The Congolese people are made up of several hundred ethnic groups – some give the number of 450 forming different groups. Nevertheless, many languages and cultures of small ethnic groups tend to disappear in favor of those of large ethnic groups.

This study shows that the DRC was not a crumbling of 450 tribes, but that it would include only 250 of them grouped together, according to Malcom Guthrie in eight linguistic families. In addition, this work distinguishes only 212 languages in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including 34 non-Bantu, Ubangian or Nilo-Saharan.

“The origins of the various ethnic groups are varied and consecutive to essentially Bantu waves of migration from the 1st to the 16th century. The term Bantu does not refer initially to an ethnic group but to a linguistic community that covers most of central and southern Africa with some 400 related languages, called Bantu languages.

Several legends exist as to the exact origin of the Bantu people whose name comes from the word “ba – ntu” designating “the (ba: plural) men (ntu)”. For some, this people is believed to be from present-day Chad or Nigeria, in the region where the Nok civilization developed. For others, the original focus would be located in southern Congo on the Katanga plateaus. At the beginning of the second millennium, the discovery of metallurgy provoked a demographic boom and a long migratory period throughout the continent. Peoples of farmers and pastoralists, they repel indigenous people, including Pygmies in the Congo, who isolate themselves in dense forests or in more arid areas. Bantu societies are characterized by the sacralization of the royal person, from a mythical ancestor who discovered the art of metallurgy.

They have penetrated the Congo in many places and times, hunting pre-existing peoples or intermingling with them. Among these first occupants, we find the Pygmies but also, according to some authors, the semi Bantus, which are particularly distinguished Bantu by their affiliation to matrilineal succession. It was the Bantu who founded the first great kingdoms of the Congo. “

The Pygmies Batwas

It is generally accepted that hunter-gatherers, or Pygmies, are the first inhabitants of Congo’s forests, these people lived in isolation thanks to a harvesting economy, before groups of farmers immigrated to the forest during the first millennium. These indigenous peoples associate themselves closely with the forest and make it the center of their intellectual and spiritual life. They perceive and are perceived by neighboring populations as socially, economically, ideologically and politically different.

Most indigenous peoples in the DRC live with a combination of forest products, agriculture, barter and sometimes wages. They have complex relationships with agricultural village populations, for whom they carry out work or with whom they exchange goods and services which they often use Bantu and Sudanese languages to communicate.

According to the National League of Pygmies of the Congo (LINAPYCO), the pygmies of the DRC are grouped into three types: ‘forest’ groups living especially in the forests of Ituri; the ‘riparian’ groups living along lakes and rivers especially in Ecuador and Kasai; and finally the ‘potters’ groups living in the east of the country in North and South Kivu.

Bantu group (80% of the population):

Luba (18 %),
Mongo (17 %),
Kongo (12 %)
Autres : Ambala,
Mbuza (Budja),
yombe… etc.

Presentation of the ethnic map by Region

The ethnic cards will be presented in the following order: Bas-Congo; Kwango-Kasai, Central Basin and Ubangi; Uele-Ituri; Kivu-Maniema; North Katanga and South Katanga.

1. The whole of Bas-Congo is occupied by the Kongo ethnic group.

Vunguna, Bwende, Lula and Humbu are mixed with other populations. The authorities refused to recognize Besi Ngombe and Balenfu because no common ancestor can be assigned and they have no cultural identity that can distinguish them from the surrounding population, the Ndibu and Manianga in this case.

2. Kwango, Kwilu and Kasai Occidental

Mbuund and the Pende: Kuba and Lulua. We can add, in Kwango: the Soonde and the Ciokwe, the greater part of which is in Katanga, and Kasaï; the Leele, the Luntu and the Kete. In Kwilu: The Mbala are another big tribe important for its population, but it cohabits in many places with other tribes.

3. Central basin

The third map covers the districts of Mai-Ndombe and Tshuapa, as well as much of Ecuador and Tetela. The study reveals that if the Mongo ethnic group has an undisputed linguistic and cultural unity, the subdivisions are numerous and can correspond to real oppositions.

The entire Mongo region is surrounded by a bold line, according to the boundaries of the Equatorial Center of Bamanya. Tetela and Nkutshu, who belong to the same linguistic family, are not included and are considered as two distinct groups, according to Father Honoré Vinck, who distanced himself from Father Gustave Hulstaert.

In Northeast, with the Ngombe and Doko, we find as non-Mongo tribes Bobangi, Eleku, Mampko, Ndobo, Loi, Likila, Ngele, Bonjo and Jamba.

