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: 18 December 2014
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.
Any British nationals in North Kivu, against FCO advice should keep their security situation under review. During fighting in the region in recent months, shells landed on Goma causing civilian deaths and injuries. There was also shelling around the border with Rwanda in late 2012 explosions in the town of Gisenyi on the Rwandan side of the border. You should avoid travelling around alone and at night.
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.
There were shooting incidents in Kinshasa on 30 December 2013 around the national TV and radio station RTNC, the airport and the main army barracks and Ministry of Defence at Ngaliema. There were also reports of fighting in Lubumbashi, Katanga Province and in Kindu, Maniema Province.
In Katanga Province there was unrest and reports of fighting on 7 January 2014. The situation remains tense across the province, particularly around the town of Pweto. You are therefore advised to exercise caution.
The airport in Kinshasa is operational again and airlines say that incoming flights have resumed. Check with your airline before travelling.
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.