Astride the equator in west-central Africa, this former French colony emerged from 20 years of Marxist-Leninist rule in 1990. Democracy was soon overshadowed by years of violence.
Geography: Mostly forest- or savanna-covered plateaus, drained by the Ubangi and Congo river systems. Narrow coastal plain is lined with sand dunes and lagoons.
Climate: Hot, tropical. Temperatures rarely fall below 86°F (30°C). Two wet and two dry seasons. Rainfall is heaviest south of the equator.
People and Society: One of the most tribally conscious and heavily urbanized countries in Africa, with most people living in the Brazzaville–Pointe-Noire region. Main tensions are between the Bakongo in the north and the Mbochi in the south. Relative peace was secured in 1999, and “ninja” rebels in the Pool region, around Brazzaville, signed a peace deal in 2003.
The Economy: Oil provides over 95% of export revenue. Timber is extracted. Foreign debt high. Substantial industrial base around Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire.
Insight: In 1970, Congo became the first African country to declare itself a communist state
Official Name: Republic of the Congo
Date of Formation: 1960
Population: 3.68 million
Total Area: 132,046 sq. miles (342,000 sq. km)
Density: 28 people per sq. mile
Languages: Kongo, Teke, Lingala, French*
Religions: Traditional 50%, Catholic 25%, Protestant 23%, Muslim 2%
Ethnic Mix: Bakongo 51%, Teke 17%, other 16%, Mbochi 11%, Mbédé 5%
Government: Presidential system
Currency: CFA franc = 100 centimes