25 interesting facts about the Republic of the Congo

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The most interesting facts about the Republic of the Congo, from Africa’s first Marxist-Leninist state to the Congo’s Loch Ness Monster.

Several interesting facts about the Republic of the Congo are related to the Congo River
Several interesting facts about the Republic of the Congo are related to the Congo River (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Republic of the Congo
Population: 5,417,414 
Area: 342,000 sq km
Capital city: Brazzaville
Major languages: French, French Lingala and Monokutuba
Major religions: Roman Catholic 33.1%, Awakening Churches/Christian Revival 22.3%, Protestant 19.9%
Time zone: UTC+1 (West Africa Time)
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Interesting facts about the Republic of the Congo

1. The Republic of the Congo is located in Central Africa, bordered by five countries: Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, DR Congo and Gabon.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

2. The Republic of the Congo is often referred to as Congo-Brazzaville, Congo (Brazzaville) or just Congo to distinguish it from its neighbour DR Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo).
– Source: Britannica, BBC News

3. The Republic of the Congo takes its name from the Congo River, which makes up a significant portion of the country’s eastern border. The name of the river comes from Kongo, a Bantu kingdom that occupied the river mouth, whose name derived from its people the Bakongo, meaning “hunters”.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

A map of the Republic of the Congo
A map of the Republic of the Congo (Shutterstock)

4. At 2,900mi (4,700 km), the Congo River is Africa’s second-longest river after the Nile. It is also the world’s deepest river.
– Source BritannicaSmithsonian

5. The Republic of the Congo was officially a colony of France from 1891 known as French Congo and then later French Equatorial Africa.
– Source: Britannica

6. In 1960, following a 1958 referendum on autonomy, the Republic of the Congo became completely independent with Fulbert Youlou as its first president.
– Source: BBC News

7. The Republic of the Congo flag is made up of a diagonal yellow stripe separating a green triangle from a red triangle. The design incorporates pan-African colours (red, yellow and green) with green symbolising agriculture and forests and yellow for the friendship and nobility of the people. However, the red is officially unexplained but has been associated with the fight for liberation.
– Source: Britannica

The Republic of the Congo flag
The Republic of the Congo flag (Shutterstock)

8. The region of the Republic of the Congo has been inhabited since between 100,000 and 40,000 BC.
– Source: Britannica

9. Between 1921 and 1934, the French forced Congolese labourers to build the Congo-Ocean Railway from Pointe-Noire to Brazzaville. The construction project caused between 15,000 and 20,000 Africans dead and is considered the most costly ever in terms of African lives.
– Source: Britannica

10. The country’s capital city, Brazzaville, is named after the French explorer, Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza. De Brazza promoted French colonial interests in the region during the 19th century and campaigned against slavery and forced labour.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

A woman crosses the road in Brazzaville
A street in Brazzaville (Shutterstock)

11. In 1482, Portuguese navigator Diogo Cao became the first European to explore the coastal areas of the Republic of the Congo.
– Source: BBC News

12. The world’s second-largest rainforest, the Congolese Rainforest, is part-located in the Republic of the Congo. The Congolese Rainforest spans six countries: Cameroon, Central African Republic, DR Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of the Congo.
– Source: WWF

13. The Congo Basin is one of the most important wilderness areas on Earth and is home to approximately 10,000 plant species, 400 mammal species, 1,000 bird species and 700 fish species.
– Source: WWF

A forest elephant in the River Congo
A forest elephant in the Congo (Shutterstock)

14. The Republic of the Congo capital city, Brazzaville, is located on the Congo River opposite DR Congo’s capital city, Kinshasa. The two cities are less than a mile (1.6km) apart, making them the closest capital cities in the world. Rome and Vatican City are closer, but as Vatican City is a city-state, it technically doesn’t have a capital. Additionally, it is not a UN member state.
– Source: Condé Nast Traveler

15. In 2015, the Republic of the Congo was named by Lonely Planet as one of the top 10 countries in the world to visit thanks to its”potential to become one of Africa’s finest ecotourism destinations.”
– Source: The Guardian

16. The Republic of the Congo has one UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sangha Trinational. Located where the country meets Cameroon and the Central African Republic, the site includes the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of the Congo and features a broad range of tropical forest ecosystems rich in flora and fauna such as Nile crocodiles, goliath tigerfish, elephants, western lowland gorillas and chimpanzees.
– Source: UNESCO

17. The Republic of the Congo is supposedly home to the legendary Mokele-mbembe known as “Congo’s Loch Ness Monster”. The beast is said to be a large reptile-like creature, with a long neck and long tail similar to Scotland’s legendary monster.
– Source: BBC News

A sketch of the Mokele-mbembe  next to a man
An artist’s impression of the Mokele-mbembe (CC BY-SA 4.0)

18. The Republic of the Congo is home to Diosso Gorge, known as the “Grand Canyon of the Congo”. The gorge is known for its mix of distinctive red rock cliffs which reach up to 50m (165ft) in height..
– Source: Ham. Anthony (2010) Lonely Planet Africa. Lonely Planet: London

19. The Republic of the Congo was Africa’s first Marxist state. Following a 1968 military coup, the country was renamed the People’s Republic of the Congo ushering in Africa’s first Marxist-Leninist state (Angola and Ethiopia would later follow). Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country’s previous name was restored and the country held its first democratic election in 1992.
– Source: Ham. Anthony (2010) Lonely Planet Africa. Lonely Planet: London

20. The Republic of the Congo is known for its sapeurs (the Society for the Advancement of People of Elegance). Founded in the 1920s, the Sapeurs are well-dressed stylish men and women who parade the streets of Brazzaville and Kinshasa.
– Source: The Guardian1, The Guardian2

A Brazzaville sapeur in a blue suit and hat
A Brazzaville sapeur (CC BY-SA 4.0)

21. In 1993, fighting broke out in the Republic of the Congo, followed by a full-scale civil war in 1997 between political rivalries. Angolan troops were involved until peace was eventually brokered in the early 2000s.
– Source: BBC News

22. The Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Republic of the Congo is one of Africa’s oldest national parks. Designated in 1935, it also received UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status in 1977.
– Source: African Parks, UNESCO

23. The Republic of the Congo is one of Africa’s largest petroleum and crude oil producers and exporters producers.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

the Congo River
The Republic of the Congo is heavily forested (Shutterstock)

24. Forests covers 64.3% of the Republic of the Congo making it one of the most heavily forested countries in Africa.
– Source: World Bank

25. The ethnic group of Pygmy people can be found in the Republic of the Congo (as well as other Congo Basin countries). The Pygmy are known for their short stature – typically under five feet tall. The word “Pygmy” comes from the Greek for “dwarfish”, although Pygmys are conventionally proportioned.
– Source: Smithsonian Magazine


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