Provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo Kinshasa)

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Fabien Antoine gave me a reference that shows that the reorganization under the new constitution has been passed into law.

The Democratic Republic of Congo promulgated its new constitution on 2006-02-18. Article 2 specified that the country would be subdivided into Kinshasa city and 25 provinces. Kinshasa has equal status to a province. The new provinces' boundaries are based on those of the provinces and districts in effect at the end of the colonial era.

The constitution allowed 36 months for the new provinces to be organized. That didn't happen. Instead, a law was passed on 2011-01-20 whose effect is to give the legislature the authority to set up the new provinces. The current plan is to phase them in. The new provinces are listed below. Populations are from sources [1] and [2], but with some corrections to discrepancies in those sources. The result is still very likely an overestimate. It implies, among other things, that the population of Katanga has grown by a factor of 2.58 since the 1998 estimate shown below.

ISO 3166-2 Newsletter Number I-2 was published on 2002-05-21. It shows the name and code for a province changed from Haut-Congo (HC) to Orientale (OR), and the status of the regions changed to provinces.

Country overview: 

ISO codeCD
LanguagesFrench (fr), Lingala (ln), Kiswahili (sw), Tshiluba, Kikongo
Time zone(see table)


At the start of the 20th century, the État Indépendant du Congo (Congo Free State) was the personal domain of King Léopold II of Belgium. In 1908, Leopold ceded it to Belgium. As a Belgian colony, it was called Belgian Congo. It became independent on 1960-06-30 and took the name République du Congo. A month and a half later, the French colony on the other side of the Congo River, Moyen Congo, gained its independence and likewise took the name République du Congo. Most people distinguished the two countries by calling them Congo-Léopoldville and Congo-Brazzaville, according to their capitals. In 1964, the former Belgian colony changed its official name to République democratique du Congo. On 1971-10-27 it was renamed to Zaire (or Zaïre). On 1997-05-19, it changed back to République democratique du Congo.

Other names of country: 

  1. Danish: Den Demokratiske Republik Congo, Zaire (obsolete)
  2. Dutch: Congo-Kinshasa, Democratische Republiek Congo, Belgisch Congo (obsolete)
  3. English: Congo-Kinshasa (informal), Belgian Congo (obsolete), Congo Free State (obsolete), Congo-Léopoldville (obsolete), Kongo Free State (obsolete), Zaire (obsolete)
  4. Finnish: Kinshasan Kongo, Kongon demokraattinen tasavalta, Zaire (obsolete)
  5. French: République f démocratique du Congo m, Congo Belge (obsolete), Zaïre m (obsolete)
  6. German: Demokratische Republik f Kongo m, Zaire n (obsolete)
  7. Icelandic: Kongó alþýðulýðveldi, Zaír (obsolete)
  8. Italian: Repubblica f Democratica del Congo m, Zaire m (obsolete)
  9. Norwegian: Kongo-Kinshasa, Den demokratiske republikken Kongo (formal), Zaïre (obsolete)
  10. Portuguese: República f Democrática do Congo m, Congo m Belga (obsolete), Zaire m (obsolete)
  11. Russian: ДРК (abbr), Демократическая Республика Конго (formal), Заир (obsolete), Конго (Киншаса)
  12. Spanish: República f Democrática del Congo m, Congo Belga (obsolete), Zaire m (obsolete)
  13. Swedish: Kongo (Kinshasa)
  14. Turkish: Kongo Demokratik Cumhuriyeti, Kongo Kinşasa (informal), Zaire Cumhuriyeti (obsolete)

Origin of name: 

from the Congo river, which came from the ethnic name Kikongo

Primary subdivisions: 

Democratic Republic of Congo is divided into twenty-five provinces and one ville neutre (neutral city), Kinshasa.

New ProvinceHASCPopulationArea(km.²)Area(mi.²)CapitalOld ProvincePh
Kasaï OrientalCD.KO2,702,4309,4813,661Mbuji-MayiKasaï-Oriental3
KinshasaCD.KN8,951,2489,9653,848KinshasaKinshasa City1
Kongo CentralCD.BC3,734,59453,92920,822MatadiBas-Congo1


Note: Phase 1 is provinces that are not changing from the previous arrangement. Phase 2 is new provinces corresponding to former districts, some of which had functioned as provinces in the past. Phase 3 is newly created provinces whose capitals were capitals of the former provinces.

Further subdivisions:

See the Administrative Zones of the Democratic Republic of Congo page.

