stanley, the area
was officially colonized in 1885 as a personal possession of Belgian King
Leopold II as the Congo Free State. In 1907, administration shifted to the
Belgian Government, which renamed the country the Belgian Congo. Following a
series of riots and unrest, the Belgian Congo was granted its independence on
June 30, 1960. Parliamentary elections in 1960 produced Patrice Lumumba as
prime minister and Joseph Kasavubu as president of the renamed Democratic
Republic of the Congo.

Within the first year of independence, several events destabilized the
country: the army mutinied; the governor of Katanga province attempted
secession; a UN peacekeeping force was called in to restore order; Prime
Minister Lumumba died under mysterious circumstances; and Col. Joseph Désiré
Mobutu (later Mobutu Sese Seko) took over the government and ceded it again
to President Kasavubu.

Unrest and rebellion plagued the government until 1965, when Lieutenant
General Mobutu, by then commander in chief of the national army, again seized
control of the country and declared himself president for 5 years. Mobutu
quickly centralized power into his own hands and was elected unopposed as
president in 1970. Embarking on a campaign of cultural awareness, Mobutu
renamed the country the Republic of Zaire and required citizens to adopt
African names. Relative peace and stability prevailed until 1977 and 1978
when Katangan rebels, staged in Angola, launched a series of invasions into
the Katanga region. The rebels were driven out with the aid of Belgian
paratroopers.

During the 1980s, Mobutu continued to enforce his one-party system of rule.
Although Mobutu successfully maintained control during this period,
opposition parties, most notably the Union pour la Democratie et le Progres
Social (UDPS), were active. Mobutu's attempts to quell these groups drew
significant international criticism.

As the Cold War came to a close, internal and external pressures on Mobutu
increased. In late 1989 and early 1990, Mobutu was weakened by a series of
domestic protests, by heightened international criticism of his regime's
human rights practices, and by a faltering economy. In April 1990 Mobutu
agreed to the principle of a multi-party system with elections and a
constitution. As details of a reform package were delayed, soldiers in
September 1991 began looting Kinshasa to protest their unpaid wages. Two
thousand French and Belgian troops, some of whom were flown in on U.S. Air
Force planes, arrived to evacuate the 20,000 endangered foreign nationals in
Kinshasa.

In 1992, after previous similar attempts, the long-promised Sovereign
National Conference was staged, encompassing more than 2,000 representatives
from various political parties. The conference gave itself a legislative
mandate and elected Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo as its chairman, along with
Etienne Tshisekedi, leader of the UDPS, as prime minister. By the end of the
year Mobutu had created a rival government with its own prime minister. The
ensuing stalemate produced a compromise merger of the two governments into
the High Council of Republic-Parliament of Transition (HCR-PT) in 1994, with
Mobutu as head of state and Kengo Wa Dondo as prime minister. Although
presidential and legislative elections were scheduled repeatedly over the
next 2 years, they never took place.

By 1996, the war and genocide in neighboring Rwanda had spilled over to
Zaire. Rwandan Hutu militia forces (Interahamwe), who fled Rwanda following
the ascension of a Tutsi-led government, were using Hutu refugee camps in
eastern Zaire as bases for incursions against Rwanda.

In October 1996, Rwandan troops (RPA) entered Zaire, simultaneously with the
formation of an armed coalition led by Laurent-Desire Kabila known as the
Alliance des Forces Democratiques pour la Liberation du Congo-Zaire (AFDL).
With the goal of forcibly ousting Mobutu, the AFDL, supported by Rwanda and
Uganda, began a military campaign toward Kinshasa. Following failed peace
talks between Mobutu and Kabila in May 1997, Mobutu left the country, and
Kabila marched into Kinshasa on May 17, 1997. Kabila declared himself
president, consolidated power around himself and the AFDL, and renamed the
country the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.). Kabila's Army Chief and
the Secretary General of the AFDL were Rwandan, and RPA units continued to
operate tangentially with the D.R.C.'s military, which was renamed the Forces
Armees Congolaises (FAC).

