Mbandaka (pronounced [mbaˈnda.ka], formerly known as Coquilhatville in French, or Coquilhatstad in Dutch) is a city on the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of Congo located near the confluence of the Congo and Ruki rivers. It is the capital of Équateur Province.


Provincial capital and city
Ville de Mbandaka
Commercial center of Mbandaka, 2008
Commercial center of Mbandaka, 2008
Mbandaka is located in Democratic Republic of the Congo
Coordinates: 0°02′52″N 18°15′21″E / 0.04778°N 18.25583°E / 0.04778; 18.25583Coordinates: 0°02′52″N 18°15′21″E / 0.04778°N 18.25583°E / 0.04778; 18.25583
CountryFlag of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.svg DR Congo
ProvinceÉquateur Province
City status1958
CommunesMbandaka, Wangata
 • MayorDidi Edada Limama
 • Total460 km2 (180 sq mi)
370 m (1,210 ft)
 • Total345,663
 • Density750/km2 (1,900/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+1 (West Africa Time)

The headquarters of the Fourth Naval Region of the Navy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are located in Mbandaka.


Mbandaka lies on the east bank of the Congo River below the mouth of the Tshuapa River, a tributary of the Congo. South of the Ngiri Reserve, a large area of swamp forest on the opposite bank of the Congo, it is located at the center of the Tumba-Ngiri-Maindombe Ramsar wetland.[3]


Mbandaka is the capital of Équateur province, and located only a few miles/kilometres from the equator. It is home to Mbandaka airport and is linked by riverboat to Kinshasa and Boende. The city's population was approximately 729,257 in 2004. The city was home to almost 1.2 million people in 2018.

It is located in a busy travel corridor upriver from the capital, Kinshasa. The latter city of about 10 million is an hour's plane ride away, or a four- to seven-day trip by river barge.

Mbandaka is largely populated by people of the Mongo ethnic group, although people from many different tribes and regions live in the city. The main languages spoken in Mbandaka are Lingala, French, and Mongo.

Years of war and neglect have caused deterioration of the city infrastructure; large areas of the city are without electricity or running water. Most of the streets and avenues of the city are unpaved dirt roads.


Bank of the Belgian Congo building

Mbandaka was founded in 1883 by English explorer Henry Morton Stanley, who named it "Équateurville". (At the time the territory was under Belgian rule and the official language was French.)

The town hall is about 4 km (2.5 miles) north of the equator. Mbandaka is one of the closest to the equator of any substantial city in the world. Stanley placed a large "Equator Stone" near the riverbank south of the city to mark the point where he believed the equator crossed the river. It remains there today. Due to its symbolic location close to the equator and the Congo River, there were early plans to locate the capital of the Congo Free State in Mbandaka, but they never came off the drawing board. These plans included infrastructure for an estimated population of 100,000 people, a train station, a Catholic cathedral, a governor's residence, and a palace for future visits of Leopold II of Belgium.[4]

In 1886, at the beginning of colonial rule, the Belgians changed the city's name to "Coquilhatville" naming it after Camille-Aimé Coquilhat.

In 1938, work began on a bridge over the Congo River connecting Mbandaka with the French Congo (now the Republic of Congo). Work was abandoned at the outbreak of World War II, and only the foundations of the bridge pillars remain. In the 1930s the Belgian colonial administration began several projects, including factories and a new city hall.

The city hall was completed in 1947 after World War II. At that time, with a height of 39 m (128 feet), it was the tallest building in the Belgian Congo. A statue of [[Leopold II], king of Belgium, was installed on its roof.

On top of the city hall stood a statue of Leopold II. The city hall was destroyed by a fire in 1963.[5]

After the Democratic Republic of Congo gained independence, the government changed the name of this city in 1966 to "Mbandaka" to honor a prominent local leader.

