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Thursday 14th December
DRC Facts
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the third largest country in Africa.

The Equator runs through the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The highest point in DRC is Pic Marguerite (5,110 m) on Mont Ngaliema.

The Congo River is the second longest river in Africa.

Pygmy people were the first of DRC's ethnic groups to inhabit the area.

The Portuguese, the first Europeans to explore the region, arrived in 1482.

A slave trade was already in existence when Europeans arrived.

European countries traded in slaves until legislation prohibited the slave trade. Acts of Parliament were passed in European countries at different times.

Henry Morton Stanley (the explorer famous for finding the missing Dr Livingstone with the words "Dr Livingstone, I presume" ...) was commissioned by King Leopold II of Belgium to procure what became known as the Congo Free State (and eventually the Democratic Republic of the Congo). For over twenty years the territory was the king's personal possession.

Kinshasa was known as Leopoldville after King Leopold II of Belgium.

In 1908 Leopold's Congo Free State was made a Belgian colony and became known as the Belgium Congo.

The Belgian Congo gained its independence in June 1960 and became known as the Republic of the Congo. (In August in the same year the French Congo also gained independence taking the same name as the former Belgian colony. The countries became known as Congo-Kinshasa and Congo-Brazzaville).

Joseph Mobutu became president following a coup in November 1965.

In 1971 the Republic of Congo (Congo-Kinshasa) was renamed Zaire.

Mobutu remained in power for over thirty years.

In 1997 Mobutu's period of office came to an end and Laurent Kabila took the presidency.

The country was renamed Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In August 1998 a five-year war began between DRC government forces and rebels. A number of African countries took sides.

It is estimated that around three million people were killed during the war.

Laurent Kabila was assassinated in January 2001. He was succeeded by his son.

In January 2002 Mount Nyiragongo erupted destroying part of the city of Goma.

A transitional government was set up in July 2003.

A new Constitution for the Democratic Republic of the Congo was agreed in 2005.

The first free elections in DCR in four decades took place in July 2006. Following run-off presidential elections in October Joseph Kabila was declared the winner.

In March 2006 Thomas Lubanga, a Congolese militia leader, was handed over to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to face charges relating to recruiting child soldiers during the war.

Blood Diamond, the film set in Sierra Leone's civil war in the 1990s, highlights the use of illegal diamond profits to fund fighting in Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

At the end of October 2008 a Tutsi rebel assault forced the retreat of government and UN soldiers. The fighting created a refugee situation, in the North Kivu provincial capital, Goma, near the Rwandan border. The United Nations called the situation an unfolding humanitarian catastrophe.

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