The Republic of the Congo, formerly French Equatorial Africa, is located in west central Africa. This land of just over 132,000 square miles (342,000 square kilometers) has a population estimated in 1995 to be 2.5 million. There are two major cities in the Congo, Brazzaville, the capital and largest city, and Pointe-Noire, its Atlantic Ocean port. Most of the country consists of tropical rain forests or wooded savanna.
The major ethnic group are the Bakongo. Other principle groups are the Bateke, Mbochi, and Sanga. All are Bantu-speaking. Approximately one-half of the population follow traditional religions. Roman Catholicism is practiced by about 30%. The official language is French.
The region that is now the Congo was probably first inhabited by Pygmie tribes, and later by the Bakongo, Bateke, and Sanga groups. During the 15th through 17th centuries, Portuguese traders predominated in this region. Starting in 1889, the region was administered by the French, becoming a colony in French Equatorial Africa in 1910. The country achieved full independence in 1960.