Figure 7. Topography and Drainage
Several major geographic regions may be defined in
terrain and patterns of natural vegetation, namely the
Congo Basin, the uplands north and south of the basin, and
The country's core region is the central Congo Basin.
average elevation of about forty-four meters, it measures
800,000 square kilometers, constituting about a third of
territory. Much of the forest within the basin is swamp,
more of it consists of a mixture of marshes and firm land.
North and south of the basin lie higher plains and,
occasionally, hills covered with varying mixtures of
grasses and woodlands. The southern uplands region, like
constitutes about a third of Zaire's territory. The area
from south to north, starting at about 1,000 meters near
Angolan border and falling to about 500 meters near the
Vegetation cover in the southern uplands territory is more
than that of the northern uplands. In some areas, woodland
dominant; in others, savanna grasses predominate. South of
basin, along the streams flowing into the Kasai River are
gallery forests. In the far southeast, most of Shaba
(formerly Katanga Province) is characterized by somewhat
plateaus and low mountains. The westernmost section of
partly forested panhandle reaching the Atlantic Ocean, is
extension of the southern uplands that drops sharply to a
narrow shore about forty kilometers long.
In the much narrower northern uplands, the cover is
savanna, and woodlands are rarer. The average elevation of
region is about 600 meters, but it rises as high as 900
where it meets the western edge of the eastern highlands.
The eastern highlands region is the highest and most
portion of the country. It extends for more than 1,500
from above Lake Albert to the southern tip of Shaba below
Lubumbashi (formerly …lisabethville) and varies in width
eighty to 560 kilometers. Its hills and mountains range in
from about 1,000 meters to more than 5,000 meters. The
of the Great Rift Valley forms a natural eastern boundary
region. The eastern border of Zaire extends through the
its system of lakes, which are separated from each other
situated between high mountain ranges.
In this region, changes in elevation bring marked
vegetation, which ranges from montane savanna to heavy
forest. The Massif du Ruwenzori (Ruwenzori Mountains or
of the Moon) between lakes Albert and Edward constitutes
highest range in Africa. The height and location of these
on the equator make for a varied and spectacular flora.
with the Virunga Mountains north of Lac Kivu, site of
active volcanos, and together with the game park situated
them, they constitute Zaire's most important potential
Data as of December 1993