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The DR Congo is the second largest country in Africa and has the most natural resources. The Congo River is home to a vast ecosystem of fish. The Kivu region has diamonds. Katanga is home to large supplies of copper and provided the uranium for the bombs dropped in Japan. The troubled eastern region has gold and metals used in electronics. It is home to several unique species including the okapi and bonobo. It has the second largest rain forest in the world.
Originally the Congo Free State, the area now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo has essentially gone from suck to suck. In precolonial times, it was the site of three kingdoms: The Kongo Kingdom, the Luba Kingdom, and the Lunda Kingdom, which were a civilized societies and had an established rule of law. All of this flew out the window when Europeans came along. The Kongo Kingdom fell to the Portuguese slave trade and the Luba and Lunda kingdoms collapsed due to Zanzibar slave traders. Henry Morton Stanley's expedition to Africa to find Dr. Livingston only made matters worse. News of the source of the Congo River and the riches of Africa caught the attention of King Leopold II of Belgium . He hired Stanley to carve out a piece of the African Cake for Belgium. This began the Scramble for Africa. When the Berlin Conference was held, Leopold successfully acquired the entire country to himself. Not to Belgium, to himself. He essentially owned and ruled the entire area without oversight or accountability and... well, let's just say there were no picnics to be had. Under the exploitative rule of King Leopold II, the local population essentially became slaves to provide enough rubber to finance whatever Leopold wanted at the time. If they failed to meet the quota, the Congolese had their hands chopped off, among other things. It created an international scandal that forced Belgium to annex the Congo Free State as the Belgian Congo from Leopold in 1908. After gaining independence on June 30, 1960, it soon started falling apart. Belgian troops in the province of Katanga encouraged a secession that threatened to tear the country apart. This became known as the Congo Crisis, were the country was split into four regions. The Congo Crisis lead to the death of the Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba. Lumumba's death came about after two unsuccessful assassination attempts by the American CIA. His death was sponsored and requested by the Belgium and the United States government.
After the takeover by Joseph Mobutu, the country would remain intact and Mobutu would later take control of the country for life in 1965. He renamed it Zaire in 1971 and began Africanizing everything. During his rule, Zaire's economy went into the toilet due to his unparalleled corruption. Mobutu remained in power until 1997 when troops from Rwanda and Uganda backed rebel leader Laurent-Desire Kabila and overthrew him. The country was renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo. The First and Second Congo War took place during this time. Also known as Africa's First War, it was the greatest conflict since World War Two with around four million deaths (mostly from disease and starvation). Kabila was killed in 2001 and succeeded by his son, Joseph Kabila. The conflict ended in 2002, but the country's eastern region still sees much bloodshed on a daily basis. In 2006, the country held their first elections since first gaining independence.
The only time the Democratic Republic of Congo is ever mentioned in Western media in when TV shows mention how infrequently the Democratic Republic of Congo is mentioned in Western media which is to say it is commonly used as an example of Western indifference to African tragedies without getting into any of the specifics of those tragedies. This gives it just enough exposure to be identifiable as a place that's not getting enough exposure.
Thus it forms the stereotypical image of African troubles with all its common tropes potholed in the preceding description.
If you've read this far and somehow still aren't convinced the DRC is a Crapsack World, try Googling descriptions of the civil war there, including war rape.
List of what little exposure the DR Congo gets
- Tintin's second adventure Tintin in the Congo is a pro-colonialist comic book. It was incredibly racist and showed disregard for wildlife, showing a scene of a rhino being blown up with dynamite. Since Tintin is a Belgian comic, you can see the conflict of interest. Considered an Old Shame by its author, who later redrew the worst pages.
- The Daily Show's America (The Book) features a section were they point out the fact that the longer and nicer sounding the country's name gets, the more terrible a place to live it is.
- The Onion atlas, Our Dumb World, featured the Democratic Republic of the Congo as its own personal Despair Event Horizon. In a work filled with Black Comedy, it managed to be the bleakest part of the book.
- Heart of Darkness takes place in the Belgian Congo and illustrates just what a mess it was during colonial times.