Centrally-located in Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) is a vast landmass with rich resources; these have, however, been key contributors to the violence that have wracked the country since its independence from Belgium in 1960.
Formerly the Congo Free State ruled by Belgian King Leopold II, formal independence with the inauguration of the charismatic Patrice Lumumba as the first elected leader of the country led to a period of civil war as the mineral-rich province of Katanga seceded. The brutal arrest and murder of Lumumba--and the complicity of Western nations--has been the subject of numerous books and films, including Raoul Peck's 2000 film and artist Sven Augustijnen's recent documentary. V.Y. Mudimbe's Before the Birth of the Moon (1976) is set during the tumultuous period under President Joseph Kasavubu following Lumumba's assassination.
Joseph Mobutu, who renamed the DR Congo as Zaire, imposed an authoritarian rule over the country from 1965 to 1997. From 1998 to 2003, in what has been called Africa's world war, the DR Congo has been the site of conflict between the government and rebels, with involvement by the neighbouring armies of Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, and Rwanda. Since 2006, Joseph Kabila became president in 2001 after the assassination of his father and has since won two elections, in 2006 and, controversially, in 2011.
The Belgian Congo has been the subject of numerous books and films, including Graham Green's A Burnt-Out Case and Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible. Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness--perhaps the best-known book about the Congo region--exposes the horrors of European imperialism. V.S. Naipaul's A Bend in the River centres on corruption in an unnamed country along the Congo River. In non-fiction, Adam Hochschild's Shadow of the Congo exposes the oppressive history of the Belgian Congo.
In film, Congolese cinema has been gaining recognition. Congolese Rachel Mwanza won the Best Actress award at the 2012 Berlinale for her role in Rebelle, a Canadian film about war in the Congo. Mwezé Ngangura's Pièces d'Identités won the top prize at the 1999 FESPACO. Director Djo Tunda Wa Munga won acclaim for his 2010 film Viva Riva!