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Central African Republic

CENTRAL AFRICAN
REPUBLIC

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
TOPOGRAPHY
CLIMATE
FLORA AND FAUNA
ENVIRONMENT
POPULATION
MIGRATION
ETHNIC GROUPS
LANGUAGES
RELIGIONS
TRANSPORTATION
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL PARTIES
LOCAL GOVERNMENT
JUDICIAL SYSTEM
ARMED FORCES
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
ECONOMY
INCOME
LABOR
AGRICULTURE
ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
FISHING
FORESTRY
MINING
ENERGY AND POWER
INDUSTRY
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
DOMESTIC TRADE
FOREIGN TRADE
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
BANKING AND SECURITIES
INSURANCE
PUBLIC FINANCE
TAXATION
CUSTOMS AND DUTIES
FOREIGN INVESTMENT
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HEALTH
HOUSING
EDUCATION
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS
MEDIA
ORGANIZATIONS
TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION
FAMOUS CENTRAL AFRICANS
DEPENDENCIES
BIBLIOGRAPHY

République Centrafricaine

CAPITAL: Bangui

FLAG: The national flag consists of four horizontal stripes (blue, white, green, and yellow) divided at the center by a vertical red stripe. In the upper left corner is a yellow five-pointed star.

ANTHEM: La Renaissance (Rebirth).

MONETARY UNIT: The Communauté Financière Africaine franc (CFA Fr), which was originally pegged to the French franc, has been pegged to the euro since January 1999 with a rate of 655.957 CFA francs to 1 euro. The CFA franc is issued in coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500 CFA francs, and notes of 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 CFA francs. CFA Fr1 = $0.00189 (or $1 = CFA Fr528.28) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Anniversary of President Boganda's Death, 29 March; Labor Day, 1 May; National Day of Prayer, 30 June; Independence Day, 13 August; Assumption, 15 August; All Saints' Day, 1 November; Proclamation of the Republic, 28 November; National Day, 1 December; and Christmas, 25 December. Movable religious holidays include Easter Monday, Ascension, Pentecost Monday.

TIME: 1 pm = noon GMT.

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT

Located entirely within the tropical zone of Central Africa, the Central African Republic has an area of 622,984 sq km (240,535 sq mi), extending 1,437 km (893 mi) ew and 772 km (480 mi) ns. Comparatively, the area occupied by Central African Republic is slightly smaller than the state of Texas. Entirely landlocked, it is bordered on the north by Chad, on the east by Sudan, on the south by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DROCthe former Zaire) and the Republic of the Congo (ROC), and on the west by Cameroon, with a total boundary length of 5,203 km (3,233 mi). The Oubangui and Mbomou rivers form much of the southern border; the eastern border coincides with the divide between the watersheds of the Nile and the Zaire rivers. The Central African Republic capital city, Bangui, is located in the southwestern part of the country.

TOPOGRAPHY

The land consists of an undulating plateau varying in altitude from 610 to 762 m (2,0002,500 ft). Two important escarpments are evident: in the northwest is a high granite plateau (rising to 1,420 m/4,659 ft), which is related to the Adamawa Plateau of Cameroon; in the northeast the Bongos Range rises to 1,368 m (4,488 ft) and extends into Sudan.

Soils are complex; sands and clays are predominate, sometimes covered with a lateritic layer, over granite and quartz rocks. The land is well drained by two river systems: the Ubangi and its tributaries in the south, and the tributaries of the Chari and Logone rivers in the north.

CLIMATE

The climate is tropical, with abundant rainfall of about 178 cm (70 in) annually in the south, decreasing to about 86 cm (30 in) in the extreme northeast. There is one rainy season (DecemberMarch) and one long, hot, dry season (AprilNovember). Temperatures at Bangui have an average minimum and maximum range from 21°c (70°f) to 34°c (93°f).

Flooding is common during the rainy season. An unusually heavy rainfall beginning in August 2005 caused severe flood damage to homes in Bakala, Grimari, Kouango, and Bambari. Damage to local farmland, particularly in Ouaka, posed the threat of famine to follow.

FLORA AND FAUNA

The tropical rain forest in the southwest contains luxuriant plant growth, with some trees reaching a height of 46 m (150 ft). Toward the north, the forest gradually becomes less dense, with wider patches of grassland, and eventually gives way to the rolling hills of the savanna, interrupted by taller growths along riverbeds. Almost every animal of the tropics is found, including the elephant; its ivory was once a major source of wealth but has declined in economic importance. The southwest has a colorful variety of butterflies. As of 2002, there were at least 209 species of mammals, 168 species of birds, and over 3,600 species of plants throughout the country.

ENVIRONMENT

The most significant environmental problems in the Central African Republic are desertification, water pollution, and the destruction of the nation's wildlife due to poaching and mismanagement. The encroachment of the desert on the country's agricultural and forest lands is due to deforestation and soil erosion. There are 13 national parks and wildlife reserves. About 8.7% of the total land area was protected in 2003. The Dzanga-Sangha nature reserve in the southwest protects the nation's last rain forest. The Manovo-Gounda St. Floris National Park is a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Central African Republic has reported major losses in its elephant population. In 1979, it was disclosed that three-quarters of what had been the nation's elephant population at independence (40,00080,000) had been killed so that the tusks could be sold for ivory. In the mid-1990s, it was estimated that 90% of the nation's elephant population had been eliminated over the previous 30 years, 85% since 1982. Elephant hunting is now banned.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 11 types of mammals, 3 species of birds, 1 type of reptile, and 15 species of plants. Endangered species in the Central African Republic included the black rhinoceros and northern square-lipped rhinoceros.

POPULATION

The population of Central African Republic in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 4,238,000, which placed it at number 120 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 4% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 43% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 95 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 1.7%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. The projected population for the year 2025 was 5,487,000. The population density was 7 per sq km (18 per sq mi), but large areas in the east are almost uninhabited.

The UN estimated that 41% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 2.81%. The capital city, Bangui, had a population of 698,000 in that year. Other cities and their estimated populations include Bouar (95,193), Bambari (87,464); and Berbérati (82,492).

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS has had a significant impact on the population of Central African Republic. The UN estimated that 12.9% of adults between the ages of 1549 were living with HIV/AIDS in 2001; the number of AIDS orphans grew by more than 20,000 from 2001 to 2003. The AIDS epidemic causes higher death and infant mortality rates, and lowers life expectancy.

MIGRATION

Both internal and external migration is mainly seasonal. As of 1999, there were 34,831 Sudanese refugees and 3,590 Chadians. Refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC) also arrived in the Central African Republic in January and July 1999. Many settled on their own; however, the government was attempting to relocate all to the Boubou refugee camp. Repatriation efforts began in 1999. Some 1,500 Chadians were ready to return home, and some 500 from the DROC had requested assistance to return to Kinshasa. In 2000, the total number of migrants was 59,000, of which 95% were refugees. In 2003, there were 200,000 internally displaced persons (IDP) within the country. In 2004, some 1,300 Central Africans sought asylum in Cameroon and France. In that same year 28,136 people sought refuge in the Central African Republic: 25,020 refugees, 2,748 asylum seekers (some from Chad), and 368 returned refugees. The net migration rate for the country estimated for 2005 was zero.

ETHNIC GROUPS

There are more than 80 ethnic groups, which are classified according to geographic location. The Baya (33% of the population) to the west and the Banda (27%) in the east central region 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. About 4% of the population are Yakoma. There were about 6,500 Europeans in 1998, including 3,600 French.

LANGUAGES

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. French is the official language of government and is taught in the schools.

RELIGIONS

Though about 50% of the population are Christians, it is believed that most of these followers incorporate traditional indigenous elements into their faith practices. Catholic and Protestant missions are scattered throughout the territory. Islam is practiced primarily in the north. About 25% of the population are Protestant, another 25% are Roman Catholic, and 15% are Muslim. Traditional indigenous beliefs are practiced by about 35% of the population as a primary or exclusive belief system. Missionary groups within the country include Lutherans, Baptists, Grace Brethren, and Jehovah's Witnesses.

The constitution (suspended since 2003) provides for freedom of religion while prohibiting certain forms of religious fundamentalism. This prohibition is generally considered to be directed toward Muslim fundamentalists. Christian holidays are celebrated as national holidays. All religious groups must be registered through the Ministry of Interior. The Unification Church has been banned since the mid-1980s. The practice of witchcraft is considered a criminal offense, however, prosecution is generally made only in conjunction with other criminal activity, such as murder.

TRANSPORTATION

Transportation is limited to river, road, and air, with river transportation the most important for movement of freight. As of 2004, there were some 2,800 km (1,750 mi) of navigable waterways, which consisted mainly of the Sangha and Oubanqui rivers. The important Oubangui River route leads to the Zaire River port of Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, where a rail line travels to the Atlantic port of Pointe-Noire. The Lobaye and several tributaries of the Chari and Logone rivers are partly navigable, but service is irregular during the dry season. The port of Kilongo (at Bangui) is the largest in the country. Both Kilongo and the port of Nola are being enlarged to accommodate steadily increasing maritime traffic.

In 2002, the country had 23,810 km (14,796 mi) of roads, of which only 429 km (267 mi) were paved. A rehabilitation project, begun in 1974 and completed ten years later, centered on three highways running north, west, and south from Nola. In 2003, there were about 1,850 passenger cars and 1,650 commercial vehicles were in use. There are no railroads.

In 2004, there were an estimated 50 airports. However, only three had paved runways, as of 2005. There is an international airport at Bangui-Mpoko. Five airlines provide international transport. The Republic is also a partner in Air Afrique. Inter-RCA provides domestic service. In 2003, about 46,000 passengers were carried on domestic and international flights.

HISTORY

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.

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 strongest and most sustained opposition to the French came from Sultan Senoussi, who was finally defeated in 1912. Isolated local revolts continued well into the 20th century, however. The strongest and bloodiest of these, known as the War of Kongo-Wara, lasted from 1928 to 1931.

The territory of Ubangi-Shari was formally established in 1894, and its borders fixed by treaties between the European colonial powers. The western border with the German Cameroons was fixed by a convention with Germany in 1884; a convention of 1887 with Belgium's King Leopold II delineated the southern border with the Independent State of the Congo; the eastern border with the Sudan was fixed by an 1899 convention. These boundaries were drawn with little knowledge of the human geography of the area, so ethnic groups were sometimes separated into different territories. From 1906 to 1916, Ubangi-Shari and Chad were merged as a single territory. In 1910, Gabon, Middle Congo, and Ubangi-Shari (including Chad) were constituted administratively as separate colonies forming parts of a larger French Equatorial Africa. Ubangi-Shari's resources were exploited by French companies, and abuses of the forced labor system were common.

In 1940, the colony quickly rallied to the Free French standard raised at Brazzaville, Congo. After World War II, the territory elected Barthélémy Boganda as its first representative to the French Parliament in Paris. In a referendum on 28 September 1958, Ubangi-Shari voted to become an autonomous republic within the French community. The Central African Republic was proclaimed with Boganda as president on 1 December 1958. On 30 April 1959, Minister of the Interior David Dacko was elected to succeed Boganda, who had died in a plane crash on 29 March. The country declared itself an independent republic on 13 August 1960, with Dacko as president. In 1961, the constitution was amended to establish a presidential government with a single-party system.

On 1 January 1966, a military coup d'etat led by Col. Jean-Bédel Bokassa overthrew Dacko (Bokassa's cousin), abolished the constitution, and dissolved the National Assembly. Bokassa, who became president in 1968 and president for life in 1972, proclaimed himself emperor of the newly formed Central African Empire on 4 December 1976. A year later, on that date, he crowned himself emperor in a lavish ceremony at an estimated cost of $25 milliona quarter of the nation's annual export earnings.

On 20 September 1979, Dacko, with French support, led a bloodless coup that overthrew Bokassa while he was out of the country. The republic was restored, and Bokassa, who took refuge in Côte d'Ivoire and France, was sentenced to death in absentia for various crimes, including cannibalism. Moreover, an African judicial commission reported that he had "almost certainly" taken part in the massacre of some 100 children for refusing to wear the compulsory school uniforms. In January 1981, six of his supporters, including two sons-in-law, were executed.

A new constitution allowing free political activity was approved by referendum in February 1981. A month later, Dacko was elected, polling a bare majority against four rivals. Violence followed the election, which the losers charged was fraudulent. Economic conditions failed to improve, and Dacko was overthrown on 1 September 1981 by a military coup led by army chief of staff Gen. André Kolingba. Kolingba became chairman of the ruling Military Committee for National Recovery, and the constitution and all political activities were suspended. The Kolingba regime survived an attempted coup in 1982 and an aborted return by Bokassa in 1983. On 21 November 1986, Kolingba was elected unopposed to a six-year term as president, and a new constitution was adopted establishing a one-party state. The new ruling party, the Central African Democratic Party (Rassemblement Démocratique CentrafricaineRDC), nominated a list of 142 of its members, from which voters elected 52 to the new National Assembly on 31 July 1987.

Bokassa made an unexpected return in October 1986 and was retried. On 12 June 1987, he was convicted of having ordered the murders of at least 20 prisoners and the arrest of the schoolchildren who were murdered. He was sentenced to death, but this was commuted to a life term in February 1988. He was released from prison on 1 September 1993, as a result of an amnesty. He died of a heart attack in Bangui on 3 November 1996 at age 75.

The 1990s proved to be a decade of unsteady democratization. In April 1991, under pressure from France, the IMF, and local critics, Kolingba agreed to legalize opposition parties, many of which had already formed a united front to press for further reforms. Elections were held on 25 October 1992, but widespread irregularities led to the Supreme Court dismissing the results for both the National Assembly and the presidency. Elections were rescheduled, and on 19 September 1993 citizens elected Ange-Félix Patassé as head of the Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People (MLPC), president. A new National Assembly of 85 members was elected. Patasse's party won only 33 seats, and Kolingba's RDC won 14 seats. Despite some irregularities, an international observer delegation certified the validity of the outcome.

Despite the 1994 national referendum and a new constitution instituting democratic reforms, nonpayment of salaries provoked three mutinies and widespread ethnic violence in 1996 and 1997. The French army quelled the mutinies, leaving over 100 people dead and hundreds more injured.

Mediation from four heads of neighboring states produced the Bangui Accord in January 1997. The accord included an 800-strong Inter-African Peace Force (MISAB) composed of six French-speaking countries, approved and supported by the UN and French government. In April 1998, the UN deployed a peacekeeping force of 1,498 military personnel called MINURCA. Its mandate was mainly to monitor implementation of the Bangui Accord. MINURCA succeeded in maintaining security, stability, and an environment conducive for peaceful elections.

On 22 November and 13 December 1998 parliamentary elections were held, overseen by MINURCA. The ruling MLPC won 47 of the 109 seats of the National Assembly, but the opposition formed a parliamentary majority. Patassé won the presidential elections held on 19 September 1999, taking 51.6% of the vote. His runner-up, Kolingba, got 19.3%. Despite opposition allegations of rigging and irregularities, the UN and other international observers declared both elections generally free and fair.

The dawn of the new millennium witnessed more civil unrest in the country. On 15 February 2000, a UN peace-building mission replaced MINURCA and UN troops were withdrawn. However, on 28 May 2001, Kolingba led an unsuccessful coup attempt against Patassé during which at least 59 people were killed and thousands fled Bangui in 10 days of violence. Chadian and Libyan troops, and rebel troops from the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, aided Patassé in suppressing the coup attempt. Economic instability followed the aborted coup. Former army chief of staff, François Bozizé, was accused of being involved in the coup attempt, and in November, fighting broke out between government forces attempting to arrest Bozizé, and Bozizé's supporters. Libya, Chad, and the United Nations intervened to attempt to resolve the conflict. Bozizé fled to Chad, but his supporters returned in October 2002 engaging the government in six days of heavy fighting. Libyan forces aided Patassé's troops in suppressing the rebellion.

On 15 March 2003, Bozizé staged a coup, captured Bangui, declared himself president, suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament. Patassé, who had been in Niger for a meeting of African heads of state, fled to Cameroon. Bangui was ravaged by two days of looting and violence, in which at least 13 people were killed. Bozizé replaced the National Assembly with a National Transitional Council (NTC) composed of the leading political factions, police and army personnel, and civil society representatives, including Nicolas Tiangaye, a prominent human rights advocate. His rule brought a measure of stability, but state sector arrears brought about strikes in February and March 2004, and his government squandered an opportunity to strengthen support in the countryside by failing to compensate people for their farms and businesses that were destroyed during the 2003 coup.

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 former ruling party ticket of the MLPC. The National Elections Commission declared Bozizé the winner with 64.6% of the vote to 35.4% for Ziguélé. The election received a general declaration of fairness, although the absence of Patassé cast a shadow over the legitimacy of the process.

On 8 May 2005, Bozizé gained yet a further victory when his coalition, Convergence Kwa Na Kwa won 42 parliamentary seats in the legislative run-off vote. The MLPC came in second with 11 seats while the RDC managed only eight seats. The remaining seats were won by independents or by smaller parties. In June later that year, the African Union (AU) lifted sanctions against the country, which had been applied after the 2003 usurption of power.

In early 2006, Bozizé's government appeared stable. However, Patassé, who was living in exile in Togo, and whose supporters reportedly were joining or were prepared to join rebel movements in belief that their leader was still the official elected leader of the MLPC and the rightful head of state of the country, could not be ruled out as a leader of a future uprising. Further, members of Kolingba's Yakoma tribe in the south posed a potential threat to Bozizé's government because of their widespread boycott of the second round of the legislative elections. Members of the Yakoma dominate the army.

