The Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) is a nation in central Africa and the third largest country on the continent of Africa. It borders the Central African Republic and Sudan on the north, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania on the east, Zambia and Angola on the south, and the Republic of the Congo on the west.
The name “Congo”, which means “hunter” is derived from the Bakongo tribe, living in the Congo river basin. Formerly, the Belgian colony of the Belgian Congo, the country’s post-independence name was changed in 1971, from Congo-Kinshasa (after its capital, to distinguish it from the Republic of Congo, or Congo-Brazzaville) to Zaire, until 1997. Since 1998, the country has suffered greatly from the devastating Second Congo War (sometimes referred to as the African World War), the deadliest conflict since World War II.
The area now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo was populated as early as 10 000 years ago and settled in the 7th and 8th centuries A.D. by Bantu groups from present-day Nigeria. During its history, the area has also been known as Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, and Zaire.
The most important events in the history of the area (from the point of view of its current situation) occurred in the fifty years or so from about 1870, when European exploration and exploitation took place. Some believe that the rape of the Congo stands alone as the single most brutal and greedy episode of colonization in modern history. This all originated from the birth of the Congo Free State.
The Congo Free State was a kingdom privately and controversially owned by King Leopold II of Belgium that included the entire area now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Leopold II began laying the diplomatic, military, and economic groundwork for his control of the Congo in 1877, and ruled it outright from early 1885 until its annexation by Belgium in 1908.
Under King Leopold II’s administration, the Congo Free State was subject to a terror regime, including atrocities such as mass killings and maiming which were used to subjugate the indigenous tribes of the Congo region and to acquire slave labor. Estimates of the death toll reach up to twenty-two million. Beginning in 1900, news of the conditions in the Congo Free State began to be exposed in European and U.S. press. By 1908, public pressure and diplomatic maneuvers led to the end of King Leopold II’s rule, and to the annexation of the Congo as a colony of Belgium, known as the Belgian Congo. The Belgian Congo was the formal title of present-day Congo-Kinshasa (DRC) between King Léopold II’s formal renouncement of personal control over the state to Belgium on November 15, 1908, to the dawn of Congolese independence on June 30, 1960.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is also unique because of the country’s flag, with the blue and red, with a gold star symbolizing a shining light.
Read more at: http://www.healafrica.org/learn/history-of-the-congo/