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Africa 2006,

Some 3,000 years ago the original hunter-gatherer Pygmies in the Congo Basin were joined by land tilling Bantu speaking peoples from the north and northeast. Building on the explorations of American journalist Henry Morton Stanley in the 1870s, Belgian King Leopold I assembled an international consortium of bankers to exploit the Congo's natural resources. At the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 the European powers recognized Leopold's claim to this vast region. Following widespread public concern over inhumane labor practices in the Congo, the Belgian government took over the administration of the territory in 1908. In 1960, when Belgium granted independence to an illprepared colony, a power struggle ensued, fueled in part by the big powers. Brief appearances by Joseph Kasavubu, Moise Tshombe and Patrice Lumumba was followed by Col. Joseph- Desiré Mobutu who exercised autocratic rule over Zaire, as he called the country, for more than three decades. An ailing Mobutu was ousted by Laurent Desiré Kabila and his Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) in 1997 with the support of the Rwandan and Ugandan governments. Kabila renamed Zaire the Democratic Republic of Congo (DROC) but little changed. A new insurrection by disillusioned former compatriots in the northeast backed by Rwanda and Uganda prompted Angolan, Namibian and Zimbabwean troops to come to Kabila's aid. In January 2001, Joseph Kabila became president after his father's assassination by a disgruntled bodyguard. In July 2003, under outside pressure, he swore in as vice presidents in his cabinet July 2003- Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Uganda-backed Congolese Liberation Movement and Azarias Ruberwa of the Rwanda-allied Congolese Rally for Democracy. Also sworn in were Abdoulaye Yeroda Nbombasi, allied to Kabila, and Arthur Z'Ahidi Ngoma, a member of the country's unarmed political opposition. Kabila was elected president in 2006.