The Democratic Republic of the Congo (; French pronunciation: [kɔ̃ɡo]; French: République démocratique du Congo), also known as DR Congo, DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa. The DRC borders the Central African Republic and South Sudan to the north; Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to the east; Zambia and Angola to the south; the Republic of the Congo to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the southwest. It is the second-largest country in Africa by area and eleventh largest in the world. With a population of over 80 million, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the most populated officially Francophone country, the fourth most-populated nation in Africa and the eighteenth most populated country in the world.
The territory of the DR Congo was first settled by humans around 90,000 years ago. Bantu peoples began migrating into the region in the 5th century and again in the 10th century. In the West of the region the Kingdom ...
of Kongo ruled from the 14th to 19th centuries, while in the centre and East of the region, the kingdoms of Luba and Lunda ruled from the 16th and 17th centuries to the 19th century. In the 1870s, before the initial onset of the Scramble for Africa, European exploration of the Congo was carried out, first led by Sir Henry Morton Stanley under the sponsorship of King Leopold II of Belgium. Leopold formally acquired rights to the Congo territory at the Conference of Berlin in 1885 and made the land his private property. He named it the Congo Free State. During the Free State, the colonial military unit, the Force Publique, forced the local population into producing rubber, and from 1885 to 1908 millions of Congolese died as a consequence of disease and exploitation. In 1908 Belgium, despite initial reluctance, formally annexed the Free State from Leopold, which became the Belgian Congo.
The Belgian Congo achieved independence on 30 June 1960 under the name Republic of the Congo (Léopoldville). Congolese nationalist Patrice Lumumba was elected the first Prime Minister, while Joseph Kasa-Vubu became the first President. Conflict arose over the administration of the territory which became known as the Congo Crisis. The provinces of Katanga, under Moïse Tshombe, and South Kasai attempted to secede from the Congo. On 5 September 1960, Kasa-Vubu dismissed Lumumba from office, encouraged by the United States and Belgium after Lumumba turned to the Soviet Union for assistance in the crisis. On 14 September, with U.S. and Belgian support, Lumumba was arrested by forces loyal to Army Chief of Staff Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, who had gained de facto control over the country through a coup d'état the same day, and on 17 January 1961 Lumumba was handed over to Katangan authorities and executed by Belgian-led Katangese troops.
In 1965 Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, who later renamed himself Mobutu Sese Seko, officially came into power through a second coup. In 1971 he renamed the country Zaire. The country was run as a one-party state with his Popular Movement of the Revolution as the sole legal party. Mobutu's government received considerable support from the United States due to its anti-communist stance during the Cold War. By the early 1990s Mobutu's government began to weaken. Disenfranchisement of the eastern Congolese Tutsi population led to a 1996 invasion led by Tutsi-ruled Rwanda, which began the First Congo War. The war led to the end of Mobutu's 32-year rule, and on 17 May 1997 Laurent-Désiré Kabila, a leader of Tutsi forces from the province of South Kivu, became President, reverting the name of the country to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Tensions between President Kabila and the Rwandan and Tutsi presence in the country led to the Second Congo War from 1998 to 2003. Ultimately, nine African countries and around twenty armed groups became involved in the war, which resulted in the deaths of 5.4 million people. The two wars devastated the country. President Laurent-Désiré Kabila was assassinated by one of his bodyguards on 16 January 2001 and was succeeded eight days later as President by his son Joseph Kabila.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is extremely rich in natural resources but has had political instability, a lack of infrastructure, issues with corruption and centuries of both commercial and colonial extraction and exploitation with little holistic development. Besides the capital Kinshasa, the two next largest cities Lubumbashi and Mbuji-Mayi are both mining communities. DR Congo's largest export is raw minerals, with China accepting over 50% of DRC's exports in 2012. As of 2016, according to the Human Development Index (HDI), DR Congo's level of human development ranks 176 out of 187 countries.