The Democratic Republic of the Congo, often known as Congo-Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the DRC, the DROC, or the Congo, and historically and colloquially Zaire, is a nation in Central Africa. It is the second-largest nation in Africa (after Algeria) and the 11th-largest in the globe in terms of land area. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the world's most populous officially Francophone nation, with a population of roughly 108 million people. It belongs to the UN, the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Union, COMESA, and the East African Community. Kinshasa is the capital and biggest metropolis, as well as the world's most populated Francophone city and Africa's largest city. After Lagos and Cairo, it is the third biggest city in the metropolitan region.
The land of the DRC, which is centered on the Congo Basin, was initially occupied by Central African foragers approximately 90,000 years ago and was reached by the Bantu expansion around 3,000 years ago. From the 14th through the 19th century, the Kingdom of Kongo controlled at the mouth of the Congo River in the west. From the 16th and 17th centuries through the 19th century, the kingdoms of Azande, Luba, and Lunda controlled in the northeast, center, and east.
European exploration of the Congo Basin began in the 1870s, soon before the start of the Scramble for Africa, headed by Henry Morton Stanley and sponsored by Leopold II of Belgium. At the Berlin Conference in 1885, Leopold legally secured rights to the Congo area and proclaimed it his own property, designating it the Congo Free State. His colonial military corps, the Force Publique, compelled the local populace to manufacture rubber during the Free State. More than 10 million Congolese perished as a result of sickness and exploitation between 1885 and 1908. Despite his initial hesitation, Leopold gave Belgium the so-called Free State, which became known as the Belgian Congo.
Congo gained independence from Belgium on June 30, 1960, and adopted the name Republic of the Congo. Patrice Lumumba, a Congolese nationalist, was chosen as the first Prime Minister, while Joseph Kasa-Vubu was elected as the first President. During the Congo Crisis, Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, afterwards renamed Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga, took control in a coup and renamed the nation Zaire in 1971. His Popular Movement of the Revolution was the only legal party in the nation, and it was ruled as a totalitarian one-party state. Mobutu's regime started to deteriorate by the early 1990s. Destabilization in the east as a consequence of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 prompted a 1996 invasion led by Rwanda, which resulted in Mobutu's ouster in the First Congo War the following year.
Laurent-Désiré Kabila was then elected president, and the country's name was changed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Tensions between President Kabila and the Rwandan (Tutsi) presence in the nation triggered the Second Congo War, which lasted from 1998 to 2003. Eventually, nine African nations and roughly twenty armed organizations got engaged in the conflict, which killed 5.4 million people. The nation was destroyed by the two wars. Kabila was assassinated on January 16, 2001, by one of his bodyguards, and was succeeded eight days later by his son Joseph, under whom human rights in the country remained poor, with frequent abuses such as forced disappearances, torture, arbitrary imprisonment, and restrictions on civil liberties, according to non-governmental organizations. Following the 2018 general election, Kabila was replaced as president by Félix Tshisekedi, who has governed since. Kivu, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, has been the location of a continuous armed war since 2015.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is abundant in natural resources, but it has suffered from political insecurity, a lack of infrastructure, corruption, and decades of commercial and colonial extraction and exploitation with little general development. Apart from Kinshasa, the two next biggest cities, Lubumbashi and Mbuji-Mayi, are also mining towns. Raw minerals are the DRC's most important export, with China taking more than half of its shipments in 2019. The Human Development Index placed the Democratic Republic of the Congo 175th out of 189 nations in 2019. As of 2018, over 600,000 Congolese have migrated to neighboring countries due to hostilities in the DRC's center and east. Two million children face famine, and 4.5 million people have been displaced as a result of the war.