The Central African Republic
: Ködörösêse tî Bêafrîka; French
: République centrafricaine
), French: [ʁepyblik sɑ̃tʁafʁikɛn]
, or Centrafrique [sɑ̃tʁafʁik]
) is a landlocked country
in Central Africa
. It is bordered by Chad
to the north
to the northeast
, South Sudan
to the southeast
, the Democratic Republic of the Congo
to the south
, the Republic of the Congo
to the southwest
to the west
. The CAR covers a land area of about 620,000 square kilometres (240,000 sq mi) and had an estimated population of around 4.7 million as of 2018. As of 2021, the CAR is the scene of a civil war, ongoing since 2012
What is today the Central African Republic has been inhabited for millennia; however, the country's current borders were established by France
, which ruled the country as a colony starting in the late 19th century. After gaining independence from France in 1960, the Central African Republic was ruled by a series of autocratic leaders, including an abortive attempt at a monarchy
by the 1990s, calls for democracy led to the first multi-party democratic elections in 1993. Ange-Félix Patassé
became president, but was later removed by General François Bozizé
in the 2003 coup
. The Central African Republic Bush War
began in 2004 and, despite a peace treaty in 2007 and another in 2011, civil war resumed in 2012, perpetuating the country's poor human rights record
, characterized by widespread and increasing abuses by various participating armed groups, such as arbitrary imprisonment, torture and restrictions on freedom of the press and freedom of movement.
its significant mineral
deposits and other resources, such as uranium
reserves, crude oil
, and hydropower
as well as significant quantities of arable land
, the Central African Republic is among the ten poorest countries in the world, with the lowest GDP
per capita at purchasing power parity in the world as of 2017.
As of 2019, according to the Human Development Index
(HDI), the country had the second-lowest level of human development (only behind Niger
), ranking 188th out of 189 countries, and the country had the lowest inequality-adjusted Human Development Index
(IHDI), ranking 150th out of 150 countries.
It is also estimated to be the unhealthiest country
as well as the worst country in which to be young.
The Central African Republic is a member of the United Nations
, the African Union
, the Economic Community of Central African States
, the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie
and the Non-Aligned Movement
Megaliths, pictured here on a 1967 Central African stamp, date back to the very late Neolithic Era (c. 3500–2700 BC).
Approximately 10,000 years ago, desertification
forced hunter-gatherer societies south into the Sahel regions of northern Central Africa, where some groups settled.
Farming began as part of the Neolithic Revolution
Initial farming of white yam
progressed into millet
, and before 3000 BC
the domestication of African oil palm
improved the groups' nutrition and allowed for expansion of the local populations.
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.
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 along the Ubanqui and Congo rivers.
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 Azande
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.
French colonial period
The European invasion of Central African territory began in the late 19th century during the Scramble for Africa
Europeans, primarily the French, Germans
, and Belgians
, arrived in the area in 1885. France seized and colonized Ubangi-Shari
territory in 1894. In 1911 at the Treaty of Fez
, France ceded a nearly 300,000 km2
portion of the Sangha and Lobaye basins to the German Empire
which ceded a smaller area (in present-day Chad
) to France. After World War I
France again annexed the territory. Modeled on King Leopold
's Congo Free State
, concessions were doled out to private companies that endeavored to strip the region's assets as quickly and cheaply as possible before depositing a percentage of their profits into the French treasury. The concessionary companies forced local people
to harvest rubber, coffee, and other commodities without pay and held their families hostage until they met their quotas. Between 1890, a year after the French first arrived, and 1940, the population declined by half due to diseases, famine and exploitation by private companies.
In 1920 French Equatorial Africa
was established and Ubangi-Shari was administered from Brazzaville
During the 1920s and 1930s the French introduced a policy of mandatory cotton cultivation,
a network of roads was built, attempts were made to combat sleeping sickness
, and Protestant missions
were established to spread Christianity.