Among the Mongo, according to Father Hulstaert, there are many groups Ntomba, Kutu and Nkole. The tribes indicated are, first quoting the most extensive, to the West: the Nkundo and the Ekonda, further east, the Ntomba between Lopori-Maringa, Mbole de la Salonga, Bosaka, Ngando, Boyela and Mbole of Lomami, and to the South, Ndengese and Bokala.

4. Ubangi

There are populations of non-Bantu languages that have settled in successive waves and have pushed Bantu tribes back to the south. These movements affected the Mongo.

It is still in the middle of the forest, but the imposing mark of the river extends on its banks of the populations of fishermen or tradesman, Bobangi, Ngombe, Doko, Mbuja, Poto and Lokole among others.

In the Ngiri region, between the Ubangi and the Congo, one finds, in addition to the groups already mentioned in the Central basin, Lolaba, Tanda, Mboli, Ngiri, Ewaku, Ndolo, Lobo, Makanza , Ndobo, Boros Mabembe, Sengo and Motembo. Between Mongala and Itimbiri, towards the limit of Province Orientale one finds the Wenza.

To the east of Itimbiri, there are the fairly large groups of Binja and Boa in the North, Mbesa and Topoke south of the river. There are also the Lokole and the Lokele in the south and the Bango, Hanga, Benja, Binza, Boro, Angba, So (Basoko), Tungu, Olombo (Turumbu) and Mba rivers in the north.

At the level of the peoples of the Oubanguian languages, the big groups are the Ngbaka, the Ngbandi and the Zande, among which we distinguish Abandiya Avungara. The Ngbaka group on the Gemena plateau was organized by the administration in 1920.

We must add Mbanja, Banda, Furu and Nzakara. The Ngombe present in North Ubangi are witnesses of an earlier occupation of the region by Bantu.

Other enclaved groups along the Ubangi have diverse origins, from upstream to downstream, baraka, Gbanziri, Ngbaka and Monjombo.

5. Eastern Province

Province Orientale reproduces part of that of Ubangi and highlights the continuity that exists between the two, despite their administrative division. North of Uele, Nbgandi, Zande, Bangby and Mayogo belong to the oubanguienne family.

It is important to emphasize the originality of Haut-Uele and Ituri. On the one hand, there are two new linguistic families, the Nilotic languages, represented in the DRC by the Alur and the Kakwa, to whom Jan Vansina joins the Pajulu, and the so-called Nilo-Saharan one, which extends around Isiro and to the borders of Sudan and Uganda.

It includes the Mangbetu subgroup, which includes, in addition to the Mangbetu, Makere, Malele, Popoi and Medje, the Mangutu-Mamvu-Lese subgroup, the Logo-Lugbara-Madibari subgroup and the sub-group -Lendu group.

There are also Lese, Nkumu, Nyari, considered the first Bantu people in the region, the Hema, Banya Rwanda, both Hutu and Tutsi.

The Lombi, forming a group enclaved between the bali and Kumu, also belong to the Nilo-Saharan family, as well as the Mvuba, south of the Lese.

Among the Bantu languages of the D family, we must add to the Nyari and Hema already mentioned Budu, Ndaka, Mbo, Bira, Father and Amba. The Lika seem to be related to the Boa and Bali of the C family.

The Mba in Banalia territory and the Dongo in Faradje territory are classified as Oubangian.

6. Both Kivu and Maniema

The Kumu and Lega (who are among the oldest peoples of Maniema and Kivu) are framed in the north-west by other peoples whose languages belong to the D family, the Wagenia, the Lengola, the Metokob and the Songola.

Langa, Ngengele and Tetela, as already reported. In the South and South-West, the Binja, Bangubangu, Boyo, Bembe and Nyitu are part of the D family. The Bembe have integrated a series of populations, including the Bwari, well known by the names of the peninsula. Island, Ubwari, where the White Father opened his first mission to the Congo in 1880.

The Shi, represented as a whole, speak languages which, like Kinyaranda and Kirundi, belong to the J family of Bantu languages. These are, from north to south, the Nande, Nyanga, Hunde, Havu, Shi and Fulero, among which are also the Vira and Hundi.

In 1927, the government of the Congo proposed to create a massive movement of Kivu settlement by Rwandans, but the project ended in 1936 to an action that transplanted in the Gishari, between Sake and the Mokotos Lakes, in the Masisi territory, about 25,000 people. The operation was suspended in June 1945 for saturation (…).

Going down to the south of the 4th parallel, the reappearance of the cohabitation zones is constant. It is not excluded that the population has formed there in successive waves which have been superimposed.

