Thinking Citizen Blog — Republic of the Congo
Thinking Citizen Blog — Monday is Foreign Policy Day
Today’ s Topic: Republic of the Congo: Where is it? Who cares? Who should?
The Republic of the Congo is a case study in African dysfunction. It’s not just the DRC, Zimbabwe, and Somalia. How about Gambia? Central African Republic? Republic of the Congo? Why are there so many dysfunctional African governments? Why did Trevor Noah’s joke about Trump being America’s first “African” President ring so painfully true to so many? How many of you are familiar with the writings of Chigozie Obioma on the subject? (see last link below). Worth a read. Today, just a few notes on Congo-Brazzaville. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
NESTLED BETWEEN GABON, THE DRC, CAMEROON, ANGOLA, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
1. Both the Republic of the Congo and the much larger and more populous DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) are french-speaking but one was a French colony (the RC), and one was a Belgian colony (DRC). Paradoxically, the much bigger African country was a colony of the much smaller European one.
2. French colonial rule lasted from 1880 to 1960. During World War II, Congo-Brazzaville was the capital of Free France from 1940 to 1943.
3. Oil accounts for 65% of GDP, 85% of government revenues, and 92% of exports.
POPULATION CONCENTRATED IN SOUTH BETWEEN POINTE NOIRE AND BRAZZAVILLE
1. The population of 5.2 MM, up from .8 MM in 1950 and 3.2 MM in 2000. Concentrated in two southern cities — Brazzaville (1.4 MM), and Pointe Noire (.7 MM) and a string of smaller cities along the railroad that connects the two. The northern tropical jungle is virtually uninhabited.
2. Languages: 62 languages are spoken. Three major ethnic groups (Kongo, 48%, Sangha 20%, Teke 17%). Pygmies are 2%. Very few non-Africans remain after the Civil War of 1997 to 1999. Protestants: 50%, Catholics 30%.
3. Fertility: average 5.1 children per woman (6.5 in rural areas, 4.5 in urban areas. Infant mortality: 55 per 100,000 (compared to 2.0 in Japan, 5.8 in US, 31 in South Africa, 39 in India, 50 in Pakistan, 86 in the Central African Republic, and 95 in Somalia).
DENNIS SASSOU NGUESSO (1943 — ) Ruler (1979–1992, 1997 to Present)
1. Head of Congolese Labor Party, rules as President of a one-party state from 1979–1992.
2. Defeated in 1992 election and out of power for five years. He was in fact eliminated in the first round of the election with only 17% of the vote.
3. With the help of Angola, he returns to power in a coup in 1997. Wins an extraordinary number of “free elections” by extraordinary margins.
PS: As an assistant professor of history at Knox College from 1982–4, I taught an African history survey course. My best students were two Africans — one from Ethiopia, the other from South Africa. I would have hoped that the situation in Africa would have improved dramatically over the next 36 years. Not so.
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The prospect of imminent publication, like hanging and final exams, concentrates the mind. A useful life long habit.