The Republic of Congo celebrated 50 years of independence Sunday with a parade and ceremony in the capital, Brazzaville.

Longtime President Denis Sassou N'Guesso watched the ceremony along with more than a dozen African heads of state, as well as a representative from former colonial power France.

The president kicked off the anniversary with a national address Friday night, in which he said he would increase the minimum salary for all civil servants by 25 percent and offer free maternity care.

The news was welcomed in Congo, where despite large oil reserves and a wealth of other natural resources, more than half the population of some four million lives below the poverty line.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.