New forms of forced labor were also introduced and a large number of Ubangians were sent to work on the Congo-Ocean Railway
. Through the period of construction until 1934 there was a continual heavy cost in human lives, with total deaths among all workers along the railway estimated in excess of 17,000 of the construction workers, from a combination of both industrial accidents and diseases including malaria
In 1928, a major insurrection, the Kongo-Wara rebellion
or 'war of the hoe handle', broke out in Western Ubangi-Shari and continued for several years. The extent of this insurrection, which was perhaps the largest anti-colonial rebellion in Africa during the interwar years, was carefully hidden from the French public because it provided evidence of strong opposition to French colonial rule and forced labor.
Since independence (1960–present)
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. Dacko became the country's first president when the CAR formally received independence
from France on 13 August 1960, a date celebrated by the country's Independence Day
Dacko threw out his political rivals, including Abel Goumba
, former Prime Minister and leader of Mouvement d'évolution démocratique de l'Afrique centrale
(MEDAC), 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.
Bokassa and the Central African Empire (1965–1979)
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.
In April 1979, young students protested against Bokassa's decree that all school attendees would need to buy uniforms from a company owned by one of his wives. The government violently suppressed the protests, killing 100 children and teenagers. Bokassa himself may have been personally involved in some of the killings.
In September 1979, France overthrew Bokassa
and restored Dacko to power (subsequently restoring the name of the country and the original government to the Central African Republic). Dacko, in turn, was again overthrown in a coup
by General André Kolingba
on 1 September 1981.
Central African Republic under Kolingba
Kolingba suspended the constitution and ruled with a military junta until 1985. He introduced a new constitution in 1986 which was adopted by a nationwide referendum. Membership in his new party, the Rassemblement Démocratique Centrafricain
(RDC), was voluntary. In 1987 and 1988, semi-free elections to parliament were held, but Kolingba's two major political opponents, Abel Goumba
and Ange-Félix Patassé
, were not allowed to participate.
By 1990, inspired by the fall of the Berlin Wall, a pro-democracy movement arose. Pressure from the United States, France, and from a group of locally represented countries and agencies called GIBAFOR (France, the US, Germany, Japan, the EU, the World Bank
, and the UN) finally led Kolingba to agree, in principle, to hold free elections in October 1992 with help from the UN Office of Electoral Affairs. After using the excuse of alleged irregularities to suspend the results of the elections as a pretext for holding on to power, President Kolingba came under intense pressure from GIBAFOR to establish a "Conseil National Politique Provisoire de la République" (Provisional National Political Council, CNPPR) and to set up a "Mixed Electoral Commission", which included representatives from all political parties.
When a second round of elections were finally held in 1993, again with the help of the international community coordinated by GIBAFOR, Ange-Félix Patassé won in the second round of voting with 53% of the vote while Goumba won 45.6%. Patassé's party, the Mouvement pour la Libération du Peuple Centrafricain
(MLPC) or Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People, gained a simple but not an absolute majority of seats in parliament, which meant Patassé's party required coalition partners.
Patassé Government (1993–2003)
Patassé purged many of the Kolingba elements from the government and Kolingba supporters accused Patassé's government of conducting a "witch hunt" against the Yakoma. A new constitution was approved on 28 December 1994 but had little impact on the country's politics. In 1996–1997, reflecting steadily decreasing public confidence in the government's erratic behaviour, three mutinies against Patassé's administration were accompanied by widespread destruction of property and heightened ethnic tension. During this time (1996) the Peace Corps evacuated all its volunteers to neighboring Cameroon. To date, the Peace Corps has not returned to the Central African Republic. The Bangui Agreements
, signed in January 1997, provided for the deployment of an inter-African military mission, to Central African Republic and re-entry of ex-mutineers into the government on 7 April 1997. The inter-African military mission was later replaced by a U.N. peacekeeping force (MINURCA)
. Since 1997, the country has hosted almost a dozen peacekeeping interventions, earning it the title of "world champion of peacekeeping".