GOVERNMENT

The 1959 constitution was suspended after the January 1966 coup, and the National Assembly was dissolved. An imperial constitution issued in December 1976 lapsed with Bokassa's fall in 1979. A new constitution was promulgated on 6 February 1981 after 97.4% of the voters had approved it in a referendum. It provided for the election of a president and National Assembly by universal adult suffrage, and it allowed multiple parties. It was suspended after the military coup of 1 September 1981. All executive and legislative power was assumed by the ruling Military Committee for National Recovery (Comité Militaire pour le Redressement National), headed by Gen. André Kolingba. This committee was disbanded in 1985.

A new constitution adopted by plebiscite on 21 November 1986 established a one-party state and a 52-member National Assembly; simultaneously, Kolingba was elected unopposed to a six-year term as president. The National Assembly provided a forum for debate, but it had little substantive impact on government policy.

In 1991, Kolingba was forced to legalize opposition parties. After the Supreme Court invalidated a 1992 election, new elections were conducted successfully in September 1993. For the 1993 elections, the unicameral National Assembly was enlarged to 85 members. Upon Kolingba's defeat, Ange-Félix Patassé, was installed and a transition to multiparty democracy took place. His coalition government was headed by the MLPC and included members of three other parties. Constitutional reforms passed by referendum in 1994 and instituted in 1995 and 1996 created a stronger prime minister, a constitutional court, and created regional assemblies. On 15 March 2003, former army chief François Bozizé dissolved parliament and suspended the constitution.

Prior to the March 2003 coup, the constitution provided for an independent judiciary, although it was subject to executive interference. The president could veto legislation, although the legislature could override his veto, and he could rule by decree under special conditions. Members of the National Assembly served five-year terms. Suffrage was universal at age 21.

The national referendum on 5 December 2004 validated constitutional amendments proposed by the NTC including shortening the presidential term to five from six years, renewable only once; the strengthening of the office of the prime minister and the National Assembly; and a reduction in fees required of political candidates.

Following the resignation of Celestin Gaombalet on 11 June 2005, Prime Minister Elie Doté was named to head the government (on 13 June 2005). The prime minister is appointed by the party with a parliamentary majority. Bozizé's nephew holds the key mining and energy portfolio, his son is cabinet director in charge of the Ministry of Defense, and Bozizé himself retains control over the defense portfolio. The next presidential elections were scheduled for April 2010.

POLITICAL PARTIES

The Movement for Social Evolution of Black Africa (Mouvement d'Évolution Sociale de l'Afrique NoireMESAN) was founded by Barthélémy Boganda in September 1949. Boganda, himself a deputy in Paris for some years, constantly fought for greater internal autonomy and an end to French administration.

Internal antagonism to Boganda came particularly from those who resented his electoral laws, which made it difficult to contest any seats with MESAN. In the election of 25 September 1960, MESAN received 80% of the votes, while the newly founded Movement for the Democratic Evolution of Central Africa (Mouvement d'Évolution Démocratique de l'Afrique CentraleMEDAC) received 20%. MEDAC was dissolved by the government in February 1961. In December 1962, a constitutional amendment recognized MESAN as the sole party in the republic, but with the military coup d'état in January 1966 all political activity was banned. MESAN was revived in 1972 by Jean-Bédel Bokassa.

After Bokassa's fall, the single-party system was maintained, but the name of the party was changed to the Central African Democratic Union (Union Démocratique CentrafricaineUDC) in 1980. The February 1981 constitution allowed other parties, and five competed in the presidential election of 15 March 1981. President David Dacko, the UDC candidate, received 50.2% of the vote. His chief opponent was Ange-Félix Patassé of the Movement for the Liberation of the Central African Republic (Mouvement pour la Libération du Peuple CentrafricainMLPC), who received 38.1%. Following the military coup of 1 September 1981, all political activity was suspended. The MLPC was formally banned on 6 March 1982 after an unsuccessful coup that the government blamed on Patassé. Patassé subsequently fled to Togo.

The Central African Democratic Party (Rassemblement Démocratique CentrafricaineRDC), the sole legal political party adopted by the Kolingba regime, held its founding assembly in February 1987. The same year three opposition parties in exile in Paris, including the MLPC, established a coalition called the United Front.

In 1991, opposition parties were legalized and in October 1992, multiparty elections were held. The Supreme Court invalidated the results and on 19 September 1993, new elections led to Kolingba's defeat. His old nemesis, Patassé, became president and the MLPC gained 33 of the 85 seats in the National Assembly. The RDC won 14 seats.

Other parties in the government coalition included the Liberal Democratic Party, the Alliance for Democracy and Progress, and the David Dacko Movement (an informal grouping of supporters of the ex-president). In opposition, along with the RDC, were the Consultative Group of Democratic Forces (CFD), an alliance of 14 opposition groups; the Social Democratic Party; and the National Convention.

A record 849 candidates from 29 parties and 118 independents contested the parliamentary elections that were held in November and December 1998. Patassé's MLPC won 47 of the 109 seats; Koringba's RTC had 20; Dacko's MDD (Movement for Democracy and Development) got 8; and Goumba's FPP (Patriotic Front for Progress) won 7 seats. Eleven of the 29 contesting parties won seats to the National Assembly.

Pattasé was reelected for a second presidential term with a narrow majority of 51.6% of the vote and sworn in as president on 22 October 1999. Kolingba came second (19.3%), Dacko third (11.1%), and Goumba fourth (6%) in the 10-candidate contest.

The National Assembly was dissolved in March 2003 after François Bozizé seized power in a coup. Bozizé scored 43% of the vote in the 13 March 2005 presidential elections, and won the second run-off round on 8 May 2005 with 64.6% of the vote to 35.4% for Martin Ziguélé of the MLPC. André Kolingba of the RDC came in a distant third on the first round with 16.4% of the vote. Bozizé was supported on the second round with endorsements from Jean-Paul Ngoupandé of the Parti de l'unité nationale, and the leader of the Forum démocratique pur la modernité (Fodem), Charles Massi.

On 8 May 2005, Bozizé's coalition, the Convergence Kwa Na Kwa, won 42 parliamentary seats in the legislative run-off vote giving it the largest coalition in the 105-seat body. The MLPC came in second with 11 seats while the RDC managed only eight seats. The remaining seats were won by independents or by smaller parties.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

The country is divided into 16 prefectures, 69 subprefectures, and the autonomous commune of Bangui. In 1988, local elections created 176 municipal councils, each of which was headed by a may- or appointed by the president.

JUDICIAL SYSTEM

There are several civil courts, criminal courts, and a court of appeal situated in Bangui. At the apex is a Supreme Court, also located in Bangui, the members of which are appointed by the president.

There are also provisions for a High Court of Justice, a body of nine judges created to try political cases against the president, members of congress and government ministers, which has never convened.

The 1994 constitution reorganized the judiciary, which consists of regular and military courts. A Constitutional Court was formed in 1996 to determine if laws passed by the National Assembly conform to the constitution: three of its judges are appointed by the president, three by the president of the National Assembly, and three by fellow judges. New courts of justice were created in 1997 in both urban and rural areas, and a juvenile court in 1998. The functioning of these courts is undermined by inefficient management, shortage of trained personnel, increasing salary arrears, and a general lack of material resources. Significant case backlogs are not uncommon.

The legal system is based on the French civil law system. Criminal defendants are presumed innocent and have the right to counsel, to public trial, and to confront witnesses. Trials are public and frequently broadcast on national radio.

ARMED FORCES

The Army, numbering 1,400 active personnel in 2005, had three main battle tanks and eight reconnaissance vehicles in its arsenal. The 150-man Air Force had no combat aircraft or helicopters. The paramilitary gendarmerie numbered around 1,000. The defense budget in 2005 totaled $15 million.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

On 26 September 1960, the Central African Republic was admitted to the United Nations; CAR is a member of ECA and several nonregional specialized agencies. In 1959, together with Chad, the Congo, and Gabon, it formed the Equatorial Customs Union (Union Douanière EquatorialeUDE), a customs union in which merchandise, property, and capital circulated freely. The Monetary and Economic Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), has superceded the UDE. The nation is part of the Franc Zone. The country is also a member of the African Development Bank, the Central African States Development Bank (BDEAC), the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CENSAD), the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), G-77, and the African Union, and is a signatory to the Lomé Convention. CAR is part of the Nonaligned Movement and is an observer in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). In environmental cooperation, CAR is part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, CITES, the International Tropical Timber Agreement (1994), the Montréal Protocol, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on Climate Change and Desertification.

ECONOMY

The Central African Republic (CAR) has a basically agricultural economy supplemented by the export of diamonds. Agriculture engages about 85% of the workforce and produces about half of GDP. Food cropsmanioc (tapioca), corn, millet, bananas, and riceare grown on low-technology farms for domestic consumption. Coffee, tobacco, timber and cotton are the CAR's principal export crops. The large forest reserves support growth in timber exports; timber accounted for 48% of export earnings in 2004. Livestock production grew in the early 1990s as the northern limit of the tsetse fly zone retreated south. Diamond output leads the mining sector, with sales of uncut diamonds contributing approximately 47% of export revenues in 2004. Published figures on production levels for diamond mines are considered unreliable, due to widespread smuggling and mine owner's attempts to minimize their exposure to export taxes. It is possible there are oil deposits along Cameroon's northern border with Chad. The country suffers as a result of its isolation from its major markets, deteriorating transportation infrastructure, and largely unskilled workforce. The communication network also is limited.

Economic growth stagnated between 1989 and 1991, severely affected by declining world prices for its exports. In 1994, the CFR franc was devalued. This had the effect of increasing diamond, timber, coffee, and cotton exports, resulting in a 5% growth in GDP. On the other hand, imports rose in price, driving inflation to 45% in 1994. By 2005, the inflation rate had dropped to 2.5%, with a GDP growth rate of 2.2%. The country runs both budget deficits and trade deficits, has a large debt burden and limited foreign direct investment, and, as of 2002, had seen a decline in per capita GNP in the last 30 years. World Bank and IMF programs to support investments in livestock, agriculture, and the transportation sectors have not been successful. As such, the World Bank and IMF as of 2005 were concentrating on poverty reduction programs and reform plans to refuel the economy, including the privatization of state-owned enterprises and corruption-fighting measures.

INCOME

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 the Central African Republic's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $4.5 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $1,200. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 2.5%. The average inflation rate in 2001 was 3.6%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 55% of GDP, industry 20%, and services 25%.

Foreign aid receipts amounted to about $13 per capita.

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Central African Republic totaled $917 million or about $236 per capita based on a GDP of $1.2 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1980 to 1990 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 1.5%.

LABOR

The vast majority of the labor force is engaged in subsistence farming, herding, and fishing. The unemployment rate was approximately 8% in 2001, (the latest year for which data was available) with up to 23% unemployed in the capital city of Bangui. There is no data on the size of the country's workforce.

According to the law, workers can join or form a union without getting prior authorization, and while civilian police forces and judges can form a union and strike, national security forces, such as the gendarmarie and millitary personnel, are prohibited from striking or forming a union. Unions have the right to strike after certain conditions are met. Prior to the actual strike action, union demands must be presented to the employer, followed by the latter's response, a conciliation meeting between the two sides and the finding of an arbitration council that an agreement could not be reached on valid demands must take place. In addition, eight days advance notice of a planned strike must be given.

Although forced or coerced labor is prohibited, reports have been made of prisioners, children and pygmies being forced or coerced into performing labor.

The 40-hour workweek has been established for government and most private sector employees. Also required is a minimum 48-hour-per-week rest period. The government sets minimum wage laws sector by sector. As of 2005, agricultural workers had a minimum wage of $12 per month while office workers were promised $28 per month. However, wage levels have not changed for more than two decades and the minimum wage is insufficent to support a worker and a family with a decent living standard. There are general safety and health standards, but the Ministry of Labor and Civil Service has never defined them or enforced them. Although the labor code prohibits the employment of children under the age of 14, child labor is a common practice especially in rural areas.

AGRICULTURE

Agricultural output is dominated by subsistence crops. Agriculture (including forestry and fisheries) accounted for 61% of GDP in 2003, and it employed about 70% of the labor force. The FAO estimates that about 2,024,000 hectares (5,001,000 acres, or 3.2% of the total land area) are arable or under permanent crops, and 3,125,000 hectares (7,722,000 acres, or 5% of total land area) are in permanent pasture. The CAR is nearly self-sufficient in food production and has potential as an exporter.

Manioc, the basic food crop, is raised on about 200,000 hectares (494,000 acres); output was about 563,000 tons in 2004. Bananas are the second major food crop. Production was 110,000 tons in 2004, while plantain production was 80,000 tons. Other food crops in 2004 included 119,000 tons of corn, 10,162 tons of millet, and 42,480 tons of sorghum. Some tropical fruits are produced in small quantities, including 20,000 tons of oranges and 1,800 tons of lemons and limes in 2004. An oil-palm plantation covering 2,500 hectares (6,200 acres) opened in 1986 at Bossongo, 35 km (22 mi) sw of Bangui. In 2004, production of palm kernels totaled 2,000 tons.

The first commercial cotton production in French Equatorial Africa began in Ubangi-Shari in 1924. Cotton is grown in the Bamingui and Gribingui river valleys. In 196970, 58,000 tons of seed cotton were produced, a national high, but production quickly slumped: in 2004, it totaled 1,000 tons.

Another important cash crop is high-quality coffee, which is cultivated on the plateaus along with sisal and tobacco; coffee production was 7,500 tons in 2004; coffee exports were valued at only $587,000 in 2004, down from $2.8 million in 2001.

Production of peanuts, which are cultivated in conjunction with cotton, was an estimated 133,600 tons in 2004.

ANIMAL HUSBANDRY

Although most of the Republic is in the tsetse fly belt, some animal husbandry is carried on. In 2004 there were an estimated 3,423,000 head of cattle, 3,087,000 goats, 805,000 pigs, and 259,000 sheep. About 127,300 tons of meat were produced in 2004, with beef accounting for 58%. Cow's milk production was around 65,000 tons the same year. There were an estimated 4,760,000 chickens in 2004 when some 1,476 tons of eggs were produced. Honey production amounted to 13,000 tons in 2004.

FISHING

Fishing is carried on extensively along the rivers, but most of the catch is sold or bartered on the DROC side of the Ubangi. In 1950, the government began a fish-farming program, and by the end of 1968 there were almost 12,000 ponds. The 2003 fish catch was about 15,000 tons.

FORESTRY

There are 22.9 million hectares (56.5 million acres) of forest (37% of the total land area), but only 3.4 million hectares (8.4 million acres) of dense forest, all in the south in the regions bordering the DROC. The CAR's exploitable forests cover 27 million hectares (68 million acres), or 43% of the total land area. Transportation bottlenecks on rivers and lack of rail connections are serious hindrances to commercial exploitation. Most timber is shipped down the Ubangi and Zaire rivers and then on the Congo railway to the Atlantic. More than a dozen types of trees are felled, but 95% of the total is composed of obeche, sapele, ebony, and sipo.

A dozen sawmills produced 516,000 cu m (18 million cu ft) of sawn logs and veneer logs in 2003. The government is encouraging production of plywood and veneer. Roundwood removals were estimated at 2.8 million cu m (99.7 million cu ft) in 2003. Competition from lower-cost Asian and Latin American loggers has hurt the local industry, which is encumbered with high transportation and labor costs. In 2003, the country exported $89.8 million of forest products.

MINING

Diamond mining was the country's leading industry and top export commodity in 2002. Mining accounted for about 4% of GDP and 40%50% of export earnings. Diamonds were discovered in alluvial deposits in various parts of the country in 1935 and 1947. Production, which reached 609,360 carats in 1968, was put at around 350,000 carats in 2004. In 2003, diamond output totaled 332,700 carats in 2003. However, sizable quantities are smuggled out of the country. About 60% of the nation's diamonds came from the upper Sangha region. Preliminary gold production in 2004 was put at 7 kg, unchanged from 2003. Gold was still mined in alluvial deposits, by artisanal miners, primarily in the Bandas and the Bogoin-Boali greenstone belts.

Uranium was discovered in 1966 in the Bakouma region in the eastern part of the country, and there was further prospecting in the Berbérati and Bangassou areas; exploitation has not occurred, because of high start-up costs and poor transportation. Reserves were estimated at 18,000 tons. Iron deposits estimated at 3.5 million tons have been exploited, but production has ceased. The country also had deposits of nickel, graphite, ilmenite, lignite, monazite, rutile, manganese, cobalt, tin, copper, china clay, and limestone. The lack of adequate transportation and industrial infrastructure hindered the development of the nation's mineral industry. Little of the country's 400,000-sq-km Precambrian terrain has been explored using modern exploration techniques.

ENERGY AND POWER

Electric power production totaled 103 million kWh in 2002, with consumption at 0.096 billion kWh for that same year. The capital city of Bangui is supplied by two hydroelectric generators and one thermal plant. A new dam on the Mbali (a joint project with Democratic Republic of the Congo), which permits year-round hydroelectric generation, opened in late 1991. Total generating capacity was 40,000 kW in 2002, with thermal sources accounting for 21,000 kW and hydroelectric at 19,000 kW for that year.

Exxon drilled an exploratory oil well in 1985, but further work was deemed economically infeasible. Any oil production would depend on the connection of a pipeline from Chad to Douala, Cameroon. In 2002, the Central African Republic's average daily fuel imports included 610 barrels of distillate fuel oil, 590 barrels of jet fuel, 530 barrels of kerosene, and 470 barrels of gasoline. As of 2002, the country has no known reserves of oil, natural gas or coal.

