total: 622,984 sq km
land: 622,984 sq km
water: 0 sq km
total: 5,920 km
border countries (6):
Cameroon 901 km,
Chad 1,556 km,
The Democratic Republic of the Congo 1,747 km,
Republic of the Congo 487 km,
South Sudan 1,055 km,
Sudan 174 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
The Central African Republic
tropical; hot, dry winters; mild to hot, wet summers
vast, flat to rolling plateau; scattered hills in northeast and southwest
mean elevation: 635 m
elevation extremes: lowest point: Oubangui River 335 m
highest point: Mont Ngaoui 1,410 m
diamonds, uranium, timber, gold, oil, hydropower
agricultural land: 8.1%
arable land 2.9%; permanent crops 0.1%; permanent pasture 5.1%
other: 55.7% (2011 est.)
10 sq km (2012)
Population – distribution:
majority of residents live in the western and central areas of the country, especially in and around the capital of Bangui
hot, dry, dusty harmattan winds affect northern areas;
floods are common
People and Society
The population of the Central African Republic has more than quadrupled since independence. In 1960, the population was 1,232,000; as of a 2017 CIA Factbook estimate, it is approximately 5,625,118. The United Nations estimates that approximately 4% of the population aged between 15 and 49 is HIV positive. Only 3% of the country has antiretroviral therapy available, compared to a 17% coverage in the neighboring countries of Chad and the Republic of the Congo.
The Central African Republic’s (CAR) humanitarian crisis has worsened since a coup in March 2013. CAR’s high mortality rate and low life expectancy are attributed to elevated rates of preventable and treatable diseases (including malaria and malnutrition), an inadequate health care system, precarious food security, and armed conflict. Some of the worst mortality rates are in western CAR’s diamond mining region, which is impoverished because of government attempts to control the diamond trade and the fall in industrial diamond prices. To make matters worse, the government and international donors have reduced health funding in recent years. The CAR’s weak educational system and low literacy rate have also suffered as a result of the country’s ongoing conflict. Schools are closed, qualified teachers are scarce, infrastructure, funding, and supplies are lacking and subject to looting, and many students and teachers are displaced by violence.
Rampant poverty, human rights violations, unemployment, poor infrastructure, and a lack of security and stability have led to forced displacement internally and externally. Since the political crisis that resulted in CAR’s March 2013 coup began in December 2012, approximately 370,000 people have fled to Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and other neighboring countries, while more than an estimated 600,000 are displaced internally as of October 2017. The UN has urged countries to refrain from repatriating CAR refugees amid the heightened lawlessness.
5,625,118 (July 2017 est.)
Baya 33%, Banda 27%, Mandjia 13%, Sara 10%, Mboum 7%, M’Baka 4%, Yakoma 4%, other 2%
French (official), Sangho (lingua franca and national language), tribal languages
indigenous beliefs 35%, Protestant 25%, Roman Catholic 25%, Muslim 15%
Ethnicity, Language, and Religion
The Central African Republic is divided into over 80 ethnic groups, each having its own language. The largest ethnic groups are the Baya, Banda, Mandjia, Sara, Mboum, M’Baka, Yakoma, and Fula or Fulani, with others including Europeans of mostly French descent. Prior to the arrival of Europeans in the late 19th century, distinctions between different groups were highly fluid. Many thought of themselves as members of a clan rather than of a broader ethnic group. Interactions with those who spoke different languages and had different cultural practices ranged from peaceful trade and intermarriage to war and enslavement. The Baya (33%) to the west and the Banda (27%) in the east-central region and are estimated to be the most numerous groups. In the savanna live the Mandjia, accounting for 13% of the population, the Sara, accounting for 10%, and the Mboum, accounting for 7%, each with several subgroups. In the forest region are the Pygmies (Binga) and some Bantu groups, including the Mbaka, who account for another 4% of the population.
The Central African Republic’s two official languages are French and Sango (also spelled Sangho), a creole developed as an inter-ethnic lingua franca based on the local Ngbandi language. Many languages and dialects are spoken, including Arabic, Hunsa, and Swahili, but Sangho, the language of a group living on the Ubangi River, is spoken by a majority and is the national language. Sango is a lingua franca spoken by near nine-tenths of the population. Sangho was originally the language of a people from the Ubangi River region, but Christian missionaries adopted, simplified, and disseminated it in the 1940s and ’50s to their followers throughout the country. French is the official language of government and is taught in the schools.
According to the 2003 national census, 80.3% of the population was Christian—51.4% Protestant and 28.9% Roman Catholic—and 10% is Muslim. More recent work from the Pew Research Center estimated that, as of 2010, Christians constituted 89.8% of the population (with Protestantism at 60.7% and Catholicism 28.5%) while Muslims make up 8.9%. The Catholic Church claims over 1.5 million adherents, approximately one-third of the population. Indigenous belief (animism) is also practiced, and many indigenous beliefs are incorporated into Christian and Islamic practice. A UN director described religious tensions between Muslims and Christians as being high.
