The Belgian colonizers transformed Congo into a slave-state for rubber and ivory. The so-called Congo Free State (État indépendant du Congo) existed as a private colony of King Leopold II (1835-1909) until the Belgian government took over in 1908. Belgian rule killed an estimated 10 million people. Post-independence, the country split into what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, known for a time as Zaire,) and the Republic of Congo (a.k.a., Congo-Brazzaville).
This article mainly concerns the DRC, which has a population of 91 million. With a GDP of just $50 billion a year and an extreme poverty rate of over 70 percent, it is one of the poorest nations on Earth. The infant mortality rate is 66 per 1,000 live births—one of the worst in the world, life expectancy is 60 years, and per 100k people maternal mortality is over 690. Conflicts from 1996 to the present, plus the resultant malnutrition and disease, have killed six million people.