Republic of the Congo
Map Courtesy CIA World Factbook
The Republic of the Congo, also known as Middle Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, and Congo (but not to be confused with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire, which was also at one time known as the Republic of the Congo), is a former French colony of west-central Africa. Its borders are Gabon, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Gulf of Guinea. Upon independence in 1960, the former French region of Middle Congo became the Republic of the Congo. A quarter century of experimentation with Marxism was abandoned in 1990 and a democratically elected government installed in 1992. A brief civil war in 1997 restored former Marxist President Denis Sassou-Nguesso. The capital is Brazzaville.
First settled by Mbuti, Congo was later settled by Bantu groups that also occupied parts of present-day Angola, Gabon, and Democratic Republic of the Congo, forming the basis for ethnic affinities and rivalries among those states. Several Bantu kingdoms -- notably those of the Kongo, the Loango, and the Teke -- built trade links leading into the Congo River basin. The first European contacts came in the late 15th century, and commercial relationships were quickly established with the kingdoms--trading for slaves captured in the interior. The coastal area was a major source for the transatlantic slave trade, and when that commerce ended in the early 19th century, the power of the Bantu kingdoms eroded.