The educational system of Central African Republic is patterned on the French model but the government has been introducing changes for the educational curriculum to fit local needs. Although public education is free in government-financed schools and is compulsory for children aged six to i4 years, 50% of the adult population is still illiterate. As of 2008, only 50% of school-age children were enrolled in primary schools, apparently because of poverty, violence resulting from continued fighting between government forces and the rebels, and the lack of teachers and educational facilities and materials.
Under normal conditions, the country’s educational system consists of three levels—the primary education, secondary education, and higher education. The primary education, which lasts six years, is divided into three 2-year stages of the preparatory, elementary and middle primary. The secondary education is made up of the Incomplete Secondary Education provided by general-education colleges which offer a 4-year course of study, and the Complete Secondary Education offered by 7-year Lycees divided into two cycles of four and three years each, respectively. Lycee graduates are eligible to enroll in higher education institutions.
Higher education consists of degree courses offered in the University of Bangui which has the major faculties of economics, natural sciences, and humanities, among others. There are also specialized institutions that can be considered as higher education schools, and these include two agricultural colleges and a national college of the performing and plastic arts.
Subsistence agriculture, together with forestry and mining, remains the backbone of the economy of the Central African Republic (CAR), with about 60% of the population living in outlying areas. The agricultural sector generates more than half of estimated GDP, although reliable statistics are difficult to determine in the conflict-prone country. Timber and diamonds account for most export earnings, followed by cotton. Important constraints to economic development include the CAR’s landlocked geography, poor transportation system, largely unskilled workforce, and legacy of misdirected macroeconomic policies. Factional fighting between the government and its opponents remains a drag on economic revitalization. Distribution of income is extraordinarily unequal and grants from the international community can only partially meet humanitarian needs. CAR shares a common currency, which is pegged to the Euro, with the Central African Monetary Union.
Economic recovery in the CAR is proceeding slower than expected. Real GDP growth in 2016 was estimated at 4.55, down half a percentage point from the previous estimate. This is mainly the result of recent security incidents and related disruptions of economic activity, notably in the transport sector, with delayed public investment compounding downward pressure. On the expenditure side, private consumption continues to be the main contributor to GDP, while gross fixed capital formation remains hampered by a weak investment climate and limited public investment. After a weak 2015, export growth appears to be more pronounced in 2016 on the back of solid production increases of key export goods such as gold, diamonds, wood, coffee, and cotton. On the supply side, the primary sector has benefitted from stronger performance in the forest, coffee, and cotton subsectors, while the secondary sector continues to struggle. Services, particularly transport, have been affected by bouts of insecurity but have started to recover.
The successful presidential election is an important step toward national reconstruction. Refugees and the internally displaced are expected to return to their land as security improves. Real GDP growth is projected to gradually accelerate to 4.75% in 2017 and 5% in 2018, conditional on security, the implementation of the government development plan, and further strengthening in primary sectors and their related export performance. Economic growth will also be driven by a rise in import and export activities, assuming continued UN peace-keeping efforts for security and escort of merchandise along the corridor.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$3.395 billion (2017 est.)
$3.241 billion (2016 est.)
$3.101 billion (2015 est.
note: data are in 2017 dollars
GDP (official exchange rate):
$1.992 billion (2017 est.)
GDP – real growth rate:
4.7% (2017 est.)
4.5% (2016 est.)
4.8% (2015 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP):
$700 (2017 est.)
$700 (2016 est.)
$600 (2015 est.)
Gross national saving:
5.6% of GDP (2017 est.)
4.6% of GDP (2016 est.)
4.9% of GDP (2015 est.)
GDP – composition, by sector of origin:
services: 41.2% (2017 est.)
Agriculture – products:
cotton, coffee, tobacco, cassava (manioc, tapioca), yams, millet, corn, bananas; timber
gold and diamond mining, logging, brewing, sugar refining
Population below poverty line:
64.6% (2014 est.)
revenues: $230.6 million
expenditures: $271.1 million (2017 est.)
Agriculture is dominated by the cultivation and sale of food crops such as cassava, peanuts, maize, sorghum, millet, sesame, and plantain. The annual real GDP growth rate is just above 3%. The importance of food crops over exported cash crops is indicated by the fact that the total production of cassava, the staple food of most Central Africans, ranges between 200,000 and 300,000 tonnes a year, while the production of cotton, the principal exported cash crop, ranges from 25,000 to 45,000 tonnes a year. Food crops are not exported in large quantities, but still constitute the principal cash crops of the country, because Central Africans derive far more income from the periodic sale of surplus food crops than from exported cash crops such as cotton or coffee.
