Zaire Free Images

Zaire Area: 905,360 sq. mi. (2,335,828 km2). Population: 33,500,000. Capital: Kinshasa, Government: One-party republic. Language: French; 200 Bantu dialects. Religion: Christianity 55%; indigenous 35%; Islam 10%. Exports: Cobalt, industrial diamonds, copper, oil, coffee, uranium, and palm oil. Climate: Equatorial, but seasonal in the south. Zaire (zah eer’), formerly the Belgian Congo, is a huge, very poor nation with enormous untapped mineral wealth and hydroelectric potential. Since independence in 1960 the nation has been beset by secessionist movements. The most serious challenges to national unity were the revolts of Katanga province (one of the world’s richest mineral regions) from 1960-1963, and again in 1977. Under President Mobutu Sese Seko, who has held power since 1965, the country has been struggling with widespread corruption and ill-conceived economic projects. An additional obstacle to industrial development is the general lack of transportation facilities. Most of Zaire is an equatorial jungle basin drained by the Congo (Zaire) and hundreds of tributaries. These waterways form the nation’s highways. On a trip up the Congo Joseph Conrad wrote his famous story “Heart of Darkness,” in which he described the journey as a trip “to the earliest beginnings of the world.”

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