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Countries

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Democratic Republic of the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo
(Brent Stirton/Getty Images for WWF-Canon)
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Overview

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a massive country in Central Africa. It is bordered by the Central African Republic and South Sudan to the north; Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to the east; Zambia and Angola to the south; and the Republic of the Congo to the west. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is roughly the size of Western Europe, and much of its territory is covered by dense jungle and is difficult to navigate. Its mammoth size and position in Central Africa have long drawn interest from outsiders. From the French and Belgian imperial conquests of the Congo River in the 19th and early 20th centuries to Cold War superpower intrigue and regional wars in the post-independence period, the country has attracted more than its fair share of foreign meddling. Since independence, the country has struggled to manage its extensive territories and its ethnic and regional divisions. It can be said that under the best of circumstances, the country is weak and prone to internal cleavages. Kinshasa, the political capital, simply does not have the resources to exercise a monopoly on force. By extension, the country's infrastructure remains woefully underdeveloped. Instead, the decades since independence have seen countless rebellions and other forms of insurrection in Katanga and other regions. Given this instability, the country's deep pockets of natural resources and its security vacuums have made it an attractive place for neighboring states and foreign powers to intrude. In regional terms, this has included Rwanda, Uganda and many other states over the years, and the United States and the Soviet Union fought for influence there after 1960. Additionally, the U.N. presence in the Congo is one of the longest-running operations for the international organization, tracing its origins back to 1960. The country's unwieldy size and difficult terrain profoundly constrain any movement beyond its status as a failed state. As such, it will remain a source of interest and concern for states near and far for many years to come.

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