CAR’s labor force and accounts for more than half of the total GDP (53 percent in 1999). The country’s largest agricultural export, timber, is harvested by several foreign companies. Farmers also produce cotton, coffee, and tobacco for export. Subsistence farmers grow cassava, millet, corn, and bananas for their own consumption and for sale on domestic markets. Individual small-scale farmers using traditional agricultural methods produce these crops. Small amounts of palm oil and sugar are produced for the domestic market.
Coffee and cotton are the most important agricultural exports after timber. Introduced by the country’s French colonizers, cotton is grown in the northern provinces bordering on Chad. The CAR usually produces about 50,000 tons of raw cotton, which is purchased and ginned by the state cotton company, SOCOCA. Cotton production suffered when prices fell during the 1980s, but it partially rebounded during the 1990s. Coffee farmers in central and southern regions produce 10,000 to 15,000 tons annually.
Cassava (manioc) is by far the biggest subsistence crop in the CAR. Farmers produce about 500,000 tons of cassava annually, greater than the combined output of millet, sorghum, rice, and corn. Peanuts, yams, and sesame are also cultivated for the domestic market. In addition, almost all farm families raise livestock, partly for family consumption and to provide extra income. An assortment of cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, and poultry are owned by most rural households across the country. Individual families using traditional methods produce these commodities. Some farmers harness cattle to plow their fields and transport their crops, but most plow, hoe, and harvest by hand. The entire family, regardless of age, helps in the long, hard work of farming.
population without electricity: 4,500,000
electrification – total population: 3%
electrification – urban areas: 5%
electrification – rural areas: 1% (2013)
Electricity – production:
174 million kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – consumption:
161.8 million kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – exports:
0 million kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – imports:
0 million kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – installed generating capacity:
44,000 kW (2015 est.)
Electricity – from fossil fuels:
43.2% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Electricity – from nuclear fuels:
0% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Telephones – fixed lines:
total subscriptions: 1,964
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: less than 1 (July 2016 est.)
Telephones – mobile cellular:
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 22 (July 2016 est.)
Internet country code:
percent of population: 4.6% (July 2016 est.)
Industry and Mining
Diamonds and gold are exploited alluvially in former riverbeds which cross the Mesozoic sandstones (luvio-lacustrine formations) of Moukka in the East and Berbérati in the West, and it is thought that the origin of Central African diamonds is from volcanic deposits within these sandstones. In general, there is often a high diamond content where the former Tertiary riverbed intersects the conglomerate levels in the Carnot region. The CAR’s diamond production volume is still far below that of the Central African region’s other top producers, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Angola. The DRC and Angola produced 27.7 and 13.8 million carats respectively in 2010, which clearly overshadows the CAR’s 310 thousand carats20 (See table 2). The regions’ other diamond producers are Cameroon, the Republic of Congo and Gabon, however, the precise production outputs for these countries are unknown.
In terms of quantity, the CAR is, therefore, a relatively minor diamond producer compared to Angola and the DRC. The quality of diamonds is however quite a different matter (See table 2). While the DRC mainly produces industrial diamonds, 80% of the CAR’s diamonds are gem quality.22 In order to have an idea of the difference in quality, Barthélémy compared the average prices per carat in 2008. The average price per carat was $30 in the DRC, $150 in Angola, and $180 in the CAR.23 The quality of the CAR’s diamonds ranks fifth in the world. The CAR’s actual diamond production figures are considerably higher than the official ones mentioned above. Several sources, such as the Kimberley Process secretariat, the CAR authorities, and the World Bank, estimate that 30 percent of the country’s diamonds leaves its territory secretly.25 The value of these diamonds might even represent a higher percentage of the total value, as the biggest diamonds are more alluring to smuggling than the smaller ones.
The structure of the mining sector management is marked by the preponderance of the artisanal mining subsector. Only the Compagnie des Brigades Minières is physically deployed in the field yet it does not report to the Ministry of Mines. Therefore, the worrying reality is that the control and monitoring of the sector is not actually or effectively covered by either the General Mining Directorate or the Ministry of Mines, despite the existence of the Directorate for Information and Suppression of Fraud. Assessing the number and qualification of agents in an administration such as the CAR General Mining Directorate must be made carefully. Government instability and its constant movements of personnel have resulted in skills being dispersed outside decision-making and executive posts. The development and systematic use of standard mining contracts will be an improvement, providing transparency in the management of mining assets.