INDUSTRY

Industry contributed 11.4% of GDP in 2004. Textile and leather manufacturing are the leading industries. The largest single factory is a joint-venture textile complex (51% French owned) in Bangui, which handles spinning, weaving, dyeing, and the manufacture of blankets. All cotton produced in the country is ginned locally, with cotton-ginning plants scattered throughout the cotton-producing regions. Refined sugar and palm oil also are produced, as are soap, cigarettes, beer, bottled water, and soft drinks. Other light industries are paint, bricks and utensil manufacture, and motorcycle and bicycle assembly. Manufacturing primarily serves local needs. The Central African Republic's (CAR) total annual diamond production is estimated at $100 million. The CAR is the world's 10th largest producer of diamonds. There are seven major diamond exporting companies operating in the country. Most diamond mining is artisanal.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Among the research institutes in the Central African Republic are a study center on animal sleeping sickness in Bouar and an agricultural institute in M'Baiki. The National Institute of Textile Research and Food Crops is in Bambari. The Pasteur Institute in Bangui conducts research on various diseases. French institutes include the Institute of Scientific Research for Cooperative Development, at Bangui, and the experimental station of Maboké, in M'Baiki, under the direction of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. The University of Bangui has faculties of science and technology, health science, a polytechnic institute, and a research institute for mathematics teaching. The Central School of Agriculture is located in Boukoko, and the Territorial School of Agriculture is in Grimari. In the period 19902001, there were 27 technicians, and 47 scientists and engineers per million people engaged in research and development. Also, in 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 30% of college and university enrollments.

DOMESTIC TRADE

A vast majority of the population is employed in agriculture, which accounts for about 58% of the GDP (2004 est.). Light industries,

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 65.7 99.6 -33.9
Belgium 46.1 9.1 37.0
Germany 4.7 1.5 3.2
France-Monaco 4.3 29.8 -25.5
Cameroon 2.3 10.0 -7.7
United Kingdom 2.0 2.0
Switzerland-Liechtenstein 0.9 0.9
Spain 0.8 0.5 0.3
Italy-San-Marino-Holy See 0.7 0.8 -0.1
Portugal 0.5 0.5
Turkey 0.5 0.8 -0.3
() data not available or not significant.

primarily in Bangui, include food processing, textiles, cigarettes, a brewery, and a diamond-cutting facility. Most local produce and imports are sold at markets in towns and villages. Company agents and independent middlemen buy export crops at local markets or directly from the producers for sale to large companies. Most commercial businesses are controlled by French and Lebanese owners. The government fosters the distribution of agricultural products through a monopolistic state trading company.

A chamber of commerce at Bangui promotes trade and provides information to business firms. Advertising is found in local newspapers, company publications, and handbills and on billboards and radio. Normal business hours are from 7 am to noon and 2:30 to 6:30 pm, Monday through Friday. Saturday hours are from 7 am to noon.

FOREIGN TRADE

Diamonds are the largest Central African commodity export, sold either for jewelry (35%), or natural abrasives (35%). Many diamonds are smuggled out of the country, so exact figures are difficult to compile. Agricultural exports are cotton (14%) and coffee (2.6%). Another 5% can be attributed to the manufacture of motor vehicles and parts. In 2004 the main destinations for CAR's exports were Belgium (39%), Italy (9%) and Spain (8%). Imports came mainly from France (17.6%), the United States (16.3%) and Cameroon (9.3%).

BALANCE OF PAYMENTS

The Central African Republic's frequent deficits in trade and services are financed mainly through international aid. In the early 1980s, the Republic faced a severe balance-of-payments problem caused by low world prices for its exports and high fuel import costs. A structural adjustment program was begun in 1986 (and further developed in 1988 and 1990) to curb the public sector and to promote private-sector investment in an effort to decrease the reliance on infusions of foreign aid. In 1998, the IMF approved a three-year structural adjustment program equivalent to $66 million (subsequently augmented and extended); this program expired in 2002. The first six-month emergency post-conflict assistance (EPCA) program expired in December 2004. In 2005, the IMF decided to delay the approval of a new post-conflict program. This decision followed the government's failure to meet key macroeconomic targets, reflecting poor fiscal performance. This undermines the return of foreign investors, which is critical for economic recovery.

The Economist Intelligence Unit reported that in 2005 the purchasing power parity of the Central African Republic's exports was $188.6 million, while imports totaled $143.5 million, resulting in a trade surplus of $45.1 million.

BANKING AND SECURITIES

In November 1972, a new central bank, the Bank of the Central African States (Banque des États de l'Afrique Central-BEAC), replaced the existing Central Bank of the States of Equatorial Africa and Cameroon, which had been controlled by French interests. This move was designed to strengthen the monetary solidarity and sovereignty of the Central African Republic (CAF) and other member African nations, which would now control part of their foreign exchange and monetary policies. France continues to guarantee the convertibility of the CFA franc.

Other banks are the International Bank for Occidental Africa (20% state owned) and the Union Bank of Central Africa (60% state owned). The state has a one-third share in the Bank of Agricultural Credit and Development, established in 1984. By late October 1996, the efforts of the prime minister (and minister of finance and economics), Jean-Paul Ngoupandé, and reformist colleagues to rescue government finances and public sector management were impressing the IMF, the World Bank, and France. Hopes were rising that the country might eventually secure an agreement with the IMF for an enhanced structural adjustment facility (ESAF). Only with an ESAF in place can the Central African Republic look forward to large-scale, longer-term economic aid commitments or the granting of debt relief from the Pan's Club of its official bilateral creditors.

Current Account -24.7
     Balance on goods 15.3
        Imports -130.6
        Exports 145.9
     Balance on services -80.7
     Balance on income -22.7
     Current transfers 63.4
Capital Account
Financial Account 52.8
     Direct investment abroad -7.2
     Direct investment in Central African Republic 3.6
     Portfolio investment assets
     Portfolio investment liabilities
     Financial derivatives
     Other investment assets 8.1
     Other investment liabilities 48.3
Net Errors and Omissions -15.0
Reserves and Related Items -13.1
() data not available or not significant.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $135.3 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $149.6 million. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 6.5%.

There is no securities market.

INSURANCE

In 1986, one state enterprise (SIRIRI) and eight foreign companies were represented in the Central African Republic, including La Mutuelle du Mans, Mutuelle Générale Française-Accidents, the Reliance Marine Insurance Company, Union Centrafricaine d'Assurances et de Réassurances, and l'Union des Assurances de Paris (IARD). In the same year, over 99% of all premiums paid were for nonlife insurance. Motor insurance is compulsory.

PUBLIC FINANCE

A rapidly expanding civil service, nationalization of enterprises, and expensive short-term borrowing in the 1970s led to large budget deficits, which were made even worse in the early 1980s by falling commodity prices. The Central African Republic and the IMF have worked together since 1980 to attempt to better manage the economy. The 1980 austerity plan focused on stabilizing budget and foreign deficits by concentrating on agricultural production. The 1982 Recovery Plan, also conducted within IMF frameworks, led to a formal structural adjustment plan in 1987. A second structural adjustment plan was agreed to in 1990, at a time when political instability began to affect the government's ability to reach its targets. Goals of the IMF-sponsored program were a reduction of the number of government employees and their salaries, pricepolicy reforms, and privatization of the parastatal sector. In 1999, the IMF loaned the Central African Republic $11 million to fund unpaid government salaries and continue economic reforms that were launched in 1998. The government owed about nine months of unpaid salaries to 20,000 civil servants and army soldiers, and was behind in payments of grants for students and retirement benefits for pensioners.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that Central African Republic's total external debt was $1.06 billion.

TAXATION

Current information is unavailable.

CUSTOMS AND DUTIES

In 1959, the four territories of French Equatorial Africa joined the Equatorial Customs Union (Union Douanière EquatorialeUDE), within which goods and capital flowed without obstruction. The UDE was expanded in December 1964 to include Cameroon and together they formed the Central African Customs and Economic Union (Union Douanière et Economique de l'Afrique CentraleUDEAC). The Republic therefore had no customs system of its own. In early 1968, the Central African Republic left the UDEAC to join an economic union with Zaire and Chad, but in December 1968 it returned to the UDEAC. As of 1993, the Central African Republic was a member of both UDEAC and the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC).

The UDEAC covers the entire range of commodity trade and bans all import and export taxes between member states. Goods and merchandise originating in member states are exempt from various taxes except in special circumstances. The gains derived from import duties in member states go into the state budgets, but to offset the advantages gained by transit trade, especially to coastal countries, a share of import duties is deposited in a common fund. There is a uniform customs tariff levied against all third parties, but since the UDEAC countries are associated with the common market, imports from EU countries receive a reduction in customs duties. Imports from outside the franc zone require a license. Customs evasion through the smuggling of goods across the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon borders is a serious problem. Such goods are sold at 1040% off the price of legitimate items, depriving the government of significant revenue.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT

Until the late 1980s, almost all foreign investment in the Central African Republic was by the French government and private French firms. For many years, the territory had been worked by French concessionaires who obtained privileges in the area by decree. But with the decline of concessions, interest in private investment diminished. Foreign investment was further discouraged by the nationalization without compensation of private textile, oil distribution, and river transport interests in 1974.

In the early and mid-1980s, in an attempt to revitalize the nation's sagging economy, the Kolingba government reaffirmed its interest in foreign investment, stressing joint partnerships between private business and government. A 1982 investment code provided liberal incentives, including priority in the allocation of foreign exchange for the import of equipment and raw materials.

As of the late 1990s, the Central African Republic continued to be heavily dependent on foreign assistance. The World Bank, European Union, UN Development Program, and the African Development Fund all provided grants; one-fourth of all development assistance continued to come from France, followed by Japan, Germany, and the United States.

Armed insurrections in May 2001, October 2002, and March 2003, ending in the government's forceful overthrow by coup on 15 March 2003, have taken the Central African Republic off the map in terms of foreign investments. Although the presidential election held earlier in 2005 passed without major incident, potential investors have remained cautious about making any real commitments until instances of banditry and extortion are reduced and the government moves ahead with its reform program.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The 198185 five-year plan called for CFA Fr233,117 million in expenditures, including CFA Fr83,363 million for rural transport and CFA Fr54,935 million for agriculture and livestock raising. The 198690 plan called for CFA Fr261.4 billion in spending (86% from foreign sources), with 53% for infrastructure and 35% for rural and regional development. Development expenditures are financed almost exclusively by foreign donors. The World Bank extended a $30-million loan in 1986.

In 1986, the government began a structural adjustment program (SAP) to improve agricultural production, to encourage early retirement among government workers, and to privatize government enterprises. Phase two of this program began in 1988, and phase three in 1990. The goals of phase threeparticularly in privatizing utilities and fuel distributionhad not been met by the mid-1990s. Although the state-owned water company had been privatized, no changes were accomplished with either the electric utility or fuel distribution monopoly.

The 1994 devaluation of the CFA franc made products such as coffee, timber, cotton, and diamonds more attractive on the world market. On the other hand, prices for imports also rose, creating a period of high inflation in 1994. By 1995, the inflation rate had dropped to levels near the prevailing rate prior to devaluation.

As of 2003, the estimated external debt was $1,328 million. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank have encouraged the Central African Republic to privatize state-owned business enterprises, address corruption, and streamline labor and investment codes. Economic reforms are tailored to alleviate poverty. Between 20012005 GDP grew at an average rate of -0.96% while inflation averaged 2.14% annually. The lowest GDP growth rate during this period was in 2003 when GDP grew at -7.7% and inflation was 4%. An IMF Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) Arrangement, approved in 1998 expired in January 2002. The Central African Republic introduced a value-added tax (VAT), and the state-owned petroleum company (PETROCA) was liquidated. At the beginning of 2002, wage payments fell approximately 20% short of commitments, and many civil servants were owed 16 months of pay during the Patasse administration, and 14 months of pay during the Kolingba administration.

François Bozizé, the new president elected in 2005, has pledged to apply austerity measures in an attempt to improve the fiscal situation. However, his government can expect popular opposition and strike action, if the government fails to kick-start the economy and pay public-sector salary arrears. Improved security conditions and the resumption of donor support will help the economy to recover slowly, with real GDP growth forecast to rise to 3% in 2006 and 4% in 2007.

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

A social insurance program provides benefits to all employed persons with the exception of agricultural workers and temporary laborers. Old-age pensions are payable at age 55 (men) or 50 (women). Disability pensions come to 30% of average monthly earnings. There is also a survivor pension available for those who are pensioners at death or meet other qualifications. Other payments include prenatal allowances, a lump sum payable at the birth of each of the first three children, and if the mother is employed, a recuperation allowance for 14 weeks. The government's commitment to social welfare and health has been neglected due to lack of funds. The majority of the population work in the agricultural sector and therefore are not covered by these programs.

The constitution mandates that all persons are equal, although in practice women face widespread discrimination. Single, widowed, and divorced women are not considered to be heads of household. Economic and educational opportunities are limited for women. Polygyny remains legal and is widely practiced. Although banned by law, female genital mutilation is practiced in some rural areas. Spousal abuse and violence is a widespread problem. The government does not adequately fund programs for women and children.

The government's human rights record remains poor. Indigenous pygmies face discrimination despite constitutional provisions. Freedom of speech and press are restricted. Arbitrary arrests and detention are common, police beat and torture detainees, and prison conditions are harsh.

HEALTH

Mobile crews treat local epidemic diseases, conduct vaccination and inoculation campaigns, and enforce local health regulations. They conduct research on sleeping sickness, malaria, and other tropical diseases and devise prophylactic methods best suited to the rural population. The most common diseases are bilharziasis, leprosy, malaria, tuberculosis, and yaws. The Central African Republic is a yellow fever endemic zone country. The Pasteur Institute at Bangui cooperates actively with vaccination campaigns. All medicine, antibiotics, and vaccine imports must be authorized by the Ministry of Health.

As of 2004, it was estimated that there were fewer than 3 physicians and 9 nurses per 100,000 people. Average life expectancy was 43.39 years in 2005. Also in 2000, 60% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 31% had adequate sanitation.

The infant mortality rate in 2005 was 87.33 per 1,000 live births. As of 1999, the immunization rates for children up to one year old were as follows: diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 33% and measles, 39%.

The Central African Republic is one of several African nations with a high incidence of AIDS. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 13.50 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 260,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 23,000 deaths from AIDS in 2003.

HOUSING

The Central African Republic has struggled with overcrowding and housing shortages, particularly in rural areas where only 5% of the population live in permanent structures. A majority of the population live below the poverty line, further contributing to the lack of resources through which housing improvements can be made. In 2000, there were an estimated 751,000 households. UN-HABITAT projects that that number will leap to 1.1 million households by 2015. In 2000, only 60% of the population had access to improved water sources and only 31% had access to improved sanitation.

The Central African Real Estate Investments Society makes small loans for the repair of existing houses and larger loans (amounting to almost the total cost of the houses) for new construction. Interest rates are low, and repayment extends over a long period. Because of their higher credit ratings, salaried civil servants and employees of large trading companies receive most of the loans. Loans are made to mutual self-help groups and others for the construction of waterworks or electrical distribution systems and to individuals for the purchase of refrigerators, furniture, and other household equipment.

EDUCATION

The educational system is patterned on that of France, but changes designed by the government are being introduced gradually to adapt the curriculum to local needs. Education is provided free in government-financed schools. There are a few mission schools operated by religious groups; they receive little government aid but must comply with government guidelines. Education is compulsory the first six years of primary school (students between ages 6 and 12). A second stage of basic education covers a fouryear course of study. Students may then choose to attend general secondary schools or technical schools, all of which offer three year programs. The academic year runs from September to July. The primary language of instruction is French.

In 2001, there were about 411,000 students enrolled in primary schools. The pupil-teacher ratio at the primary level was 77 to 1 in 1999.

Specialized institutions include two agricultural colleges, a national college of the performing and plastic arts, and the University of Bangui, founded in 1969. In 2001, about 6,000 students were enrolled in tertiary education programs. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 48.6%, with 64.8% for men and 33.5% for women.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 1.9% of GDP.

LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS

The French Institute of Scientific Research for Development and Cooperation maintains a research collection of 18,000 volumes in Bangui. The Agricultural Research Center in M'baïki has a library of 2,800 volumes. There is a municipal library in Bangui as well as a Roman Catholic mission library. The University of Bangui library has 26,000 volumes.

The Barthélémy Boganda Museum in Bangui (founded in 1964) includes collections on the ethnography, archaeology, and natural history of the country. There are regional natural history and anthropology museums in Bouar and M'Baiki. The Labasso Museum in Bangassou (1975) features archaeological and anthropological exhibits from the Nzakara and Zandé areas.

MEDIA

Bangui is linked by satellite for telephone communication with France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Greece. The Republic has radiotelephone, telegraphic, and telex links with Paris. In 2003, there were an estimated two mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 1,200 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 10 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

Television broadcasting services are government owned and operated by RadioTélévision Centrafrique. Television transmissions are available only in Bangui. Broadcasting is in Sango and French. In 2002, there were five FM and one AM radio stations along with one television station. Radio Centrafrique is operated by the state. Radio Notre Dame is held by the Roman Catholic church and Radio Ndeke Luka is backed by the Untied Nations. In 2003, there were an estimated 80 radios and 6 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were two personal computers for every 1,000 people and one of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet.

The nation's first daily newspaper, the government controlled E Le Songo, began publication in 1986. Its circulation in 1995 was 2,000. The Centrafrique Presse, was created by the government in 2001 to reflect the views of the ruling MLPC. Echo de CentrAfrique is a private daily newspaper but seems to be linked to the ruling party. Le Citoyen, Be Afrika, and Le Democrate are the most widely read private newspapers; however, many private papers publish sporadically. The official news agency is Agence Centrafricaine de Presse. The Agence Centrafricaine de Presse (ACAP) bulletin appears sporadically.

The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press. In 2000, the president dissolved the High Broadcast Council, which had been created to regulate the media. However, the government still seems to control much media and its content.

