#56DaysofAfrica - Democratic Republic of Congo
République démocratique du Congo
On today's edition of #56DaysofAfrica, we will be highlighting the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Formerly known as Zaire, Congo's colonial rule began in the late 19th century under King Leopold II, who annexed the territory as his personal possession, naming it the “Congo Free State” and violently exploiting the native population for the extraction and production of rubber and other natural resources. By the turn of the century, however, the violence of Free State officials against indigenous Congolese and the ruthless system of economic extraction led to intense diplomatic pressure on Belgium to take official control of the country, which it did in 1908, creating the Belgian Congo.
An African nationalist movement developed in the Belgian Congo during the 1950s, primarily among the educated class which became one of the of the major forces in the nationalist movement called the Mouvement National Congolais or MNC Party led by Patrice Lumumba, who pressured Belgium to relinquish the Congo as a colonial territory.
The proclamation of the independent Republic of the Congo, and the end of colonial rule, occurred as planned on 30 June 1960 when Lumumba gave an unplanned and controversial speech attacking colonialism.
Kinshasa, formerly known as Léopoldville, is the largest city and capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kin la Belle (beautiful Kinshasa) is home to 12-million-plus people on the banks of the mighty Congo River. Sprawling outwards, it is bigger, faster and louder than many other urban capital cities. This beautiful country comprises of hundreds of ethno-linguistic groups including Kasaians, Banyarwanda, Hunde, Nyanga, Nande, Bangala, Batwa and Bambuti whose main languages are French (official), Lingala, Kikongo, Tshiluba and Swahili.
Language and culture
French is the official language with Lingala and Monokutuba most commonly spoken. They also have a talking drum language that was developed in villages as a form of long distance communication. Specific beats can signify a marriage, a birth or a death has occurred, as well as other important messages.
Youth in the DRC
Young people in the Democratic Republic of Congo are fighting for it to live up to its name. To combat some of the challenges in DRC, youth have established platforms to create impact in their communities. Youth activist groups have proliferated in the lead-up to a potential turning point in Congo’s history and pioneering a different way of civic engagement in the Congo. such as LUCHA and Congo in the Picture.
LUCHA is a non-violent and non-partisan youth civil society movement founded in 2012 in Goma, the capital of North Kivu. The movement advocates for social justice and accountability in the DRC through campaigns and encourages Congolese citizens to fight for the promotion and respect of human rights. Malaika is empowering girls and their communities through education and health. They built a free school for girls, built or refurbished 20 wells, and partnered with FIFA to build a community center in the village of Kalebuka.
Congo In The Picture looks at the role of young people and youth work in the establishment of sustainable peace in eastern DRC, which is considered to be among the least stable regions of the world. An exciting program that they have executed, ICT4Peace, supports victims from isolated areas to come forward and advocate for their interests through using multimedia technology which helps young people to both express their wishes and fears, whether in music or digital art, whilst also learning ICT skills that will help them find work in the future. Their Uswazi Project also looks to promote the positive work of young people from both urban and rural areas, especially those living in conflict which includes working in partnership with Bollo Brook Youth Centre, in London, to produce music that provides a positive voice for young people.
Congolese meals often consist of a starchy ingredient, along with vegetables and meat in the form of a stew. A type of fermented bread, kwanga, made from cassava, is commercially produced throughout the country. Lituma is a popular plantain dish made from mashed plantains which are formed into balls and baked. Sweet potatoes are prepared in a similar way, and mixed with roasted peanuts in some parts of the country. Rice is often mixed with beans. To accompany these starchy ingredients, green vegetables such as cassava leaves, tshitekutaku (a spinach-like plant) and okra are often added.
Mushrooms, especially prized amongst the Luba people, are often seen as a substitute for meat in times of shortage. Though total vegetarianism is unknown, most meals are eaten without meat due to its high price. Fish are plentiful along the River Congo, its tributaries, and various lakes; and are baked, boiled or fried for immediate consumption; or smoked or salted when preserved. Markets often sell ready-to-eat peppered fish baked in banana leaves. Goat is the most widely consumed meat. Mwambe is a common way of cooking chicken with peanut sauce.
With its historical richness, République démocratique du Congo is a sight to see and to learn from. We cannot wait to continue to share more information about DRC with you all.
"We Are The Ones We've Been Waiting For"