Banking and Finance
The financial sector of the CAR, the smallest in the CEMAC, is undeveloped and dominated by commercial banks. In addition to the National Office of the BEAC, the system consists of three commercial banks, two microfinance institutions (MFIs), two post office banks, two insurance companies, and a social security fund Because of the economic and security problems facing the CAR, the financial institutions, especially the MFIs, have consolidated their business in Bangui over the past few years. There is no money market, no securities market, and no foreign exchange market in the CAR.
Access to financial services is extremely limited in the CAR. Bank account holders represent less than 1 percent of the total population. The data also illustrate that ½ percent of the population use bank credit facilities and just over 1 percent is members of microfinance institutions. The postal financial institutions—the national savings bank (Caisse Nationale d’épargne) and the postal checking center (Centre des chèques Postaux)—still manage about 7,250 accounts (1,250 savings accounts and 6,000 postal checking accounts) belonging to civil servants. There is no significant activity in these accounts except at month-end when wages are paid. This situation attests to the total concentration of bank branches and ATMs in three towns in the CAR, with 71 percent of all bank branches located in Bangui alone, and the government cash-flow pressures that led to the accumulation of wage arrears ranging from 7 to 36 months.
The range of financial services supplied in the CAR is limited, compared to countries with a similar level of development. The availability of loan accounts is low and highly concentrated and there is little diversification concerning financial products offered by banks. Financial services such as operations in securities and foreign exchange, leasing, and remittances are marginal. Savings products include demand deposits on which interest is set free; time deposits; and passbook savings accounts with the mandatory interest of 4.25 percent.
Access to financial services by the rural sector is almost nil. The commercial banks withdrew from the agricultural credit business following the accumulation of overdue obligations in the cotton and coffee sectors, especially after the poor performance of a number of companies, the accumulation of arrears to producers and to the banking system, and the cessation of coffee production. In the absence of access to financial services, the microfinance sector remains largely underdeveloped. The postal financial institutions are arms of the National Post and Savings Office (Office national de la Poste et de l’épargne—ONPE), which provides a number of payment services, but since its creation in 1995, it has recorded sizable deficits and has no analytical accounting. A full evaluation of the postal financial institutions is warranted to determine the financial, economic, and social viability of these offices.
The Central African Republic is arguably the richest country in the world when it comes to natural beauty and diversity of wildlife but in terms of money, the country is one of the world’s poorest. Landlocked between several other war-torn countries and facing its own difficulties with poachers, military violence, and general lawlessness, travel to the Central African Republic is strongly discouraged. The history of the country is, like most on the African continent, tarnished by the colonization by Europeans, the remnants of which can still be seen in some of the main cities.
The country does, however, have its charms which come in various shapes and sizes ranging from rare butterflies to gorillas and elephants. There is nowhere on earth that is more suitable for safaris and lovers of wildlife however even with such natural assets such as these the countries tourism cannot thrive due to its political problems. The country is one of the least developed on the continent and even the world but the people of the country mostly remain friendly and honest. If a time comes soon when the country is safe again to travel too, then these are, in our opinion, the 15 best places to visit in the Central African Republic.
Place of Attractions
Situated in the country’s southwest region, Dzanga Sangha is one of the most important national parks in the Central African Republic. It is distinctive for its thick lowland rainforest and strategic location near the Sangha River, which is one of the Congo’s major tributaries. The reserve is home to large species of mammals such as forest elephants, the bongo, chimpanzee, western lowland gorillas, sitatungas, the red river hog, the giant forest hog, and water buffaloes.
This national park, wedged into the triangle of southwestern CAR Cameroon from Congo, is probably the one corner of the country still attracting visitors. Gorillas, elephants and the Baka people are all found in this remote corner of Africa. Bayanga is the main village near the park, on the banks of the Sangha River. Although a handful of intrepid visitors may come to Bayanga by road, most visitors probably arrive in chartered aircraft.
Boganda National Museum is the history and culture of the Central African Republic. It holds a vast collection of traditional musical instruments, weapons, cooking utensils, ebony and ivory sculptures, games, and jewelry. One of the sections showcases the lifestyle of the pygmy ethnic group. The museum is housed in a colonial villa right in downtown Bangui.
Southwest of Bangui and surrounded by rainforest, M’Baïki is in a timber, coffee, and tobacco growing area. It’s also the stopping-off point for visiting nearby Baka encampments. One bus and several pick-ups leave Bangui each day from K-Cinq. About 10km (6.2mi) northeast of M’Baïki is the village of Sabe, worth visiting for its ebony sculptures.
Approximately 10,000 years ago, desertification forced hunter-gatherer societies south into the Sahel regions of northern Central Africa, where some groups settled and began farming as part of the Neolithic Revolution. Initial farming of white yam progressed into millet and sorghum, and then later the domestication of African oil palm improved the groups’ nutrition and allowed for the expansion of the local populations. Bananas arrived in the region and added an important source of carbohydrates to the diet; they were also used in the production of alcohol. This Agricultural Revolution, combined with a “Fish-stew Revolution”, in which fishing began to take place, and the use of boats, allowed for the transportation of goods. Products were often moved in ceramic pots, which are the first known examples of artistic expression from the region’s inhabitants.