ORGANIZATIONS

The Chamber of Agriculture, Livestock Raising, Water, Forests, Hunting, and Tourism and the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines, and Handicrafts have their headquarters at Bangui. In rural areas, cooperatives promote the production and marketing of agricultural products. There are some national professional and trade associations, including a major teachers union called the National Union of Teachers and School and University Administrators of the Central African Republic (NUTSUACAR). The National Olympic and Sport Committee (CNOS) coordinates about eight national youth sports groupings. Youth scouting organizations are active and there are a few Catholic youth organizations as well. There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society, Caritas, Habitat for Humanity, UNICEF, and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION

Development of the tourism industry in the Central African Republic has been held back due to periods of political unrest since the country gained independence from France in 1960. The main tourist attractions are hunting, fishing, the many varieties of wild animals, and the waterfalls. Of special interest are the falls at Boali and Kembé, and the megaliths of Bouar. Ecotourism is popular in the southern Dzanga-Sangha National Park.

Visitors must have a valid passport and a visa. A certificate indicating vaccination against yellow fever is also required.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the cost of hotel, food, and other basic expenses in the Central African Republic at $201 per day.

FAMOUS CENTRAL AFRICANS

Barthélémy Boganda (191059), a dynamic leader of Central African nationalism, worked toward independence and attained virtually complete political power. The first president of the independent Central African Republic was David Dacko (19302003), who served from 1960 to 1966 and again from 1979 to 1981. JeanBédel Bokassa (192196) overthrew Dacko in 1966, proclaimed himself emperor in 1976, and was himself ousted by Dacko in 1979. Gen. André Kolingba (b.1936) seized power in 1981, and he served as president until he was defeated in the 1993 elections by Ange-Felix Patassé (b.1937). Patassé served from 19932003, when he was deposed by rebel leader François Bozizé (b.1946).

DEPENDENCIES

The Central African Republic has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Dun and Bradstreet's Export Guide to Central African Republic. Parsippany, N.J.: Dun and Bradstreet, 1999.

Kalck, Pierre and Xavier-Samuel Kalck. Historical Dictionary of the Central African Republic. 3rd ed. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2005.

Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.

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Central African Republic

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

Major City:
Bangui

Other Cities:
Bambari, Bangassou, Bouar, Bria

EDITOR'S NOTE

This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated November 1994. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.

INTRODUCTION

The CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC , once known as the Territory of Ubangi-Chari, was one of the four provinces of French Equatorial Africa. It became an autonomous republic within the newly established French Community in December 1958, and became a fully independent nation two years later.

On December 4, 1976 President Jean-Bedel Bokassa, who seized power in a 1965 military coup, proclaimed himself "emperor" and renamed the country the Central African Empire. Gross abuses of power, corruption, and human rights violations characterized his rule. In September 1979, Bokassa was overthrown and replaced by his cousin David Dacko. Dacko had previously served as President from 1960 to 1965. The country's name was changed back to the Central African Republic. Dacko remained in power until 1981, when he was ousted by military authorities during a period of severe economic crisis.

A military government, headed by General André Dieudonne Kolingba, took power. Early in 1985, a new constitution was drafted and ratified which promised the introduction of civilians into the military government.

In 1990, several violent demonstrations broke out in the country in support of a return to a civilian, multi-party government. Gen. Kolingba appointed a new prime minister in 1991, but expressed the view that a multi-party government would bring chaos and civil war to the country.

The Central African Republic is a young and struggling country, trying to create a nation out of a multitude of tribes, and to raise the level of economic development in an isolated and poorly endowed land. Against a background of colonial heritage, it seeks to form institutions and procedures appropriate to a modern, independent state.

MAJOR CITY

Bangui

Bangui, the C.A.R.'s only major city, is the country's economic and industrial center and has the only major river port and airport. It is located in a picturesque setting on the north bank of the Oubangui River, about 1,100 miles upstream from the Atlantic Ocean.

Founded in 1889 as a French military post, the city takes its name from a native word meaning "the rapids." It nestles beneath low-lying hills at the water's edge near rapids that prevent all but small boats and very shallow barges from plying the river further upstream.

The city is surrounded by a vast savanna of high grass and thickets of low trees spread over rolling hills to the north and west. Little villages are strung along the roads like beads. The nearest heavy equatorial rain forest lies about two hours (60 miles) to the southwest. To the south, across the Oubangui River from Bangui, lies Zaire.

Since Bangui is situated 4 degrees north of the Equator and 1,300 feet above sea level, its climate is humid and unchanging except during the brief, violent thunderstorms of the rainy season.

The average high temperature for March, in the dry season, is 92.5 0 F; the low is 67 0 F. Average rainfall is 5 inches in January and 6.5 inches in July; August has the greatest average rainfall at 13 inches.

Most of Bangui's population of about 533,000 live in agglomerations of huts dispersed over a wide area several miles from the city's modern core. The core consists of European style residential districts; the downtown shopping, banking, and office area; government offices; and river port installations.

The city has a pleasant and colorful appearance. Many main avenues are lined with huge overhanging mango trees, which bear fruit in the spring, or the somewhat smaller but exotic "flame" trees with brilliant red blossoms in season. Most of Bangui's foreign population is French, principally business representatives or those connected with the government in advisory or technical capacities, or military personnel. Other foreign nationals include Portuguese, Greeks, Chadians, Cameroonians, Congolese, Ivoirians, Nigerians, Sudanese, Togolese, Zairians, Lebanese, and Syrians.

Food

Local vegetables and fruit are fresh, reasonably priced and good, but seasonally limited. Produce must be carefully washed, soaked, and cooked. Carrots, green onions, cabbage, string beans, eggplant, lettuce, tomatoes, squash and lima beans are sold in season. Cassava (manioc) is always available. Locally grown potatoes are available, but are somewhat costly. Local fruit, some of it seasonal, includes bananas, pineapples, papayas, man-goes, avocados, oranges, grapefruit, guavas, passion fruit, and custard apples. Home gardening is popular and African seeds are available.

Some stores carry imported goods from France and South Africa, such as canned fruit and vegetables, flour, salt, sugar, dried beans, noodles, packaged cookies and candies, paper goods, soap, and cleaning products and toiletries. There are occasional shortages and prices can be breath-taking.

Pasteurized fresh milk is not available. Sterilized cream and whole and low fat milk in paper cartons or bottles are imported but are only irregularly available. Powdered and evaporated milk, fresh eggs, butter, and cheese are also available.

Beef, pork, lamb, smoked meats, and a good selection of cold cuts are carried in the supermarket. The best local fish is the capitaine, a large (and expensive) river fish with firm white flesh. Fish, shrimp, lobsters, oysters, and other seafood arrive once a week from France and the African coast. Also included in the weekly 'arrivage' are fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables at very high prices.

The most widely available fresh bread is of the French "baguette" type. Croissants, pastries, and some sandwich-type bread may be purchased at a price, and an Arab bakery offers pita bread which is quite good.

Wines, liquor, imported beer, and soft drinks are sold locally. Beer, soda, water, and soft drinks, including Coca-Cola, are bottled locally.

Clothing

Bring only enough winter clothing for travel to colder climates. Winter clothing mildews easily in Bangui. Since bedrooms are air-conditioned, bring appropriate sleepwear.

Men: Lightweight summer clothing is worn year round. A set of woolen clothing is useful for traveling or for very occasional chilly weather. Men wear long-or short-sleeved shirts, ties, or sports shirts. Wash-and-wear clothing is most practical. Dry cleaning is available but very expensive, slow, and of dubious quality. Daytime wear is usually in darker rather than lighter shades. Dark blue or gray suits are worn in the evenings. Loose fitting, open-neck sports shirts are practical but should be in conservative prints or color for evening wear. European-style men's clothing is available but expensive.

Women: Light, informal washable dresses, skirts, and blouses are worn year round. Dressy cottons, informal dresses, and pants are often worn at informal functions. Attractive but expensive women's clothing in limited variety is sold locally and dresses can be made locally from attractive local fabrics. Bring a few sweaters and long-sleeved dresses and blouses for cool weather. Coats are needed only for traveling in colder climates. Bring a light-weight, non-plastic raincoat if you have one, but an umbrella is usually sufficient. Hats are needed for sun wear. Slacks and shorts are quite acceptable for sports. Bring some khaki shirts, skirts, or pants for bush trips and a good supply of shoes. Sandals with or without heels and regular summer footwear are worn most of the time.

Children: Children's clothes are expensive and quantities limited. Each child should have a few sweaters, a large number of T-shirts, and some flannel pajamas. School-age boys wear cotton shorts or blue jeans and shirts; girls wear simple cotton dresses and shorts. Sandals and sneakers are sold locally at about U.S. prices but are only fair quality, and sizes are limited. Children dress as they would in the U.S. No school uniforms are worn.

Special Clothing: Bring all sports clothing and footwear, as none are available in Bangui. Day trips and travel into the bush are popular activities in the Central African Republic, for which sturdy walking shoes and/or tennis shoes, khaki shirts, and skirts or pants are recommended.

Supplies and Services

Supplies: Some cosmetics and toilet articles, facial tissue, toilet paper, and feminine hygiene supplies are sold in Bangui at double or more U.S. prices. If you have favorite brands, bring a supply. European cigarettes and a few American brands are sold but are expensive. Pipe tobacco can be found, but it is generally not packed for the tropics and suffers accordingly.

Basic Services: There is one European-style beauty shop, expensive by U.S. standards. Shoe repair work is often slow, expensive, and poor. Americans have used the services of local dressmakers but with varying results.

Religious Activities

Catholic and Protestant churches in Bangui hold services in French and Sangho. American missionaries (Baptist and Grace Brethren) have informal services in English once a week.

Education

No English-language primary or secondary education is available in Bangui. American children attend Charles de Gaulle Primary school which follows the French curriculum, is accredited by the French Government, and supervised by the French Embassy in Bangui. A pre-school program is offered as well as the primary grades K-6. Other students are European and African. Teachers are French, mostly spouses of French aid personnel. The cost is about US$250 per trimester.

On the same compound is the Lycee (high school) Andre Malraux, with grades 7 through baccalaureate (graduation). The school is open to Central Africans and other foreigners. All classes are in French, with English taught as a foreign language. The system is geared to prepare students for entry into higher educational institutions in France. The cost is higher, but again all covered by the education allowance. If your child does not speak or understand French well, it will be necessary to hire a tutor at first.

The school year runs from October through mid-June. School is held 6 days weekly, Monday-Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to noon. The quality of education in both schools is good and comparable to schools in metropolitan France, but many subjects normally available in American schools are not offered. American children with no previous French have successfully adjusted in the early grades of primary school.

Another preschool offers a morning program for children 2 to 6 years old for $200 per trimester, with a $40 registration fee.

The College Preparatoire International (CPI) offers an English program for grades K-12, in addition to their regular French curriculum.

Sport

Tennis, swimming, squash, boating, horseback riding, golf, and water skiing are available. Soccer is played locally.

The Rock Club, on the Oubangui River, has a clubhouse with lounge and snack bars, tennis and squash courts, table tennis, large swimming pool, small boat marina, and classes in ballet, gymnastics, judo, etc., for adults and children. Videotape recordings and bridge games are also scheduled. Monthly dues are about US$40, with an initiation fee of US$350.00.

A private tennis club has courts which are well maintained and lit. Tennis lessons can be arranged at about US$15 per hour, for members only. Annual dues are about $375, with an initiation fee of US$175.

The country's only golf course, amidst rolling hills, is about six miles from the city center, and has 18 holes with rough grass fairways and sand greens. Cost to join is about US$186. Monthly dues are US$40 per person.

Boating is almost exclusively out-board-motorboating, since the hills near the river, the swift current, and many whirlpools make sailing impossible and canoeing hazardous. Water skiing is possible, but river water sports carry the risk of exposure to bilharzia.

Spectator sports are soccer and basketball matches, bicycle racing, tennis tournaments, horse shows, and occasional boat racing.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

One-day trips can be made by car to the falls at Boali, 62 miles northwest of Bangui along a good, paved road (except for the last three miles). Pygmy villages 1-2 hours southwest of Bangui, via a paved road, can also be visited. Since air travel is the only feasible mode of transportation for a comfortable trip of any distance from Bangui, frequent changes of scene and relief from climate are not economical.

Entertainment

Public entertainment is limited. Several restaurants offer fair to good French cuisine at high prices. Several restaurants specialize in African food, and one in Lebanese dishes. No local legitimate theater exists, but infrequent theatrical performances by visiting French or local Central African troupes can be seen. Concerts are very rarely given, so music lovers should bring a good collection of records, tapes or CDs; they are unavailable in Bangui. The two movie theaters show French or French-dubbed films, some current, some older. Admission prices, as well as quality of sound, vary.

Three European-style discotheques operate in Bangui. In non-European quarters, several nightclubs offer open-air dancing, sometimes with live bands.

Good but expensive European photo equipment is sold locally. Camera enthusiasts should bring a good supply of film, flash bulbs, and batteries.

Social Activities

Among Americans: Most entertaining is in the home. Informal dinners, buffets, and cocktail parties are frequent.

International Contacts: Social activity in the Central African and European Community occurs, consisting mainly of receptions and small dinner parties at home. It is necessary to speak French. Social affairs are generally informal, with only a few more formal functions annually.

Hotels have facilities that can be rented for large receptions and dinner parties. Catering services are also available but expensive. The Rotary and Lions Clubs are active. Most recreational clubs occasionally sponsor special social events for members and guests.

Special Information

No particular hazards to travelers exist other than those connected with bush trips in any country without a system of paved highways. When taking photographs, exercise discretion. Local authorities are often sensitive about photos being taken which they believe would compromise the country's security or reflect unfavorably on the country. Avoid these subjects: the Palace, private residences owned by the government, airports and military installations, as well as beggars, physically deformed people, convicts (who are often seen performing outdoor labor tasks), and bare-breasted women.

OTHER CITIES

Located approximately 150 miles northeast of the capital, BAMBARI is representative of cities in the central region of Africa. It was once a thriving community that has now fallen victim to its environment. The city does, however, boast of green hills, picturesque scenery, and the Ouaka River. Fishing, coffee, and other crops support the city's 87,500 (2000 est.) residents.

BANGASSOU is the home of the beautiful Kembe Falls on the Kotto River. Swimming is not advised here, but the view is awesome. The city is located in the southern section of the Central African Republic very near to Zaire. The population is estimated at 36,000.

Located near the western border, north of the capital, BOUAR is rich in history. The stone monuments that appear to be thousands of years old have mystified archaeologists with their similarity to monuments found in Egypt and western Europe. In Bouar's not so ancient past, it was a French headquarters and a German outpost. Ivory and wood are used for handicrafts here, and are sold in the markets. Trade items include food, cotton, and animals. Bouar has about 95,200 residents (2000).

The diamond-mining city of BRIA is located approximately 250 miles northeast of the capital. Along with diamonds, Bria produces cotton, sesame, gold, and coffee. It is easily accessible by road and air. The population is estimated to be over 25,000.

COUNTRY PROFILE

Geography and Climate

The Central African Republic, formerly known as the territory of Oubangui-Chari, was one of four territories of French Equatorial Africa. It became an autonomous republic within the newly established French Community on December 1, 1958 and was renamed the Central African Republic two years later. It transformed itself into the Central African Empire on December 4, 1976, and again became a republic (Republique Centrafricaine) on September 20, 1979.

The Central African Republic is a landlocked country on a broad plateau in the heart of the African continent. With an area of 238,000 square miles, it is slightly smaller than Texas. It is bounded on the north by Chad, on the east by Sudan, on the south by Zaire and Congo, and on the west by Cameroon. Most of the country is between 1,300 and 3,600 feet above sea level, with an average altitude of about 2,000 feet.

The country is a watershed for the Lake Chad/Chari River basin to the north and the Congo River basin to the south. Although rivers are numerous, they are small and do not lend themselves to heavy commerce. The Oubangui River is commercially navigable year round only south of Bangui.

Vegetation varies from tropical rain forest in the extreme southwest to semi-desert in the northeast. The bulk of the country is wooded savanna.

Average monthly temperatures range from a low of around 66 0 to a high of as much as 93 0. Most of the country's precipitation, usually characterized by short, violent thunderstorms, occurs in two seasons: April-May and August-November. Although it rains hard at times, the sun shines almost every day. Dust, generally sunny skies, and warm weather are the forecast for the major dry season (December-March) and the short, dry season (June-July).

Year-round daylight hours are 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The country is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. Daylight saving time is not observed.

Population

The estimated population is 3.5 million. Almost two-thirds of these people inhabit the western region, which includes Bangui, and most of the remaining population live in the central region. The eastern region has a density of less than one person per square mile. The country's overall density is 6-8 persons per square mile.

More than 80 percent of the people live in rural areas. Bangui, with about 553,000 people, is the only large city. Five other towns have populations exceeding 20,000; all are in the western or central regions.

Although many different ethnic groups exist, two main groups (the Baya-Mandjia, who inhabit the western and northern part of the country, and the Banda, who inhabit the center of the country) account for two-thirds of the population. A third group (riverine group of M'Bakas, Mbatis, Yakomas, and Sangos, located in the Bangui area and in several areas along the Oubangui River) comprises about 15 percent of the population but supplied the first four Chiefs of State. Pygmies, the country's original inhabitants, live in the forests of the southwest.

Each ethnic group has its own language, but Sangho, the language of a small riverine group along the Oubangui, is the lingua franca of the country and the "national" language. Only a small minority of the population has more than an elementary knowledge of French, the country's "official" language. Catholic and Protestant missionaries have been active since the late 19th century, and both churches are well established. According to church attendance records, about 50 percent of the population is Christian (roughly half Catholic and half Protestant). Moslems constitute about 15-20 percent and are important to the trade of the country. The balance of the population adheres to traditional religious beliefs.

Significant foreign communities in the country include the Chadian, Cameroonian, Zairian, and Nigerian colonies in the Bangui area. Most of the country's 4,000 non-African residents are French citizens living in Bangui; of the remainder, about 400 are Americans, mostly Peace Corps Volunteers or missionaries in the interior.

Public Institutions

The Central African Republic is a constitutional democracy. The constitution was passed by referendum on December 29, 1994 and was adopted on January 7, 1995. The president is elected by popular vote for a six-year term, and the prime minister is appointed by the president. There is a unicameral National Assembly with 109 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms (note-there were 85 seats in the National Assembly before the 1998 election).

