Congo’s population is estimated at 4.04 million, over half of which live in the two major cities of Brazzaville and Pointe- Noire. Rural exoduses since the 20th century and a sparse population have meant that three fourth of the population lives in urban areas, thus making Congo one of Africa’s most urbanized countries.
Almost all Congolese are Bantu, a name that refers to the people living in Central, Eastern and Southern Africa. The Bantu originated from Nigeria and Cameroon and migrated to Southern Africa 2,000 years ago. In present day Congo, non-Bantu tribes account for only 3% of the population. The Bantu include 74 peoples belonging to different ethnic groups such as the Kongo, the Teke, the Mbochi and the Sangha.
The Bakongo live in the south from Brazzaville to Pointe-Noire on the Atlantic coast. The Bakongo include the Lari around Brazzaville, the Vili near Pointe-Noire, the Yombe ( Bayombe) in the Mayombe Range, the Babembe, the Basoundi, the Bakamba and of course the Bakongo, after the powerful Kings of Kongo.
The Mbochi, another major ethnic group includes the Mbochi, Kouyou, Makoua, Bonga, Bobangi, Moye, Ngare and Mboko. They live in the north of the Plateaux department and in the Cuvette and Western Cuvette departments around Boundji, Owando, M’Bomo, Etoumbi, M’Bama, Mossaka, Oyo, Makoua and along navigable rivers such as Kouyou, Alima, Sangha and Likouala, that are gifted with well stocked fish. The Mbochi raise poultry, sheep and goats and catch fish in the rivers. They are also famous for being farmers and grow coffee, cocoa, tobacco and rice.
There are probably 30,000 Pygmies in Congo. Most live in the deep forests of the north (the Sangha and Likouala regions) and west ( the Chaillu Range). They live in small family units and practice mainly hunting to secure their livelihoods.
French is the official language of the Republic of Congo. However, native tongues such as Lingala and Munukutuba rank just behind French as national languages.
Short Lingala/Munukutuba Lexicon
|Mboté ya béno
|Kima ya kou noua
|Kima ya kou dia
Though Christianity is widespread in the Republic of Congo, traditional religions are still alive and quite widespread. Traditional religions are practiced by 2.2% of the Congolese population. These traditional religions believe in a main creator of all things- a supreme God and who is accessible to human beings after death. Traditional religions also account for a wide array of intermediaries such as spirits or ancestors, who are worshiped to obtain advice, healing, and good harvests.
Christianity is well established in the Republic of Congo. Around 50% of the Congolese population is Catholic while 40% of the population is Protestant. In the 1980's, countless other Christian factions emerged and have been allowed to operate freely. Many Catholic institutions such as the Seminary of Brazzaville , scout troops and sports organizations have been sponsored by the Archdiocese of Brazzaville. Pope John Paul II made an official visit to the Republic of Congo in May 1980. The Saint Anne Basilica situated in the center of Brazzaville exudes the beauty of the Catholic culture in the midst of a multi faith society.
In more recent times, several charismatic Christian preachers have drawn inspiration from televangelists such as Joyce Meyer, Binny Hinn and Paula White and have successfully established their ministries. Congolese charismatic pastor, Yvan Castanou, has been a prominent figure behind the Christian Evangelical movement in Congo. Many Congolese preachers have established TV stations and radio programs that air daily and discuss various religious topics. Charismatic evangelical preachers have also become famous for the quality of their Gospel music in local language. This Gospel music has become an integrated aspect of the Congolese entertainment scene.
While Christianity is the main religion in the Republic of Congo, Islam also holds a seat in the religious portfolio of the country with 1.3% of the population identifying themselves as Muslims. Most of the Muslims living in the Republic of Congo are descendants of West African immigrants. It is common to see mosques in major cities of the Republic of Congo where Muslims can worship freely.
Congolese cuisine is one of the most diversified in Central Africa. Combining a mixture of fresh vegetables, poultry, bush meat and sea food, the cuisine is famous for being nutritious and healthy. Some of the most famous recipes include:
- Maboké Fish Stew (Cat Fish): wrapped in marantaceae leaves cooked with green vegetables seasoned with piment (pepper). Maboké can be eaten with fufu or kwanga which are derived from cassava tuber or plantain (either fried or boiled). Fufu, Kwanga and Plaintains are often referred to as “the daily Congolese bread,” in popular culture.
- Saka Saka or Pondu: It is the national dish made up ground cassava leaves, palm oil, smoked fished and peanut butter. It could be eaten with bush meat or smoked fish. Plaintains, fufu and kwanga may also be eaten with Saka Saka.
- Moambe Chicken ( mossaka): Roasted chicken cooked in a thick sauce made from palm nuts extract.
- Moukalou: fish broth accompanied by coconut juice and peanut butter
In terms of cuisine, the Republic of Congo is also known for its Nganda restaurants. A Nganda restaurant is a place of entertainment that can be defined as a middle ground between a bar and a formal restaurant. It is reputed for serving food from different geographical regions of the Republic of Congo and is often geared to welcome different social classes such as artists, laborers, government officials, civil servants, students, and young professionals. In Nganda restaurants, people discuss entertainment, politics, culture, touristic adventures and family matters. It also showcases the ability of the Congolese society to intermingle with different social classes.