Based on a series of indices, Kete Kasai and Kunda Katanga are unanimously considered as the oldest layers of the stand.

The Kete, with groups from Kuba to Lwalwa and Kanyok, were reportedly followed in Tumbwe by the Lulua and Kanyok, and then by the Bakwa Luntu in the Dimbelenge territory, which also includes a group more the West, and finally by the Luba Kasai. All came from an extremely old population center in Katanga.

In Kasaï Oriental, in addition to the groups mentioned above, the group of Songye, Binji, Mputu and, in coexistence in the territory of Mwene-ditu, the Kanincim, which are part of the world Lunda.

In Katanga, large groups of Kunda exist both in the north, in Kongolo territory, and in the south, in Kasenga, but there are a whole series of others between these two extremes, either isolated or associated. Hemba, Bangubangu, Bayo, Luba, Lumbu …

The Luba Katanga are the largest group in Katanga, followed along Lake Tanganyika, by the Tumbwe and Tabwa, backed by the Bwile. In the West, the Lunda and Kalundwe are two other important groups.

8. South Katanga

We have in the west, Lwena, Ndembo and Minungu. The eastern part is more complex. There are, from north to south, the Zela, Lomotwa, Sanga, Kaonde, Lemba and Lamba, as the most extensive groups, with the Bemba, Shila, Nwenshi, Lembwe, Ngoma, Seba, Aushi and Lala, who also occupy larger territories than many tribes in the province.

