Women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

January 26, 2009 at 1:43 pm (Blogging, Culture, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guide, Nature, Photo, Photography, Photos, Pictures, Travel, Trip, Vacation)

Rural women find fewer such strategies available. Saddled with the bulk of agricultural work, firewood gathering, water hauling, and child care, they have generally seen an increase in their labor burdens as the economy has deteriorated. In the DRC’s eastern highlands, conditions have grown particularly severe. The statepromoted expansion of cash crop hectarage for export, particularly of coffee and quinine, has reduced the amount and quality of land available for peasant household food-crop production. Plantations owned by the politico-commercial and new commercial elites have increasingly expanded onto communal lands, displacing existing food crops with cash crops. And within peasant households, men’s control of the allocation of household land for export and food crops has led to greater use of land for export crops and the diminution of women’s access to land and food crops. Even when male producers turn to cultivating food crops, the household does not necessarily profit nutritionally. Food needed for household consumption is frequently sold for cash, cash needed to pay for daily necessities, clothes, school fees, taxes, and so on. Higher-priced and nutritionally superior food crops such as sorghum are frequently sold by producers who eat only their cheaper, less nutritious food crops such as cassava. Widespread malnutrition among children has resulted. Among groups where women have more power, the situation is less severe. Among the Lemba, for example, women not only have more say in determining what is grown but also in what is consumed. In a country where the most widespread pattern is for the men to be served the best food first, with the remainder going to women and children, Lemba women traditionally set aside choice food items and sauces for their own and their children’s consumption before feeding the men their food. Their nutritional status and that of their children is correspondingly better. Rural women have arguably borne the brunt of state exactions. In some cases, women have banded together to resist the rising tolls and taxes imposed on them. Political scientist Katharine Newbury studied a group of Tembo women growers of cassava and peanuts west of Lac Kivu who successfully protested against the imposition of excessive collectivity taxes and market taxes levied on them when they went to market. The local chief was hostile. But a sympathetic local Catholic church, which provided a forum for meetings and assistance in letter writing, was helpful, as was the ethnic homogeneity of the group. Although they could not nominate a woman for election to the local council, they did succeed in voting for males friendly to their position. The newly elected councillors hastened to suspend the taxes and the tolls.

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Geography

December 5, 2008 at 12:29 pm (Blogging, Culture, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guide, Nature, Photo, Photography, Photos, Pictures, Travel, Trip, Vacation)

The Congo is situated at the heart of the west-central portion of sub-Saharan Africa and is bounded by (clockwise from the southwest) Angola, the South Atlantic Ocean, the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, the Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania across Lake Tanganyika, and Zambia. The country straddles the Equator, with one-third to the North and two-thirds to the South. The size of Congo, 2,345,408 square kilometres (905,567 sq mi), is slightly greater than the combined areas of Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, and Norway.

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Culture

October 7, 2008 at 4:22 pm (Blogging, Culture, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guide, Nature, Photo, Photography, Photos, Pictures, Travel, Trip, Vacation)

The culture of the Democratic Republic of the Congo reflects the diversity of its hundreds of ethnic groups and their differing ways of life throughout the country – from the mouth of the River Congo on the coast, upriver through the rainforest and Savanna in its center, to the more densely populated mountains in the far east. Since the late 19th century, traditional ways of life have undergone changes brought about by colonialism, the struggle for independence, the stagnation of the Mobutu era, and most recently, the First and Second Congo Wars. Despite these pressures, the customs and cultures of the Congo have retained much of their individuality. The country’s 60 million inhabitants are mainly rural. The 30 percent who live in urban areas have been the most open to Western influences.

Another notable feature in Congo culture is its sui generis music. The DROC has blended its ethnic musical sources with Cuban Rumba, and Merengue to give birth to Soukous. Influential figures of Soukous and its offshoots (N’dombolo, Rumba rock …) are Luambo Franco, Tabu Ley, Lutumba Simaro, Papa Wemba, Koffi Olomide, Kanda Bongo, Ray Lema, Mpongo Love, Abeti Masikini, Reddy Amisi, [ Pasnas] Pepe Kalle and Nyoka Longo. Africa produces music genres which are direct derivatives of Congolese soukous. Some of the African bands even sing in Lingala, the main language in the DRC. The same Congolese Soukous, under the guidance of “le sapeur”, Papa Wemba, has set up the tone for a generation of young guys always dressed up in expensive designer’s clothes.

The Congo is also known for its art. Traditional art includes masks and wooden statues. Notable contemporary artists and fashion designer are Chéri Samba and Odette Krempin.