Diamond prospectors in the Central African Republic have found polished flint and quartz tools that are at least 8,000 years old. About 2,500 years ago local farmers set up megaliths weighing several tons each near Bouar. The cooperation necessary to make and position these monuments suggests that they were built by fairly large social units. By the 15th century CE, various groups speaking languages related to those of the present day were living in the area. These peoples lived in relatively isolated small settlements, where they hunted and cleared land for cultivation using the slash-and-burn method. The region also produced such states as Dar al-Kuti, Zande, and Bandi, all founded in the 19th century.
The Bouar Megaliths in the western region of the country indicate an advanced level of habitation dating back to the very late Neolithic Era (c. 3500-2700 BC). Iron-working arrived in the region around 1000 BC from both Bantu cultures in what is today Nigeria and from the Nile city of Meroë, the capital of the Kingdom of Kush. During the Bantu Migrations from about 1000 BC to AD 1000, Ubangian-speaking people spread eastward from Cameroon to Sudan, Bantu-speaking people settled in the southwestern regions of the CAR, and Central Sudanic-speaking people settled along the Ubangi River in what is today Central and East CAR. The territory of modern Central African Republic is known to have been settled from at least the 7th century on by overlapping empires, including the Kanem-Bornu, Ouaddai, Baguirmi, and Dafour groups based on the Lake Chad region and along the Upper Nile.
The Daju and the 14th-century migrants the Tunjur were the earliest powers in Darfur according to written records. The transition of power from the Daju to the Tunjur was facilitated through marriage. Eventually, the Tunjur began marrying amongst the Fur people producing Sultan Dali, a celebrated figure in Darfur histories, who was on his mother’s side a Fur, and thus brought the dynasty closer to the people it ruled. Dali divided the country into provinces and established a penal code, which, under the title of Kitab Dali or Dali’s Book, is still preserved, and differs in some respects from the Quranic law. The Wadai Empire or Sultanate was a kingdom located to the east of Lake Chad in present-day Chad and in the Central African Republic. It emerged in the seventeenth century as an offshoot of the Sultanate of Darfur (in present-day Sudan).
In 1635, the Maba and other small groups in the region rallied to the Islamic banner of Abd al-Karim, who led an invasion from the east and overthrew the ruling Tunjur group. Abd al-Karim became the first Kolak or Sultan of a dynasty that lasted until the arrival of the French. During much of the 18th century, Wadai resisted reïncorporation into Darfur. After 1804, during the reign of Muhammad Sabun (r. 1804 – c. 1815), the Sultanate of Wadai began to expand its power as it profited considerably from its strategic position astride the trans-Saharan trade routes. A new trade route to the north was found, via Ennedi, Kufra, and Jalu-Awjila to Benghazi, and Sabun outfitted royal caravans to take advantage of it. He began minting his own coinage and imported chain mail, firearms, and military advisers from North Africa. Saban’s successors were less able than he, and Darfur took advantage of a disputed political succession in 1838 to put its own candidate in power in Ouara, the capital of Wadai. This tactic backfired, however, when Darfur’s choice, Muhammad Sharif, rejected Darfur’s meddling and asserted his own authority. In doing so, he gained acceptance from Wadai’s various factions and went on to become Wadai’s ablest ruler.
Sharif conducted military campaigns as far west as Bornu and eventually established Wadai’s hegemony over Baguirmi and kingdoms as far away as the Chari River. In Mecca, Sharif had met the founder of the Senussi Islamic brotherhood, a movement that was strong among the inhabitants of Cyrenaica (in present-day Libya) and that was to become a dominant political force and source of resistance to French colonization. Last charge of the cavalry. Armed with spear, bow, and sword, and accompanied by deafening music, Wadai’s forces held to the old methods- mass cavalry charges followed by the infantry. These were insufficient against modern weapons. Sultan Dud Murra of Wadai opposed French domination until being overcome on June 6, 1909, with the occupation of the capital Abéché by French troops where a puppet sultan was installed. Resistance continued until the last independent sultan was captured in 1912 bringing the sultanate to an end. It became part of the independent Republic of Chad on that country’s independence in 1960. The Ouaddaï Region of modern Chad covers part of the area of the old kingdom. Its chief town is Abéché.
