Jun
07
2007
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Republic of the Congo

Republic of the Congo

The Republic of the Congo – not to be confused with the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the southwest – is in central Africa. It covers an area of 342,000 km2 and has a population of 3,9 million. Some 1,1 million people live in the capital, Brazzaville, and almost 900,000 in Pointe Noire. Bantus make up about 98% of the population. The country gained independence from France on 15 August 1960.
Despite Congo’s extensive oil reserves (accounting for some 90% of export revenues), tropical rainforest (57% of the land surface) and agricultural areas, the economy remains blighted by mass unemployment, poor government and administrative structures, inadequate infrastructure, corruption, crushing foreign debt and large food imports. The Republic of the Congo is one of the poorest countries in the world. According to German news magazine “Der Spiegel”, the majority of the population has to manage on because about EUR 1.50 a day.
Three civil wars between 1997 and 2003 left an unknown number of dead – some sources claim as many as 300,000 – and purportedly caused material damage of two or three billion euros.
The head of state and government is the president, who also serves as a commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Denis Sassou-Nguesso began his second term in this post in 1997.
In footballing terms, the Congolese have rarely made much of an impact at international level, though the national team, affectionately known as “Les Diables Rouges” (the Red Devils), did win the African Cup of Nations in 1972. They have qualified for the finals of a FIFA competition only twice (FIFA U-17 World Championship in Italy in 1991, FIFA U-16 World Championship in the People’s Republic of China in 1985). The Congolese football association was formed in 1962 and became a member of FIFA in 1964. Congo currently occupy a lowly 93yh place in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, a significant improvement on April 1996, however, when they languished in 139th place.