Country map of the Congo
Flag of the Congo
Flag description: divided diagonally from the lower hoist side by a yellow band; the upper triangle (hoist side) is green and the lower triangle is red; uses the popular pan-African colours of Ethiopia 

Location: Western Africa, bordering the South Atlantic Ocean, between Angola and Gabon 

Geographic coordinates: 1 00 S, 15 00 E 

Climate: The climate is tropical;  the year is evenly divided into a rainy season (November-April) and a dry season (May-October). Average annual temperatures range between 20 deg and 27 deg C (68 deg and 81 deg F).  Rainfall is abundant; a minimum of 1,220 mm (48 in) annually. 

Vegetation includes great stretches of tropical rain forest, coastal and swampy areas of mangrove trees and water grasses, and savannah grasslands.  Coconut palms and plantain trees are also common.

Independence: 15 August 1960 (from France) 

Nationality: Congolese (singular and plural)

Capital City: Brazzaville

Population:  2,830,961 

Head of State:  

Area: 342,000 sq km 

Type of Government:  republic

Currency: 1 Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFAF) = 100 centimes 

Major peoples:  Kongo 48%, Sangha 20%, M'Bochi 12%, Teke 17%, Europeans NA%; note - Europeans estimated at 8,500, mostly French, before the 1997 civil war; may be half of that in 1998, following the widespread destruction of foreign businesses in 1997.  Small minorities of Binga Pygmies are also found there.

Religion: Christian 50%, animist 48%, Muslim 2% 

Official Language: French

Principal Languages: French (official), Lingala and Monokutuba (lingua franca trade languages), many local languages and dialects (of which Kikongo has the most users) 

Major Exports: petroleum 50%, lumber, plywood, sugar, cocoa, coffee, diamonds 

 Late 15th century: First visited by Portuguese explorers, at which time the Bakongo (a six-state confederation centered South of the Congo River in Angola) and Bateke, both Bantu groups, were the chief kingdoms.

16th century: Portuguese, in collaboration with coastal peoples, exported slaves from the interior to plantations in Brazil and São Tomé; missionaries spread Roman Catholicism.
1880: French explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza established French claims to coastal region, with the makoko (king) of the Bateke accepting French protection.
1905: International outrage at revelations of the brutalities of forced labour, which decimated the population, as ivory and rubber resources were ruthlessly exploited by private concessionaries.

1910: As Moyen-Congo, became part of French Equatorial Africa, which also comprised Gabon and the Central African Republic, with the capital at Brazzaville.
1920s More than 17,000 were killed as forced labour used to build the Congo-Ocean railroad; first Bakongo political organization founded.
1940-44: Supported the `Free French´ anti-Nazi resistance cause during World War II, Brazzaville serving as capital for Gen Charles de Gaulle's forces.
1946: Became autonomous, with a territorial assembly and representation in French parliament.
1960: Achieved independence from France, with Abbé Fulbert Youlou, a moderate Catholic Bakongo priest,
as the first president.

1963: Youlou forced to resign after labour unrest. Alphonse Massamba- Débat became president with Pascal Lissouba as prime minister, and a single-party state was established under the socialist National Revolutionary Movement (MNR).

1968: Military coup, led by Capt Marien Ngouabi, ousted Massamba-Débat.
1970: A Marxist People's Republic declared, with Ngouabi's PCT the only legal party.
1977: Ngouabi assassinated in a plot by Massamba-Débat, who was executed; Col Joachim Yhombi-Opango became president.

1979: Yhombi-Opango handed over the presidency to the PCT, who chose Col Denis Sassou-Nguessou as his successor.
Early 1980s Petroleum production increased fivefold.

1990: With the collapse of Eastern European communism, the PCT abandoned Marxist-Leninism and promised multiparty politics and market-centred reforms in an economy crippled by foreign debt.

1992: Multiparty elections gave the coalition dominated by the Pan-African Union for Social Democracy (UPADS) an assembly majority, with Pascal Lissouba elected president.
1993: Yhombi-Opango appointed prime minister; violent strikes and unrest after opposition disputed election results.
1994: International panel appointed to investigate results; UPADS-dominated coalition declared winner.
1995: New broad-based government formed, including opposition groups;  market-centred economic reforms, including privatization.
1996: Charles David Ganao appointed prime minister.
1997: Violence between factions continued despite unity government. Sassou-Nguesso took over presidency.