Zaire is located in the center of Africa and is about 905,562 square miles. Some key geographic features are the Zaire (Congo) River Basin, Mitumbia Mountains, and the Shaba Plateau. The Shaba Plateau is important because of its copper fields and other minerals. The Zaire River Basin is important because this is where they have developed their rubber, and palm oil, plantations. The Congo River is used for mining, coffee growing, and is also used as a means of transportation. The climate of Zaire is mostly hot and humid near the equator, which is good for growing cash crops and food crops. The average temperature is eighty degrees Fahrenheit and at sea level drops to about sixty-six degrees. The people their dress in light, airy clothing, while covering most of their bodies. The climate near the coast is cooler and drier, which makes this area of Zaire poorer for growing crops. The eastern part of Zaire is mountainous and its climate there has practically no rainfall from May to September, but from December to February it rains 25 days out of each month. There is between fifty and sixty inches of rain per year. February is the hottest month of the year. Zaire has the thirteenth lowest Gross National Product in the world. There Per Capita Income is $230. There three most common occupations are farming, mining, and manufacturing. The majority of people in Zaire are poor because of the rate of inflation. The rate of inflation doubles every few months. Inflation is due to the plunging mineral production. This has made Zaire one of the poorest countries in the world. Some of the natural resources found in Zaire are copper, diamonds, crude petroleum, cobalt, and zinc. Zaire also produces crops of rubber, palm oil, tea, and cotton, and grow food crops of cassava, corn, rice and bananas. Zaire exports some of their natural resources and food crops. They also raise cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, and chickens. Zaire has a population of 44,504,000 people. The growth rate of Zaire is 2.34 % per year with the birth rate being 47.66 per 1000 people of population. The death rate is equal to 16.61 per 1000 people of population. The life expectancy for the total population is 47.03 years, males being 45.16 years and females being 48.95 years. The official language of Zaire is French with 200 other languages being spoken. Some other languages are Lingala, Swahili, Kikongo, and Tshiluba. Fifty percent of the people in Zaire are Roman Catholic, with twenty percent being Protestant, ten percent Kimbanguist, ten percent Muslim, and the other ten percent adhering to traditional beliefs. The men of Zaire wear trousers with matching collar less jackets buttoned at the neck. The women wear one piece cotton dresses, or a blouse with a long skirt. Their diets consist of cassava, corn, rice which they grow, and fish which they catch. One of Zaire’s National Holidays is the anniversary of the Second Republic which is celebrated on November 24th, of each year. The Mbuti women make paintings out bark cloth. Their music reflects their experiences with the forest. Most of their homes are made of mud bricks or dried mud and sticks. The majority of house have thatched roofs except for those who can afford metal roofs. The people of Zaire are hospitable and kind to strangers. In 1965 General Mobutu gained control of Zaire and remained in power until the 1990’s. He declared Zaire to be a one-party state in 1967. His leadership lead to corruption in government, rebellion, and poverty among the people. As President and Prime Minister he would serve a term of seven years. The last election was held on July 29, 1984. The next election was due to be held in May of 1997. The Prime Minister (Mobutu) elected to have the former government expire in 1991, so that elections would not be held, and Mobutu would continue in office. In 1996 fighting broke out in Eastern Zaire, and in May of 1997 rebels led by Laurent Kabila overthrew the government and renamed it ‘The Democratic Republic of Congo’. Larent Kablila is the President and Prime Minister today. The President is both chief of state and head of government.
One of the many problems in Zaire is poverty. This is due to Zaire’s economic decline, its’ high rate of inflation, its large government deficit, and its plunging mineral production. In 1973 Zaire was very dependent on its income from copper exports. In the mid-1970’s copper prices fell and Zaire’s foreign debt rose to $4 billion by 1980. In 1981, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loaned Zaire a billion dollars. The devaluation of their currency led to further debt in 1983 and 1984. In 1986, Zaire abandoned the IMF and the economy took a turn for the worst. In the 1990’s, Mobutu’s wealth grew while the nation went deeper into debt. The foreign debt of Zaire today is 10 billion dollars. There are many other causes that have added to this problem including overpopulation, war, disease, and government corruption. Overpopulation has added to the foreign debt, because of the fighting in Rwanda and Burundi between the Hutus and the Tutsis. This has caused a million refugees to migrate to Zaire in the early to mid 1990’s. In addition, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has 100,000 Angolan, and 100,000 Sudanese refugees. War and fighting continue because the hospital is run by Norwegian People’s Aid Agency, who care for wounded rebels. This makes the Sudan very angry. On November 14, 1998 the Sudanese government dropped six bombs on the hospital, killing two and wiping out the hospital’s theater, medical and maternity wards. The Sudanese government has bombed the hospital in Zaire six times within the last year. The Norwegian aid agency feels that this is an international war crime. The United Nations is planning to meet on November 17th in Rome with Sudan to talk about humanitarian assistance. Also, on November 14, 1998, the BBC is claiming that a rebel militia belonging to the deposed Prime Minister Kolelas (not Kabilas) walked into a Catholic church in Mindouli, ordered six priest’s outside, and gun them down in cold-blood. The priest’s were trying to establish talks with the Ninja rebels of Kolelas. Kolelas resides in Washington D.C. There have been 50 other related deaths in a Catholic church in Mindouli. Another problem that is closely related to war is disease. Yellow Fever, tetanus, and typhoid, are of concern to the people of Zaire. In the midst of war, care is not always available, and even when it is they often do not have enough supplies, or manpower to administer it. There is not enough money to supply the hospitals with all the immunizations they would need to prevent disease. Zaire’s leader Laurent Kabila should meet with the Sudan and the United Nations to discuss peace talks and humanitarian assistance. Also, the fighting in Rwanda and Burundi should be addressed in order to stop the migration of refugees. They should increase their production of natural resources and reduce their rate of inflation to boost their economy. This method has worked right here in the United States. “
” National Geographic Atlas. 6th ed., 1996. Oxfords Encyclopedic World Atlas. 4th ed., 1997. “United Nation’s Investigation of Massacres in Congo.” Wait-and-See. Feb. 2, 1998: p.13. “United Nation’s Alleges 100 Congo Sites of Massacres.” A Grim Report. June 9, 1997: p24. World Book. Computer Software. New York: GSA ADP, 1997. CD-ROM. New York. IBM Corporation, 1997. “http://www.tanzania-web.com/africcanet/country/zaire/hs.htm” “http://www.tanzania-web.com/africcanet/country/zaire/home.htm#Economy