Republic. Gained independence from Belgium in 1960.
Head of state:
President Joseph Kabila since 2001.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo Mapon since 2012.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs with two round pins are used.
Congo has many beautiful landscapes, with lakes and forests, waterfalls and wildlife. However, this is a vast country, with an almost non-existent transport infrastructure. It is mired in conflict and a long and intricate history.
A five-year civil war from 1998 to 2003 resulted in the deaths of around 3 million people, not only through the fighting itself, but also through hunger and disease.
Joseph Kabila, son of assassinated former president Laurent Kabila, was installed as president in 2001 and elected by the people in a historic presidential election in 2006. He now faces the formidable job of bringing back some level of normality to this scarred country, where the threat of civil war has not disappeared.
Visitors are advised to check the latest travel advice before visiting
Last updated: 30 January 2015
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to eastern and north eastern DRC. The only exceptions to this are the towns of Bukavu and Goma, to which the FCO advise against all but essential travel. The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the remainder of the DRC.
A draft electoral reform bill was introduced to parliament on 12 January. On 19 January violent demonstrations outside parliament quickly spread to other areas of Kinshasa and shots were fired. This led to several schools being closed and movement around the city being restricted. Credible reports indicate that between 5 and 30 people were killed as a result of the violence, including 2 members of the police. There were also reports of violent demonstrations, looting and general unrest in other areas of the country, including in Goma, Bukavu, Mbandaka, Lubumbashi and Bas-Congo.
Protests continued on 20, 21 and 22 January and troops were deployed to the streets of Kinshasa to maintain order. There were reports of unrest on the main airport road on 20 and 21 January.
Demonstrators in Goma erected barricades on 22 January and there was a heavy police presence in the town. There were also reports of demonstrations in Lubumbashi.
On 23 January the electoral reform bill was amended by the Senate, and on 25 January the National Assembly approved the amended bill. There have been no reports of further demonstrations connected to the electoral reform bill.
The possibility of further demonstrations and unrest remains. Be vigilant, listen to local TV and radio broadcasts, and monitor the situation in your area closely. Avoid unnecessary journeys during periods of potential unrest. Avoid the area around the parliament in Kinshasa and stay away from gathering crowds. Protests may quickly turn violent without warning. Take extra care at night.
The airport in Kinshasa is open. In the event of escalating tensions and civil unrest further commercial flights may be suspended and borders closed. Check with your airline before travelling.
The security situation in eastern DRC remains unstable. While British staff do visit Goma, there are not always British staff in the area, and our ability to offer consular assistance is therefore severely limited.
The lack of infrastructure throughout the country and continued insecurity in eastern DRC may prevent the British Embassy in Kinshasa from being able to extend normal levels of consular assistance to British nationals anywhere in DRC other than Kinshasa.
Street crime and robbery, including by individuals posing as plain clothes police, is common. Beware of gangs promising you cut price gold and diamonds. International non-governmental organisations in Kinshasa and Goma have been targeted.
Keep a low profile and avoid any large crowds and demonstrations. Stay alert to local political developments.