Fast Facts: Congo

• From 1971 until May 1997, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was known as the Republic of Zaire.

• The country's total area is 2,344,866 sq km (905,354 sq mi).

• Congo's population is comprised of more than 200 ethnic groups, about 80% of which are Bantu-speaking peoples. The largest single groups are the Kongo (or Bakongo), Mongo, Baluba, and Balunda.

• As of mid-1995, 1,085,000 people from Rwanda and 72,000 from Burundi had taken refuge in camps in Zaire/Congo.

• The population Congo, as of 1999 was estimated at 50,481,305.

• The capital and largest city is Kinshasa (formerly Léopoldville), with a 1995 population estimate of 4,241,000.

• About 70% of the people of Congo are nominally Christians -- and primarily Roman Catholic. Approximately 10% are Muslims, and most of the rest adhere to traditional animist beliefs.

• According to the constitution of 1978, Congo had a centralized presidential executive system with a unicameral legislature. Following the overthrow of Mobutu Sese Seko in May 1997, rebellion leader Laurent Kabila wielded autocratic power. Kabila also barred all political parties following his ascention.