The Slave Trade Era
During the 16th and 17th centuries, slave traders began to raid the region as part of the expansion of the Saharan and Nile River slave routes. Their captives were enslaved and shipped to the Mediterranean coast, Europe, Arabia, the Western Hemisphere, or to the slave ports and factories along the West and North Africa or South the Ubanqui and Congo rivers. The region of the Central African Republic was not directly connected to external commercial routes until the 17th century. At that time, slavery became an important factor in Central African history as Arabic-speaking slave traders extended the trans-Saharan and Nile River trade routes into the region. Before the mid 19th century these slave traders’ captives were sent to North Africa, where they were eventually sold to countries such as Egypt or Turkey or down the Ubangi and Congo rivers to the Atlantic coast to slave ships that transported them to the Americas.
In the mid 19th century, the Bobangi people became major slave traders and sold their captives to the Americas using the Ubangi river to reach the coast. During the 18th century, Bandia-Nzakara peoples established the Bangassou Kingdom along the Ubangi River. In 1875, the Sudanese sultan Rabih az-Zubayr governed Upper-Oubangui, which included present-day CAR. Before its colonial history, the area now known as the Central African Republic was settled by successive waves of peoples, mostly Bantu. Both European and Arab slave traders exploited the area in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, and slave raids and intertribal wars were frequent until the French conquest. In the 19th century, the main population groups, the Baya and the Banda, arrived from the north and east, respectively, to flee the slave trade.
Later in the mid 19th century the Bobangi people from the Ubangi River area, who had become major slave traders, raided the nearby Baya and Mandjia peoples for captives. In exchange for captives, the slave traders received arms, which allowed them to continue to raid for more slaves. Though these raids largely ended by the end of the century, they continued in the north until 1912 when Dar al-Kuti fell. The slave trade disrupted the societies in its wake and depopulated the region. It also created lasting tensions between ethnic groups. The ruling elite is still resented today by many in Central Africa because they tend to come from riverine groups akin to the Bobang
In the 19th century, the main population groups, the Baya and the Banda, arrived from the north and east, respectively, to flee the slave trade. The French explored and conquered the country, chiefly from 1889, when an outpost was established at Bangui, to 1900, as part of a plan to link French colonies from the Atlantic to the Nile. The last two decades of the 19th century, Belgium, Great Britain, Germany, and France competed for control of equatorial Africa. Belgium, Germany, and France each wanted the region that would eventually become the Central African Republic. The French were ultimately successful and named it the French Congo (later French Equatorial Africa), with its capital at Brazzaville. The French colonies included Ubangi-Shari (Oubangui-Chari; which later became the Central African Republic), Chad, Gabon, and the Middle Congo (which became the Republic of the Congo).
In 1875, the Sudanese sultan Rabih az-Zubayr governed Upper-Oubangui, which included present-day CAR. Europeans, primarily the French, German, and Belgians, arrived in the area in 1885. The French consolidated their legal claim to the area through an 1887 convention with Congo Free State, which granted France possession of the right bank of the Oubangui River. Two years later, the French established an outpost at Bangui, and in 1894, Oubangui-Chari became a French territory. However, the French did not consolidate their control over the area until 1903, after having defeated the forces of Rabih in the battle of Kousséri, and established colonial administration throughout the territory. In 1906, the Oubangui-Chari territory was united with the Chad colony; in 1910, it became one of the four territories of the Federation of French Equatorial Africa (AEF), along with Chad, Middle Congo, and Gabon. The next thirty years were marked by mostly small-scale revolts against French rule and the development of a plantation-style economy. The largest of these revolts was the Kongo-Wara rebellion when over 350,000 natives rebelled against the colonial administration.
By the beginning of the 20th century, frontiers had been established for the Ubangi-Shari colony by the European powers. During the 1930s, cotton, tea, and coffee emerged as important cash crops in Ubangi-Shari and the mining of diamonds and gold began in earnest. Several cotton companies were granted purchasing monopolies over large areas of cotton production and were able to fix the prices paid to cultivators, which assured profits for their shareholders. IMany Africans resisted French control, and several military expeditions in the first decade of the century were needed to crush their opposition. The Kongo-Wara rebellion (1928–31) was a widespread, though unsuccessful, the anti-colonial uprising in the western and southwestern parts of the colony. In September 1940, during the Second World War, pro-Gaullist French officers took control of Ubangi-Shari.
Struggle for Independence
After it was suppressed, its leaders were imprisoned and executed and populations of Central Africans were forcibly relocated to colonially designated villages where they could be supervised. In September 1940, during the Second World War, pro-Gaullist French officers took control of Ubangi-Shari and General Leclerc established his headquarters for the Free French Forces in Bangui. In August 1940, the territory responded, with the rest of the AEF, to the call from General Charles de Gaulle to fight for Free France. After World War II, the French Constitution of 1946 inaugurated the first of a series of reforms that led eventually to complete independence for all French territories in western and equatorial Africa. In November 1946 Barthélemy Boganda became the first Central African elected to the French National Assembly. All AEF inhabitants were granted French citizenship and allowed to establish local assemblies. The assembly in CAR was led by Barthélemy Boganda, a Catholic priest who also was known for his forthright statements in the French Assembly on the need for African emancipation.
