Republic of the Congo vs. Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire)

The Difference Between the Two Congos

Scenic View Of Sea Against Sky At Sunset
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On May 17, 1997, the African country of Zaire became known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In 1971 the country and even the huge Congo River were renamed Zaire by former President Sese Seko Mobutu. In 1997 General Laurent Kabila took control of Zaire country and returned it to the name the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which it held prior to 1971. A new flag of the Democratic Republic of the Congo of was also introduced to the world.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, the setting for Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," was called "Africa's most unstable country" in 1993. Their economic problems and government corruption required intervention from Western nations over the past few decades. The country is about half Catholic and has 250 different ethnic groups within its borders.

There is inherent geographical confusion in this change due to the fact that the Democratic Republic of the Congo's western neighbor is known as the Republic of the Congo, a name which it has held since 1991.

Republic of the Congo Vs. The Democratic Republic of the Congo

Major differences exist between the two equatorial Congo neighbors. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is much larger in both population and area. The population of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is about 69 million, but the Republic of the Congo has a mere 4 million.

The area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is over 905,000 square miles (2.3 million square kilometers) but the Republic of the Congo has 132,000 square miles (342,000 square kilometers). The Democratic Republic of the Congo holds 65 percent of the world's cobalt reserves and both countries rely on oil, sugar, and other natural resources.

The official language of both Congos is French.

These two timelines of Congolese history might help sort out the history of their names:

Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

  • 1877 - Henry Stanley explores the region for Belgium
  • 1908 - Becomes Belgian Congo
  • June 30, 1960 - Independence for the Republic of the Congo
  • 1964 - Becomes People's Republic of the Congo
  • 1966 - Mobutu takes control and the country becomes the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • October 27, 1971 - Becomes Republic of Zaire
  • 1996 - Mobutu is in Europe with prostate cancer so rebels, led by General Laurent Kabila attacked the Zairian army
  • March 1997 - Mobutu returns from Europe
  • May 17, 1997 - Kabila and his troops take the capital, Kinshasa and Mobutu go into exile. Zaire becomes the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There is worldwide confusion about the change
  • September 7, 1997 - Mobutu died in Morocco

Republic of the Congo

  • 1885 - Becomes the French territory Middle Congo
  • 1910 - The territory of French Equatorial Africa is created, Middle Congo is a district
  • 1960 - Independence for the Republic of the Congo
  • 1970 - Becomes the People's Republic of the Congo
  • 1991 - Name returns to the Republic of the Congo
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Rosenberg, Matt. "Republic of the Congo vs. Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire)." ThoughtCo, Feb. 14, 2018, thoughtco.com/which-congo-is-zaire-1434545. Rosenberg, Matt. (2018, February 14). Republic of the Congo vs. Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/which-congo-is-zaire-1434545 Rosenberg, Matt. "Republic of the Congo vs. Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/which-congo-is-zaire-1434545 (accessed April 21, 2018).