Two countries for one name. Congo-Brazzaville and Congo-Kinshasa do not have the same flag, but they have shared a common name for many years. Originally, a prosperous kingdom ...
Two countries, but a confusing name. It is difficult for some to differentiate between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo, which we also readily nickname Congo-Kinshasa and Congo-Brazzaville respectively, from the name of their capitals, for the sake of simplicity.
There was a time when confusion was impossible. First called Belgian Congo, between 1908 and 1960, the current DRC was renamed Zaire from 1971 to 1997. Nothing to do with the former French Congo, therefore, whose name changed in 1910.
To understand why these two countries are called today Congo, we must go back to the XNUMXth century. At that time, several political territories occupied the current territory of the two Congos, including Kongo, a prosperous kingdom which would therefore be at the origin of the name.
"Tuele ku Ngo"
But where does the name Kongo come from? Author of the "Dictionary of the origin of names and nicknames of African countries", Arol Ketchiemen indicates that the name of the kingdom comes from an expression used by the local populations who, in case of danger, took refuge in the "leopard", the king of the territory. "Tuele ku Ngo", she chanted then - understand "We are going to the leopard". A sentence which, shortened, would have given its name to the kingdom of Kongo.
The Kongo kingdom is located in the south of the Republic of the Congo and in the far west of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But the territory also encroaches on current Angola and Gabon.
Besides the fact of having given its name to the two neighboring countries, the kingdom of Kongo was also at the origin of the baptism of the river which separates Kinshasa and Brazzaville. Formerly known as Nzaï, it was renamed by Portuguese explorers at the end of the XNUMXth century, Congo River. But the name Nzaï has also long remained important in the history of the region, since it was he who had given Mobutu the idea of naming his country… Zaire.
An astonishing decision. Although he tried by all means to erase the traces of colonization, Mobutu opted for the name Zaire, which nevertheless recalled the arrival of Westerners in the region. It was not until 1997, and the arrival of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (AFDL) and Joseph Kabila in power, for Zaire to become the Democratic Republic of the Congo again, thus erasing the action of General Mobutu, who had however opted for the word Zaire, in the hope of avoiding any confusion between the DRC and the neighboring Congolese Republic.