List of ethnic groups and tribes by territory of the DRC

Ethnic/Tribe Territory

Abandiya – Aketi,Bondo, Buta
Abarambo – Poko
Aka (pygmées) – Dungu
Alur – Mahagi
Amadi – Poko, Nyangara
Amba – Beni
Angba – Banaliya
Apagibeti – Bumba, Businga, Yakoma
Aushi- Kipushi, Sakania
Avungara – Dungu, Nyangara
Beanga – Bolomba
Bale – Cfr Lendu
Bali – Bafuasende
Bali-ndua- Lisala
Balobo – Bomongo
Banda – Bosobolo, Libenge
Bangba – Nyangara, Watsa
Bango – Basoko
Bangubangu – Kabalo, Kabambare, Kasongo, Kongolo, Nyunzu
Banya Bwisha – Rutshuru
Bari – Watsa
Bemba – Kasenga, Pueto
Bembe – Fizi, Mwenga
Benja – Basoko
Binja – Aketi, Kasongo
Binja sud – Kasongo, Pangi, Punya
Binji – Demba, Dimbelenge, Lusambo
Binza – Aketi, Bambesa, Banalia, Bondo, Buta
Bira – Irumu, Mambasa
Boa – Aketi, Bambesa, Banalia, Bondo, Buta
Bobai – Oshwe
Bobangi – Bomongo
Bofonge – Djolu
Boguru – Yakoma
Bokala – Oshwe
Bokongo – Oshwe
Bokote (Nord)- Bansakusu, Bikoro, Bolomba, Ingende, Mokoto
Bolia – Inongo
Boloki – Bomongo
Boma – Bagata, Mushi
Bonjo – Bomongo
Boonde – Bongandanga, Djolu
Boro – Banaliya
Bosaka – Befale, Bokungu
Boyela – Ikela, Lomela
Boyo – Fizi, Kabalo, Kabambare, Manono, Nyunzu
Budu – Mombasa, Wamba, Watsa
Bwari – Fizi
Bwende – Luozi
Bwile – Moba, Pweto
Ciokwe – Dilolo, Feshi, Ilebo, Kehema, Kansongolunda, Popokabaka, Sandoa, Tshikapa
Dikidiki – Kimvula, Madimba, Popokabaka
Dinga – Tshikapa
Doko – Budjala, Lisala
Dongo – Faradje
Dza – (Badia) Kutu
Dzing – Idiofa
Efe (Pygmées) – Irumu, Mambasa, Watsa
Ekonda – Bikoro, Ingende, Inongo, Kiri
Ekota – Boende
Eleku – Bomongo, Makanza
Ewaku – Bomongo
Fulero – Uvira
Fulru – Bosobolo
Gbanziri – Bosobolo
Gboma – Yakoma
Gbuta – Aketi
Hamba – Lodja, Lomela
Hanga – Basoko, Isangi
Havu – Kalehe
Hema – Beni, Djugu, Irumu
Hemba – Kabambare, Kasongo, Kongolo, Malembankulu, Manono, Nyunzu
Holo – Kasongo Lunda
Humbu – Bagata, Kansangulu, Kenge, Kinshasa
Hunde – Masisi, Rutsuru
Hungaan – Bagata, Bulungu, Kenge, Masimanimba
Ikongo – Bokungu
Imoma-Mpongo- Monkoto
Ionga (Djonga) – Lomela
Ipanga – Oshwe
Iyembe – Inongo
Jaba – Kungu
Jamba (Djamba)- Bomongo
Kakongo – Boma, Lukula
Kakwa – Aru, Fardje
Kalanga – Nyunzu
Kalundwe – Kamina, kaniama
Kango – Aketi, Buta, Nyangara
Kanyok – Mweneditu
Kaonde – Kambove, Lubudi, Mutshatsha
Keliko –
Aru Kete – Libalya, Kamiji, Luebo, Luiza, Mweneditu, Mweka, Tshikapa
Kuba – Ilebo, Luebo, Mweka
Kula – Makanza
Kumu – Bafuasende, Lubutu, Pangi, Ubundi, Walikali
Kunda – Kabalo, Kasenga, Kongolo, Malembankulu, Manono, Moba, Nyunzu, Pweto
Kusu – Kasongo, Kibombo, Kongolo
Kutu – Boende, Goma, Rutshuru
Kwese – Gungu
Lala – Sakania
Lamba – Kambove, Kasenga, Kipushi, Sakanya
Langa – Kindu
Leele – Idiofa, Ilebo, Luozi
Lega – Mwenga, Pangi, Punia, Shabunda, Walikale
Lemba – Kambove
Lembwe – Kasenga
Lendu (Bale)- Djugu, Irumu, Mahagi
Lengola- Kindu, Ubundu
Lese – Irumu, Mambasa, Watsa
Libinza – Bomongo, Makanza
Lika – Wamba
Likila – Bomongo
Lionje – Boende
Lobala – Bomongo, Kungu
Lobo – Makanza
Logo – Faradje
Loi – Bomongo
Lokele – Isangi
Lokole – Bokungu, Yahuma
Lombi – Bafuasende
Lomotwa – Mitwaba
Luba Kas – Bemba, Dibaya, Ilebo, Kabeya-Kamwanga, Kamiji; Katanda, kazumba, Luebo, Lupatapata, Lusambo, Miabi, Mueneditu, Mweka, Ngandajika, Tshikapa, Tshilenge
Luba Kat – Bukama, Kabalo, Kabambare, Kabinda, Kabongo, Kamina, Lubudi, Malembankulu, Mutshatsha, Sandoa
Lugbare – Aru
Lula – Limvula, Madimba, Popokabaka
Lulua – Demba, Dibaya, Kazumba, Luebo, Tshikapa
Lumbu – Kabalo, Kalemi, Kongolo, Manono, Nyunzu
Lunda – Dilolo, Gungu, Kahemba, Kapanga, Lubudi, Mweneditu, Mutshatsha, Sandoa, Tshikapa
Luntu (Bakwa)- Demba, Dimbelenge
Lusankanyi – Lukolela
Lusengo – Makanza
