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Congo is the name applied to two states, the much larger Democratic Republic of Congo (also known as Congo-Kinshasa, after its capital, and formerly known as Zaire) and the Republic of Congo, whose capital is Brazzaville. They are in Central Africa, on either side of the Congo River, with their capitals only a few miles apart.

The Republic of Congo was a French colony until 1960, while the DRC was a personal possession of the Belgian King Leopold II, who oversaw a regime of notable savagery. It was then a colony of the Belgian state from 1908 to 1960, and after independence soon descended into conflict.

Since the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide spilled across its border in 1994 Congo-Kinshasa has endured two invasions and a civil war. After that discord officially ended in 2002, in 2008 an estimated 45,000 people a month were still dying as a result of internal conflict.  Unicef says that one in five children dies before the age of five, and 13 of every thousand pregnancies ends in death for the mother.

About Natalie Bennett

Natalie blogs at Philobiblon, on books, history and all things feminist. In her public life she's the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales.

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