The Democratic Republic of Congo (/ˈkɒŋɡoʊ/; French: République démocratique du Congo [kɔ̃ɡo]), also known as DR Congo, DRC, the former Belgian Congo, East Congo, Congo-Kinshasa or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa. It is sometimes referred to by its former name of Zaire, which was its official name between 1971 and 1997. The DRC borders the Central African Republic and South Sudan to the north; Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to the east; Zambia to the south; Angola to the southwest; and the Republic of the Congo and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. It is the second-largest country in Africa (largest in Sub-Saharan Africa) by area and 11th largest in the world. With a population of over 78 million, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the most populated officially Francophone country, the fourth most-populated nation in Africa, and the 17th most populated country in the world.
The territory of the DRC was first settled by humans around 90,000 years ago. Bantu peoples began migrating into the region in the 5th century and again in the 10th century. In the West of the region, the Kingdom of Kongo ruled from the 14th to 19th centuries, while in the centre and East of the region, the kingdoms of Luba and Lunda ruled from the 16th and 17th centuries to the 19th century. In the 1870s, just before the onset of the Scramble for Africa, European exploration of the Congo was carried out, first led by Henry Morton Stanley under the sponsorship of King Leopold II of Belgium. Leopold formally acquired rights to the Congo territory at the Berlin Conference in 1885 and made the land his private property, naming it the Congo Free State. During the Free State, the colonial military unit, the Force Publique, forced the local population into producing rubber, and from 1885 to 1908, millions of Congolese died as a consequence of disease and exploitation. In 1908, Belgium, despite initial reluctance, formally annexed the Free State, which became the Belgian Congo.
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