In 1946 Barthélémy Boganda was elected with 9,000 votes to the French National Assembly, becoming the first representative of the CAR in the French government. Boganda maintained a political stance against racism and the colonial regime but gradually became disheartened with the French political system and returned to CAR to establish the Movement for the Social Evolution of Black Africa (Mouvement pour l’évolution Sociale de l’Afrique Noire, MESAN) in 1950. In 1956 French legislation eliminated certain voting inequalities and provided for the creation of some organs of self-government in each territory.
During World War II French Gen. Charles de Gaulle called on the residents of the colonial territories to help fight the Germans, and 3,000 responded from Central Africa. After the war, these troops returned to their homeland with a new sense of pride and a national, rather than ethnic, identity. After the war de Gaulle organized the French Union and created new local assemblies—consisting of French colonists and a handful of Africans—with regional political representatives. The French constitutional referendum of September 1958 dissolved the AEF, and on 1 December of the same year, the Assembly declared the birth of the autonomous Central African Republic with Boganda as head of government. Boganda ruled until his death in a plane crash on 29 March 1959. His cousin, David Dacko, replaced him as head of Government. On 12 July 1960 France agreed to the Central African Republic becoming fully independent. On 13 August 1960, the Central African Republic became an independent country and David Dacko became its first President.
Independent Central African Republic
In the Ubangi-Shari Territorial Assembly election in 1957, MESAN captured 347,000 out of the total 356,000 votes and won every legislative seat, which led to Boganda being elected president of the Grand Council of French Equatorial Africa and vice-president of the Ubangi-Shari Government Council. Within a year, he declared the establishment of the Central African Republic and served as the country’s first prime minister. MESAN continued to exist, but its role was limited. After Boganda’s death in a plane crash on 29 March 1959, his cousin, David Dacko, took control of MESAN and became the country’s first president after the CAR had formally received independence from France. Dacko threw out his political rivals, including former Prime Minister and Mouvement d’évolution démocratique de l’Afrique Centrale (MEDAC), leader Abel Goumba, whom he forced into exile in France. With all opposition parties suppressed by November 1962, Dacko declared MESAN as the official party of the state.
On 31 December 1965, Dacko was overthrown in the Saint-Sylvestre coup d’état by Colonel Jean-Bédel Bokassa, who suspended the constitution and dissolved the National Assembly. President Bokassa declared himself President for Life in 1972 and named himself Emperor Bokassa I of the Central African Empire (as the country was renamed) on 4 December 1976. A year later, Emperor Bokassa crowned himself in a lavish and expensive ceremony that was ridiculed by much of the world. On 1 January 1966, following a swift and almost bloodless overnight coup, Colonel Jean-Bédel Bokassa assumed power as president of the Republic. Bokassa abolished the constitution of 1959, dissolved the National Assembly, and issued a decree that placed all legislative and executive powers in the hands of the president. On 4 December 1976, the republic became a monarchy – the Central African Empire – with the promulgation of the imperial constitution and the proclamation of the president as Emperor Bokassa I. His regime was characterized by numerous human rights atrocities.
Dacko’s efforts to promote economic and political reforms proved ineffectual, and on 20 September 1981, he, in turn, was overthrown in a bloodless coup by General André Kolingba. For four years, Kolingba led the country as head of the Military Committee for National Recovery (CRMN). Kolingba suspended the constitution and ruled with a military junta until 1985. In 1985, the CRMN was dissolved, and Kolingba named a new cabinet with increased civilian participation, signaling the start of a return to civilian rule. The process of democratization quickened in 1986 with the creation of a new political party, the Rassemblement Démocratique Centrafricain (RDC), and the drafting of a new constitution that subsequently was ratified in a national referendum. General Kolingba was sworn in as constitutional President on 29 November 1986.
The Continued Coup
In 1998, parliamentary elections resulted in Kolingba’s RDC winning 20 out of 109 seats but in 1999, in spite of widespread public anger in urban centers over his corrupt rule, Patassé won a second term in the presidential election. On 28 May 2001, rebels stormed strategic buildings in Bangui in an unsuccessful coup attempt. In March 2003, Bozizé launched a surprise attack against Patassé, who was out of the country. Libyan troops and some 1,000 soldiers of Bemba’s Congolese rebel organization failed to stop the rebels and Bozizé’s forces succeeded in overthrowing Patassé. Despite these shortcomings, and his promise to step down at the end of the transition, Bozizé contested the 13 March 2005 presidential elections in which all of the leading opposition candidates were allowed to run except for Patassé. Bozizé won on the second run-off round on 8 May 2005, defeating Martin Ziguélé, who ran on the ticket of the MLPC, the former ruling party. The National Elections Commission declared Bozizé the winner with 64.6 percent of the vote to 35.4 percent for Ziguélé.