Over the next year, relations between Kabila and his foreign backers
deteriorated. In July 1998, Kabila ordered all foreign troops to leave the
D.R.C. Most refused to leave. On August 2, fighting erupted throughout the
D.R.C. as Rwandan troops in the D.R.C. "mutinied," and fresh Rwandan and
Ugandan troops entered the D.R.C. Two days later, Rwandan troops flew to
Bas-Congo, with the intention of marching on Kinshasa, ousting Laurent
Kabila, and replacing him with the newly formed Rwandan-backed rebel group
called the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie (RCD). The Rwandan
campaign was thwarted at the last minute when Angolan, Zimbabwean, and
Namibian troops intervened on behalf of the D.R.C. Government. The Rwandans
and the RCD withdrew to eastern D.R.C., where they established de facto
control over portions of eastern D.R.C. and continued to fight the Congolese
Army and its foreign allies.

In February 1999, Uganda backed the formation of a rebel group called the
Mouvement pour la Liberation du Congo (MLC), which drew support from among
ex-Mobutuists and ex-FAZ soldiers in Equateur province (Mobutu's home
province). Together, Uganda and the MLC established control over the northern
third of the D.R.C.

At this stage, the D.R.C. was divided de facto into three segments, and the
parties controlling each segment had reached military deadlock. In July 1999,
a cease-fire was proposed in Lusaka, Zambia, which all parties signed by the
end of August. The Lusaka Accord called for a cease-fire, the deployment of a
UN peacekeeping operation, MONUC, the withdrawal of foreign troops, and the
launching of an "Inter-Congolese Dialogue" to form a transitional government
leading to elections. The parties to the Lusaka Accord failed to fully
implement its provisions in 1999 and 2000. Laurent Kabila drew increasing
international criticism for blocking full deployment of UN troops, hindering
progress toward an Inter-Congolese Dialogue, and suppressing internal
political activity.

On January 16, 2001, Laurent Kabila was assassinated. He was succeeded by his
son, Joseph Kabila. Joseph Kabila reversed many of his father's negative
policies; over the next year, MONUC deployed throughout the country, and the
Inter-Congolese Dialogue proceeded. By the end of 2002, all Angolan,
Namibian, and Zimbabwean troops had withdrawn from the D.R.C. Following
D.R.C.-Rwanda talks in South Africa that culminated in the Pretoria Accord in
July 2002, Rwandan troops officially withdrew from the D.R.C. in October
2002, although there were continued, unconfirmed reports that Rwandan
soldiers and military advisers remained integrated with RCD/G forces in
eastern D.R.C. Ugandan troops officially withdrew from the D.R.C. in May
2003.

In October 2001, the Inter-Congolese Dialogue began in Addis Ababa under the
auspices of Facilitator Ketumile Masire (former president of Botswana). The
initial meetings made little progress and were adjourned. On February 25,
2002, the dialogue was reconvened in South Africa. It included
representatives from the government, rebel groups, political opposition,
civil society, and Mai-Mai (Congolese local defense militias). The talks
ended inconclusively on April 19, 2002, when the government and the MLC
brokered an agreement that was signed by the majority of delegates at the
dialogue but left out the RCD/G and opposition UDPS party, among others.

This partial agreement was never implemented, and negotiations resumed in
South Africa in October 2002. This time, the talks led to an all-inclusive
powersharing agreement, which was signed by delegates in Pretoria on December
17, 2002, and formally ratified by all parties on April 2, 2003.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Following nominations by each of the various signatory groups, President
Kabila on June 30, 2003 issued a decree that formally announced the
transitional government lineup. The four vice presidents took the oath of
office on July 17, 2003, and most incoming ministers assumed their new
functions within days thereafter.

A transitional constitution was adopted on April 2, 2003; a new constitution
was promulgated February 2006. Extensive executive, legislative, and military
powers are vested in the president. The legislature does not have the power
to overturn the government through a vote of no confidence. The judiciary is
nominally independent; the president has the power to dismiss and appoint
judges. The president is head of a 35-member cabinet of ministers.

