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MARTIN
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FUN FACTS about the Democratic Republic of the Congo
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The country used to be known as the Belgian Congo, Congo-Kinshasa, Congo Free State, and Congo-Leopoldville but changed the name to the Democratic Republic of the Congo when the Belgians left in 1960. Then, in 1965, Mobut Sese Seko took over power in the country in a coup. He changed the name of the country to the Republic of Zaire in 1971 and proceeded to rob the place for years. Finally kicked out in 1997, the name was changed back to the DRC.

Although once called the Belgian Congo, the Portugese were the first Europeans to explore the region in 1482, ten years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Henry Morton Stanley (of Stanley and Livingstone fame) was commissioned by King Leopold II of Belgium to procure the Congo Free State as the king's personal possession for over twenty years, 1885 - 1908. Leopold was not a nice person. In his quest for wealth, an estimated 10 - 15 million Congolese were killed. Naturally, the capital city (now Kinshasa) was called Leopoldville. In 1908, the name of the region changed to the Belgian Congo and became a Belgian colony.

The DRC is the second largest country in Africa (after Algeria). With 2,344,858 square kilometers (905,365 square miles), it is larger than Spain, France, Germany, Norway and Sweden combined. That makes it almost one fourth the size of the United States of America.

In such a large country, a lot of languages are spoken including Lingala, Kikongo and Tshiluba. Really, there are an estimated 242 different languages spoken. But, Swahili and the official language French will help you a lot in your communication. "Jambo" which is "hello" in Swahili is a great word to use a lot. If someone greets you first, you reply, "Jambo san".

It is the most populated country in the world where French is the official language. Kinshasa is the second largest city in the world where French is spoken just after Paris.

In 1974, Kinshasa hosted "The Rumble in the Jungle" where Muhammad Ali and George Foreman boxed. Ali won and regained the World Heavyweight title.

Copper in the shape of a cross, called the Katanga cross, used to be the currency in the 19th and 20th century. Depending on the size of the cross and the amount, you could buy flour, chickens or even a bride. The currency now is the Congolese Franc. You see them in all kinds of condition from good to deplorable. But, if you want to change dollars for them, your dollars must be in perfect condition.

The DRC has limited access to the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the Congo River. That coastline is only 17 miles.

There is a lot of mining in the DRC because it is rich in minerals like copper, gold, zinc, silver, tin, coal, uranium, manganese and diamonds.

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Copyright 2014 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.
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