A country that once epitomised the brutality of the European scramble for Africa, the Congo can firmly lay the sorrows of generations of colonial oppression at the feet of two men, Henry Morton Stanley and King Leopold II of Belgium. It was Stanley’s river journey in 1874 that opened up the African interior to exploration and exploitation, something that Leopold was keen to monopolise, as he turned the country into his own private kingdom for over two decades. Even after pressure from other European powers forced the Belgian parliament to declare the territory a Belgium colony in 1908, European involvement in the country continued to be largely one of brutality and exploitation.
In 1960 a growing nationalist movement under Patrice Lumumba gained independence, paving the way for what many hoped would be a democratic future for the old Belgian colony. Rich in natural resources and staggering beauty, independence was, unfortunately, followed by decades of civil unrest, corruption and political repression.
Today the Congo still has plenty of problems, but there are areas, particularly along the banks and tributaries of the mighty Congo River, that offer the adventurous traveller a chance for some true off-the-beaten-track encounters and, as usual, Wild Frontiers are at the forefront of trail-blazing these new routes.
Buy some gifts for the Pygmies before visiting them, like t-shirts.