192-Part Guide To The World: The Congo

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The Independent Travel

Official Name: Republic of Congo. One of two neighbouring countries with Congo as their official short-form name (the other being the Democratic Republic of Congo), differentiated by foreigners by the names of their respective capitals: Congo (Brazzaville) and Congo (Kinshasa).

Official Name: Republic of Congo. One of two neighbouring countries with Congo as their official short-form name (the other being the Democratic Republic of Congo), differentiated by foreigners by the names of their respective capitals: Congo (Brazzaville) and Congo (Kinshasa).

Language: Officially French, but Kongo languages and the local patois of Monokutuba and Lingala are common.

Population: Estimated at 2,668,000, comprising 15 ethnic groups (predominantly Bantu) and 75 tribes. The Kongo account for about 45 per cent, the Bateke 20 per cent, and the Mboshi about 16 per cent of the population.

Size: 132,046 square miles, half of which is rainforest. Belgium would fit into it about 11 times.

National Dish: Chicken dishes such as yassa (with lemon), nsusu na buha (with groundnut paste), piri piri (with pepper) are typical, served with rice and spinach. Other traditional ingredients include cassava or manioc, banana, plantain, groundnut paste and ginger.

Best Monument: Brazzaville is situated on the west side of Malebo Pool on the river Congo. Sights include a house constructed for General Charles de Gaulle, when he was the leader of Free France, as a possible base for anti-Nazi resistance during the Second World War.

Most Famous Citizen: "Famous" is not exactly the word, but Pascal Lissouba , the former president of Congo, who now lives in Britain, became briefly notorious last year after allegations in national newspapers that he was using his London HQ as a base for a possible military operation to seize back power.

Best Moment In History: After a long series of coups, Pascal Lissouba became the country's first democratically elected president in 1992.

Worst Moment In History: Plenty to choose from. As recently as 1996, "butchery" on the streets led France to withdraw its troops after evacuating thousands of foreign nationals caught up in political conflict. Since then, various militia groups have been fighting government troops, resulting in hundreds of thousands of refugees, casualties and deaths.

Essential Accessories: Food and medicine.

What Not To Do: Go there. The Foreign Office advises against all non-essential travel to the country, and recent flooding has raised fears of a cholera outbreak.

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