Democratic Republic of Congo

Social Security Number (Spanish- lengua Española)

Overview: Some 470,000 refugees from the DRC have taken refuge in the DRC’s nine neighboring  countries. The largest numbers are in Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Burundi. Conditions for the  refugees vary greatly by country as well as within countries, but for most, conditions are harsh,  unhealthy, and unsafe. The DR Congo has an abundance of natural riches including copper, cobalt, zinc,  coltan, cassiterite, gold, bauxite, diamond, oil, and gas. As of 2020, DR Congo ranks 175 on the UN  Human Development Index.  

 Official Language: French 

French is the official language, however, there are four national  

languages: Kikongo (Kituba), Lingala, Swahili, and Tshiluba. 


Hello – Bonjour/Hello (different pronunciation) 

Goodbye – Au revoir/kwaheri 

How are you? – Comment allez-vous/Habari yako? 

I am well – Je vais bien/Mimi ni mzima 

What is your name? – quel est ton nom/ Jina lako nani? 

My name is… – mon nom est/ Jina langu ni 

Yes – Oui/ ndio, No – Non/ Hapana 

Thank you – Merci/ Asante, Please – S’il vous plait/ Tafadhali 


  • FAMILY: Congolese may often call a distant family member (or even someone not related by  blood) their son, daughter, brother, or sister. This wider use of biological terms has created  confusion both for overseas processing and for establishing legal relationships in the United  States.  

o Men play a dominant role in Congolese families, and the male head of household may  make decisions for the entire family. High rates of spousal abuse, particularly sexual  violence, have been reported in the DRC, yet cultural norms can prevent women from  speaking out.  

o Congolese often discipline their children physically and will need to understand U.S.  norms and laws regarding child abuse. Traditional notions of community responsibility  for childcare may conflict with Americans’ parenting practices. Congolese children  commonly care for younger children when parents are away. 

o Congolese parents may also benefit from discussion of strategies other than physical  punishment for disciplining children. Alternatives to physical discipline such as time-outs  and withdrawing privileges (for example, television and Internet) may be unfamiliar to  refugee parents.  

o Inadequate supervision is an issue that is rooted both in culture and financial realities.  What may be neglect in the United States—allowing children to roam about freely on  their own—may be normal in the DRC. Children may also be left unsupervised at home  or out in the community because both parents are working and cannot afford daycare. 


  • FOOD AND DRINK: A typical meal might include cassava leaves, beans, and a starch. This starch  can be made of maize or cassava flour, or a mix of the two, and is referred to as ugali or fufu,  depending on the location in the DRC. If a family has the resources, they may also serve meat  like lamb or beef. 

o Many Congolese who are not Muslim drink alcohol. Beer (a traditional brew made  from banana or sorghum) has important social value for the Congolese, who believe  that it unites people and fosters friendship. No important ceremony is ended  

without drinking beer or sprinkling it on the ground to honor ancestors.  

  • Religion – For Congolese communities, churches can be tremendous resources, providing  comfort and companionship. During times of  

turmoil in the DRC, the church was a place of  

sanctuary, and in the United States it is  

serving a similar function. A congregation  

may act as a new arrival’s extended family,  

and it is not unusual for a person to attend  

church three or four times a week. 

Background Events  

  • The ongoing Congolese refugee crisis is the product of nearly 16 years of armed conflict and  unrest in the DRC, with the eastern provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu bearing the brunt of  the violence. By the end of 2012, more than 2.4 million Congolese were internally displaced and  more than 460,000 had sought asylum in neighboring countries. 
  • The highly complex conflict, which at times has involved the armies of nine countries and dozens  of other armed groups, was touched off in 1996 when Rwanda invaded the DRC in pursuit of the  génocidaires, the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide who had taken refuge in eastern DRC and  were regrouping in order to retake political leadership in Rwanda. Years of conflict followed,  including the first and second Congo wars, in 1996 and 1998. The 1998 war is sometimes called  “Africa’s World War” because of the number of countries involved in the conflict. 
  • The 2018 election named Félix Tshisekedi the new president of DR Congo, however, this Is a  controversial win because there are claims that Tshisekedi’s victory was the result of an  agreement between him and Joseph Kabila so that Kabila can still influence the government. 

Sources:,Translators without Borders, Britannica, World  Travel Guide, Vagabond Journey, UNHCR, UN Human Development, Index, Providence Magazine 

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