President Joseph Kabila has made significant progress in liberalizing
domestic political activity, establishing a transitional government, and
undertaking economic reforms in cooperation with the World Bank and
International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, serious human rights problems
remain in the security services and justice system. The eastern part of the
country is characterized by ongoing violence and armed conflict, which has
created a humanitarian disaster and contributed to civilian deaths (more than
3.8 million, according to a prominent international non-governmental
organization). MONUC continues to play an important peacekeeping role in the
D.R.C., and in October 2004, its authorized force strength increased to
16,700.

On July 30, 2006 the D.R.C. held its first free, democratic, multi-party
elections in more than 40 years. The D.R.C.'s 25 million registered voters
were charged with electing a president (from a field of 33 candidates) and
500 deputies to the National Assembly (out of a total of 9,709 candidates).
Despite some unexpected technical and logistical difficulties, coupled with
isolated incidents of violence and intimidation, the elections were held in a
largely calm and orderly fashion. Voter turnout nationwide was high,
particularly in the eastern provinces, compared to the December 2005
constitutional referendum.

The Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) on August 20, 2006 announced
official provisional results from the July 30 presidential elections.
According to CEI figures, incumbent Joseph Kabila won 44.81% of the votes
cast versus Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba's 20.3%. As no candidate won a
majority of votes in the first round and in accordance with the country's
electoral law, the top two recipients, Kabila and Bemba faced off in a second
round of balloting. Threats to the D.R.C.'s transitional process were marked
by military clashes in Kinshasa just hours after provisional election results
were announced. This crisis was exclusively confined to central Kinshasa in
the Gombe area and was essentially a clash between Vice President Bemba and
President Kabila's militias. The runoff presidential elections were held on
October 29, 2006. On November 27, 2006 the Congolese Supreme Court declared
President Kabila the winner over Vice President Bemba by a margin of 58% to
42%. Kabila was inaugurated on December 6, 2006.

Voters in July 2006 also chose from among 9,709 legislative candidates to
fill 500 seats in the National Assembly, representing 169 electoral
districts. Approximately one-third of these districts elected one deputy by a
simple majority. The rest were multiple-seat districts, ranging from two
representatives to a maximum of 17 (in one of Kinshasa's voting districts).
In these areas, deputies were chosen by proportional representation using
open party lists. To select the winners in multiple-seat districts, all valid
votes cast were first divided according to political party. Next, an
"electoral quotient" was determined by dividing the number of votes cast by
the number of representatives to be elected. Finally, the number of votes a
party received was divided by this "electoral quotient" to determine how many
seats the party will win. The candidates ultimately elected are those who
received the highest number of votes within their particular party lists.
National Assembly deputies will also serve five-year terms and there is no
restriction on the number of times they can be re-elected.

Organizing the D.R.C.'s July 2006 elections presented significant logistical
challenges. Supported in large part by the MONUC peacekeeping mission, the
Independent Electoral Commission opened more than 50,000 polling stations
nationwide and employed some 300,000-poll workers on election day and to
oversee the ballot counting process. The presidential and legislative ballots
were printed in South Africa and altogether weighed nearly 1,800 tons,
requiring 75 round-trip flights between the D.R.C. and South Africa.

The population of the D.R.C. is estimated to be about 60 million, and the
country's electoral law grants the right to vote to those ages 18 or older.
For the July 2006 elections, the CEI reported that of the 25,420,99
registered voters, 17,931,238 went to the polls, a voter participation rate
of 70.54%. Of the 17.9 million ballots cast, 993,704 (approximately 5%) were
disqualified due to empty ballots or marking errors. In 2005, approximately
25.7 million Congolese registered as voters (out of an original estimate of
28 million eligible to do so). In the D.R.C.'s December 2005 constitutional
referendum, roughly two-thirds of all registered voters participated.

