- a large equatorial country in central Africa with a short coastline on the Atlantic Ocean; population 68,692,500 (est. 2009); languages, French (official), Kongo, Lingala, Swahili, and others; capital, Kinshasa. Also called Congo-Kinshasa. Former name (1971–97) Zaire.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is a former Belgian colony, which was known as the Congo Free State (1885–1908) and the Belgian Congo (1908–60). Independence in 1960 was followed by civil war and UN intervention. General Mobutu seized control in a coup in 1965 and changed the name of the country from the Republic of the Congo to Zaire in 1971. The country experienced a huge influx of refugees following the violence in Rwanda in 1994, and the first of three destructive civil wars broke out in 1996. Mobutu was overthrown in 1997 by Laurent Kabila, who changed the country’s name to the Democratic Republic of Congo