For administrative purposes, the country is divided into 14 prefectures, which in turn are divided into two or more sub-prefectures. Officials of these units (prefects and sub-prefects) report directly to the Ministry of the Interior. The army, the gendarmerie and the national police maintain public order.

There is universal suffrage for those aged 21.

Arts, Science, and Education

Cultural and intellectual life is developing. Institutions of higher education include the University of Bangui, the National School of Administration and Magistrature, and the National Teachers Training College.

Local culture reflects outside influences to some degree, particularly from neighboring countries. Native dancing is gaining recognition as an integral part of the culture. The Boganda Museum in Bangui houses a collection of items of cultural interest, including ethnic artifacts.

Commerce and Industry

The economy is predominantly subsistence agriculture. Manioc, millet, and sorghum are the leading food crops. A number of light industries located in the Bangui area include plants for processing agricultural products; cigar and cigarette factories; a tee shirt factory; a brewery; and a diamond-cutting facility. The country has no heavy industry. Leading exports are diamonds, coffee, timber, and cotton. Uranium deposits exist, but they are located in a remote area and are not regarded as exploitable in the near future. Petroleum exploration has resulted in no exploitable discoveries. French and Lebanese businesses control much of the commercial activity of the country, and France is responsible for about 40 percent of the C.A.R.'s foreign trade.

As a former French colony and an associate member of the EC, the Central African Republic receives substantial foreign aid from France and the EC's European Development Fund. In addition, Germany, Japan, Taiwan and the U.S. provide more modest levels of technical and project assistance. The World Bank, the UNDP, and other UN agencies have important development projects here.

Transportation

Local

Bangui has no public bus service, but intercity minibuses, which are infrequent and dangerous, connect principal towns. Buses are invariably crowded. Taxis operate primarily on fixed routes on a share-thecab system.

Regional

Air transport is expensive, but generally reliable. Bangui airport handles scheduled passenger and cargo flights. Air Afrique and Air France operate between Paris and Bangui, with flights also stopping in N'Djamena, Chad or Douala, Cameroon. Air Afrique operates scheduled passenger and cargo flights from Libreville, Gabon and Douala, Cameroon, to Bangui. Air Afrique also operates a weekly flight to Lagos/Lome/Abidjan/Niamey/Dakar and once a week also to Lome.

Irregularly scheduled internal air service and small charter planes are available.

The water transport route from the Atlantic Ocean to Bangui begins with a long railroad trip from Pointe Noire, Congo, to Brazzaville where cargo is transshipped on barges up the Congo and Oubangui Rivers to Bangui. Above Bangui the Oubangui is navigable only by shallow draft barges in the rainy season. Motorized "pirogues" (African dugout canoes) and a vehicle ferry cross the Oubangui River at Bangui to the town of Zongo, Zaire, to connect with the Zaire road system, such as it is.

The principal land transport route from the Atlantic to Bangui goes from Douala and Yaounde, Cameroon. Roads also connect to neighboring Chad and Sudan. Except for roads connecting Bangui with Yaloke (148 miles), Bangui with Sibut (68 miles), and Bangui with M'Baiki (64 miles), all roads outside Bangui are unpaved. Even Bangui has many unpaved streets. Road surfaces deteriorate in the rainy season, so a four-wheel-drive vehicle with high road clearance is a distinct advantage.

Most freight for Bangui is shipped by truck from Douala, Cameroon. A small amount of trans-Sahara road traffic, mostly overland tourists, pass through Bangui on travels further south or east.

Communications

Telephone and Telegraph

Bangui has dependable dial telephone system with a capacity of 5,000 lines. Overseas direct dialing is available. Basic monthly charges for a telephone are about US$12. Subscribers are billed about US$0.33 for each local call. Bills run months late.

Calls to the U.S. of usually good quality are routed through Paris. A long-distance call costs about US$28 for 3 minutes. Commercial telegrams are available to the U.S. and are routed via Paris.

Radio and TV

The Government radio station, Radio Centrafrique, broadcasts music, news, and announcements on mediumwave and FM from Bangui in French and Sangho. News in French is broadcast four times per day. Radio Afrique Numero Un broadcasts music and news in French on the FM band.

Voice of America, BBC and other international services can be received on shortwave bands.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

Several French language newspapers are published irregularly in Bangui.

A few English-language publications are sold locally. Time, Newsweek, the Economist and the International Herald Tribune are available every week. A large number of French newspapers, magazines, and books are sold locally.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Bangui has two large government hospitals, staffed primarily by French and Central African doctors; most speak only French. Although the specialists at the hospital are often consulted, the in-patient facilities are not used because of the questionable sanitary conditions and nursing care.

While there are specialists in ophthalmology, orthopedics, OB/GYN, general surgery, pediatrics, and ear, nose and throat problems, they are rarely used by Americans.

Competent emergency dental work is available, but all dental work should be done before arrival, if possible.

Two local pharmacies are fairly well stocked with French medicines. Eyeglasses can be ordered from one of the pharmacies but are very expensive and entail substantial delay. It is advisable to bring a spare pair of glasses.

Preventive Measures

Tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, schistosomiasis and intestinal parasites are prevalent, but foreigners rarely contract such endemic diseases if they observe simple preventative measures. Dysentery (Amoebic and bacillary), skin infections, malaria, and hepatitis are a constant risk. Viral ailments such as colds and flu are common. Those with respiratory, skin, or sinus problems may find these conditions aggravated.

Local authorities require yellow fever immunizations for entry into the country. The Department of State advises hepatitis A and B, tetanus, typhoid, polio, and rabies shots.

Chloroquine-resistant malaria has become a problem during the last few years. Thus, careful prevention of exposure to mosquitoes and malaria suppression is essential. A new anti-malarial, Mefloquin, is recommended. A weekly dose of Chloroquine in addition to daily doses of Paludrine is also used by some people. Malaria suppression should be started two weeks before your arrival.

It takes most people some time to adjust to the climate. Children generally adapt well, but heat rash and childhood diseases can occur. Moderate physical exercise and active social interests help maintain good health. Avoid too much sun.

Snakes, scorpions, tarantulas and other spiders, ants, and mosquitoes make it necessary to take precautions when walking outdoors, including wearing shoes and using insect repellant, particularly at night.

Bangui's water is purified in a modern plant, but because of the condition of the city pipelines, water must be boiled and filtered before drinking or using for ice cubes.

Local vegetables, particularly leafy ones, should be washed in a detergent or bleach ("javel" in French) solution, or should be peeled or cooked before eating. Local meats should be cooked thoroughly to avoid parasites such as trichina or tapeworms.

Fruits and vegetables imported from Europe should be treated for possible contamination in transit. They need not be peeled. Fresh milk is not available, although long-life milk is frequently stocked in one or two food stores.

NOTES FOR TRAVELERS

A valid passport and visa are required. Current information on entry requirements may be obtained from the Embassy of the Central African Republic, 1618 22nd Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 483-7800/ 7801, fax (202) 332-9893. Overseas, inquiries should be made to the nearest Central African Republic embassy or consulate.

To enter into the country, travelers must have the standard international certificate of vaccination or its equivalent and yellow fever and occasionally cholera immunization certificates. (Note that the yellow fever immunization does not become effective until ten days after injection.)

Americans living in or visiting CAR are encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Bangui at Avenue David Dacko, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within the CAR. The mailing address for the U.S. Embassy in Bangui is American Embassy Bangui, Avenue David Dacko, B.P. 924, telephone (236) 61-02-00; fax (236) 61-44-94; after-hours telephone for U.S. citizens (236) 61-34-56 or 61-69-14.

No quarantine requirements exist for pets. They must have a rabies vaccination certificate and a certificate of good health. Pets must be shipped as accompanying baggage, and are normally cleared and delivered to the owners immediately upon arrival of the plane carrying them. Limited veterinary service is available.

The unit of currency is the CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine, African Financial Community) franc issued by the Banque Centrale des Etats de l'Afrique Centrale et du Cameroun (Central Bank of Central Africa and Cameroon). France guarantees unlimited convertibility of the CFA franc into metrofrancs at the rate of 100 francs CFA to 1 French franc. The rate of exchange in January 2001 was 669 francs CFA=US$1.

Following the French Government's enactment of exchange controls in 1968, the CAR adopted similar restrictions. Under present regulations, an unlimited amount of foreign currency and travelers checks can be imported or exported, but no more than the equivalent of 50,000 CFA francs per person in currency.

The metric system of weights and measures is used.

LOCAL HOLIDAYS

Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Mar. 29 Boganda Day

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Mar/Apr. Easter Monday*

May 1 Labor Day May/JuneAscension Day*

May/JuneWhitsunday*

May/JuneWhitmonday*

June 30 National Day of Prayer

Aug. 13Republic Day

Aug. 15Assumption Day

Nov. 1All Saints' Day

Dec. 1 Proclamation Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

*variable

RECOMMENDED READING

Africa South of the Sahara 1992. London: Europa Publications, 1991.

Countries of the World and Their Leaders Yearbook 1992. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992.

Decalo, Samuel. The Psychosis of Power, Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado.

Kalck, Pierre. C.A.R. Failure in Decolonization, Pall Mall, London, 1971.

. Historical Dictionary of the Central African Republic. London: Methuen, 1980.

Kalck, Pierre & O'Toole, Thomas. Historical Dictionary of the C.A.R., Scarecrow Press, 1992.

Lerner. Central African Republic in Pictures, Visual Geographic Series, 1992.

Newton. Central Africa, Lonely Planet Guidebooks, 1992.

O'Toole, Thomas. Central African Republic in Pictures. Visual Geography Series. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 1989.

Pakenham, Thomas. The Scramble for Africa, Random House, 1991.

Shoumatoff, Alex. African Madness. New York: Vintage Books, 1988.

Weinstien, Brian. Eboue, New York, Oxford University Press, 1972.

West, Richard. Congo, Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1972. Also published in the U.K. as The River Congo.

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Central African Republic

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

LOCATION AND SIZE.

The former French colony of Ubangi-Shari, now the Central African Republic (CAR), is well named; it is a landlocked country in the center of the African continent. Land boundaries extend for 5,203 kilometers (3,233 miles) connecting Cameroon to the west, Chad and Sudan to the north, and the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the south. The country covers an area of 622,984 square kilometers (240,534 square miles), slightly smaller than Texas. The CAR is covered with tropical rainforest in the southern and western regions and dryer savanna in the north and east. The capital city, Bangui, is in the southwest, on the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The other main towns are Bambari and Bossangoa.

POPULATION.

The population of the Central African Republic was estimated at 3,576,884 in July 2001. It was growing 1.85 percent annually. The birth rate is estimated at 37.05 per 1,000 people and the death rate is 18.53 per 1,000 people. If current trends continue, the population, of which 43 percent are younger than 15, will surpass 4.2 million by 2010. These figures may change, however, because of the devastating effects of AIDS, which was prevalent in nearly 14 percent of the population in 1999, and the small percentage of people over 65 years. Some estimate that deaths caused by AIDS may be the most disruptive economic problem that the CAR will have to face in the coming years.

According to some sources, there are as many as 75 ethnic groups in the CAR but the Banda predominate, with the Baya, Sara and Mandjia people also prominent. There are 6,500 Europeans in the country, of which 2,500 are French. Approximately 24 percent of the population subscribe to indigenous religious beliefs, 50 percent are Christians (25 percent Protestant, 25 percent Roman Catholic), and 15 percent Muslim, with 11 percent after other faiths. Two-thirds of the people live in rural areas, with most of the remaining third residing in the capital, Bangui.

While French is the official language of the CAR, the national and most widely spoken language is Sangho. Other African languages, notably Hunsa and Swahili, are also spoken, as is Arabic.

OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY

The Central African Republic's economy is based primarily on subsistence agriculture, with important mining and timber industries the main source of export earnings. Diamonds are the country's most profitable export, while agriculture occupies most of its working population. Farmers grow cotton, coffee, and tobacco for export and crops for local markets, but economic development is handicapped by the CAR's landlocked position, limited infrastructure , and the low education of its work-force . Poor government management and political instability have further weakened the CAR's economic condition. The informal sector is important in the CAR, accounting for most economic activity and a large share of the diamond trade.

The CAR has had a turbulent economic history. Since gaining independence in 1960, the economy has endured intermittent periods of economic decline caused in part by poor management. Between 1960 and 1990, the CAR's first 3 presidents pursued authoritarian policies that often impeded economic growth. Gross domestic product (GDP) declined at an average annual rate of 2.5 percent between 1985 and 1995, partly due to self-proclaimed Emperor Jean Bedel Bokassa's nationalizing several industries during the 1970s. During the 1980s, government mismanagement and corruption and low commodity prices accentuated this decline. During the 1990s, the CAR pursued economic and democratic reforms with some success, but several army mutinies in 1996 and 1997 degenerated into looting and destruction of property in Bangui. These events weakened the government and damaged the economy.

Agriculture is the primary occupation for four-fifths of the population in the CAR. During the colonial era, the French introduced cotton and coffee. They have served as the main cash crops for rural families ever since. Small amounts of tobacco are also grown for both the export and domestic markets. Cassava (manioc) is by far the biggest staple food crop and is produced primarily for home consumption. Millet, sorghum, corn, peanuts, and yams are also grown by farmers, who consume most of these foods themselves and sell excess harvest in the local markets.

While crop farming is the main work activity, diamonds and timber provide most of the CAR's export earnings. Diamonds are especially important, accounting for 54 percent of export revenues in 1999, while timber earned an additional 16 percent. For the domestic market, the CAR has developed a few industries that produce consumer goods .

Poor transport links are obstacles to economic development. An estimated 90 percent of the CAR's commercial traffic passes through the port of Douala in Cameroon, where services are notoriously inefficient and costly. Poorly maintained dirt roads link the country to Cameroon's northern railway terminal in Ngaoundere.

Government mismanagement and political instability are 2 additional factors that have hindered economic growth. Many nationalized companies have suffered under government mismanagement, thus contributing to the CAR's long decline. The resulting chronic budgetary problems, with the government unable to collect sufficient revenue to pay salaries, have fueled social tensions and political instability. To address these problems the CAR has collaborated with the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to privatize several state companies and made efforts to stimulate growth. While there has been progress, the problem of chronic financial mismanagement continues. The CAR's economic woes are also exacerbated by the scarcity of jobs, rampant diamond smuggling, the large informal economy, and low levels of private investment.

Despite many problems, the CAR has valuable economic assets that could be profitably exploited. Fertile land and consistent rainfall are favorable to agriculture, there is the potential to export more mineral resources, and the country has abundant hydroelectric power that provides cheap electricity. But any growth is reliant on political stability and peace in the country.

POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION

Politically, the CAR is an emerging democracy, whose population has the vote from age 21. The Republic's head of state is elected by popular vote for a 6-year term. He or she is responsible for appointing a prime minister as head of government, the council of ministers (cabinet), and the judges who serve the supreme and constitutional courts. The legal system is based in French law. The parliamentary structure is a 109-seat unicameral National Assembly, whose members are elected by the people and serve for 5 years. The National Assembly is advised by the Economic and Regional Council. The 2 bodies, when deliberating together, are known as the Congress. Local government is administered by 14 departments called prefectures, plus 2 economic prefectures, while the capital, Bangui, is designated as a commune.

There are 11 political parties, which field candidates for the National Assembly, but only a handful win representation. Until the mid-1990s, however, the country was run as a 1-party state, the party of the president. After the adoption of a constitution in January 1995, the system became more democratic and representative. By 2000, there were 12 political parties operating in the country.

An army officer, Jean Bedel Bokassa, stands as a potent symbol of the corruption and excess that characterizes many African leaders. Bokassa seized power in a military coup in 1965 and ruled for 14 years until 1979. In 1977, he crowned himself emperor-for-life in a lavish ceremony and began nationalizing the CAR's few industries. Under Bokassa's management, the economic steadily declined. The country's 3 other presidents since independence (David Dacko, Andre Kolingba, and Ange-Felix Patasse), they have proved unable to manage the CAR's economy.

After many decades of stability, army mutinies in 1996 and 1997 destabilized the political institutions and damaged the economy of the CAR. The mutinies began after soldiers, students, and civil servants protested over not being paid for months. The protest widened into widespread looting and destruction in the capital. After 3 years, a regional military force and a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force reestablished political stability, allowing the CAR to organize democratic elections. The UN force was removed in 2000, but the budgetary problemsif not the open hostilitythat caused the mutinies remain. Unable to reduce widespread tax evasion, the Central African government remains unable to raise enough revenue to pay its employees.

INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS

Infrastructure in the CAR is underdeveloped, poorly maintained, and inadequate. The CAR has no railroads, and only 450 kilometers (280 miles) of the 25,000 kilometers (15,535 miles) roads are paved. Dirt roads are poorly maintained and deteriorate in the rainy season. No organized public transport is available because the country's poor infrastructure drives up the cost, thereby discouraging commerce and investment.

The CAR suffers economically from its inadequate links to port facilities. Some of Bangui's commercial cargo has traveled down the Ubangi River to Brazzaville and by rail to Point Noire. Civil unrest in the Congos has forced the CAR to divert its commercial traffic towards the Cameroonian port of Douala. The CAR has over 4,000 kilometers (2,485 miles) of waterways; over 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) are navigable.

The country has abundant hydroelectric resources that provide reliable and inexpensive power to the capital city. About 80 percent of the CAR's electricity is provided by hydroelectricity, most of which is generated north of Bangui, with fossil fuels providing the rest. Besides these hydroelectric generators, Bangui has oil-powered generators to supplement power during peak periods and to use as backup. The state-owned enterprise, Enerca, supplies the electricity. The potential exists to harness more water resources and export energy to neighboring countries.