The D.R.C. legislature held its first session on September 22, 2006. On
February 26, 2007, Prime Minister Antoine Gizenga and the new Congolese
cabinet formally took office. In May 2007, Kengo wa Dongo was elected Senate
President.

Principal Government Official
President--Joseph Kabila

ECONOMY
Sparsely populated in relation to its area, the Democratic Republic of the
Congo is home to a vast potential of natural resources and mineral wealth.
Nevertheless, the D.R.C. is one of the poorest countries in the world, with
per capita annual income of about $98 in 2003. This is the result of years of
mismanagement, corruption, and war.

In 2001, the Government of the D.R.C. under Joseph Kabila undertook a series
of economic reforms to reverse this steep decline. Reforms were monitored by
the IMF and included liberalization of petroleum prices and exchange rates
and adoption of disciplined fiscal and monetary policies. The reform program
reduced inflation from over 500% per year in 2000 to only about 7% at an
annual rate in 2003. In June 2002, the World Bank and IMF approved new
credits for the D.R.C. for the first time in over a decade. Bilateral donors,
whose assistance has been almost entirely dedicated to humanitarian
interventions in recent years, also are beginning to fund development
projects in the D.R.C. In October 2003, the World Bank launched a
multi-sector plan for development and reconstruction. The Paris Club also
granted the D.R.C. Highly Indebted Poor Country status in July 2003. This
will help alleviate the D.R.C.'s external sovereign debt burden and
potentially free funds for economic development.

Agriculture is the mainstay of the Congolese economy, accounting for 56.3% of
GDP in 2002. The main cash crops include coffee, palm oil, rubber, cotton,
sugar, tea, and cocoa. Food crops include cassava, plantains, maize,
groundnuts, and rice. Industry, especially the mining sector, is
underdeveloped relative to its potential in the D.R.C. In 2002, industry
accounted for only 18.8% of GDP, with only 3.9% attributed to manufacturing.
Services reached 24.9% of GDP. The Congo was the world's fourth-largest
producer of industrial diamonds during the 1980s, and diamonds continue to
dominate exports, accounting for over half of exports ($642 million) in 2003.
The Congo's main copper and cobalt interests are dominated by Gecamines, the
state-owned mining giant. Gecamines production has been severely affected by
corruption, civil unrest, world market trends, and failure to reinvest.

For decades, corruption and misguided policy have created a dual economy in
the D.R.C. Individuals and businesses in the formal sector operated with high
costs under arbitrarily enforced laws. As a consequence, the informal sector
now dominates the economy. In 2002, with the population of the D.R.C.
estimated at 56 million, only 230,000 Congolese working in private enterprise
in the formal sector were enrolled in the social security system.
Approximately 600,000 Congolese were employed by the government.

In the past year, the Congolese Government has approved a new investment code
and a new mining code and has designed a new commercial court. The goal of
these initiatives is to attract investment by promising fair and transparent
treatment to private business. The World Bank also is supporting efforts to
restructure the D.R.C.'s large parastatal sector, including Gecamines, and to
rehabilitate the D.R.C.'s neglected infrastructure, including the Inga Dam
hydroelectric system.

The outbreak of war in the early days of August 1998 caused a major decline
in economic activity. Economic growth, however, resumed in 2002 with a 3%
growth rate continuing in 2003 at 5%. The country had been divided de facto
into different territories by the war, and commerce between the territories
had halted. With the installation of the transitional government in July
2003, the country has been "de jure" reunified, and economic and commercial
links have begun to reconnect.

In June 2000, the United Nations established a Panel of Experts on the
Illegal Exploitation of Congolese Resources to examine links between the war
and economic exploitation. Reports issued by the panel indicate that
countries involved in the war in Congo have developed significant economic
interests. These interests may complicate efforts by the government to better
control its natural resources and to reform the mining sector. A final panel
report was issued in October 2003. The Panel of Experts mandate was not
renewed.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
Its location in the center of Africa has made D.R.C. a key player in the
region since independence. Because of its size, mineral wealth, and strategic
location, Zaire was able to capitalize on Cold War tensions to garner support
from the West. In the early 1990s, however, in the face of growing evidence
of human rights abuses, Western support for the incumbent government waned as
pressure for internal reform increased.

