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DR Congo - People

The US Census Bureau International Data Base estimates the population of Congo (Kinshasa) in 2015 at 79,375,000, in 2025 at 99,162,000, and in 2050 at 144,805,000. As many as 200-250 Sudanese, Nilotic, and Bantu ethnic groups have been distinguished and named; small groups of aboriginal Pygmies are found throughout the central Congo Basin. Some of the larger groups are the Kongo, Luba, Tetela, and Anamongo. Although some 700 local languages and dialects are spoken, the linguistic variety is bridged both by the use of French and by the national languages of Kikongo, Tshiluba, Kiswahili, and Lingala.

The Congolese people are made up of around 200-250 separate ethnic groups. These ethnic groups generally were concentrated regionally and spoke distinct languages. There was no majority ethnic group, but some of the larger ethnic groups were the Luba, Kongo and Anamongo. Societal discrimination on the basis of ethnicity was widely practiced by members of virtually all ethnic groups and was evident in private hiring and buying patterns and in patterns of de facto ethnic segregation in some cities. In large cities, however, intermarriage across ethnic and regional divides was common.

A few ethnic and regional issues confront the DRC. The question of inclusion of Congolese Tutsi, including the Banyamulenge, continues to be a source of conflict in eastern DRC. Although Kinyarwanda-speaking people have lived in the DRC for centuries, considerable movement of peoples between Rwanda and the DRC raised questions about the citizenship of Rwandophone populations even before the 1994 genocide in Rwanda drove hundreds of thousands of additional refugees into the Kivus.

The involvement of many Congolese Tutsi in the rebel movements sponsored by the Rwandan military in 1996 and 1998 and claims that Rwanda continues to be behind the more recent groups, CNDP and M23 continue to raise doubts about the national loyalties of Congolese Tutsi for many other Congolese, while the Congolese Tutsi themselves fear persecution if Rwanda were to stop defending their interests. Meanwhile, the FDLR, the Hutu group founded by Rwanda Hutu exiles, gained many Congolese Hutu members and comes into conflict with the Congolese Tutsi groups, Mai-Mai militias, and Congolese government forces.

Another ethnic/regional issue that remains salient is discrimination against the Luba-Kasai, members of the Luba ethnic group from Kasai region who were historically among the more prosperous groups in the DRC. Since the Mobutu era, the Luba-Kasai have experienced discrimination and occasionally violence. Observers have been shocked at how neglected Mbuji-Mayi was even compared to the low level of development in other Congolese cities.

Marginalization and discrimination remain problems for some other ethnic groups, particularly those such as the Pygmies that are less numerous.

Trafficking in persons (TIP) is a global crime that involves the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of exploitation In its 2014 TIP Report, the U.S. Government ranke the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on the lowest tier ranking, Tier 3, a position it has held since 2010 when it dropped from the Tier 2 Watch List. The DRC is a source and destination country for women, men, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The TIP Report cites that the majority of this trafficking is internal, and armed groups and criminal elements of government forces in the country's unstable eastern provinces perpetuate much of it. The Report also calls particular attention to trafficking in persons in the artisanal mining sector.

A typical Congolese household includes not only immediate family, but generally also includes extended family and sometimes those not related by blood. The Congolese interpret family in a much broader sense than Westerners. Children are considered a sign of prosperity and good fortune for the community, so families are often large, with a fertility rate of 5 children born per Congolese woman. Care and discipline of children are considered shared responsibilities of the whole community, therefore it is not uncommon for adults who are not biologically related to a child to correct poor behavior and provide input on their upbringing.

In the past, gender roles have typically been well defined, with men protecting and providing for the family and women traditionally taking care of children and tending to household chores. However, as the conflict in DRC expanded in the mid-1990s, traditional roles began to change as women were forced to become the primary source of financial support for the family. It is no longer uncommon for Congolese women to work outside of the home, usually selling handcrafts or running small businesses. While education is accessible to both genders in urban areas, there continues to be a male bias and women still tend to remain unequal in most sectors of society.

One study estimated that 48 women are raped every hour in DRC, which is a little over 1,150 women a day. According to a population-based study conducted in the eastern DRC in 2010, rates of reported sexual violence were 40% among women, and 24% among men. In addition to sexual violence, 20% of the adult population in the study reported serving as combatants at some point in their lifetime, the majority of whom reported being conscripted into armed groups. The brutality of such sexual violence has resulted in unprecedented rates of trauma, physical injury including fistula, pregnancy, infertility, genital mutilation, and HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. 50% of rape victims in the DRC are believed not to have access to medical treatment.

The current life expectancy is 43 years, in part because the DRC suffers from high rates of tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and malaria. USAID reports that 2 of every 10 children born in the DRC die before their fifth birthday and that the maternal death rate is the worlds highest. An international group of donor nations concluded that the DRCs educational system is failing and that most rural children do not attend school.

Before independence in 1960, education was largely in the hands of religious groups. The primary school system was well developed at independence; however, the secondary school system was limited, and higher education was almost nonexistent in most regions of the country. The principal objective of this system was to train low-level administrators and clerks. Since independence, efforts have been made to increase access to education, and secondary and higher education have been made available to many more Congolese.

According to 2010 estimates, gross enrollment rates were 90.76% for primary education, 36.5% for secondary education and 4.6% for higher education. At all levels of education, males greatly outnumber females. The largest state-run universities are the University of Kinshasa, the University of Lubumbashi, and the University of Kisangani. The elite continue to send their children abroad to be educated, primarily in Western Europe.

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