The CAR's telephone service is limited to a small percentage of Bangui's population but operates efficiently. The state phone company, SOCATEL, has invested little capital in improving or expanding the system and customers regularly wait up to 6 months to have new phone lines installed. A SOCATEL subsidiary began providing Internet services in 1996, but subscribers remain low. During the late 1990s, several mobile phone companies began operations, but their infrastructure was initially confined to Bangui. When SOCATEL is privatized and other companies are allowed to compete, investments are expected to increase coverage.

Communications
Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Central African Republic 2 83 5 N/A 0 0.1 N/A 0.00 1
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Dem. Rep. of Congo 3 375 135 N/A 0 N/A N/A 0.00 1
Chad 0 242 1 0.0 0 0.0 N/A 0.00 1
a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999and are per 1,000 people.
b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium (http://www.isc.org) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE : World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

The CAR has only 1 international airport (near Bangui) and a few dirt airstrips. Several international airlines offer weekly flights between the capital and Paris, and to several regional capitals.

ECONOMIC SECTORS

Though production levels vary annually, agriculture has been the bedrock of the Central African economy, employing most of its workforce and accounting for half of the GDP for years. Agricultural output varies by product but has remained strong. Cotton production suffered from declining prices in the late 1990s, but this decrease was compensated for by increased food production. Lumber production also increased during the late 1990s as new timber companies entered the market. The CAR could produce far more agricultural exports, but it has been constrained by the lack of modern methods and poor access to regional markets.

The industrial sector is focused on diamond mining, in which 80,000 members of the labor force are employed, and which accounts for most of Central Africa's export revenue. Production figures have been difficult to estimate because of widespread diamond smuggling, but production grew during the late 1990s. During 2000, evidence was found of world-class deposits of iron ore, offering hope of expanded mining activities. In addition, oil exploration in the northern part of the country has begun. The construction of a pipeline between Douala and southern Chad will make oil production more feasible in the CAR. There are also several basic industries producing beverages and footwear and assembling bicycles for the domestic market. The industrial sector accounted for 20 percent of GDP in 1999.

The service sector includes a few companies and a thriving informal retail trade. Although small (27 percent of the GDP in 1999), the service sector has been strengthened by the privatization of several state enterprises during the 1990s. As the government sells its industrial companies, private ownership increases the demand for banking and other services. Nevertheless, the World Bank estimates indicate that services fell from a high of 32 percent of the CAR's GDP during the late 1990s.

AGRICULTURE

Agriculture employs four-fifths of the 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.

Timber is acquired in the southwestern regions bordering on Cameroon and the Congos and is logged and exported by several foreign firms. Production has risen from 200,000 to 300,000 cubic meters in the early 1990s to nearly 500,000 cubic meters. Forests covered nearly half of the country in the late 1990s, but this area has been reduced since timber companies do not replace the trees they have cut down.

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.

INDUSTRY

The industrial sector makes up about 20 percent of GDP. Mining is the most significant part of this sector. Mining is conducted by individual miners who use simple equipment. CAR has deposits of gold, uranium, iron ore, manganese, and copper. Lack of infrastructure, which makes it difficult to find and to transport mined minerals, has impeded further mineral exploration, but the CAR has over 400,000 square kilometers (154,440 square miles) of unexplored terrain with high geological potential for diamonds and other mineral deposits.

Diamonds provide about half of the CAR's export earnings. An estimated 80,000 independent miners officially produced 415,000 carats of diamonds in 1999. The official numbers are well below the actual amount of diamonds mined because there is a great deal of diamond smuggling in the country. Legitimate miners sell their products to 160 certified agents who sell to purchasing agents in Bangui. But one respected French economic journal, Marche Tropicaux, estimated total exports in 1997 at 1.5 million carats, more than 3 times the official total.

Besides mining, the CAR has several industries that process products for export as well as producing goods for domestic markets. Though most lumber is exported as raw logs, some of it is processed in sawmills and exported as boards. As in many African countries, breweries are one of the country's oldest and largest industries, brewing beer primarily for domestic consumption. Several other small companies assemble bicycles and motorcycles. In recent years, the country's textile factory has become inactive because it was unable to compete against cheap imports and the second-hand clothing market.

SERVICES

The small banking sector remains plagued by past management problems and offers only limited services. A report by the Central Bank of Central Africa (BEAC) estimated in 1999 that only one of the CAR's 3 commercial banks was financially sound, but the other 2 were at least making progress with internal reforms. Several banks have been privatized during the 1990s, and 2 of these have joined the large European banking groups, Société General and Groupe Belgolaise.

The government telecommunications company, SOCATEL, holds a monopoly over most telephone services (excluding cellular services). In 1996, the government agreed to sell 40 percent of SOCATEL to the French company France Radio et Cable (FRC) and plans to sell its remaining 60 percent stake in the coming years.

Small informal vendors dominate retail services. A few modern shops are centered in Bangui's commercial district, but most retail sales are conducted by unregistered street vendors or those operating from one-room stores or roadside stalls. Informal trade is difficult to quantify, but it is clear that most retail commerce is conducted within the informal economy.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

France is the largest trade and investment partner for the CAR and supplies 35 percent of its imports. French companies have invested in most major local industries as well as in banking and telecommunications services. Other European countries, particularly the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) and Spain, import many of CAR's exports. Within Africa, the Ivory Coast and Cameroon are major trading partners, while trade with neighboring countries such as Chad, Cameroon, and Nigeria is probably far higher than official estimates because much of it evades customs.

The CAR generally has a trade deficit because it imports more than it is able to export, although the 2000 figures registered a surplus, with US$166 million in exports against US$154 million in imports. Export revenues

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Central African Republic
Exports Imports
1975 .047 .069
1980 .116 .081
1985 .092 .113
1990 .120 .154
1995 .171 .174
1998 N/A N/A
SOURCE : International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

are dependent on diamond production levels, but these are difficult to estimate because most of the diamond trade goes unrecorded by customs agents. Exports, especially of diamonds, coffee, cotton, and timber, rose after the 1994 devaluation of Central Africa's currency, but were later affected by political unrest in 1996 and 1997. The most important imports include petroleum products, machinery, and different consumer goods, which became more costly to purchase after the currency was devalued.

MONEY

The CAR is part of the Central African Monetary and Economic Union (Communaute Economiquareue et Monetaire de l'Afrique Centrale, or CEMAC), a group of 5 francophone countries that use the same currency, the CFA franc. The CFA franc is tied to the French franc and can be readily exchanged at 50 CFA francs to 1 French franc. The CAR, like all members of the CFA franc communities, has benefited from this stable currency.

As a member of the CFA zone, the CAR was profoundly affected by the 50 percent devaluation of the CFA in 1994. This had some positive short-term effects, though, in promoting exports of diamonds, timber and

Exchange rates: Central African Republic
Communaute Financiere Africaine francs (CFA Fr) per US$1
Jan 2001 699.21
2000 711.98
1999 615.70
1998 589.95
1997 583.67
1996 511.55
Note: From January 1, 1999, the CFA Fr is pegged to the euro at a rate of 655.957 CFA Fr per euro.
SOURCE : CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

cotton because it doubled the value of these exports in CFA francs, boosting revenue. The devaluation caused a temporary rise in inflation and lowered living standards temporarily and probably increased poverty by raising prices while most salaries remained static.

In the long term, results were more mixed. The de-valuation made imported products relatively more expensive. One of the most significant price increases was of petrol, which was priced beyond the reach of many and severely curbed the use of petrol-powered transport, effectively stopping bus service, for example.

POVERTY AND WEALTH

Unemployment, given the lack of work opportunities in the CAR, is low at 6 percent, but poverty is high. In 1998, life expectancy was estimated at less than 45 years and less than half of the population could read. Per capita income levels have remained among the lowest in the world. Though most Central African families have limited income, they benefit from climatic conditions that enable them to produce enough food to survive. Most Central African people live under similar rural conditions, where food is available but money and consumer goods are more difficult to obtain. Social services, such as health care and education are seriously lacking.

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Central African Republic 454 417 410 363 341
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Dem. Rep. of Congo 392 313 293 247 127
Chad 252 176 235 228 230
SOURCE : United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Central African Republic
Lowest 10% 0.7
Lowest 20% 2.0
Second 20% 4.9
Third 20% 9.6
Fourth 20% 18.5
Highest 20% 65.0
Highest 10% 47.7
Survey year: 1993
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE : 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

The urban population centered in Bangui is diverse, encompassing many different occupations and classes. However, as in several other countries in the region, the wealthy share their fortune with poorer relatives who live in rural areas, who frequently send gifts of produce in exchange for money. Many urban dwellers make their living through small-scale commerce. Women are particularly active in buying, processing, and selling different food commodities in local markets.

WORKING CONDITIONS

Working conditions in the CAR are similar to those encountered throughout rural Africa. Subsistence farmers use labor-intensive traditional farming methods to produce food and cash crops. Agricultural work varies seasonally, with fields plowed and crops sown in the early rainy season around May and June. The fields are worked during the rainy season, and the harvest is gathered between September and December. Most work is done by hand, but some farmers harness oxen to plough their fields.

A small portion of the population works in the diamond and lumber industries. Diamond miners are self-employed prospectors, whose earnings vary according to their luck in finding diamonds.

Most of the working population centered in Bangui is employed in the informal sector. Women often buy and sell different foods for meager profits, while men typically work in trades such as carpentry, masonry, and tailoring. Women have little access to education or to jobs and suffer from lesser protection under the law.

Members of the small civil service normally constitute a middle class elite, but this class has endured periods without salary because of the government's chronic budgetary problems.

COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

1894. French forces occupy Central Africa (the current CAR).

1905. The CAR is joined to Chad under French colonial control.

1910. The CAR and Chad are joined with Gabon and the Congo to form French Equatorial Africa.

1928-31. Congo-Wara rebellion against forced labor on coffee and cotton plantations breaks out and is eventually crushed.

1946. A rebellion in the CAR forces France to grant the territory a legislative assembly and representation in the French parliament.

1958. The CAR achieves self-government as a part of French Equatorial Africa.

1960. The CAR gains its own independence. David Dacko is elected the country's first president.

1965. Army commander Jean-Bedel Bokassa takes power in a coup d'état.

1977. Bokassa crowns himself "emperor for life."

1979. Dacko overthrows Bokassa with the help of France in a bloodless coup.

1981. A bloodless coup led by General Andre Kolingba overthrows Dacko and establishes military rule.

1993. Ange-Felix Patasse is elected president.

1996-97. Several army mutinies break out over unpaid salaries and quickly degenerate into widespread looting of the capital city of Bangui. Patasse flees.

1997. Bangui accords are signed in January to reconcile political factions; France withdraws its troops in October.

1998. The UN sends a peacekeeping force to help maintain order throughout the legislative and presidential elections.

1999. Patasse is reelected president.

2001. More mutinies disrupt the political and economic stability of the country.

FUTURE TRENDS

The CAR has a great deal of economic potential. The country's fertile land and abundant water resources offer hope in the agricultural sector, while rich mineral resources offer an opportunity to expand the export of commodities other than diamonds. The current construction of the pipeline project will also increase the feasibility of petroleum exploration by making it easier and cheaper to export oil reserves through Cameroon. The potential is great, but all depends on the CAR's ability to conquer its past demons.

Despite the CAR's vast natural resources, several obstacles impede the CAR's future prosperity: deforestation, poor infrastructure, the AIDS epidemic, and political instability. Deforestation is an unfortunate result of the heavy logging industry. New strategies must be developed for the timber industry to thrive economically. Deforestation adds to the problems of frequent flooding as well as to the country's vulnerability to desertification . The poor quality and lack of adequate infrastructure throughout the country also hampers economic development, making it difficult to get products to market or to explore new deposits of valuable minerals. With AIDS cases reaching epidemic proportions, the lack of health-care coverage and education threaten the well-being of the country. Some estimate that the CAR will lose an increasing number of its labor force to AIDS. Finally, and to somemost importantlythe government needs to overcome its budgetary problems. Internal budgetary mismanagement has deprived civil servants and others of their salaries and has bred political unrest. The government's ability to manage successfully will determine political stability, the essential precondition for foreign investment and consequent economic growth.

DEPENDENCIES

Central African Republic has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

"Central African Republic and the IMF." International Monetary Fund. <http://www.imf.org/external/country/CAR/index>. Accessed January 2000.

"Central African Republic (CAR)." Mbendi: Information for Africa. <http://www.mbendi.co.za/land/af/cr/p0005.htm>. Accessed February 2001.

"Central African Republic." World Bank. <http://www.worldbank.org/>. Accessed January 2000.

Central African Republic Page. <http://www.sas.upenn.edu/African_Studies/Country_Specific/CAR.html>. Accessed October 2001.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Report: Cameroon, Central African Republic and Chad, 2nd Quarter, 1999. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 1999.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html>. Accessed October 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Background Note: Central African Republic. <http://www.state.gov/r/pa/bgn/index.cfm?docid=4007>. Accessed October 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide for Chad. <http://www.state.gov/www/about_state/business/com_guides/CAR>. Accessed December 2000.

Alexander Gazis

CAPITAL:

Bangui.

MONETARY UNIT:

Communauté Financiére Africaine franc (CFA Fr). There are 100 centimes to 1 CFA Fr and 100 CFA Fr equal 1 French franc. Coins are in denominations of 5, 10, 25, 50, 100 and 500 CFA Fr, and bills of 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 CFA Fr.

CHIEF EXPORTS:

Diamonds, timber, cotton, coffee, and tobacco.

CHIEF IMPORTS:

Food, textiles, petroleum products, machinery, electrical equipment, motor vehicles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, and industrial products.

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:

US$6.1 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).

BALANCE OF TRADE:

Exports: US$166 million (f.o.b., 2000). Imports: US$154 million (f.o.b., 2000).

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Central African Republic

Central African Republic

Basic Data

Official Country Name: Central African Republic
Region (Map name): Africa
Population: 3,512,751
Language(s): French, Sangho, Arabic, Hunsa, Swahili
Literacy rate: 60%

Background & General Characteristics

The Central African Republic (Centr'Afrique, Centrafrique, or CAR) is located in the heart of Africa, south of Chad and the Sudan and north of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Its capital is Bangui. The CAR's 3.8 million people have experienced significant political instability since gaining independence from France in 1960. When French troops finally left the CAR in 1997, internal security was facilitated by the presence of UN troops, the UN Mission to the Central African Republic (MINURCA), the transformed version of a French-financed peacekeeping force composed of troops from several Francophone African states. Most of the UN peacekeeping force withdrew in March 2000.

Ange-Félix Patassé, a member of the Sara ethnic group, is the CAR's elected president, in power since 1993. He was most recently elected to office in 1999, winning out over nine other candidates in an election seen as neither free nor fair. Civil unrest has been high since independence and built to excessive proportions in 2001.

On May 28, 2001, a coup attempt led by former President André Kolingba, an ethnic Yakoma, and soldiers loyal to him was halted after ten days of fighting in which over 200 people were estimated to have been killed. Government troops, assisted by foreign mercenaries, put down the rebellion. Another coup attempt took place in November 2001 when fighting re-erupted, with civilians, including women and children, reportedly killed in the crossfire.

The print media in the CAR are less popular and less influential than the broadcast media, due to the high level of illiteracy in the country and the high costs of printed newspapers, which are out of reach for the average citizen. The CAR's principal languages are French and Sangho. Newspapers and television broadcasts do not typically reach the areas outside the capital or other urban areas. Radio broadcasts are the most widely used means of spreading news.

The government produces three newspapers that represent the perspectives of the MLPC, the president's party. They are Centrafrique Presse, the Agence Centrafricaine de Presse (ACAP) bulletin (an irregularly published news source), and Be African Sango (not published in 2001 due to financial constraints). Eight to twelve independent newspapers also are published, though not all on a regular basis. Echo de CentrAfrique presents views aligned with the president's party but is a private daily paper. Other independent papers are Le Citoyen, Le Novateur, L'Hirondelle, and Le Démocrate.

Although both government-run and private newspapers criticized public policies and alleged corruption prior to an increase in civil unrest during 2001, the government has increasingly restricted freedom of the press and of expression since 2001. Journalists have been fined, arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and threatened with death for covering news about political violence or for publishing reports viewed as unfavorable to the government.

Economic Framework

The Central African Republic is one of Africa's most richly endowed countries in terms of natural resources, but its economy is substantially underdeveloped. Diamonds, timber, cotton, coffee, and tobacco are the country's principal exports. Annual per capita income is only about US $290. Life expectancy is very shortjust 42 years for men and 46 years for women.

Press Laws

The Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press. However, government censorship is widely felt.

Censorship

In the months following the May 2001 attempted coup, the government tried controlling the news media and in November 2001 stopped a press conference from taking place where attorneys planned to protest the government's detention of Assingambi Zarambaud, a lawyer accused of participating in the May coup. In September 2001 police had beaten Advocate Zarambaud in the street for his article in Le Citoyen critical of the government inquiry into the arrest and mistreatment of Abdoulaye Aboukary Tembelé, a human rights defender, in February 2001. Zarambaud was held for three months without being charged.

Late in 2001 the former military chief of staff of the CAR's armed forces, General François Bozizé, who was accused of participating in the November 2001 coup, reported that the government was preventing him from making press statements to Agence France-Presse "because apparently they [his statements] are sensational." Bozizé and his supporters later fled to Chad.

State-Press Relations

Relations between the government and the press have been inimical since the 2001 coup attempts. Although at the start of the new millennium President Patassé was allowing the media to operate without significant government interference, he made it clear that the press would be restricted if journalists were to use it "to incite rebellion." In February 2001 Abdoulaye Aboukary Tembelé, a journalist and key defender of human rights, was beaten and tortured at the National Gendarmerie headquarters after an opinion poll he produced, deemed unflattering to the president, was published in the Journal des Droits de l'Homme. Entitled "Should President Patassé Resign?," the poll indicated that most citizens supported the idea of the president's resignation.