Massacre of HutusEdit

Near the end of the First Congo War in the late 20th century, hundreds of people (mainly Hutu refugees, women, and children) were massacred here on May 13, 1997.[6][7] Congolese soldiers said the order came from Col. Wilson, head of a brigade of Kabila's troops, and Col. Richard, the brigade's operations chief, both Rwandans. Gen. Gaston Muyango (Congolese) held the title of military commander but had no real power, they said.[8]

Ebola outbreakEdit

On 16 May 2018, a case of Ebola occurred in the city, the disease having spread there from an outbreak in the countryside.[9][10] A new outbreak was reported on 1 June 2020.[11] Three cases were confirmed by the WHO and three cases are probable, of whom four people had died as of June 2, 2020.

Notable placesEdit

Catholic Mission station and Central African history research centre of BamanyaEdit

Church of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC) at Bamanya, Equateur province, 2008

A large research centre for Central African history, originally set up by Fathers Gustaaf Hulstaert (1900–1990) and Honoré Vinck, is at the Catholic mission station of Bamanya (Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC)), 10 km (6.2 miles) east of Mbandaka.[12]

Botanic Garden of EalaEdit

One of the finest botanical gardens of central Africa is at nearby Eala, about 7 km (4.3 miles) east of the town centre. The Botanic Garden of Eala, founded in 1900, contains between 4,000 and 5,000 species. It covers approximately 370 hectares (910 acres) with special collections (125 ha or 310 acres), forest (190 ha or 470 acres), marsh (50 ha or 120 acres) and savanna "Euobe" (7 ha or 17 acres). Because of warfare and social disruption, the garden has been neglected. It is unfenced and subject to illegal logging. The last catalogue of its holdings was published in 1924.

First Habitat for Humanity International housing projectEdit

Mbandaka is the home of the world's first project of Habitat for Humanity International. Founder Millard Fuller served as missionary with the Disciples of Christ Church in Mbandaka from 1973–1976. The housing project Fuller started in Mbandaka in 1973 became known as the first project of Habitat for Humanity when Fuller founded Habitat upon his return to the United States.


The city is located at the center of the Tumba-Ngiri-Maindombe area, designated a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention in 2008.[13] Mbandaka has a tropical rainforest climate (Af) under the Köppen climate classification. Although precipitation in the city does vary considerably, it does not have a dry season; the driest month is January, averaging around 72 mm (3 inches) of precipitation. The wettest is October with 213 mm (8.5 inches). Temperatures are relatively constant throughout the course of the year, with median temperatures ranging from 24.4 to 26.1 °C (75.9 to 79.0 °F).

Climate data for Mbandaka
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 30.2
Daily mean °C (°F) 25.4
Average low °C (°F) 20.6
Average precipitation mm (inches) 105

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Equateur : le maire de la ville de Mbandaka désigné point focal de l'Association des maires francophones en RDC". ACP Média Public (in French). 24 August 2019. Retrieved 25 August 2019.
  2. ^ "World Gazetteer". Archived from the original on February 17, 2013.
  3. ^ "CD003 Ngiri". Birdlife International. Retrieved 2012-01-30.
  4. ^ Le Congo: de la colonisation belge à l'indépendance, Auguste Maurel, page 94-95
  5. ^ Le Congo : de la colonisation belge à l'indépendance, Auguste Maurel, pp. 153-155
  6. ^ Jason Stearn (August 26, 2010). "Bombshell UN report leaked: 'Crimes of genocide' against Hutus in Congo". Christian Science Monitor.
  7. ^ James C. McKinley Jr; Howard W. French (November 14, 1997). "Hidden Horrors: Special Report: Tracing the Guilty Footsteps Along Zaire's Long Trail of Death". New York Times.
  8. ^ John Pomfret (June 11, 1997). "MASSACRES WERE A WEAPON IN CONGO'S CIVIL WAR". Washington Post.
  9. ^ Bearak, Max (2018-05-17). "First confirmed urban Ebola case is a 'game changer' in Congo outbreak". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-05-17.
  10. ^ "DR Congo Ebola outbreak: WHO in emergency talks as cases spread". BBC.
  11. ^ "Second Ebola outbreak confirmed in DRC after four people die". Telegraph.
  12. ^ See:
  13. ^ "DR Congo Announces World's Largest Protected Wetland". Environment News Service. July 24, 2008. Retrieved 2012-01-28.
  14. ^ "Climate: Pangururan". Retrieved August 4, 2020.

External linksEdit