About

Hi everyone and thanks for stopping by to read my blog. I know everyone seems to be writing a blog these days but as I have just undergone quite a dramatic change in my life, I thought, why don’t I join the blogger network?

So about me…

I’m a twenty something year old who up until August was enjoying a career in PR and communications in London, UK. However, as of October 2013, I became an official resident of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Why you may ask would a born and bred London girl, just making her mark on the world, suddenly up sticks and move to one of the most conflict countries in the world? Well, it so happens that my boyfriend works for the British Government and he found out in April that his job would lead him to Kinshasa, the country’s capital city, to help manage health programmes. Luckily for me he was able to take me along with him, so here I am, on an incredible journey to a place on earth which quite frankly most people would never even think of visiting.

When I began telling people of my decision to quit my job and move abroad to a country I have never been to, the most common reaction was ‘you’re going where?’ hence the name of my blog…

This blog will simply be an account of my time here. As I know it’s going to be a once in a lifetime experience I knew I had to record it and introduce this vibrant country to readers back home.

About DRC

Before this, if I heard the word Congo, I thought of three things: mountain gorillas, diamonds and Um Bongo. Does everyone remember that amazing drink? Well sorry to break it to you but I better do it now…they don’t drink Um Bongo in the Congo!

Once I started reading up about this country, I realised it has such a complex history that to explain it all here would take up the entire blog in itself. It is one of the most naturally rich countries in the world, but it is these natural resources that are also its curse. Colonialism, slavery, wars and corruption have all contributed to the state it’s in now, generally the lowest on most global indexes.

But let’s start with something more positive… DRC itself is huge, the size of Western Europe put together, genuinely massive. To get from one end to the other requires a 2 hour flight. It’s made up of a number of cities, rainforests, cultures and cars – there’s a lot of them here.

Here are some quick facts for you about DRC in comparison to the UK, to give an idea of what I’m talking about:

DRC

UK

Population

Estimated at over 75 million, around 7 million of those are in Kinshasa

Over 63 million

Number of ethnic groups

Over 200

6 main groups

Main religion

Christianity

Christianity

Official language

French (also a local language Lingala)

English

Average temperature

Minimum: 18°C

Maximum: 35°C

Minimum: -2°C

Maximum: 30°C

Average amount of rainfall a year

1,700mm

1,150mm

Unusual wildlife

Home to the rare bonobo monkeys and silverback mountain gorillas

Grey seal, red deer, red squirrels

Number of UNESCO World Heritage sites

5

28

Main exports

Coltan (for mobile phones), diamonds, gold, tin, copper, manganese (used in metal alloys)

Transport equipment, machinery, chemical products

Very briefly, what is now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo first came on the radar of the West in the 1870s when after exploration by Stanley (of “Dr Livingstone I presume” fame), the Belgian King Leopold II took over the country as his private colony. He named it the Congo Free State, but was really brutalising the local population to produce rubber which made him a fortune. This sparked international protests and eventually the country was sold to Belgium as a colony proper, with some small improvements in living conditions. When independence suddenly arrived in 1960, the Belgians left the country unable to manage its affairs sufficiently (there were only 8 Congolese university graduates at the time).  After the assassination of the country’s first democratically voted in Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, the army chief of staff, Joseph-Desiré Mobutu took leadership of the country, renaming it Zaire. Exploiting his US ally’s fear of communism, he ravished the country’s wealth and most of the West’s aid for 32 years, funding a glamorous lifestyle while the economy went into free-fall.  Finally in 1997, Rwanda – which was furious with Mobutu for sheltering many of those responsible for the 1994 genocide – invaded under the guise of a Congolese rebellion and Mobutu fled.  Laurent Kabila was installed as President and the country became the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Despite the world’s hope for a more just regime, corruption reigned.  Kabila was assassinated in 2001 and was succeeded by his son Joseph Kabila who started some economic reforms but failed to stop the vicious cycle of violence.  In the present day the capital city Kinshasa is fairly stable, but in the East of the country unrest continues, with millions of refugees displaced from their homes while different rebel groups remain at large. The UN and charities from across the globe are here supporting those in need and attempting to help the Government make this complex country a better place for its citizens. For a country that has come so far in such a short space of history, time will now tell what is in store for Congo.

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2 thoughts on “About

  1. Hi! I think your blog was one of the best I have bumped into about an expat life in DRC. It was a pleasure reading it but I think you left already… even though there is no end of chapter. I am moving to Kinshasa and I would love to know more about the daily life. DO you have any contacts there?

    • Hi Elisa, thank you so much for your comment. I have indeed left DRC and always meant to write an end chapter for this blog but never quite got round to it…you have inspired me to write it so come back again and there will be something for you! Most of my contacts have left DRC but I thoroughly recommend signing up to the British and USA Embassy newsletters as they have lots of information about things to do and events happening. The Institut Francais is also a good place for culture and meeting people. I had a wonderful time in Congo, there is a great expat community and you won’t be short of friends or things to discover. Best of luck!

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