Later in 2001 government security forces seized printing equipment and issues from the Groupement des Editeurs de la Presse Privé (GEPPIC), an association of editors of the independent press, for criticizing government behavior in the May 2001 attempted coup.

Father Tonino Falagoista, the director of the Roman Catholic radio station Radio Notre Dame, was held by the government for two months after being arrested by the Mixed Commission, set up by the government to investigate the May coup attempt. Father Falagoista had refused to deny his authorship of a report of three mass graves of persons killed by the security forces in the unrest and for criticizing the killing of Yakomas (members of the former president's ethnic group) in the coup attempt.

Many Yakoma journalists fled abroad after May. After the coup attempts even journalists from President Patassé's Sara ethnic group were obliged to subdue their criticism of the regime. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, "The few who dared to speak out against the violence, such as editor Maka Gbossokotto of Le Citoyen, were quickly silenced with death threats."

At the close of 2001 some of the journalists who had left the country during the civil unrest had returned to the CAR. By that time, state media workers, perceiving "the smallest margin for free speech" as being destroyed by "political censors," themselves were protesting government interference in their work.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

Africa Number One, a private radio station belonging to a French broadcasting network and broadcasting from Libreville, Gabon, reaches listeners in the CAR. Radio France International broadcasts in the CAR and includes local reporters among its staff.

Broadcast Media

Radio Ndeke Luka, a Bangui-based broadcasting station established by the Swiss foundation, Hirondelle, financed by foreign governments and development organizations, and sponsored by the United Nations, offers balanced news coverage and rebroadcasts programs from international sources. Radio Ndeke Luka broadcasts on both FM and short-wave frequencies.

Although private television broadcasting is legally permitted, the government has effectively controlled television broadcasts. Its High Council of Communications has exercised authority over all television programming in the country.

The government-run Radiodiffusion-Centrafricaine Television provides other radio and television stations whose programs have little to say about the political opposition. Radio Centrafrique is the main government station. Radio Notre Dame, financed by the Vatican, is a Roman Catholic station based in Bangui. Radio Nostalgia is another alternative to government radio.

Broadcasting by Radio Centrafrique was briefly halted during the May 2001 coup attempt when rebel soldiers destroyed its main transmitter. During that time the government temporarily replaced its radio broadcasts with those from an impromptu government station, Radio Paix et Liberté, set up in the president's home.

Private satellite and cable television stations are permitted to broadcast their programs into the CAR, but few people can afford satellite or cable television.

Electronic News Media

The government does not limit Internet access. Domestic Internet service and e-mail service are available through a private telecommunications company. A cyber café, Bangui 2000, offers citizens Internet access.

Summary

Civil unrest and violence have damaged the ability of journalists and the press to operate freely and without fear of government repression in the Central African Republic. Decades of political instability and questionable democratic practice have made it imperative for alternative news sources, including those financed by outside, foreign sources and non-governmental organizations, to find their way into the CAR. Due to the high levels of illiteracy and poverty that persist in the CAR despite the country's natural richness, radio is the preferred means of news communication and the most popular medium for public expression.

Bibliography

Amnesty International. "Central African Republic." Amnesty International Report 2002. London: Amnesty International, May 28, 2002. Available from www.amnesty.org/.

BBC Monitoring. "Country profile: Central African Republic." Reading, UK: British Broadcasting Corporation, 2002. Available from news.bbc.co.uk/.

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State. "Central African Republic." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2001. Washington, DC: Bureau of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of State, 2002. Available from www.state.gov/.

Committee to Protect Journalists. "Central African Republic." Attacks on the Press in 2001: Africa 2001. New York, NY: CPJ, 2002. Available from www.cpj.org/.

Reporters without Borders. "Central African Republic." Africa Annual Report 2002. Paris, France: Reporters sans frontiers, April 20, 2002. Available at www.rsf.org/.

Barbara A. Lakeberg-Dridi

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Central African Republic

Central African Republic, republic (2005 est. pop. 3,800,000), 240,534 sq mi (622,983 sq km), central Africa. The landlocked nation is bordered by Chad (N), Sudan and South Sudan (E), Congo (Kinshasa) and Congo (Brazzaville) (S), and Cameroon (W). Bangui is the capital and largest city.

Land and People

The terrain consists of a 2,000–3,000 ft (610–910 m) undulating plateau, mainly covered by savanna; dense tropical forests in the south; and a semidesert area in the east. The Bongo Massif in the northeast reaches a height of c.4,500 ft (1,370 m). The country is drained by numerous rivers, but only the Ubangi is commercially navigable. Rainfall is heavy in the south; the north is hot, dry, and subject to harmattan winds. There are no railroads, and the network of all-weather roads is inadequate; rivers are the chief means of transportation.

The population consists of approximately 80 ethnic groups, including the Baya, Banda, Mandjia, Sara, Mboum, Mbaka, and Yakoma. There is a small European minority. Considerable migration of inhabitants from urban to rural areas has led to the uneven distribution of the population. Population density is low relative to other African nations, and the eastern portion of the republic is largely uninhabited. French is the official language, but Sango, the national tongue, is used as a lingua franca; Arabic, Hausa, and Swahili are also spoken. About 35% of the population practices traditional religions, 50% are Christian, and about 15% are Muslim.

Economy

The overwhelming majority of the population is engaged in subsistence agriculture, although only about 3% of the land is under cultivation. Manioc, yams, millet, corn, and bananas are the main food crops. The principal cash crops and agricultural exports are cotton, coffee, and tobacco; cocoa, rubber, and palm products are raised in the southwest. Timber is also an important export product. Cattle are raised in the western portion of the country.

Diamonds (the leading export), uranium, and gold are mined. Industry is limited to mineral, timber, and food processing and to the production of light consumer goods. Inadequate transportation has been a major obstacle to the country's economic development. Food, textiles, petroleum products, machinery, electrical equipment, motor vehicles, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals are imported. The Central African Republic's chief trading partners are Belgium, France, and the United States. Most exports are shipped via Pointe-Noire, in Congo (Brazzaville), more than 1,100 mi (1,770 km) away.

History

Between the 16th and 19th cent., much of the region was subject to devastating slave raids. The Baya people, seeking refuge from the Fulani of northern Cameroon, arrived in what is now the Central African Republic in the early 19th cent.; the Banda, fleeing the Muslim Arab slave raiders of Sudan, came later in the century. French expeditions, pushing out from the Congo, made treaties with local tribal chiefs and occupied the area in 1887.

The region was organized in 1894 as the colony of Ubangi-Shari and was united administratively with Chad in 1906 and incorporated into French Equatorial Africa in 1910. Chad later became a separate French territory. Much of the region was leased to French concessionaires, whose fostering of forced labor and other abuses sparked rebellions in 1928, 1935, and 1946. The population of Ubangi-Shari actively supported the Free French forces during World War II.

In 1946 the colony was given its own territorial assembly and representation in the French parliament. In the French constitutional referendum of 1958 the country opted for membership in the French Community. It received autonomy and took its present name. Full independence was attained on Aug. 13, 1960, under President David Dacko. (The nationalist leader Barthélémy Boganda, founder of what was for years the country's only political party, the Social Evolution Movement of Black Africa [MESAN], had been killed in a plane crash in 1959.)

The Central African Republic had a parliamentary government until Dec., 1965, when a military coup led by Col. Jean-Bédel Bokassa (Boganda's nephew) overthrew the Dacko regime, dissolved the national assembly, and abrogated the constitution. The military regime, with Bokassa as both president and head of MESAN, dealt harshly with dissenters. Despite the brutal nature of Bokassa's regime, France continued to invest heavily in the country's economic development and financed the 1977 ceremony in which Bokassa crowned himself emperor of the renamed Central African Empire. His excesses aroused intense public opposition and, after a government-ordered massacre, the French military intervened.

Bokassa was removed from power in a 1979 coup and Dacko was reinstated. In 1981, Dacko was reelected president but was overthrown by General André Kolingba in a bloodless coup. Kolingba became president and head of the military and of MESAN, establishing a dictatorial rule. Parliament legalized opposition parties in 1991, and in 1993 Ange-Félix Patassé won the presidency in the country's first multiparty elections. A new constitution adopted in 1995 sought to decentralize the government through the establishment of regional assemblies. However, the cash-poor government encountered mounting unrest over its failure to provide steady pay to civil servants and soldiers, as well as allegations of corruption and incompetence.

After army mutinies in Apr. and May, 1996, Patassé formed a new government that included Kolingba supporters, but the country's main opposition groups refused to join the coalition. A third mutiny erupted in Nov., 1996, and degenerated into ethnic feuding before it was crushed by French troops in Jan., 1997. Patassé announced a new national unity government, naming Michel Gbezera-Bria, an independent, as prime minister. Mutinous troops continued to occupy a military base in Bangui, however, and new fighting broke out in June, 1997. France ended its military presence in the country in 1999 and was replaced by an all-African peacekeeping force. In Sept., 1999, Patassé was reelected.

Unsuccessful coup attempts were mounted against the president in 2001 and 2002; they were put down with aid from Libyan and other forces. Libyan troops were withdrawn after the Nov., 2002, coup attempt and replaced by peacekeepers from the Central African Economic Community. In Mar., 2003, while Patassé was abroad; supporters of former general François Bozizé, who had twice before attempted to oust the president, seized power, and Bozizé was named president. Some 30,000 people fled to Chad after the coup. Patassé remained abroad in exile; in 2006 he was convicted in absentia of corruption. Some of Patassé's supporters have continued to fight in the country's northwest.

Bozizé subsequently established the broad-based National Transitional Council to draft a new constitution, and announced that he would step down and run for president after it was approved. In Dec., 2004, the new constitution was approved. National elections were held in Mar., 2005, followed by a runoff in May. Bozizé, who was the front runner after the first round, was elected president in May, and his National Convergence coalition won 42 of the 105 seats in the national assembly. Attacks beginning in mid-2005 by unidentified armed groups in the northern part of the country caused several thousand people there to flee to Chad.

In Jan.–Mar., 2006, Bozizé was authorized by the national assembly to rule by decree, and reorganized the civil service and took anticorruption measures, including dismissing three government ministers. In June there were clashes between government forces and Chadian rebels, who had entered the Central African Republic in the north. A rebel uprising in the northeast that began in Oct., 2006, captured several towns there. Although it was put down by mid-December with the assistance of forces from France and several French-speaking central African nations, fighting recurred in the region in 2007.

Several rebel groups signed accords with the government in Feb. and Apr., 2007, but despite this fighting continued into 2009. The instability in the north also led to an increase in lawlessness and banditry in the region, especially in 2008. In June, 2008, the government signed a peace agreement with two rebels groups, and subsequently passed (September) an amnesty law designed to further the peace talks that began in Dec., 2008 and included Patassé. Meanwhile, in Mar., 2008, a European peacekeeping force began operations to protect refugees in the northeast; a year later the operations were transferred to a UN command. In 2009, Joseph Kony's Ugandan rebels, fleeing from Ugandan-Congolese operations against them in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, began raiding in the southeast, and they continued their attacks in subsequent years. In Aug., 2009, Ugandan government forces, with the permission of the Central African government, began offensive operations in the region against the rebels. Small-scale Ugandan operations against the rebels continued, and in 2012 Central African forces were included in plans for a joint four-nation anti-Kony force.

Patassé returned to the country in Oct., 2009, to run in the 2010 presidential election. Opposition objections to the electoral process delayed the elections originally scheduled for Apr., 2010, and days before the June expiration of the mandates of the president and parliament the constitutional court extended their terms. Opposition leaders said they would accept the extensions as long as there was progress toward new elections. In Nov., 2010, after UN peacekeepers ended their mission in the northeast, the last main Central African rebel group seized the town of Birao, but they were soon routed by army forces from neighboring Chad. The group signed a peace deal with the government in 2012.

Elections were finally held in Jan., 2011; Bozizé was declared reelected with two thirds of the vote; Patassé, who received a fifth of the vote, and other opposition figures challenged the results. After the second round of parliamentary elections in March, the president's party secured a majority of the seats.

A new uprising broke out in Dec., 2012; rebels who accused the Bozizé of failing to honor peace agreements seized much of the north, east, and central section of the country, and advanced as close as 60 mi (100 km) outside Bangui before they halted. A number of African nations, including Chad and South Africa, sent forces to the Central African Republic in an attempt to stop the conflict. In Jan., 2013, Bozizé, opposition leaders, and the rebels agreed to form a government of national unity with Bozizé as president and an opposition prime minister.

By March, however, the agreement had collapsed, with rebels, known as Seleka, accusing Bozizé of failing to honor the accord. With help from Chadian and Sudanese mercenaries, the rebels quickly advanced on and seized Bangui, and Bozizé fled the country. Rebel leader Michel Djotodia suspended the constitution and proclaimed himself president and defense minister, but after foreign criticism he created a transitional council that then elected him president.

Subsequently, lawlessness reigned in the capital and country as the rebels committed crimes with impunity; the African Union began establishing an enlarged peacekeeping force in August. In September, forces seen as aligned with Bozizé began attacks in the country's northwest. By the end of the year the situation had degenerated into a cycle of barbarous communal violence, despite the presence of increased AU and French forces. Hundreds died in revenge attacks by the mainly Muslim Seleka and the Christian and animist anti-balaka (self-defense militias formed under Bozizé). Djotodia was forced into exile by neighboring governments in Jan., 2014, and Bangui's mayor, Catherine Samba-Panza, was chosen to succeed him by the transitional council.

The violence continued into 2014, with anti-balaka engaging in looting and mob violence and driving the Seleka and Muslim civilians from many areas in the country's west; there were increased attacks on civilians in mosques and churches. In April, European Union forces began entering the country in support of AU and French peacekeepers, but Chad began withdrawing its forces; they had been accused of siding with the Seleka and attacking Christians. Also that month the United Nations authorized establishing a UN peacekeeping force of nearly 12,000 that would include existing peacekeepers; the UN officially assumed peacekeeping duties in September. In mid-2014 Ugandan troops deployed against Kony's forces fought Seleka forces and accused them of aiding Kony. By July, 2014, control of the country was largely divided between the Seleka in the east and the anti-balaka in the west, and a quarter of the population was displaced by the violence. Violence diminished in the latter half of 2014 but remained a recurring problem.

Bibliography

See V. T. LeVine, Political Leadership in Africa (1967); P. Kalck, Central African Republic (tr. 1971) and Historical Dictionary of the Central African Republic (1980).

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Central African Republic

Central African Republic

Official name: Central African Republic

Area: 622,984 square kilometers (240,534 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Ngaoui (1,420 meters /4,659 feet)

Lowest point on land: Ubangi River (335 meters /1,099 feet)

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 1 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 1,437 kilometers (893 miles) from east to west; 772 kilometers (480 miles) from north to south

Land boundaries: 5,203 kilometers (3,233 miles) total boundary length; Cameroon, 797 kilometers (495 miles); Chad, 1,197 kilometers (744 miles); Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1,577 kilometers (980 miles); Republic of the Congo, 467 kilometers (290 miles); Sudan, 1,165 kilometers (724 miles)

Coastline: None

Territorial sea limits: None

1 LOCATION AND SIZE

In accordance with its name, the landlocked Central African Republic lies roughly at the center of the African continent just north of the equator and more than 603 kilometers (375 miles) from the Atlantic Ocean. Bordered by five neighboring nations, it has an area of 622,984 square kilometers (240,534 square miles), or slightly less than the state of Texas.

2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES

Central African Republic claims no territories or dependencies.

3 CLIMATE

The climate is tropical (hot, sunny, and humid), but is also moderated by rainfall and altitude.

Temperatures average around 27°C (80°F) all year. The harmattana hot, dry Saharan windaffects the climate during the summer months. Rainfall varies, increasing from north to south. The northern part of the country is relatively dry, with an annual average rainfall of about 76 centimeters (30 inches). The northeast, with a semiarid climate, is the driest part of the country. The central plateau region receives up to 152 centimeters (60 inches) of rain per year. Annual rainfall in the southern part of the country averages at least 178 centimeters (70 inches).

Season Months Average Temperature: °Celsius (°Fahrenheit)
Summer July and August 21-29°C (70°-84°F)
Winter (dry) November to April 21-34°C (70°-93°F)

4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS

Most of the country consists of a large plateau that separates the basin of Lake Chad to the north from that of the Congo River to the south. The dominant features of the landscape are the Bongo Mountains in the eastern part of the country and the Karre Mountains, otherwise known as Yadé Massif, to the west.

5 OCEANS AND SEAS

The Central African Republic is landlocked.

6 INLAND LAKES

Many of the country's lakes are seasonal, filling during the rainy season and drying up when the rains stop.

7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS

Two river systems drain the Central African Republic, one flowing southward, the other flowing northward. The Chinko, Mbari, Kotto, Ouaka, and Lobaye Rivers flow south. They are tributaries of the Ubangi River, which forms most of the country's southern border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. From the conjunction of the Uele and Mbomou Rivers, the Ubangi flows westward along the Congo border from Bangassou. It bends to the south past Bangui to form the border between the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Mambéré and Kadei, which also flow south, are tributaries of the Congo River. They join in the southwest to form the Sangha River. The Ouham and Bamingui flow north to Chad to join the Chari River, which continues northward to the Chad Basin.

8 DESERTS

The country's northeastern tip, which borders the Sahel, has a semiarid desert climate.

9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN

The valleys of the Chari and Ubangi rivers break up the central plateau in the north and south, respectively.

10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES

The country's central plateau rises to the Bongo Mountains near the border with Sudan in the northeast, and to the Yadé Massif near the borders with Cameroon and Chad in the northwest. The Bongo Mountains rise to elevations as high as 1,368 meters (4,488 feet) and extend into the Sudan. The granite escarpment (steep slope) of the Yadé Massif in the northwest is a continuation of Cameroon's Adamoua Plateau. It includes Mount Ngaoui, the Central African Republic's highest peak.

