Republic of Congo



Five hundred years after the birth of Christ, a number of states existed around the area of the lower Congo River in equatorial Africa. From this region eventually arose the country that would be called Congo. The Portuguese arrived in the region intent on expanding their slave trading interests. As the 19th century wound down, Portuguese power weakened and the French began to assume supremacy in western Africa. In 1883, they made the area a protectorate and named it Middle Congo. The French, in the person of Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, negotiated the terms of the protectorate with the king of the Teke people. In his honor, the capital, Brazzaville, was named. Almost thirty years later, the French brought their protectorates of Gabon, Middle Congo, Ubangi-Shari, and Chad together to form French Equatorial Africa. Because of the important role this area played during the Second World War, de Gaulle granted all the territories' peoples French citizenship in 1946. The Congo achieved full independece in 1960, one year after becoming autonomous. Three year later, the military assumed control during a period of labor unrest which unseated the president. They put a civilian government in place, which lasted until 1968 when it was overthrown in a military coup. The Congo became a People's Republic, with Marxist-Leninist leanings. After a series of government changes, the Congo took steps towards the formation of a multiparty democracy in 1990. Opposition parties were officially legalized in 1991 with presidential elections in 1992. But in 1997, fighting broke out in the capital when the president tried to have his principal opponent arrested just prior to new elections.