The regions are divided into 41 sous-régions (sub-regions), which are further divided into 216 zones administratives (administrative zones), which are in turn subdivided into collectivités.

A 1930 text says that the Belgian Congo was divided into five provinces (naming Ruanda-Urundi as one of them), subdivided into 21 districts, and then into 179 territoires (territories).

Territorial extent: 

Sud-Kivu includes Île Idjwi, an island in Lake Kivu.

The UN LOCODE page  for Congo (Kinshasa) lists locations in the country, some of them with their latitudes and longitudes, some with their ISO 3166-2 codes for their subdivisions. This information can be put together to approximate the territorial extent of subdivisions.

Origins of names: 

  1. Bas-Congo: French for lower Congo. Region lies along the lower reaches of the Congo River.
  2. Haut-Congo: French for upper Congo
  3. Kinshasa: named after a nearby pre-colonial village, Kikongo for salt market
  4. Kivu: for Lake Kivu, whose name is Rwandese for large body of water
  5. Shaba: Swahili for copper, which is mined there
  6. Zaïre: From a native word n'zai: river, a traditional name for the Congo River. It was the river's official name, and the country's, from 1971 to 1997.

Change history: 

  1. 1885-02-26: General Act of the Berlin Conference created the Congo Free State as personal property of King Léopold II of Belgium. Initially it contained four districts. More were created over the years.
  2. 1908-10-18: Under the Colonial Charter, Congo became a Belgian colony, under the name of Belgian Congo (French: Congo Belge, Flemish: Belgisch Congo).
  3. 1910-09-01: Katanga merged with Belgian Congo, and was divided into four districts.
  4. 1912: Number of districts had reached 22. According to source [3], they were:
Bangala Lisala
Bas-Congo Boma
Equateur Coquilhatville
Kasai Luebo
Kwango Bandundu
Lac Leopold II Inongo
Lulonga Basankusu
Moyen Congo Leopoldville
Sankuru Lusambo
Ubangi Libenge
  • Vg: There were two vice-governments:
    Katanga (K, capital Elisabethville), and
    Province Orientale (O, capital Stanleyville).
  1. Note: Lac Leopold II is now known as Lac Mai-Ndombe.
  2. 1926-03-01: Ruanda-Urundi became united administratively with Belgian Congo, although it remained autonomous. (The date is the effective date of the law of 1925-08-21.)
  3. 1929: National capital moved from Boma to Léopoldville.
  4. 1933-10-01: Belgian Congo reorganized from four provinces (Congo Kasai, Équateur, Katanga, and Orientale) into six provinces as shown in the following table:
Costermansville1,302,432230,209KivuManiema, Nord-Kivu, Sud-Kivu
Léopoldville1,997,796362,953LéopoldvilleBas-Zaïre, Bandundu, Kinshasa
Lusambo1,953,931321,534KasaiKasai-Occidental, Kasai-Oriental
6 provinces10,217,4082,343,873
  • Province: for Flemish names, replace "ville" with "stad".
  • Capitals have the same names as their provinces.
  • Population: 1938 census.
  • Post-1947: Province names were changed in 1947 to these names
    (French/Flemish are shown, where the two names differ).
  • Post-1997: Provinces correspond closely in extent to these modern provinces.
  1. 1952: Name of capital of Kivu province changed from Costermansville to Bukavu.
  2. ~1957: Capital of Kasai province moved from Lusambo to Luluabourg.
  3. 1960: After independence there were changes of all sorts. New provinces were created repeatedly. Informally, they were called provincettes. By 1963-06-25, when Katanga-Oriental was formed, the list was as shown here.
ProvinceCapitalModern equivalent
ManiemaKindu-Port EmpainManiema
SankuruLodjaKasai-Occidental, Kasai-Oriental
  1. 1966-07-01: Country reorganized into Bandundu, Bas-Zaïre, Équateur, Haut-Zaïre, Kasai-Occidental, Kasai-Oriental, Kinshasa, Kivu, and Shaba regions. National capital renamed from Léopoldville to Kinshasa; Stanleyville renamed to Kisangani; Élisabethville renamed to Lubumbashi; Coquilhatville renamed to Mbandaka; Banningville renamed to Bandundu; Bakwanga renamed to Mbuji-Mayi; Luluabourg renamed to Kananga; Costermansville renamed to Bukavu.
  2. 1972: Katanga region renamed to Shaba.
  3. ~1975: Kongo-Central region renamed to Bas-Zaïre.
  4. ~1980: An area of 7,949 sq. km. transferred from Bas-Zaïre region to Kinshasa.
  5. 1997-05-17: The victorious Laurent-Désiré Kabila established the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  6. 1997-05-19: Name of Bas-Zaïre changed to Bas-Congo, Haut-Zaïre to Haut-Congo, and Shaba to Katanga.
  7. ~1998: Name of Haut-Congo (ISO code CD-HC) changed to Orientale.
  8. 1997-10-08: Status of regions changed to provinces by statutory order. Kivu region (ISO code KV, FIPS code CG07, capital Bukavu) split into Maniema, Nord-Kivu, and Sud-Kivu. Thereupon, the Congo was divided into ten provinces and one neutral city.
ProvinceHASCISOFIPSUPUTzPopulationArea(km.²)Area(mi.²)CapitalFormer name
Kinshasa CityCD.KNKNCG06FIH+14,787,0009,9653,848KinshasaLéopoldville
11 divisions42,150,0002,344,798905,333
  • Province: Kinshasa is not a province, but a ville neutre (neutral city).
  • ISO: Codes from ISO standard 3166-2, issued December 15, 1998. For full identification in a global
    context, prefix "CD-" to the code (ex: CD-MA represents Maniema).
  • FIPS: Codes from FIPS PUB 10-4, including changes published in Change Notice 2, dated 1999-03-01.
  • UPU: "Postal addressing systems" is a document available online from the Universal Postal Union. Its
    entry for Zaire has a list of provinces and codes. The province names are those that were in effect about
    1992-1997. My inference is that these codes were the official postal abbreviations for the provinces.
  • Tz: Time zone (offset from GMT).
  • Population: 1998 estimate.
  • Former name: Colonial name of capital.
  1. 1999-07: Brigadier General James Kazini created a new province called Kibale-Ituri in taking part of the territory of Orientale. This province was not accepted as legitimate by the central government. News reports as early as 2003 spoke of events in Ituri province, and of Bunia as its capital. In 2015, under the new constitution, the same area became Ituri province.
  2. 2015-01-09: The National Assembly passed a law implementing the reorganization into 25 provinces and one neutral city. The four divisions that are unchanged from the previous division are immediately effective; the changed ones will probably become active by phases. Some of the capitals are in dispute. The capital of Sankuru might end up at Lodja. In earlier plans, the name of Kasaï-Central was going to be Lulua.