In 1998, parliamentary elections resulted in Kolingba's RDC winning 20 out of 109 seats. The next year, however, 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
. The army chief of staff, Abel Abrou, and General François N'Djadder Bedaya were killed, but Patassé regained the upper hand by bringing in at least 300 troops of the Congolese
rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba
and Libyan soldiers.
In the aftermath of the failed coup
, militias loyal to Patassé sought revenge against rebels in many neighborhoods of Bangui
and incited unrest including the murder of many political opponents. Eventually, Patassé came to suspect that General François Bozizé
was involved in another coup attempt against him, which led Bozizé to flee with loyal troops to Chad. 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.
Rebel militia in the northern countryside, 2007.
suspended the constitution and named a new cabinet, which included most opposition parties. Abel Goumba
was named vice-president, which gave Bozizé's new government a positive image.[why?]
Bozizé established a broad-based National Transition Council to draft a new constitution, and announced that he would step down and run for office once the new constitution was approved.
In 2004, the Central African Republic Bush War
began, as forces opposed to Bozizé took up arms against his government. In May 2005, Bozizé won the presidential election, which excluded Patassé, and in 2006 fighting continued between the government and the rebels.
In November 2006, Bozizé's government requested French military support to help them repel rebels who had taken control of towns in the country's northern regions.
Though the initially public details of the agreement pertained to logistics and intelligence, by December the French assistance included airstrikes by Dassault Mirage 2000
fighters against rebel positions.
The Syrte Agreement in February and the Birao Peace Agreement in April 2007 called for a cessation of hostilities, the billeting of FDPC
fighters and their integration with FACA, the liberation of political prisoners, integration of FDPC into government, an amnesty for the UFDR
, its recognition as a political party, and the integration of its fighters into the national army. Several groups continued to fight but other groups signed on to the agreement, or similar agreements with the government (e.g. UFR on 15 December 2008). The only major group not to sign an agreement at the time was the CPJP
, which continued its activities and signed a peace agreement with the government on 25 August 2012.
In 2011, Bozizé was reelected in an election which was widely considered fraudulent.
In November 2012, Séléka
, a coalition of rebel groups, took over towns in the northern and central regions of the country. These groups eventually reached a peace deal with the Bozizé's government in January 2013 involving a power sharing government
but this deal broke down and the rebels seized the capital in March 2013 and Bozizé fled the country.
of the fighting in the Central African Republic, January 2014
Current military situation in Central African Republic
French President François Hollande
called on the UN Security Council
and African Union
to increase their efforts to stabilize the country. 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,
and in September 2013, Djotodia officially disbanded Seleka, but many rebels refused to disarm, becoming known as ex-Seleka, and veered further out of government control.
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
. Catherine Samba-Panza
was elected as interim president by the National Transitional Council,
becoming the first ever female Central African president. On 23 July 2014, following Congolese mediation efforts, Séléka and anti-balaka representatives signed a ceasefire agreement in Brazzaville
By the end of 2014, the country was de facto partitioned with the anti-Balaka in the southwest and ex-Seleka in the northeast.
In March 2015, Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said 417 of the country's 436 mosques had been destroyed, and Muslim women were so scared of going out in public they were giving birth in their homes instead of going to the hospital.
On 14 December 2015, Séléka rebel leaders declared an independent Republic of Logone
Touadéra Government (2016-) Presidential Elections
were held in December 2015. As no candidate received more than 50% of the vote, a second round of elections was held on 14 February 2016 with run-offs on 31 March 2016.
In the second round of voting, former Prime Minister Faustin-Archange Touadéra
was declared the winner with 63% of the vote, defeating Union for Central African Renewal
candidate Anicet-Georges Dologuélé
, another former Prime Minister.
While the elections suffered from many potential voters being absent as they had taken refuge in other countries, the fears of widespread violence were ultimately unfounded and the African Union
regarded the elections as successful.
Touadéra was sworn in on 30 March 2016. No representatives of the Seleka rebel group or the "anti-balaka" militias were included in the subsequently formed government.
After the end of Touadéra's first term, Presidential Elections
were held on 27 December 2020 with a possible second round planned for 14 February 2021.