In late 2012, a coalition of old rebel groups under the new name of Séléka renewed fighting. Two other, previously unknown groups, the Alliance for Revival and Rebuilding (A2R) and the Patriotic Convention for Saving the Country (CPSK) also joined the coalition, as well as the Chadian group FPR. On 27 December 2012, CAR President Francois Bozizé requested international assistance to help with the rebellion, in particular from France and the United States. On 11 January 2013, a ceasefire agreement was signed Libreville, Gabon. The rebels dropped their demand for President François Bozizé to resign, but he had to appoint a new prime minister from the opposition party by 18 January 2013. On 13 January, Bozizé signed a decree that removed Prime Minister Faustin-Archange Touadéra from power, as part of the agreement with the rebel coalition. On 17 January, Nicolas Tiangaye was appointed Prime Minister.
On 18 February 2014, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the UN Security Council to immediately deploy 3,000 troops to the country, bolstering the 6,000 African Union soldiers and 2,000 French troops already in the country, to combat civilians being murdered in large numbers. The Séléka government was said to be divided. It is argued that the focus of the initial disarmament efforts exclusively on the Seleka inadvertently handed the anti-Balaka the upper hand, leading to the forced displacement of Muslim civilians by anti-Balaka in Bangui and western CAR. On 11 January 2014, Michael Djotodia and Nicolas Tiengaye resigned as part of a deal negotiated at a regional summit in neighboring Chad. Elections completed in March 2016 installed independent candidate Faustin-Archange TOUADERA as president; he continues to work towards peace between the government and armed groups and is developing a disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, and repatriation (DDRR) program to reintegrate the armed groups into society.
The Unknown Reason Behind the Assassination of Barthélemy Boganda
Barthélemy Boganda (4 April 1910 – 29 March 1959) was the leading nationalist politician of what is now the Central African Republic. Boganda was active prior to his country’s independence, during the period when the area, part of French Equatorial Africa, was administered by France under the name of Oubangui-Chari. He served as the first Prime Minister of the Central African Republic autonomous territory. Boganda was born into a family of subsistence farmers and was adopted and educated by Roman Catholic Church missionaries. In 1938, he was ordained as the first Roman Catholic priest from Oubangui-Chari. During World War II, Boganda served in a number of missions and after was persuaded by the Bishop of Bangui to enter politics. In 1946, he became the first Oubanguian elected to the French National Assembly, where he maintained a political platform against racism and the colonial regime. He then returned to Oubangui-Chari to form a grassroots movement in opposition to French colonialism. The movement led to the 1949 foundation of the Movement for the Social Evolution of Black Africa (MESAN), which became popular among villagers and the working class. He continued to advocate for equal treatment and civil rights for blacks in the territory well into the 1950s.
Boganda was poised to become the first president of the independent CAR when he boarded a plane at Berbérati for a flight to Bangui on 29 March 1959, just prior to legislative elections. The aircraft exploded in midair over Boukpayanga in the sub-prefecture of Boda (about 160 kilometers (100 mi) west of Bangui), killing all passengers and crew. No clear cause has ever been ascertained for the mysterious crash and no commission of inquiry was ever formed; sabotage was widely suspected. The nation was shocked at the death of its revered leader, whose funeral on 2 April at the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Bangui saw a great outpouring of grief from thousands of Orangutans. The 7 May edition of the Paris weekly L’Express revealed that experts had found traces of explosive in the wreckage, but the French high commissioner banned the sale of that magazine edition when it appeared in the CAR. Many suspected that expatriate businessmen from the Bangui chamber of commerce, possibly aided by the French secret service, played a role.
Abel Goumba, the vice-premier and finance minister whom Titley describes as “intelligent, honest, and strongly nationalistic”, emerged as Boganda’s logical successor. However, his close confidant and cousin, interior minister David Dacko, more likely to lead a regime deferential to foreign interests, was backed by the high commissioner, Colonel Roger Barberot, with the support of the chamber of commerce and Michelle Jourdain. He thus brushed aside Goumba and by 1962 had shut down the opposition, with MESAN becoming the country’s single party. The events after Boganda’s death are strongly evocative of other French efforts to maintain economic domination by ensuring that compliant leaders came to power in its former colonies. It also robbed the country of a charismatic leader in the Houphouët-Boigny or Senghor mold, whose prestige alone might have sufficed to retain civilian rule, which ended when Bokassa deposed the unpopular Dacko in 1966.