CONGO FREE STATE. An independent State under the sovereignty of King Leopold 11. of Belgium, situated approximately between longitudes 12° and 30° E. and between latitudes 14° S. and 6° N. (Map: Africa, 0 5). It is bounded on the north by French Congo and the Egyptian Sudan, on the east by British East Africa, German East Africa. and Northern Rho desia, on the south by Northern Rhodesia and Portuguese \Vast Africa, and on the west by Por tuguese West Africa, the Atlantic, and French Congo. The boundaries of the State, with the Congo and Ubangi rivers on the west, and Lakes Tanganyika, Moero, Albert Edward Nyanza, and Albert Nyanza on the east, are all well defined, and the area is estimated at from S50,000 to 900, 000 square miles.
The surface of Congo is a depressed plateau basin, tilted seaward, which was seemingly oc cupied at a recent date by the sea. It is unbroken by mountains except in the western part near the Atlantic, but rises on its borders to elevations of 6000 feet and more. More than half of the area is covered with forests, while the remainder is eomposed of savannas and arable land. The ehief river is the Congo (q.v.), which, together with its tributaries, drains the larger part of the country. The climate is ex ceedingly hot and moist, and very unhealthful for Europeans. The normal temperature ranges from 60° to 90°, and not infrequently an exceed ingly hot day is followed by a chilly night. The climate in the interior is not so injurious to Europeans as that of the coast region.
The flora of Congo is very rich and varied, the forests being full of rubber-trees, and other trees yielding gums and resins. Among the cultivated plants are the coffee, cotton, yam, papaw, pine apple, cassava. corn, rice, peanut, sweet potato, banana, bean, tobacco, sorghum, and Kafir corn. The fauna includes the elephant, hippopotamus, buffalo, antelope, chimpanzee, and crocodile. Elephants and hippopotami are especially numer ous, and furnish large quantities of ivory. The mineral resources of Congo are said to he very rich. Iron occurs at many localities, while cop per is confined to a smaller area, but is found in very rich deposits, especially between the Kas sai and the Atlantic, and also in the southern regions. Much of the surface is composed of a
loose, porous, weathered rock, known as 'laterite,' which has been derived from the underlying gneisses and sandstones.
The natural agricultural possibilities of the State are very great, but the unhealthful cli mate, which practically forbids white immigra tion, largely prevents systematic agricultural development. The agricultural land is divided among the natives, the Europeans, and the State, the last partly renting its land and partly cultivating it through agents. So far the chief products are rubber, palm-nuts, and palm-oil, but coffee, cacao, tobacco, corn, bana nas, and beans are also grown to a considerable extent, and recent experiments hate proved that many of the European grains and vegetables can be raised successfully. There are no statistics concerning the live stock. Coffee and tobacco grow wild.
The transportation facilities of the State are mainly provided by the Congo and its several navigable tributaries. The Congo is interrupted in its lower part, from Matadi to Leopoldville, a distance of about 200 miles, by a series of rapids —a great obstacle to direct communication be tween the interior of the country and the At lantic. To obviate this difficulty, a railway line about 260 miles in length was constructed be tween Matadi and Leopoldville (Stanley Pool), and opened for traffic in 1898. Above the rapids the river is navigable for 1000 miles to Stanley Falls. A Belgian company has obtained a con cession for the construction of about 000 miles of railway to connect the Congo at Stanleyville and Nyangwe with the lakes of Albert Nyanza and Tanganyika. The Government runs thirty-live steamers on the upper and lower Congo. The total number of miles of waterway by river and lake in the Free State is estimated at 9500. There is steam communication regularly each fortnight with Antwerp, and also frequent coin nmnication with other European ports. The construction of telegraph lines was begun in 1892, and by the end of 1900 there were about 800 miles.