Lwalwa – Kazumba, Luiza, Tshikapa
Lwena – Dilolo
Lwer – Idiofa
Mabembe – Makanza
Mabendi – Djugu
Madi – Aru
Makanza – Makanza
Makere – Bambesa
Malele – Poko
Mampoko – Bomongo, Makanza
Mamvu – Dungu, Watsa
Mangbetu – Niangara, Rungu, Wamba
Mangutu – Watsa
Manianga – Luozi, Mbanzangungu
Mate – Luberu
Mayogo – Niangara, Rungu
Mba – Banaliya
Mbagani – Kazumba
Mbai – Luiza
Mbala – Bagata, Bulungu, Fetshi, Gungu, Kazumba
Mbanja – Bosobolo, Budjala, Businga, Kunga, Libenge
Mbata – Madimba, Mbanzangungu
Mbeko – Madimba, Mbanzangungu
Mbelo (Ekonda) – Oshwe
Mbesa – Basoko, Yahuma
Mbikiankamba – Oshwe
Mbinsa – Kasangulu
Mbo – Mambasa
Mbole – Boende, Isangi, Mokoto, Opala
Mboli – Kungu
Mboma – Songololo
Mbuja – Bumban Lisala
Mbuli – Katakokombe
Mbuti (pygmies)- Aru, Djugu, Idiofa
Mbunda – Bulungu, Gungu, Idiofa
Medje – Rungu
Metoko – Ubundu
Mfunu – Mushie
Minungu – Kahemba, Kasongolunda, Sandoa
Mondumba – Bumba
Mondjombo – Libenge
Motembo – Budjala, Lisala
Mpama – Lukolela
Mpangu – Kasangulu, Kinvula, Madimba, Mbanzangungu
Mpe -Inongo
Mpoko – Bomongo
Mputu – Lusambo
Mundu – Faradje
Mvuba – Beni
Nande – Beni, Lubero
Ndaka – Mambasa
Ndembo – Dilolo, Kamina, Lubudi, Mutshatsha
Ndengese – Dekese
Ndibu – Kasangulu, Mbanzangungu, Songololo
Ndo Okebo – Aru
Ndo Vare – Aru
Ndobo – Bomongo, Makanza
Ndunga – Lisala
Ngando – Bokungu, Djolu, Ikela, Yahuma
Ngbaka – Businga, Gemena, Kungu, Libenge
Ngbandi – Bondo, Budjala, Businga, Gemena, Kungu, Mobayimbongo, Yakoma
Ngele – Bomongo
Ndengele – Kindu
Ngenja – Lisala
Ngiri – Kungu
Ngoma (Bena)- Kasenga
Ngombe – Basankusu, Bolomba, Bongandanga, Bosobolo, Budjala, Kungu, Lisala
Ngongo – Bagata, Bulungu, Kenge, Masimanimba
Ngul – Idiofa
Nkanu – Kimvula, Madimba, Popokabaka
Nkole – Kiri
Nkundo – Bansakusu, Bikoro, Bolomba, Ingende, Mokoto
Nkutshu – Nkole
Nsongo – Befale
Ntandu – Kasangulu, Madimba
Ntomba – Befale, Bikoro, Bongandanganda, Inongo
Nunu – Lukolela
Nwenshi – Mitwaba
Nyanga – Walikale
Nyari – Djugu, Mahagi
Nyintu – Mwenga
Nzakara – Bondo
Okebo (Ndo) – Djugu, Mahagi
Olombo (Turungu)- Basoko, Isangi
Ombo – Kindu
Ooli – Kole, Oshwe
Pajulu – Faradje
Pende – Feshi, Gungu, Idiofa, Kahemba, Tshikapa
Père – Lubero
Pindi – Bulungu
Popoji – Bambesa, Banalia
Poto – Basoko, Bumba, Lisala, Makanza
Rundi – Uvira
Sakata – Kutu
Salampasu – Luiza
Sanga – Kambove, Lubudi
Sengo – Makanza
Seba – Kipushi
Sengele – Inongo
Shi – Kabare, Kalehe, Mwenga, Walungu
Shila – Pweto
Shunji – Kahemba, Kasongolunda
Shoowa – Mweka
Shu- Beni
So (Basoko) – Basoko, Isangi
Solongo – Boma, Lukula
Songola – Kindo
Songomeno – Mokoto
Songye – Demba, Kabalo, Kabinda, kabongo, Kasongo, Kongolo, Lodja, Lubao, Lubefu, Lusambo, Ngandajika
Soonde – Fashi, Kahemba
Sua (Pygmées) – Itumu, Mambasa
Suku – Bulungu, Feshi, Luozi, Mbanza-ngungu, Tshela
Sundi – Kasangulu, Lukusa, Luozi, Mbanzangungu, Tshela
Swaga – Lubero
Tabua – Moba
Tanda – Bomongo, Kungu
Tangi – Beni, Lubero
Teke – Bolobo, Kasangulu, Mushie
Tere (Sakata) – Kutu
Tetela – Demba, Katakokombe, Kole, Lodja, Lomela, Lubao, Lubefu, Lusambu
Tiene – Bolobo
Titu – Oshwe
Topoke – Isangi
Tow – Kutu
Tsamba – Bulungu, Feshi, Kasongolunda, Kenge, Masimanimba, Popokabaka
Tsong – Bulungu, Masimanimba
Tumbwe – Kalemi, Manono, Moba
Tungu – Banaliya
Vira – Uvira
Vungana – Lukula, Sekebanza
Wagenya – Kasongo, Katakokombe, Kindu, Kongolo, Mambesa, Ubundu
Watambulu – Katakokombe
Wenze – Budjala, Lisala
Wongo – Gungu, Ilebo
Woyo – Boma
Yaka – Kasongolunda, Kenge, Popokabaka
Yansi – Bagata, Bulungu, Kenge, Masimanimba
Yeke – Kasenga, Lubudi, Pweto
Yew – Bambesa, Buta
Yira (Nande) – Beni, Lubero
Yombe – Boma, Lukula, Sekebanza, Tshela
Zande – Ango, Bambesa, Poko
Zela – Mitwaba, Pweto