The Central African Republic (CAR), French: République Centrafricaine is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It borders Chad in the north, Sudan in the east, the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the south, and Cameroon in the west.
Most of the CAR consists of Sudano-Guinean savannas but it also includes a Sahelo-Sudanese zone in the north and an equatorial forest zone in the south. Two thirds of the country lies in the basins of the Ubangi River, which flows south into the Congo River, while the remaining third lies in the basin of the Chari River, which flows north into Lake Chad.
Since most of the territory is located in the Ubangi and Shari river basins, the French called the colony it carved out in this region Ubangi-Shari, or Oubangui-Chari in French. This French colony of Ubangi-Shari became a semi-autonomous territory of the French Community in 1958 and then an independent nation on 13 August 1960. For over three decades after independence, the CAR was ruled by presidents who were not chosen in truly democratic elections or who took power by force. Local discontent with this system was eventually reinforced by international pressure, following the end of the Cold War.
The first fair democratic elections were held in 1993 with resources provided by the country's donors and help from the UN Office for Electoral Affairs. They brought ééAnge-Flix Patass to power, but President Patassé lost popular support and was overthrown by French-backed General çéFranois Boziz in 2003. General Bozizé won a democratic election in May 2005.
Inability to pay workers in the public sector led to strikes in 2007, forcing the resignation of the government in early 2008. A new Prime Minister, éFaustin-Archange Touadra was named on January 22, 2008.
The Central African Republic is one of the poorest countries in the world and among the ten poorest countries in Africa.
In 2001 The Ecologist magazine estimated that Central African Republic is the world's leading country in sustainable development
Between about 1000 BC and 1000 AD, Adamawa-Eastern-speaking peoples spread eastward from Cameroon to Sudan and settled in most of the territory of the CAR. During the same period, a much smaller number of Bantu-speaking immigrants settled in Southwestern CAR and some Central Sudanic-speaking populations settled along the Oubangi. The majority of the CAR's inhabitants thus speak Adamawa-Eastern languages or Bantu languages belonging to the Niger-Congo family. A minority speak Central Sudanic languages of the Nilo-Saharan family. More recent immigrants include many Muslim merchants who most often speak Arabic or Hausa.
Exposure to the outside world
Until the early 1800s, the peoples of the CAR lived beyond the expanding Islamic frontier in the Sudanic zone of Africa and thus had relatively little contact with Abrahamic religions or northern economies. During the first decades of the nineteenth century, however, Muslim traders began increasingly to penetrate the region of the CAR and to cultivate special relations with local leaders in order to facilitate their trade and settlement in the region. The initial arrival of Muslim traders in the early 1800s was relatively peaceful and depended upon the support of local peoples, but after about 1850, slave traders with well-armed soldiers began to penetrate the region. Between c. 1860 and 1910, slave traders from Sudan, Chad, Cameroon, Dar al-Kuti in Northern CAR and Nzakara and Zande states in Southeastern CAR exported much of the population of Eastern CAR, a region with very few inhabitants today.
European penetration of Central African territory began in the late nineteenth century during the so-called Scramble for Africa (c. 1875-1900). Count Savorgnan de Brazza took the lead in establishing the French Congo with headquarters in the city named after him, Brazzaville, and sent expeditions up the Ubangi River in an effort to expand France's claims to territory in Central Africa. King Leopold II of Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom also competed to establish their claims to territory in the Central African region. In 1889 the French established a post on the Ubangi River at Bangui, the future capital of Ubangi-Shari and the CAR. De Brazza then sent expeditions in 1890-91 up the Sangha River in what is now Southwestern CAR, up the center of the Ubangi basin toward Lake Chad, and eastward along the Ubangi River toward the Nile. De Brazza and the procolonial in France wished to expand the borders of the French Congo to link up with French territories in West Africa, North Africa and East Africa. In 1894, the French Congo's borders with Leopold II's Congo Free State and German Cameroon were fixed by diplomatic agreements. Then, in 1899, the French Congo's border with Sudan was fixed along the Congo-Nile watershed, leaving France without her much coveted outlet on the Nile and turning Southeastern Ubangi-Shari into a cul-de-sac.
Once European negotiators agreed upon the borders of the French Congo, France had to decide how to pay for the costly occupation, administration, and development of the territory. The reported financial successes of Leopold II's concessionary companies in the Congo Free State convinced the French government in 1899 to grant 17 private companies large concessions in the Ubangi-Shari region. In return for the right to exploit these lands by buying local products and selling European goods, the companies promised to pay rent to the colonial state and to promote the development of their concessions. The companies employed European and African agents who frequently used extremely brutal and atrocious methods to force Central Africans to work for them. At the same time, the French colonial administration began to force Central Africans to pay taxes and to provide the state with free labor. The companies and French administration often collaborated in their efforts to force Central Africans to work for their benefit, but they also often found themselves at odds.
