The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has Africa's fourth largest population and is the second biggest country in terms of area (the largest is Algeria). Established as a Belgian colony in 1908, it gained independence in 1960 after a vicious civil war. President Mobutu (1965-97) renamed the country Zaire, then President Laurent Kabila (1997-2001) renamed it the DRC. French is the official language, but Lingala is the most widely spoken. Since independence, the DRC has experienced decades of political instability and bloodshed due to ethnic tensions (there are over 200 ethnic groups in the DRC) exacerbated by the periodic influx of refugees from neighbouring countries.
In 2010, the United Nations (UN) Security Council established the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC. The Mission was authorised to use all necessary means to protect civilians, humanitarian personnel and human rights defenders and to support the DRC Government in its peace consolidation efforts. The Government committed to implement security and governance reforms, and to take steps towards decentralisation and economic development when it signed the Framework Agreement on Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) in February 2013. Implementation of the PSC has been slow and the security situation remains fragile. The conflict has led to large scale population displacement, grave human rights violations including mass sexual violence, burning and looting of homes and schools and forced recruitment of children into armed groups.
DRC has some of the largest mineral reserves in sub-Saharan Africa. Under President Joseph Kabila (Laurent Kabila's son, elected in 2006 and again in 2011), the DRC has experienced economic growth, based mainly on renewed activity in the mining sector. However, the ongoing conflict deters investors and hampers agricultural and extractives production. Much mining activity is informal, profits from which are funding the illicit activities of armed groups. The DRC is a member of La Francophonie, the African Union, the Southern African Development Community and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.
Australia's diplomatic representation to DRC is from the High Commission in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Economic and trade information
Heads of Government