Other names of subdivisions: 

  1. Bas-Congo: Bas-Zaïre, Kongo-Central (obsolete); Lower Zaire (English-obsolete)
  2. Équateur: Equator, Equatorial (English)
  3. Kasai: Kassai (variant)
  4. Kasai-Occidental: Kasai West, West Kasai (English)
  5. Kasai-Oriental: East Kasai, Kasai East (English)
  6. Katanga: Shaba (obsolete)
  7. Kinshasa: Léopoldville (obsolete)
  8. Kivu: Kivou (variant)
  9. Orientale: Haut-Congo, Haut-Zaïre (obsolete); Upper Zaire (English-obsolete)


  1. [1] Nouvelles entités provinciales , by Joseph M. Kyalangilwa, a Congolese living in Switzerland. The document has a few typos. I found it necessary to adjust four of the area figures in order to reconcile the total areas with those of the former provinces. (Retrieved 2009-02-27.)
  2. [2] Press releases from the Union de Congolais pour la Défense de la Patrie et du Peuple (UCDP), also by Joseph M. Kyalangilwa. Populations are based on the assumption that registered (potential) voters as of 2005-12 represent exactly 33% of the population in each province. (, dead link, retrieved 2008-10-04.)
  3. [3] Cours Complet de Geographie : Le Congo Belge , by Roland and E. Duchesne, Namur, 1914 (retrieved 2003-06-07).
  4. [4] The Rulers Web site has histories of the provinces on its Provinces 1960-66  page. I have yet to validate them against my other sources. (Retrieved 2003-06-07.)
  5. [5] A flags site also lists historical changes (, dead link, retrieved 2003-11-27).
  6. [6] Library of Congress country study  (retrieved 1999).
  7. [7] Interior Minister's presentation to the Senate  (in French, retrieved 2013-03-26).
  8. [8] "RDC: le découpage territorial voté à l'Assemblée " (in French, retrieved 2015-02-27).
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