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Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Country Background
Established as a Belgian colony in 1908, the Republic of the Congo gained its independence in 1960, but its early years were marred by political and social instability. Col. Joseph MOBUTU seized power and declared himself president in a November 1965 coup. He subsequently changed his name - to MOBUTU Sese Seko - as well as that of the country - to Zaire. MOBUTU retained his position for 32 years through several subsequent sham elections, as well as through the use of brutal force. Ethnic strife and civil war, touched off by a massive inflow of refugees in 1994 from fighting in Rwanda and Burundi, led in May 1997 to the toppling of the MOBUTU regime by a rebellion led by Laurent KABILA. He renamed the country the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), but in August 1998 his regime was itself challenged by an insurrection backed by Rwanda and Uganda. Troops from Angola, Chad, Namibia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe intervened to support the Kinshasa regime. A cease-fire was signed in July 1999 by the DRC, Congolese armed rebel groups, Angola, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zimbabwe but sporadic fighting continued. Laurent KABILA was assassinated in January 2001 and his son, Joseph KABILA, was named head of state. In October 2002, the new president was successful in negotiating the withdrawal of Rwandan forces occupying eastern Congo; two months later, the Pretoria Accord was signed by all remaining warring parties to end the fighting and establish a government of national unity. A transitional government was set up in July 2003; Joseph KABILA remains as president and is joined by four vice presidents representing the former government, former rebel groups, and the political opposition. The transitional government held a successful constitutional referendum in December 2005, and plans to hold a series of elections in 2006 to determine the presidency and National Assembly seats.

The heads of the Great Lakes states and UN pledge to end conflict but unchecked tribal, rebel, and militia fighting continues unabated in the northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, drawing in the neighboring states of Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda; the UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) has maintained over 14,000 peacekeepers in the region since 1999; thousands of Ituri refugees from the Congo continue to flee the fighting primarily into Uganda; 90,000 Angolan refugees were repatriated by 2004 with the remainder in the DRC expected to return in 2005; in 2005, DRC and Rwanda established a border verification mechanism to address accusations of Rwandan military supporting Congolese rebels and the DRC providing rebel Rwandan "Interhamwe" forces the means and bases to attack Rwandan forces; the location of the boundary in the broad Congo River with the Republic of the Congo is indefinite except in the Pool Malebo/Stanley Pool area.

The economy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo - a nation endowed with vast potential wealth - has declined drastically since the mid-1980s. The war, which began in August 1998, dramatically reduced national output and government revenue, increased external debt, and resulted in the deaths of perhaps 3.5 million people from violence, famine, and disease. Foreign businesses curtailed operations due to uncertainty about the outcome of the conflict, lack of infrastructure, and the difficult operating environment. Conditions improved in late 2002 with the withdrawal of a large portion of the invading foreign troops. The transitional government has reopened relations with international financial institutions and international donors, and President KABILA has begun implementing reforms. Much economic activity lies outside the GDP data. Economic stability improved in 2003-05, although an uncertain legal framework, corruption, and a lack of openness in government policy continues to hamper growth. In 2005, renewed activity in the mining sector, the source of most exports, boosted Kinshasa's fiscal position and GDP growth. Business and economic prospects are expected to improve once a new government is installed after elections.

head of government: President Joseph KABILA (since 26 January 2001); note - following the assassination of his father, Laurent Desire KABILA, on 16 January 2001, Joseph KABILA succeeded to the presidency; the president is both the chief of state and head of government.

cabinet:
National Executive Council appointed by the president.

elections: under the new constitution the president is elected by popular vote to a five-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held 30 July 2006 (first round; second round scheduled for 29 October 2006; next to be held in 2011)
election results: results of 30 July 2006 first round elections; Joseph KABILA 44.8%, Jean-Pierre BEMBA Gombo 20.0%, Antoine GIZENGA 13.1%, Francois Joseph MOBUTU Nzanga Ngangawe 4.8%, Oscar Kashala LUKUMUENDA 3.5%, 28 others 13.8%.

note: Joseph KABILA succeeded his father, Laurent Desire KABILA, following the latter's assassination in January 2001; negotiations with rebel leaders led to the establishment of a transitional government in July 2003 with free elections scheduled to be held 30 July 2006
A bicameral legislature consists of a National Assembly (500 seats; 60 elected by majority vote and 440 by open list proportional representation; members serve 5-year terms) and a Senate (120 seats; members elected by indirect vote to serve 5-year terms).

elections: NA; members of the National Assembly were appointed by leaders in the factions integrated into the new government; elections scheduled for 30 July 2006 will establish a new legislature under the February 2006 constitution
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