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Democratic Republic of Congo

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Democratic Republic of Congo
More a geographical concept than a fully fledged nation, the Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC, formerly Zaïre) is a bubbling cauldron of untamed wilderness carpeted by swathes
of rainforest and punctuated by gushing rivers and smoking volcanoes. Rendered almost
ungovernable by the central administration in Kinshasa, the country remains closed to all
but the most brave-hearted travellers. The nation’s history reads like something out of Dante’s Inferno – from the brazen political folly of King Leopold of Belgium to the hideously
corrupt ‘kleptocracy’ of maverick megalomaniac Mobutu Sese Seko, and the blood-stained
battlegrounds of Africa’s first ‘world war’.
The DRC isn’t all failed politics and wasted natural resources, however. Somewhere in
the midst of this proverbial heart of darkness lies a lumbering African giant. With groundbreaking national elections in July 2006 giving voice to 60 million shell-shocked inhabitants,
a corner may have been turned. Despite early post-election violence in Kinshasa, incumbent
president Joseph Kabila took office in October 2006 under the watchful eye of the world’s
largest UN peacekeeping force. In some senses, the future can only get better. With five
Unesco biospheres, whole ecosystems of teeming wildlife and an estimated US$24 trillion
of untapped mineral capacity lying underneath the ground, it goes without saying that the
country’s potential is breathtaking.

FAST FACTS
Area 2,345,410 sq km
ATMs none
Borders Congo is open as are borders
with Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. The
Angolan border is also open. Tanzania,
Sudan and CAR are closed. Zambia is
normally open.
Budget US$80 to US$100 a day
Capital Kinshasa
Languages French, Lingala, Kiswahili, Kikongo, Tshiluba
Money Congolese franc; US$1 = CDF432
Population 62.6 million
Seasons North of equator: wet (April to October), dry (Decemberto February); south of equator: wet (Novemebr to March), dry
(April to Octover)
Telephone Country code %243; international access code %00
Time GMT/UTC + 1 (west); GMT/UTC + 2 (east)
Visa US$75 for a single-entry, one-month visa; US$140 for a 60-day, multiple-entry tourist visa

D E M O C R AT I C R E P U B L I C
OF CONGO

© Lonely Planet Publications
559

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...
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC
OF CONGO
© Lonely Planet Publications
More a geographical concept than a fully fledged nation, the Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC, formerly Zaïre) is a bubbling cauldron of untamed wilderness carpeted by swathes
of rainforest and punctuated by gushing rivers and smoking volcanoes. Rendered almost
ungovernable by the central administration in Kinshasa, the country remains closed to all
but the most brave-hearted travellers. The nation’s history reads like something out of Dan-
te’s Inferno – from the brazen political folly of King Leopold of Belgium to the hideously
corrupt ‘kleptocracy’ of maverick megalomaniac Mobutu Sese Seko, and the blood-stained
battlegrounds of Africa’s first ‘world war’.
The DRC isn’t all failed politics and wasted natural resources, however. Somewhere in
the midst of this proverbial heart of darkness lies a lumbering African giant. With ground-
b reaking national elections in July 2006 giving voice to 60 million shell-shocked inhabitants,
a corner may have been turned. Despite early post-election violence in Kinshasa, incumbent
president Joseph Kabila took office in October 2006 under the watchful eye of the world’s
largest UN peacekeeping force. In some senses, the future can only get better. With five
Unesco biospheres, whole ecosystems of teeming wildlife and an estimated US$24 trillion
of untapped mineral capacity lying underneath the ground, it goes without saying that the
country’s potential is breathtaking.
Democratic Republic of Congo
FAST FACTS
Area 2,345,410 sq km
ATMs none
Borders Congo is open as are borders
with Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. The
Angolan border is also open. Tanzania,
Sudan and CAR are closed. Zambia is
normally open.
Budget US$80 to US$100 a day
Capital Kinshasa
Languages French, Lingala, Kiswahili, Kikongo, Tshiluba
Money Congolese franc; US$1 = CDF432
Population 62.6 million
Seasons North of equator: wet (April to October), dry (Decem-
berto February); south of equator: wet (Novemebr to March), dry
(April to Octover)
Telephone Country code
%
243; international access code
%
00
Time GMT/UTC + 1 (west); GMT/UTC + 2 (east)
Visa US$75 for a single-entry, one-month visa; US$140 for a 60-day, multiple-entry tourist visa
559
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