Country Listing

Zaire Table of Contents



Zaire's precolonial past is characterized by considerable complexity. A diversity of social aggregates developed in Zaire, ranging from the small, autonomous groups of hunters and gatherers of the Ituri Forest in the northeast to the centralized chiefdoms and large-scale state systems of the savanna, from the settled village communities of the interior to the predominantly Muslim and Arab trading communities of the eastern region. In order to bring a measure of coherence to our understanding of this otherwise confusing mix of peoples and cultures and to appreciate their enduring political, economic, and social legacies, it is important to specify the broad criteria by which they can best be differentiated from each other. One criterion is the size and scope of the societies concerned; another concerns the ways in which power was distributed between rulers and ruled; a third focuses on the different impact of early Westernizing influences on their traditional social systems.

Data as of December 1993