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The Congolese people
Cultural Profile of their country- Democratic Republic of the Congo
The country is the product of a complex pattern of historical forces. It began as a king’s private domain (the Congo Free State), that evolved into a colony (the Belgian Congo), and later became independent in 1960 (as the Republic of the Congo). Some of these forces can be traced to their precolonial past, others to the era of colonial rule, and to the political instability that followed in the wake of their independence. It underwent several name changes (to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to Zaire, and back again to the Democratic Republic of the Congo).
Prior to the European colonization of the area, several kingdoms had emerged in the region. That included the 16th-century Luba kingdom and the Kuba federation, which reached its peak in the 18th century.
European colonization began late in the 19th century, with King Leopold II of Belgium first financing Henry Morton Stanley’s exploration of the Congo River, and later on the Berlin West Africa Conference (1884–85) were it was recognized as the Congo Free State, with Leopold as its king..
The growing demand for rubber, which the country was rich in, helped finance the exploitation of the Congo. Abuses against local people outraged Western nations and forced Leopold to grant the Free State a colonial charter as the Belgian Congo (1908). The history of his rule is filled with stories of exploitation, abuse and genocide.
Independence was granted in 1960. The post-independence period was marked by unrest, culminating in a military coup that brought Gen. Mobutu Sese Seko to power in 1965. He changed the country’s name to Zaire in 1971. Mismanagement, corruption, and increasing violence devastated the infrastructure and the economy. Mobutu was deposed in 1997, and the country’s name was restored to Congo.
The instability in several neighboring countries, the arrival of a wave of refugees from Rwanda, and a desire for controlling the Congo’s mineral wealth, led to the military involvement of various African countries, which fueled existing civil conflict already happening.
Although this unrest continued in the beginning of the 21st century, it was reduced considerably by the promulgation in 2003 of a transitional constitution and by the formation of a transitional unity government that included most rebel groups; a new constitution was promulgated and a formal government elected in 2006.
For more information on the different periods of DRC's history, visit this wiki page. Also, this page gives a simpler overview of it, with a more detailed account of the different circumstances that brought them to be who they are today.