Central African Republic

President: Catherine Samba-Panza (interim; 2014)

Prime Minister: André Nzapayeke (interim;2014)

Total area: 240,533 sq mi (622,980 sq km)

Population (2012 est.): 5,057,208 (growth rate: 2.14%); birth rate: 36.13/1000; infant mortality rate: 97.17/1000; life expectancy: 50.48; density per sq km: 7

Capital and largest city (2009 est.): Bangui, 702,000

Monetary unit: CFA Franc

National name: République Centrafricaine

Current government officials

Languages: French (official), Sangho (lingua franca, national), tribal languages

Ethnicity/race: Baya 33%, Banda 27%, Mandjia 13%, Sara 10%, Mboum 7%, M'Baka 4%, Yakoma 4%, other 2%

National Holiday: Republic Day, December 1

Religions: indigenous beliefs 35%, Protestant and Roman Catholic (both with animist influence) 25% each, Islam 15%

Literacy rate: 48.6% (2011 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP $3.672 billion (2011 est.); per capita $800. Real growth rate: 4.1%. Inflation: 2.6% (2011 est.). Unemployment: 8% (23% for Bangui) (2011 est.). Arable land: 3%. Agriculture: cotton, coffee, tobacco, manioc (tapioca), yams, millet, corn, bananas; timber. Labor force: 1.926 million (2012) Industries: gold and diamond mining, logging, brewing, textiles, footwear, assembly of bicycles and motorcycles. Natural resources: diamonds, uranium, timber, gold, oil, hydropower. Exports: $168.7 million f.o.b. (2011 est.): diamonds, timber, cotton, coffee, tobacco. Imports: $378.1 million f.o.b. (2011 est.): food, textiles, petroleum products, machinery, electrical equipment, motor vehicles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals. Major trading partners: Belgium, Italy, Spain, U.S., France, Indonesia, China, Cameroon (2004).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 12,000 (2011); mobile cellular: 1,020,000 (2011). Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 5, shortwave 1 (2002). Television broadcast stations: 1 (2001). Internet hosts: 20 (2011). Internet users: 22,600 (2011).

Transportation: Railways: 0 km. Highways: total: 24,307 km; paved: (2011 est.). Waterways: 2,800 km (primarily on the Oubangui and Sangha rivers) (2004). Ports and harbors: Bangui, Nola, Salo, Nzinga. Airports: 37 (2011 est.).

International disputes: about 30,000 refugees fleeing the 2002 civil conflict in the CAR still reside in southern Chad; periodic skirmishes over water and grazing rights among related pastoral populations along the border with southern Sudan persist.

Major sources and definitions

Flag of Central African Republic

Geography | Government | History

Geography

Situated about 500 mi (805 km) north of the equator, the Central African Republic is a landlocked nation bordered by Cameroon, Chad, the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Republic of Congo. The Ubangi and the Shari are the largest of many rivers.

Government

Republic.

History

From the 16th to 19th century, the people of this region were ravaged by slave traders. The Banda, Baya, Ngbandi, and Azande make up the largest ethnic groups.

The French occupied the region in 1894. As the colony of Ubangi-Shari, what is now the Central African Republic was united with Chad in 1905. In 1910 it was joined with Gabon and the Middle Congo to become French Equatorial Africa. After World War II a rebellion in 1946 forced the French to grant self-government. In 1958 the territory voted to become an autonomous republic within the French Community, and on Aug. 13, 1960, President David Dacko proclaimed the republic's independence from France. Dacko moved the country politically into Beijing's orbit, but he was overthrown in a coup on Dec. 31, 1965, by Col. Jean-Bédel Bokassa, army chief of staff.

On Dec. 4, 1976, the Central African Republic became the Central African Empire. Marshal Jean-Bédel Bokassa, who had ruled the republic since he took power in 1965, was declared Emperor Bokassa I. Brutality and excess characterized his regime. He was overthrown in a coup on Sept. 20, 1979. Former president David Dacko returned to power and changed the country's name back to the Central African Republic. An army coup on Sept. 1, 1981, deposed President Dacko again.

In 1991, President André Kolingba, under pressure, announced a move toward parliamentary democracy. In elections held in Aug. 1993, Prime Minister Ange-Félix Patassé defeated Kolingba. Part of Patassé's popularity rested on his pledge to pay the back salaries of the military and civil servants.

A 1994 economic upturn was too small to effectively improve the catastrophic financial condition of the nation. Patassé was unable to pay the salaries due to government workers, and the military revolted in 1996. At Patassé's request, French troops suppressed the uprising. In 1998 the United Nations sent an all-African peacekeeping force to the country. In elections held in Sept. 1999, amid widespread charges of massive fraud, Patassé easily defeated Kolingba. Patassé survived a coup attempt in May 2001, but two years later, in March 2003, he was overthrown by Gen. François Bozizé. After two years of military rule, presidential elections were held, and Bozizé won in what international monitors called a free and fair election.

Prime Minister Elie Dote and his government resigned in January 2008, a day before Parliament was set to debate a censure motion against him. Faustin Archange Touadéra was named as his successor.

The trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former vice-president of Congo, began at the International Criminal Court in November 2010. He is accused of ordering his militia to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity, including rape, murder, and torture, in the Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003 during civil unrest that followed the attempted coup against Patassé.

Coup by Muslim Rebels Sinks Country into Civil War

In presidential elections in early 2011, incumbent François Bozizé (National Convergence Kwa Na Kwa) won reelection with 64.4% of the vote. In March 2013, Bozizé was ousted by rebels from the northern part of the country. The rebels, who are mostly Muslim and collectively known as Seleka, have been engaged in battles with government troops and said they overthrew Bozizé because he failed to follow through on earlier peace deals. Bozizé's presidency was marred by allegations of corruption and cronyism—hardly a surprise in one of the world's poorest and most unstable countries. Michel Djotodia, the coup leader, assumed power, suspended the constitution, and dissolved parliament. In mid-April he created a transitional national council that named him interim president. He was sworn in as head of state in August and promised to hold free and fair elections within 18 months. The African Union suspended the country in response to the coup, and refused to recognize Djotodia as president.

Djotodia was not able to stem the violence in the country, and CAR spiralled into chaos. Seleka rebels terrorized civilians, and Christian opponents formed their own militias to retaliate and defend themselves and were equally as brutal to Muslims. About 1 million people, in a country of 5 million, fled their homes. Many of those fleeing were farmers and herders, and officials feared that their absence would lead to famine. In October, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the country had experienced "total breakdown of law and order," and he authorized the deployment of a peacekeeping force. In December, the African Union said it would increase the size of its force there from 3,500 troops to 6,000. France deployed 1,600 soldiers to CAR, a former colony of France. Many feared that CAR was on the brink of experiencing a genocide.

At the urging of regional leaders, Djotodia resigned in January 2014 for his failure to stem the escalating violence between Christians and Muslims that left the country in tatters. In January, the 135-member national transitional council elected Catherine Samba-Panza, an insurance broker and the mayor of the capital, Bangui, as interim president. She will serve for one year until elections are held in January 2015. She will not run in the elections. The council named André Nzapayeke as prime minister. Both the interim president and prime minister are Christians.

See also Encyclopedia: Central African Republic.
U.S. State Dept. Country Notes: Central African Republic


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