Why there are two Congos in Africa

Nii Ntreh Apr 25, 2020 at 01:00pm

April 25, 2020 at 01:00 pm | History

Nii Ntreh

Nii Ntreh | Associate Editor

April 25, 2020 at 01:00 pm | History

Congo Brazzaville and DR Congo used to be one territory. Photo Credit: African Insider via Youtube

It is actually one of the most consistently-asked questions on the internet about the African continent yet why there are two Congos is not something most people know.

The two countries are neighbors in central Africa. The Democratic Republic of Congo, the second-largest country on the continent by landmass, is to the east of the Republic of Congo, or Congo Brazzaville.

The name of both countries come from the Kongo, a Bantu people known to have lived in the region since the 12th century. From the 1500s, the Kongo people, or Bakongo, were a centralized state.

But as early modern Europeans would have it in the scramble for Africa, the unity of the Bakongo was defiled at the table of Otto von Bismark of the infamous Berlin Conference.

Many Western historians caution against overemphasizing the significance of Berlin for Africans. Indeed, it is quite common to read among scholars that the conference was a diplomatic tactic Germany took as part of reinventing itself as an imperial power.

But it would be intellectually dishonest to downplay what the conference held for Africans and how it has irrevocably shaped the lives of close to two billion people on the continent.

The Bakongo were split under French and Belgian controls when much of central Africa was decided to be the domain of both countries.

The share of the land the Belgian King Leopold II got from that conference, he called the Congo Free State from 1885. The land was the personal property of Leopold and he was mandated to do with it what he pleased.

In 1908, the land became the property of the Belgium government.

The other half of the Bakongo under French rule had their lands referred to as the French Congo, and later, the Middle Congo from 1903.

Both territories gained independence in 1960. While the Belgian half became the Democratic Republic, the French Congo became Congo-Brazzaville.

The two countries recognize their historical and ethnic connections and are two of the closest partners on the continent.

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