Former president François Bozizé
announced his candidacy on 25 July 2020 but was rejected by the Constitutional Court of the country, which held that Bozizé did not satisfy the “good morality” requirement for candidates because of an international warrant and United Nations
sanctions against him for alleged assassinations, torture and other crimes.
As large parts of the country were at the time controlled by armed groups, the election could not be conducted in many areas of the country.
Some 800 of the country's polling stations, 14% of the total, were closed due to violence.
peacekeepers were killed and an additional two were wounded during the run-up to the election.
President Faustin Archange Touadéra was reelected in the first round of the election in December 2020.
Falls of Boali on the Mbali River
A village in the Central African Republic
The Central African Republic is a landlocked nation within the interior of the African continent. It is bordered by Cameroon, Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Republic of the Congo. The country lies between latitudes 2°
, and longitudes 14°
It has been estimated that up to 8% of the country is covered by forest, with the densest parts generally located in the southern regions. The forests are highly diverse and include commercially important species of Ayous
The deforestation rate is about 0.4% per annum, and lumber poaching
The Central African Republic had a 2018 Forest Landscape Integrity Index
mean score of 9.28/10, ranking it 7th globally out of 172 countries.
Central African Republic map of Köppen climate classification.
The climate of the Central African Republic is generally tropical
, with a wet season
that lasts from June to September in the northern regions of the country, and from May to October in the south. During the wet season, rainstorms are an almost daily occurrence, and early morning fog
is commonplace. Maximum annual precipitation is approximately 1,800 millimetres (71 in) in the upper Ubangi region.
The northern areas are hot and humid from February to May,
but can be subject to the hot, dry, and dusty trade wind
known as the Harmattan
. The southern regions have a more equatorial climate, but they are subject to desertification
, while the extreme northeast regions of the country are a steppe
Prefectures and sub-prefectures
A clickable map of the fourteen prefectures of the Central African Republic.
The Central African Republic is divided into 16 administrative prefectures
), two of which are economic prefectures (préfectures economiques
), and one an autonomous commune
; the prefectures are further divided into 71 sub-prefectures (sous-préfectures
. The economic prefectures are Nana-Grébizi
, while the commune is the capital city of Bangui
The population of the Central African Republic has almost quadrupled since independence. In 1960, the population was 1,232,000; as of a 2018 UN estimate, it is approximately 4,666,368.
The nation is divided into over 80 ethnic groups, each having its own language. The largest ethnic groups are the Baggara Arabs
, with others
of mostly French descent
A Christian church in the Central African Republic.
According to the 2003 national census, 80.3% of the population was Christian
and 28.9% Roman Catholic
), 10% was Muslim
and 4.5 percent other religious groups, with 5.5 percent having no religious beliefs.
More recent work from the Pew Research Center estimated that, as of 2010, Christians constituted 89.8% of the population (60.7% Protestant and 28.5% Catholic) while Muslims made 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.
There are many missionary groups operating in the country, including Lutherans
, Grace Brethren
, and Jehovah's Witnesses
. While these missionaries are predominantly from the United States, France, Italy, and Spain, many are also from Nigeria
, the Democratic Republic of the Congo
, and other African countries. Large numbers of missionaries left the country when fighting broke out between rebel and government forces in 2002–3, but many of them have now returned to continue their work.
According to Overseas Development Institute research, during the crisis ongoing since 2012, religious leaders have mediated between communities and armed groups; they also provided refuge for people seeking shelter.
Politics and government
Changes in government have occurred in recent years by three methods: violence, negotiations, and elections. A new constitution was approved by voters in a referendum held on 5 December 2004. The government was rated 'Partly Free' from 1991 to 2001 and from 2004 to 2013.
The president is elected by popular vote for a six-year term, and the prime minister is appointed by the president. The president also appoints and presides over the Council of Ministers
, which initiates laws and oversees government operations. However, as of 2018 the official government is not in control of large parts of the country, which are governed by rebel groups.
