Mbandaka

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Mbandaka, formerly known as Coquilhatville is a city on the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of Congo, lying near the confluence of the Congo and Ruki Rivers. The capital of the Equateur Province, it is home to an airport and is linked by ferry to Kinshasa and Boende. The city's population is approximately 729,257 (2004).

It was founded in 1883 by Henry Morton Stanley with the name of "Equateur". In fact the Town Hall is just about 6.6 kilometers North of the Geographic Equator Line. On 1886 at the beginning of their colonial rule, the Belgians change its name to "Coquilhatville" and in 1966 the town name was changed by the new independent government to "Mbandaka" to honor a prominent local leader. Years of war and neglect had taken a heavy toll on the city infraestructure, with no electric energy and running water on large sectors of the city. Most of the streets and avenues of the city are dirt roads.

Many people (mainly Hutu refugees, women and children) in the city were massacred during the First Congo Civil War.

Mbandaka is largely populated by people of the Mongo ethnic group, although people from many different regions live in the city. The main languages spoken in Mbandaka are Lingala, French and Mongo. A large research center on the Central Africa history is at the Catholic Mission station.

Also, one of the finest botanical gardens representing central Africa is at nearby Ebala. The Botanic Garden of Eala (founded in 1900) represents the floristic richness of Central Africa with between 4 to 5,000 local species. It has an area of approximately 370 ha with special collections (125 ha), forest reserve (190 ha), marshland (50 ha) and savanna "Euobe" (7 ha). The garden is neglected, the area is not fenced and there is unplanned felling of trees. In parts it is poorly defined and the maps and registration certificates are missing. The last catalogue was published in 1924 by Goossens.


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