The Democratic Republic of the Congo

Special thanks to Emmanuel Halleux and Hendrik Meersschaert for their assistance.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire between 1965 and 1997) is situated in Central Africa and it crosses the equator in the north-central region. The third largest country in Africa, it is bordered with Central African Republic to the north, Sudan to the northeast, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to the east, Zambia to the south and southeast, Angola to the southwest, and Angola and the Congo Republic (formerly part of French Equatorial Africa) to the west.

The 2,733 mile long Congo River lies mostly within the territory of the country. The enormous semicircular bend in the river delineates a central depression known as the Cuvette, with an average altitude of 1,300 ft. Around this densely forested section, which covers nearly half the area of the country, a succession of plateaus rise gradually to height of over 5,000 ft in the northeast and southeast. The highest altitudes are found along the eastern fringe of the country, on the edge of the Great African Rift Valley, where dislocation of the strata has produced important volcanic and mountain masses, the most notable of which is Mt. Ruwenzori, with its peak rising to a level of 16,795 ft.

Savannah and park forest vegetation predominate north and south of the equatorial forest belt; the southern savannah belt is far more extensive than the northern one. All major rivers are tributaries of the Zaire; these include the Lomani, the Aruwimi or Ituri, the Itimburi, the Mongala, the Ugangi, the Uélé, the Kasaim the Sankuru, the Lulua, the Kwango and the Kwilu. The largest lakes include Tanganyika, Albert, Edward, Kivu, Mweru, Leopols II and Tumba.

The medals of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) (1960-1965 and 1997- ) and the Republic of Zaire (RZ) (1965-1997) are distinguished either by a change in the ribbon combination or by the reverse inscription or both.

The Civic Merit, Agricultural Merit, Sport Merit and Arts and Sciences Merit medals exchange a blue ribbon stripe (DRC) for a green ribbon stripe (Zaire) and change the reverse inscription from the DRC to RZ.

The Order of Zaire, Order of the Leopard and the Cross of Bravery, all have differing reverse inscriptions (RZ or DRC). In addition, the RZ Order of Zaire has a distinct ribbon combination and a slightly altered obverse design. the RZ Order of Leopard has a green center in lieu of the blue center used by the DRC with the ribbons and four points of the star exchanging green (Zaire) for dark blue (DRC). The Military Crosses for the DRC and Zaire are completely distinct in terms of design and ribbons.

The Operation Shaba (Katanga) Commemorative, the 20th Anniversary of the Popular Revolution, and the Medals of Conjugal and Maternal Merit are solely RZ medals.