As in many other former French colonies, the Central African Republic's legal system is based on French law
The Supreme Court, or Cour Supreme
, is made up of judges appointed by the president. There is also a Constitutional Court, and its judges are also appointed by the president.
The Central African Republic relies heavily on Russian mercenaries for the protection of its diamond mines.
Foreign aid and UN Involvement
The Central African Republic is heavily dependent upon foreign aid
and numerous NGOs
provide services that the government does not provide.
In 2019, over US$100 million in foreign aid was spent in the country, mostly on humanitarian assistance.
In 2006, due to ongoing violence, over 50,000 people in the country's northwest were at risk of starvation
but this was averted due to assistance from the United Nations
On 8 January 2008, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon declared that the Central African Republic was eligible to receive assistance from the Peacebuilding Fund.
Three priority areas were identified: first, the reform of the security sector; second, the promotion of good governance and the rule of law; and third, the revitalization of communities affected by conflicts. On 12 June 2008, the Central African Republic requested assistance from the UN Peacebuilding Commission
which was set up in 2005 to help countries emerging from conflict avoid devolving back into war or chaos.
In response to concerns of a potential genocide, a peacekeeping force – the International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) – was authorized in December 2013. This African Union force of 6,000 personnel was accompanied by the French Operation Sangaris.
Violence against children and women in relation to accusations of witchcraft
has also been cited as a serious problem in the country.
Witchcraft is a criminal offense under the penal code.
The currency of the Central African Republic is the CFA franc
, which is accepted across the former countries of French West Africa and trades at a fixed rate to the euro. Diamonds constitute the country's most important export, accounting for 40–55% of export revenues, but it is estimated that between 30% and 50% of those produced each year leave the country clandestinely.
Graphical depiction of Central African Republic's product exports in 28 color-coded categories
Agriculture is dominated by the cultivation and sale of food crops such as cassava
, 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.
Much of the country is self-sufficient in food crops; however, livestock
development is hindered by the presence of the tsetse fly
Bangui is the transport hub of the Central African Republic. As of 1999, eight roads connected the city to other main towns in the country, Cameroon
, Chad and South Sudan
; of these, only the toll roads are paved. During the rainy season from July to October, some roads are impassable.
sail from the river port
at Bangui to Brazzaville
. The river can be navigated most of the year between Bangui and Brazzaville. From Brazzaville, goods are transported by rail to Pointe-Noire
, Congo's Atlantic port.
The river port handles the overwhelming majority of the country's international trade and has a cargo handling capacity of 350,000 tons; it has 350 metres (1,150 ft) length of wharfs
and 24,000 square metres (260,000 sq ft) of warehousing space.
Bangui M'Poko International Airport
is Central African Republic's only international airport. As of June 2014 it had regularly scheduled direct flights to Brazzaville
, and Yaoundé
The Central African Republic primarily uses hydroelectricity
as there are few other resources for energy and power.
The Central African Republic will likely be among the main winners after a global transition to renewable energies is completed as the country is ranked no. 7 out of 156 nations in the index of geopolitical gains and losses after energy transition (GeGaLo Index).
Public education in the Central African Republic is free and is compulsory from ages 6 to 14.
However, approximately half of the adult population of the country is illiterate
Mothers and babies aged between 0 and 5 years are lining up in a Health Post at Begoua, a district of Bangui
, waiting for the two drops of the oral polio vaccine
The largest hospitals in the country are located in the Bangui district. As a member of the World Health Organization
, the Central African Republic receives vaccination assistance, such as a 2014 intervention for the prevention of a measles epidemic.
In 2007, female life expectancy at birth
was 48.2 years and male life expectancy at birth was 45.1 years.
is endemic in the Central African Republic, and one of the leading causes of death.
According to 2009 estimates, the HIV/AIDS prevalence
rate is about 4.7% of the adult population (ages 15–49).
This is in general agreement with the 2016 United Nations
estimate of approximately 4%.
Government expenditure on health was US$20 (PPP) per person in 2006
and 10.9% of total government expenditure in 2006.
There was only around 1 physician for every 20,000 persons in 2009.
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