An overview of the Congo DRC
For this post let’s look into the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), another location featured in my novel, Eteka: Rise of the Imamba.
To begin, the distinction must be made between the Republic of Congo, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the latter which this post is about. The Republic of Congo was a French colony that gained independence in 1960. The Democratic Republic of Congo on the other hand was a Belgian colony (historically known as the Belgian Congo) that also received its independence in 1960. Yes, I know, it’s a little weird. For the purpose of simplification, for this post I shall refer to the Democratic Republic of Congo as simply “The Congo.”
A History of Exploitation
The Congo is a country located in Central Africa. It is the second largest and the fourth most populous country in Africa. It’s bordered by the Central African Republic and South Sudan to the north, the Republic of Congo to the west, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to the east, and Zambia and Angola to south. The Democratic Republic of Congo is considered the wealthiest country in the world with regards to natural resources. It has a wealth of untapped mineral deposits, and holds over 30% of the world’s diamond reserves. Ironically, citizens from this region are also some of the poorest in the world. Civil wars, corruption, ethnic conflict, foreign invasions, famine, malnutrition and exploitation have crippled this nation over the years. In most cases, the root stimulus of all this trouble has been the country’s mineral wealth itself. Check out this map showing regional actors in the Second Congo war:
Minerals from the Congo have been used abroad in everything from the electronics industry, diamond exhibitions to the uranium used in the atomic bomb in World War II’s ‘Manhattan Project.’ I don’t want to make this post too lengthy as the Congo’s history is an extensive one that will take more than a mere blog post to fully understand, but below is a short timeline of its major events:
(source — BBC)
- 1870s — Belgian King Leopold II sets about colonizing the area as his private holding. This dude and his cronies (aka the Force Publique) pretty much “raped” the Congo, exploiting and taking much of its minerals (and torturing and killing millions in the process), particularly within the rubber industry. Mineral wealth from the King Leopold era would go on to build much of current day Belgium.
- 1908 — The Congolese were treated badly during the King Leopold era. Mass killings (speculated to be north of 10 million), amputations/dismemberment, beheadings and all around genocide became the norm. So bad was the state of the region, that pressure from the “international community” at the time made the Belgian Parliament take over the administration of the Congo in 1908.
Fun Fact: Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle and Joseph Conrad all published works that revolved around the events in the Congo. Mark Twain published King Leopold’s Soliloquy; Arthur Conan Doyle published Crime of the Congo and Joseph Conrad published perhaps the most famous and controversial book on the subject, Heart of Darkness.
- 1960 — Independence from Belgium, followed by civil war and internal division. This would be the tense year that centered around Patrice Lumumba and his nemesis, Mobutu.
- 1961 — Lumumba captured and murdered, US and Belgian operatives suspected to be involved.
- 1965 — Mobutu seizes power.
- 1997 — Rebels oust Mobutu.
Fun Fact: There was a great movie produced by HBO and Raoul Peck back in 2000 that is about the Congo’s independence and the drama that followed. It also has one of my favorite French/African actors in it (Eriq Ebouaney). I recommend you watch it if you haven’t seen it:
I also highly recommend you check out this documentary if you want to get an interesting point of view on all the drama in the Congo to date. It’s a graphic documentary, giving you a heads up.
So how does the Congo play into my novel, Eteka: Rise of the Imamba?
The Congo makes its appearance within my novel in the late 1960s. There is a pretty intense scene I created set in this location that will keep you on the edge. It certainly was a breathtaking experience for me to write. You’ll have to get my novel when it comes out to read it for yourself.
I’ll wrap up this overview of the Congo with this 2012 Vice Media segment that showcases the puzzle that is the Congo’s mineral industry.