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The Congo Free State (1877 – 1908)

August 22, 2008 at 5:16 pm (Blogging, Culture, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guide, Nature, Photo, Photography, Photos, Pictures, Travel, Trip, Vacation)

European exploration and administration took place from the 1870s until the 1920s — first by Sir Henry Morton Stanley who undertook his explorations mainly under the sponsorship of King Leopold II of Belgium, who desired what was to become the Congo as a colony. In a succession of negotiations, Leopold, professing humanitarian objectives in his capacity as chairman of the Association Internationale Africaine, played one European rival against the other. The Congo territory was acquired formally by Leopold at the Conference of Berlin in 1885. He made the land his private property and named it the Congo Free State. Leopold’s regime began undertaking various projects, such as the railway that ran from the coast to Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) which took years to complete. Nearly all these projects were aimed at increasing the capital Leopold and his associates could extract from the colony, leading to exploitation of Africans. In the Free State, the local population was brutalized in exchange for rubber, a growing market with the development of rubber tires. The selling of the rubber made a fortune for Leopold, who built several buildings in Brussels and Ostend to honour himself and his country. To enforce the rubber quotas, the Force Publique (FP) was called in. The FP was an army, but its aim was not to defend the country, but to terrorize the local population. The Force Publique made the practice of cutting off the limbs of the natives as a means of enforcing rubber quotas a matter of policy; this practice was widespread. During the period between 1885 and 1908, between five and 15 (the commonly accepted figure is about ten) million Congolese died as a consequence of exploitation and diseases. A government commission later concluded that the population of the Congo had been “reduced by half” during this brutal period.

The actions of the Free State’s administration sparked international protests led by E. D. Morel and British diplomat/Irish patriot Roger Casement, whose 1904 report on the Congo condemned the practice, as well as famous writers such as Mark Twain. Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness also takes place in Congo Free State. In 1908, the Belgian parliament, which was at first reluctant, bowed to international pressure (especially from Great Britain) by taking over the Free State from the king as a Belgian colony. From then on, it became the Belgian Congo, under the rule of the elected Belgian government.

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Chutes de Lukia

June 17, 2008 at 4:16 pm (Blogging, Culture, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guide, Nature, Photo, Photography, Photos, Pictures, Travel, Trip, Vacation)

A must-see while in Kinshasa, the Chutes de Lukia have a decent restaurant, natural lakes to swim in and a Bonobo (pygmy chimp) orphanage, where you can play with the younger chimps. Beware if you are allergic to white 4WDs and walkie-talkies – it’s a favourite haunt of resident UN and aid worker staff at weekends.

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When to Go

May 12, 2008 at 9:34 am (Blogging, Culture, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guide, Nature, Photo, Photography, Photos, Pictures, Travel, Trip, Vacation)

Apart from high altitude areas, most of the country is hot the year round, lingering around 30°C (86°F) during the day, with some relief at night. Rainfall is scant along the tiny coastline and increases further inland. A dry period affects most of the country between June and September.v

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Kinshasa

May 1, 2008 at 1:06 pm (Blogging, Culture, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guide, Nature, Photo, Photography, Photos, Pictures, Travel, Trip, Vacation)

Kinshasa (until 1966 Léopoldville)[2] is the capital and largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is located on the Congo River.

Once a site of fishing villages, Kinshasa is now a bustling city with a population of more than 7 million in 2004.[1] The city of Brazzaville (about 1.5 million inhabitants in 2007 with its suburbs),[3] capital of the Republic of Congo, lies just across the Congo River from Kinshasa. Together with Brazzaville, the combined conurbation of Kinshasa-Brazzaville has thus nearly 9 million inhabitants.

city in the world after Kinshasa ties with Johannesburg for the status of the second largest city in sub-Saharan Africa and the third largest in the whole continent after Lagos and Cairo. It is often considered the second largest francophoneParis, though on criteria such as number of native speakers Montreal retains this distinction, as African languages, especially Lingala, are more widely spoken in Kinshasa than French is. If current demographic trends continue, Kinshasa will become the most populated city in the francophone world ahead of Paris by the end of the 2010s.

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Democratic Republic of the Congo

May 1, 2008 at 1:05 pm (Blogging, Culture, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guide, Nature, Photo, Photography, Photos, Pictures, Travel, Trip, Vacation)

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (French: République démocratique du Congo), often referred to as DR Congo, DRC or RDC, and formerly known or referred to as Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, Congo-Léopoldville, Congo-Kinshasa, and Zaire (or Zaïre in French), is the third largest country by area on the African continent. Though it is located in the Central African UN subregion, the nation is economically and regionally affiliated with Southern Africa as a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). It borders the Central African Republic and Sudan on the north, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi on the east, Zambia and Angola on the south, the Republic of the Congo on the west, and is separated from Tanzania by Lake Tanganyika on the east.[1] The country enjoys access to the ocean through a forty-kilometre stretch of Atlantic coastline at Muanda and the roughly nine-kilometre wide mouth of the Congo river which opens into the Gulf of Guinea. The name “Congo” (meaning “hunter”) is coined after the Bakongo ethnic group who live in the Congo river basin.

Formerly the Belgian colony of the Belgian Congo, the country’s post-independence name was the Republic of the Congo until August 1, 1964,[2] when its name was changed to Democratic Republic of the Congo (to distinguish it from the neighboring Republic of the Congo).[3] On October 27, 1971,[2] then-President Mobutu renamed the country Zaire, from a Portuguese mispronunciation of the Kikongo word nzere or nzadi, which translates to “the river that swallows all rivers.”[4] Following the First Congo War which led to the overthrow of Mobutu in 1997, the country was renamed Democratic Republic of the Congo. From 1998 to 2003, the country suffered greatly from the devastating Second Congo War (sometimes referred to as the African World War),[5] the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II. However, related fighting still continues in the east of the country.

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