D.R.C.'s relations with neighboring countries have often been driven by
security concerns, leading to intricate and interlocking alliances. Domestic
conflicts in the Central African Republic, Sudan, Uganda, Angola, Rwanda, and
Burundi have at various times created bilateral and regional tensions. The
current crisis in eastern D.R.C. has its roots both in the use of the Congo
as a base by various insurgency groups attacking neighboring countries and in
the absence of a strong Congolese Government with a military capable of
securing Congo's borders. The war has been exacerbated and prolonged by the
exploitation of Congo's resources by neighboring countries. Although 2003 and
early 2004 saw a number of improvements in regional relations, mid-to-late
2004 was marked by increased tension between the D.R.C. and Rwanda.

U.S.-CONGOLESE RELATIONS
Its dominant position in Central Africa makes stability in the D.R.C. an
important element of overall stability in the region. In December 2006, the
D.R.C. inaugurated its first democratically elected president in over 40
years, the culmination of the Congolese people's efforts to choose their
leaders through a peaceful, democratic process. The United States is proud to
have played a role in the peace process in the D.R.C., and encourages peace,
prosperity, democracy, and respect for human rights in the D.R.C.

The United States remains a partner with the D.R.C. and other central African
nations in their quest for stability and growth on the continent, and
facilitated the signing of a tripartite agreement on regional security in the
Great Lakes region between the D.R.C., Rwanda, and Uganda in October 2004.
Burundi formally joined the Tripartite Commission in September 2005, and the
Tripartite Commission is now Tripartite Plus. The United States also strongly
supported U.N. efforts to create a Joint Verification Mechanism to monitor
the border between the D.R.C. and Rwanda. From the start of the Congo crisis,
the United States has pursued an active diplomatic strategy in support of
these objectives. In the long term, the United States seeks to strengthen the
process of internal reconciliation and democratization within all the states
of the region to promote stable, developing, and democratic nations with
which it can work to address security interests on the continent and with
which it can develop mutually beneficial economic relations.

The United States appointed its current ambassador to the D.R.C. in 2004. The
D.R.C. appointed its current ambassador to the United States in 2000. The
Congo has been on the State Department's travel advisory list since 1977.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Roger Meece
Deputy Chief of Mission--Thomas Dougherty

The U.S. Embassy is located at 310 Avenue des Aviateurs, Kinshasa (tel.
243-81-2255872; fax 243-81-3010561). Mailing address is American Embassy
Kinshasa, Box 31550, APO AE 09828.

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emergency and will enable you to receive up-to-date information on security
conditions.

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained
by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or the regular
toll line 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada.

The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of
State's single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport
information. Telephone: 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778). Customer service
representatives and operators for TDD/TTY are available Monday-Friday, 7:00
a.m. to 12:00 midnight, Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP
(877-394-8747) and a web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm give the
most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements,
and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A
booklet entitled "Health Information for International Travel" (HHS
publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government
Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Further Electronic Information
Department of State Web Site. Available on the Internet at http://
www.state.gov, the Department of State web site provides timely, global
access to official U.S. foreign policy information, including Background
Notes and daily press briefings along with the directory of key officers of
Foreign Service posts and more. The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)
provides security information and regional news that impact U.S. companies
working abroad through its website http://www.osac.gov

Export.gov provides a portal to all export-related assistance and market
information offered by the federal government and provides trade leads, free
export counseling, help with the export process, and more.
STAT-USA/Internet, a service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides
authoritative economic, business, and international trade information from
the Federal government. The site includes current and historical
trade-related releases, international market research, trade opportunities,
and country analysis and provides access to the National Trade Data Bank. ***********************************************************
See http://www.state.gov/r/pa/bgn/ for all Background notes
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