By Joseph R. Oppong, Tania Woodruff, Charles F. Gritzner

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They were unaware about the conference held thousands of miles away in a distant continent and were unaware that their lives were about to tragically change. EUROPEAN CONTROL UNDER KING LEOPOLD King Leopold made the newly claimed territory his own private estate and named it the Congo Free State. In an attempt to better develop its economy, he began a number of construction projects. The most ambitious was a railway that ran from the coast to Léopoldville (now Kinshasa). All of his projects were designed for a sole purpose, to facilitate the extraction and export of resources from the colony.

Since this early Bantu invasion, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has experienced an almost-constant flow of other people and 32 032-044_MWN-DR-CON_03 9/6/07 4:26 PM Page 33 The Congo Through Time cultures into the region. Migrants arrived from many different places, including the Darfur and Kordofan regions of Sudan, and other parts of East Africa. This added to the mix of ethnic groups in the DRC. In this chapter, you will explore the major kingdoms that shaped the present-day nation and learn why it has always been a land of civil unrest.

Mobutu worked hard to increase his personal fortune at the expense of his country and its people. S. dollars, most of which was safely stashed away in Swiss banks. This figure was about the same amount as the country’s foreign debt at the time. In 1989, the government defaulted on international loans from Belgium. Amazingly, the Congo was the world’s fourthlargest producer of industrial diamonds during the 1980s. Yet because of widespread corruption and the diversion of public resources for personal gain, the country’s economy continued to decline.

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