Congo (ROC)

Official name : Republic of the Congo (ROC)

Area: 342,000 square kilometers (132,047 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Berongou (903 meters/2,963 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Eastern, Northern, and Southern

Time zone: 1 P.M. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 1,287 kilometers (800 miles) from north-northeast to south-southwest; 402 kilometers (250 miles) from east-southeast to west-northwest

Land boundaries: 5,504 kilometers (3,420 miles) total boundary length; Cameroon 523 kilometers (325 miles); Central African Republic 467 kilometers (290 miles); Democratic Republic of the Congo 2,410 kilometers (1,498 miles); Angola 201 kilometers (125 miles); Gabon 1,903 kilometers (1,182 miles)

Coastline: 169 kilometers (105 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 363 kilometers ( 200 nautical miles)

1 LOCATION AND SIZE

The Republic of the Congo (ROC) is located along the equator in West Africa, between Angola and Gabon and bordering the South Atlantic Ocean. It also shares borders with Cameroon and Central African Republic to the north and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC) to the east. With an area of 342,000 square kilometers (132,047 square miles), ROC is slightly smaller than the state of Montana. The country is divided into nine regions and one commune.

2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES

ROC has no outside territories or dependencies.

3 CLIMATE

ROC has a tropical climate characterized by constantly high temperatures and humidity. At Brazzaville in the south, the average daily maximum temperature is 30°C (86°F) and the average minimum temperature is 20°C (68°F). At Souanke, in the far north, the extremes are 29°C (84°F) and 18°C (64°F).

There are two wet and two dry seasons. In the south there is a rainy season from October to December, a short dry season in January, another rainy season from March to June, and a long dry season from June to October. In the north, the seasons are reversed. Annual rainfall varies from 105 centimeters (41 inches) at Pointe-Noir in the southwest, to 185 centimeters (73 inches) at Impfondo in the northeast. The equator region receives rain throughout the year.

4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS

The country may be divided into four topographical regions. The coastal plain stretches northeast until it reaches the forested Mayombe Escarpment. The escarpment borders a vast plateau region to the north and east, sometimes called the Central Highlands. Still farther northeast lies an expansive lowland area that includes a good part of the Congo Basin.

5 OCEANS AND SEAS

Seacoast and Undersea Features

ROC has a coastline of 169 kilometers (105 miles) along the Atlantic Ocean.

Sea Inlets and Straits

ROC's coastline has no major harbors or ports.

Islands and Archipelagos

There are no coastal islands, though many alluvial islands are found throughout the river systems, especially the Congo and Ubangi Rivers and their tributaries.

Coastal Features

The coastal region is a vast, dry plain that is virtually treeless except in scattered areas. It stretches for about 160 kilometers (100 miles) along the south Atlantic coast and reaches inland approximately 64 kilometers (40 miles). The Antarctic (Benguela) Current, flowing from the south, enhances the formation of sand spits along the coastal plain. In addition to mangrove-fringed lagoons, lakes and rivers dot this region, with accompanying marshland and heavy vegetation in low-lying areas.

6 INLAND LAKES

The Stanley Pool (Malebo Pool) is a lake formed by the widening of the Congo River. It lies between the borders of the ROC and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and covers an area that is about 35 kilometers (22 miles) long and 23 kilometers (14 miles) wide. The capital cities of both the ROC and the DROC are located on the shores of Stanley Pool.

7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS

The Congo River is the longest river in the ROC, the second-longest river in Africa, and the sixth-longest river in the world, with a total length of about 4,344 kilometers (2,700 miles). It covers a stretch of 800 kilometers (496 miles) along the eastern border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC). It is formed by the waters of the Upper Congo (Lualaba River) and its tributary, the Luava River, both of which begin at the southeast border of the DROC.

The Congo River and its tributaries historically have provided vital transportation routes for commercial trade. The Congo River is also an important source for hydroelectric power.

The ROC rivers of Likoula, Sangha, and Ubangi (Oubangui) are all tributaries of the Congo River. Located in the northern part of the country, these are also the major rivers that make up the Congo Basin lowland region, which covers an area of about 155,400 square kilometers (60,000 square miles). It consists of flat, swampy valleys and low divides descending east and southeast from the western hills to the Congo River. Seasonal flooding occurs throughout the regions, with some areas existing as permanent wetlands.

The Niari and Kouilou Rivers in the southern coastal plain also create wetlands in that region.

8 DESERTS

There are no desert regions in the ROC.

9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN

Only about 29 percent of the land in the ROC is considered to be permanent pasture.

The Niari Valley, north of the Niari River, was originally covered with tall grasses and savannah, but has been extensively cleared for agriculture and industry.

Inland from the seacoast and from the lower reaches of the Crystal Mountains (on the Gabon border), the land rises somewhat abruptly to a series of eroded hills and sharp ridges known as the Mayombe Escarpment. Ridge peaks reach elevations of about 487 to 610 meters (1,600 to 2,000 feet). Deep gorges have been cut in these ridges by the swift Kouilou River and its tributaries.

10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES

Mount Berongou, ROC's highest point, is located in the upper reaches of the Crystal Mountains on the border with Gabon. It rises to about 903 meters (2,963 feet).

11 CANYONS AND CAVES

ROC has no major canyons or caves.

12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS

The Central Highlands encompass the area generally known as the Batéké Plateau and extend for approximately 129,500 square kilometers (50,000 square miles) over the south-central portion of the country. This region is characterized predominantly by rounded, low hills of less than 305 meters (1,000 feet) elevation and by scattered rolling plains. In the northern part of this sector, however, toward the lower Gabon border, the hills are steeper, and crests rise as high as 823 meters (2,700 feet) above sea level. Deep valleys separate individual plateaus; these ravines carry the eastward-flowing tributaries of the Congo River. Savannah and grasslands cover much of the central plateau plains.

13 MAN-MADE FEATURES

Hydroelectricity, harnessed through dams built on the ROC's rivers, are a primary source of power for the nation. Two of the most significant hydroelectric dams are built on the Bouenza and Djoué Rivers.

14 FURTHER READING

Books

Africa South of the Sahara 2000: Congo . London: Europa Publications Ltd, 1999.

Bernier, Donald W. Area Handbook for the People's Republic of the Congo . Area Handbook Series. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1971.

Decalo, Samuel, Virginia Thompson, and Richard Adloff. Historical Dictionary of the Congo . African Historical Dictionaries #69. Landham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1996.

Web Sites

Discovery Channel Online: Congo (Brazzaville). http://www.school.discovery.com (accessed March 18, 2003).

World Factbook, CIA. http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/ (accessed March 18, 2003).

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