Most people get confused whenever either of the two countries is separately referenced without the mention of the other. The puzzlement is often worsened when one only refers to either of the two neighbouring countries as ‘Congo’. While the names of the two countries share something in common, the two countries are not politically the same. Below is why;
The Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo are two distinct countries. Each has its own sovereignty and is independent of the other. On the international stage or the United Nations fora, the two countries are legitimately recognised as separate and with different governments. Kinshasa is the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo while Brazzaville is city where the government of the Republic of Congo seats. It is however mind blowing how close these two capital cities are yet having an entirely different government against a confusingly similar name.
At an apart distance of 8km, the two capital cities are arguably the closet capital cities in the world. Where one wants to go by car, the driving distance between Brazzaville and Kinshasa is 10.26 km. If you ride your car with an average speed of 112 kilometres/hour (70 miles/h), travel time will be 00 hours 05 minutes. This translates to approximately a 2 kilometre difference in distance which one has to ‘endure’ when travelling by car as opposed to boarding a plane.
In strict sense however, the two twin countries are factually and historically the same. Both the residents of the D.R.C and those of the Republic of Congo share a common cultural heritage, identity, and lifestyle. Cassava, fufu, rice, plantain and potatoes are generally the staple foods eaten by both countries and are of course served with other African dishes. This variety is widely renowned as the Congolese cuisine since it applies to both countries with little to no disparity in terms of local preparation.
From a historical perspective, the process of colonisation tore apart the unity of the Congolese people. The larger of the two Congos, the Democratic Republic of Congo was formerly known as Zaire and earlier known as the Belgian Congo being a colony of Belgium. The smaller one, the Republic of the Congo, or Congo Brazzaville used to be the French territory Middle Congo. The name Congo stems from the Bakongo, a Bantu tribe that populates both areas, thereby reflecting that nationals inhabiting both countries share a common origin. Interestingly, both countries got their independence in 1960.
While political rivalry between governments often rocks the fraternity of these two countries, the general mass appreciate the common heritage that both nations share. Professor Kambayi Bwatshi who once lectured at the University of Kinshasa and was privy to the political development of regimes in both countries also makes similar suggestions. According to him, “populations of Brazzaville and Kinshasa have never seen the river Congo as a wall, a closure … but as a passage, a route for coming and going to see a friend, a brother, a partner. The two peoples are one and the same, sharing politics, economics, commerce, spirituality and faiths.”
Bwatshia believes the divisions between the twin cities are a legacy of European imperialism. “It was the colonial powers which created this divide, a divide which entered into the spirit of people, as it has done elsewhere across Africa,” he says. It should be emphasized therefore that the two Congo countries were historically a centralised State. The whims of colonial intervention and the divide and rule antics created a gap between the two countries, at least from a political ideological angle.
The busy travelling routine on the River Zaire portrays otherwise since there exists an exchange of commerce and recreation between the two countries. Nationals from either countries cross to and from Kinshasa and Brazzaville for a consortium of reasons. This oneness as least points that the Africans in both countries appreciate the unity that once obtained prior to the infamous Berlin Conference and the subsequent exploitation they suffered from the imperialists.