Some French officials reported abuses committed by private company militias and even by their own colonial colleagues and troops, but efforts to bring these criminals to justice almost always failed. When news of atrocities committed against Central Africans by concessionary company employees and colonial officials or troops reached France and caused an outcry, there were investigations and some feeble attempts at reform, but the situation on the ground in Ubangi-Shari remained essentially the same.
In the meantime, during the first decade of French colonial rule (c. 1900-1910), the rulers of African states in the Ubangi-Shari region increased their slave raiding activities and also their sale of local products to European companies and the colonial state. They took advantage of their treaties with the French to procure more weapons which were used to capture more slaves and so much of the eastern half of Ubangi-Shari was depopulated as a result of the export of Central Africans by local rulers during the first decade of colonial rule. Those who had power, Africans and Europeans, often made life miserable for those who did not have the power to resist.
During the second decade of colonial rule (c. 1910-1920), armed employees of private companies and the colonial state continued to use brutal methods to deal with local populations who resisted forced labor but the power of local African rulers was destroyed and so slave raiding was greatly diminished. In 1911, the Sangha and Lobaye basins were ceded to Germany as part of an agreement which gave France a free-hand in Morocco and so Western Ubangi-Shari came under German rule until World War I, during which France reconquered this territory by using Central African troops.
The third decade of colonial rule (1920-1930) was a period of transition during which a network of roads was built, cash crops were promoted, mobile health services were formed to combat sleeping sickness, and Protestant missions established stations in different parts of the country. New forms of forced labor were also introduced, however, as the French conscripted large numbers of Ubangians to work on the Congo-Ocean Railway and many of these recruits died of exhaustion and illness.
In 1925 the French writer éAndr Gide published Voyage au Congo in which he described the alarming consequences of conscription for the Congo-Ocean railroad and exposed the continuing atrocities committed against Central Africans in Western Ubangi-Shari by employees of the Forestry Company of Sangha-Ubangi, for example. In 1928 a major insurrection, the Kongo-Wara 'war of the hoe handle' broke out in Western Ubangi-Shari and continued for several years. The extent of this insurrection, perhaps the largest anticolonial rebellion in Africa during the interwar years, was carefully hidden from the French public because it provided evidence, once again, of strong opposition to French colonial rule and forced labor.
During the fourth decade of colonial rule (c. 1930-1940), 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 thus able to fix the prices paid to cultivators in order to assure profits for their shareholders. Europeans established coffee plantations and Central Africans also began to cultivate coffee.
The fifth decade of colonial rule (c. 1940-1950) was shaped by the Second World War and the political reforms which followed in its wake. In September 1940 pro-Gaullist French officers took control of Ubangi-Shari.
On 1 December 1958 the colony of Ubangi-Shari became an autonomous territory within the French Community and took the name Central African Republic. The founding father and president of the Conseil de Gouvernement, ééBarthlmy Boganda, died in a mysterious plane accident in 1959, just eight days before the last elections of the colonial era. On 13 August 1960 the Central African Republic gained its independence and two of Boganda's closest aides, Abel Goumba and David Dacko, became involved in a power struggle. With the backing of the French, Dacko took power and soon had Goumba arrested. By 1962 President Dacko had established a one-party state.
On 31 December 1965 Dacko was overthrown by Colonel éJean-Bdel 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 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 1979 France carried out a coup against Bokassa and "restored" Dacko to power. Dacko, in turn, was overthrown in a coup by General éAndr Kolingba on 1 September 1981.
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 éRassemblement Dmocratique Centrafricain (RDC) was voluntary. In 1987, semi-competitive elections to parliament were held and municipal elections were held in 1988. Kolingba's two major political opponents, Abel Goumba and ééAnge-Flix Patass, boycotted these elections because their parties were not allowed to compete.
By 1990, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a pro-democracy movement became very active. In May 1990 a letter signed by 253 prominent citizens asked for the convocation of a National Conference but Kolingba refused this request and detained several opponents. Pressure from the United States, more reluctantly from France, and from a group of locally represented countries and agencies called GIBAFOR (France, USA, Germany, Japan, EU, World Bank and 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.
The prefectures include:
the two economic prefectures are éNana-Grbizi and ééSangha-Mbar; the commune is Bangui.
- · Bamingui-Bangoran
- · Basse-Kotto
- · Haute-Kotto
- · Haut-Mbomou
- · éKmo
- · Lobaye
- · éééïMambr-Kad
- · Mbomou
- · ééNana-Mambr
- · Ombella-M'Poko
- · Ouaka
- · Ouham
- · éOuham-Pend
- · Vakaga