11 CANYONS AND CAVES

There are no significant caves in the Central African Republic.

12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS

An undulating plateau, with elevations roughly between 610 meters and 762 meters (2,000 feet and 2,500 feet), extends across the center of the country. It is covered with grass and scattered groups of trees, crisscrossed by river valleys, ridges, and isolated granite peaks called kaga. The plateau's eastern section slopes southward toward the Mbomou and Ubangi Rivers. A large expanse of sandstone is located in the southwestern part of the country near Berbérati and Bouar.

13 MAN-MADE FEATURES

National parks include the Bamingui-Bangoran National Park and Saint Floris National Park in the northeast, where the terrain is relatively flat and grassy. Here, visitors can observe African "big game" animalsexamples of species include elephant, lion, leopard, rhinoceros, giraffe, buffalo, hippopotamus, monkey, baboon, cheetah, crocodile, warthog, galago (also called bushbaby, a large-eyed, long-tailed furry animal), and many types of birds. Poachers have killed so many animals here that some of the species are now endangered. There were once huge herds of elephants in this region, but as of 2002, only a few thousand remained.

The Dzanga-Ndoki Park and DzangaSangha Reserve, in the south, have the last areas of undisturbed rain forest in the country. Tourists may observe lowland gorillas and forest elephants that make the reserve their home. Several species of antelopes, chimpanzees, and monkeys may also be seen.

14 FURTHER READING

Books

O'Toole, Thomas. Central African Republic in Pictures. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 1989.

Periodicals

Hagmann, Michael. "On the Track of Ebola's Hideout?" Science, Oct. 22, 1999, 654.

Sillery, Bob. "Urban Rainforest: An African Jungle Comes to Life on New York's West Side." Popular Science, March 1998, 70-71.

Web Sites

Africa South of the Sahara (Stanford University). http://www-sul.stanford.edu/depts/ssrg/africa/centralafr.html (accessed March 4, 2003).

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Central African Republic

Central African Republic

Basic Data
Official Country Name: Central African Republic
Region: Africa
Population: 3,512,751
Language(s): French, Sangho, Arabic, Hunsa, Swahili
Literacy Rate: 60%

History & Background

Upon gaining its independence from France on August 13, 1960, the former French colony known as Ubangi-Shari became the Central African Republic. The Central African Republic covers approximately 240,535 square miles (622,984 kilometers) and borders Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, and Sudan in the central part of Africa. Its capital is Bangui. Although French is the official language of the Central African Republic, Arabic and Swahili are also spoken. Its national literacy rate is 60 percent.

The first formal schools began in the Central African Republic in about 1930. These schools were primarily extensions of the Catholic church, and the teachers were missionaries. After 1937, a government education system was established. Between the mid-1940s and 1960, the population grew at such a fast pace that both private and government schools were needed to meet the educational demands. In 1963 the government ordered the abolition of private schools; however, by 1975 another spurt in population growth made it necessary for private schools to resume their role in meeting the educational needs of the growing country.

Preprimary & Primary Education

The educational system of the Central African Republic has four levels: nursery, primary, secondary, and higher education. Education is compulsory for eight years between the ages of 6 and 14, and instruction is in French. Nursery schools take children between the ages of four and six and prepare them to enter primary education.

Primary education focuses on teaching children both practical and general educational skills and is divided into two levels: primary one and primary two. Primary one begins around the age of six and continues for five years. Upon completion of primary one, students are tested to see who will be promoted to primary level two and who will go on in the area of vocational education. Primary level two starts at the age of 11 and continues on for 4 years. Students who satisfactorily complete both primary levels are eligible for secondary education.

Primary education has traditionally had a larger enrollment than secondary. In 1991 an estimated 58 percent of children of primary-school age attended school; however, only 10 percent of children of secondary-school age attended school. At both the primary and secondary levels, more boys were enrolled in school than girls.

The pupil-teacher ratio in the primary schools was 77 pupils per teacher for 1990-1991, making it the highest pupil-teacher ratio for any country in the world. This high pupil-teacher ratio can be partly explained by the fact that during the 1990s state-funded education was greatly disrupted and handicapped overall as a result of insufficient government resources. Despite the lack of government resources, a national educational plan was launched in 1994 to help fund capital educational projects.


Secondary Education

Secondary education lasts for three years and is divided into two options: general secondary education, and technical and professional secondary education. Those who successfully complete general secondary education and pass their baccalaureate exams become eligible for higher education. Those who take technical and professional secondary education are trained and prepared to work in various trades and given a proficiency certificate upon the completion and passing of their exams.


Higher Education

The Central African Republic has one main university, the University of Bangui, which was founded in 1969.

The academic year starts in October and ends in June. In the 1995-1996 school year, the University of Bangui had 3,590 students and 140 academic staff. In addition to the university, there are also specialized colleges that focus primarily on agriculture and the arts.

The University of Bangui provides eight units of study. Four units are in the area of professional training, including health sciences and medicine, teacher training, rural and agricultural development, and business management. Three academic units are inclusive of a variety of academic fields of studies, and one unit is in the area of research. The minister of higher education functions as the chancellor of the university, but the Council of Administration officially governs the university, authorizing the use and disbursement of funds and establishing general academic policies.


Summary


Overall, education in the Central African Republic has made progress in eradicating the illiteracy problem among its citizens. Nonetheless, the continued population growth creates a milieu in which added resources and attention must be given to ongoing teacher training, technological support, development of new school sites, and an instructional commitment to science and technical education.


Bibliography


The Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 26 May 2001. Available from http://www.odci.gov/.


The Europa World Yearbook 2000. 41st ed. Vol.1. London: Europa Publications Limited, 2000.

Touba, Theophile. "Central African Republic." Handbook of World Education: A Comparative Guide to Higher Education and Educational Systems of the World, edited by Walter Wickremansinghe, 155-158. Houston, TX: American Collegiate Service, 1992.

Turner, Barry, ed. The Statesman's Yearbook 2001. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.


The World of Learning 1999. 49th ed. London: Europa Publications Limited, 1998.


Kimberly A. Battle-Walters

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Central African Republic

Central African Republic

area:

622,980sq km (240,533sq mi)

population:

3,885,800

capital (population):

Bangui (652,900)

government:

Multiparty republic

ethnic groups:

Banda 29%, Baya 25%, Ngbandi 11%, Azande 10% Sara 7%, Mbaka 4%, Mbum 4%

languages:

French (official), Sango (most common)

religions:

Traditional beliefs 57%, Christianity 35%, Islam 8%

currency:

CFA franc = 100 centimes

Landlocked nation in central Africa; the capital is Bangui.

Land and climate

It lies on a plateau, mostly 600–800m (1970–2620ft) above sea level, forming a watershed between the headwaters of two river systems. In the s, the rivers flow into the navigable River Ubangi (a tributary of the River Congo). The Ubangi and the Bomu form much of its s border. In the n, most rivers are headwaters of the River Chari, which flows n into Lake Chad. Bangui has a warm climate with a high average annual rainfall of 1574mm (62in). The n is drier, with rainfall of c.800mm (31in). Wooded savanna covers much of the country, with open grasslands in the n and rainforests in the sw. The country has many forest and savanna animals, such as buffalo, leopards, lions and elephants, and many bird species. About 6% of the land is protected in national parks and reserves, but tourism is on a small scale because of the republic's remoteness.

Economy

Central African Republic is a low-income developing country (2000 GDP per capita, US$1700), c.10% of the land is cultivated and more than 80% of the workforce are engaged in subsistence agriculture. The main food crops are bananas, maize, manioc, millet and yams. Coffee, cotton, timber and tobacco are the main cash crops. Diamonds are the most valuable single export. Manufacturing is on a small scale. Its poor transport system, untrained workforce and heavy dependence on foreign aid (especially from France) have impeded development. The country has no dominant tribe; most inhabitants migrated into the area during the past 200 years to escape the slave trade.

History and politics

Little is known of the country's early history. Between the 16th and 19th centuries, the population was greatly reduced by slavery, and the country is still thinly populated. France first occupied the area in 1887, and in 1894 established the colony of Ubangi-Shari at Bangui. In 1906 the colony was united with Chad, and in 1910 was subsumed into French Equatorial Africa (which included Chad, Congo and Gabon). Forced-labour rebellions occurred in 1928, 1935 and 1946. During World War II Ubangi-Shari supported the Free French. Post-1945 the colony received representation in the French parliament. In 1958 the colony voted to become a self-governing republic within the French community, and became the Central African Republic. In 1960 it declared independence, but the next six years saw a deterioration in the economy, and increasing government corruption and inefficiency under President David Dacko. In 1966 Colonel Jean Bédel Bokassa assumed power in a bloodless coup. He abrogated the constitution and dissolved the National Assembly. In 1976 Bokassa transformed the republic into an empire, and proclaimed himself Emperor Bokassa I. His rule became increasingly brutal, and in 1979 he was deposed in a French-backed coup led by Dacko. Dacko, faced with continuing unrest, was replaced by André Kolingba in 1981. The army quickly banned all political parties. The country adopted a new, multiparty constitution in 1991. In 1996, an army rebellion was suppressed with the assistance of French troops. In 1998 a UN peace-keeping force was sent to oversee fresh elections.

Political map

Physical map

Websites

http://www.afrika.no/index/Countries/Central_African_Republic/index.html

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Central African Republic

Central African Republic

Culture Name

Central African

Orientation

Identification. The official name of the country is the République Centrafricaine (CAR). Previously it had been Oubangui-Chari, one of the four territories of French Equatorial Africa, bound by the Ubangi River to the south and the Shari to the north. Before independence, there was no sense of a common culture among the indigenous peoples, who thought of themselves as members of lineages and clans, and as villagers. After colonization, when members of different ethnolinguistic groups came into contact, there developed a sense of being riverine (Sango, Gbanzili, and Ngbaka on the Ubangi River), forest (Mbati and Isungu) or grassland peoples (Gbaya and Banda). There is also the hunting, gathering and patron-dependent culture of the Babinga (pygmies) in the forests of the southwest.

Location and Geography. The country lies at the center of Africa in a region where wooded grasslands adjoin dense rain forests and has an area of about 239,400 square miles (620,000 square kilometers). The capital, Bangui, originated at the site of a French military post established on the banks of the Ubangi River in June 1889.

Demography. The population in 1988 was 2,688,426, of whom 43 percent was less than fifteen years old. Bangui's population has increased because of forced labor in the hinterlands in the colonial period and, since independence, urban attractions and economic opportunities.

There are fifteen secondary urban centers of populations with from twenty to thirty thousand inhabitants that consist of villages inhabited by persons with different employment and ethnic identities. The vast majority of residents speak languages belonging to the Ubangian family, the most important of which are Banda and Gbaya, some of whose dialects are mutually unintelligible; Nilo-Saharan languages are spoken near the Chad border, and Bantu languages near the Congo (Brazzaville). Although Muslims have been in the territory since it was first colonized, their numbers have increased in the last two decades. In 1992, there were estimated to be forty thousand Mbororo, or nomadic Fulfulde pastoralists. Although it is forbidden to use ethnic names in governmental documents, the average person is very much aware of the mara ("ethnic group") of others, and ethnicity figures highly in daily life and politics. Tribes in the technical sense never existed in this region, although in the east there were two indigenous non-Muslim sultanates.

Linguistic Affiliation. After colonization, the conquered people began to communicate in Sango, the pidgin that emerged quickly out of contacts between the diverse foreign Africans who were brought by the Frenchand the Belgians who preceded them in 1887 to be used as militia, workers and personal servants, and the inhabitants of the upper Ubangi River. By 1910, Sango had become a stable lingua franca spread by soldiers and others serving the whites. Never used by the French in a serious manner, the language was adopted in the early 1920s by Protestant missionaries and later by Roman Catholics as a religious language. Written material in Sango was first published by Protestants. Since independence, competence in spoken Sango has become almost universal except among the Mbororo. In Bangui, Sango is the most frequently used language even in households where an ethnic language is traditional. In 1996, Sango was declared co-official with French. It remains primarily a spoken language in government and education, while French is used in written communications.

Symbolism. The state's "linguistic unity" was declared in the constitution of 1986, and Sango's history of denigration by the French, ubiquity, and distinctness from co-territorial languages has made it the primary national symbol.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The plebiscite offered to its colonies by France initiated the steps taken toward independence. The CAR first became a member of the newly established French Community, eventually becoming a fully independent state in 1960.

Ethnic Relations. Barthélemy Boganda, the first president, had an ambitious view of French-speaking central Africa, but the government was controlled by riverine ethnic groups until the election of Ange-Félix Patassé, a person of mixed ethnicity from the populous northwest in 1993. The animosity between the riverine and grassland groups manifested in civil and military strife in 1996 in Bangui, can be traced to the earliest years of the territory. In most cases, however, members of indigenous and foreign ethnic groups get along satisfactorily.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Villages, mostly inhabited by the male descendants of a lineage or clan, are located along and face the roads. This practice was introduced in the 1920s, to create "plantation villages" for cotton cultivation. In the 1970s, villages often were consolidated, ostensibly to modernize agriculture.

The typical dwelling, which must be replaced frequently because of termites, is made with sundried brick and thatched with wild grass; in the deep forest area palm fronds are tiled on. Mud-and-wattle structures were discouraged under French rule but still exist. Floors are made of pounded earth, on which people sleep on mats with adults sometimes using home-made beds. A whole family lives in a single dwelling, the interior of which is divided, especially when the owners have been influenced by Western culture. Nearby may be a goat pen, but there rarely is a latrine, which are more common in urban centers. Dwellings are used primarily for storage and sleeping. However, in the six-month dry and hot season in the savannah, people frequently sleep outdoors. Family life occurs in open spaces or on a narrow ground-level verandah, and food is prepared at a family hearth situated in the front of the dwelling.

The village interior extends up to the road and is kept cleared and swept by women, while the ngonda "bush" (uncultivated land) begins a few yards behind the houses. Village space is therefore completely open, so that one's activities are visible to all and passers by can be seen, greeted, and engaged in conversation. There are no enclosures except among the Muslims and the few people who have adopted their cultural traits. For indigenous Central Africans, concealment and secrecy violate cultural norms.

Urban centers are the sites of prefectural (provincial) and subprefectural administration. They are conglomerates of villages, but wealthier people such as civil servants and merchants live in dwellings constructed of cement blocks, laid with a cement floor, and roofed with metal sheets. Larger buildings of that construction type from the colonial period are used by government departments and religious organizations. These secondary centers are connected by a dirt-road system created between 1925 and 1938 with indigenous labor that has facilitated migration and travel, contributing to quasi-urbanization and the nationalization of the culture. Because links between the members of a lineage are maintained, much traveloften as paid passengers on the tops of transport trucksis associated with illness and death among kin. An extensive network of privately owned bus systems serving the interior has degenerated into "bush-taxi" services. The increase in the population of secondary centers and the agricultural practices of Central Africans have led to disastrous ecological changes, because trees are used for both house construction and firewood, and deforestation around all the urban centers has caused a need for the importation of wood from afar.

Bangui is more a huge agglomeration of habitats clustered chaotically around a colonial core than a city. The cost of Bangui's increasing size is the loss of agricultural land on its perimeter. Permanent buildings of cement block and metal roofing are backed by houses adapted to the country with sun-dried brick walls and roofs thatched in grass or palm fronds. These clusters of buildings belong to close kin and resemble precolonial familial villages. Their style is determined in part by ethnicity but largely by wealth; the number of partitioned rooms, by acculturation and number of inhabitants. Few of these houses have electricity, running water, or access to roads. Most people walk to their destinations, but even the poor have been able to afford private buses or taxi-buses while wealthier people have motorbikes or automobiles.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The staple is a doughlike mixture of processed and dried detoxified cassava (gozo ) or sorghum. This is accompanied by a sauce made of vegetables, poultry, meat, or fish. Traditionally, beer was made from sorghum, although locally manufactured beer is now more common along with soft drinks. A hard liquor is made from cassava or sorghum. Chickens and goats in the villages are used as currency in marriages and as gifts and occasionally are sold for cash; wild game, killed in the dry-season grass-burning hunts, supplements the rural diet.

At roadside stands, bakery bread and homemade fried bread (makara ), sandwiches, barbecued meat, and other snacks are sold by women. Restaurants are frequented mostly by expatriates. Coffee and tea, prepared with sugar and canned evaporated milk, are popular in urban centers.

The inhabitants of the forest area subsist on cassava, bananas, plantains, palm-nut-oil, forest caterpillars, and the leaf of a wild plant (koko ). Individuals, in turn, bring these foods to Bangui to sell at the market. Protein is at a low level in the diet throughout the country.

Basic Economy. Central Africans are mostly self-sufficient, growing their own staples (manioc, sorghum, peanuts, sesame, corn, and squash), supplemented by wild tubers, leaves, and mushrooms. Peanut oil is produced commercially. Most products in the stores are imported from other African countries, Europe, and Asia. The most sought-after employment is in government service. In 1989, there were 25,000 persons in government service and only about 4,300 in the private sector, most of them in Bangui.

Commercial Activities. Cotton production was obligatory under French rule as early as 1925 and had an irreversible influence on population movements and the politicization of residents. In 1961, 50 percent of one's hours at work were devoted to cotton agriculture, and in 1971, 90 percent of the income from exports was attributed to cotton. Coffee plantations and lumbering are also important.

Major Industries. There is one factory that produces cloth. Industry is at a low level, and commerce is carried on by entrepreneurs. Diamonds and gold are surface-mined mostly by individuals in the Haute-Sangha and Haute-Kotto prefectures; their purchase and sale are dominated by recent Muslim immigrants from nearby countries. The importance of this immigration is reflected in the establishment of diplomatic relations and air service to Cairo and Djedda that provides transportation to those making a pilgrimage to Mecca. Uranium has been found around Bakouma.

Trade. Cotton, coffee, and tobacco make up a major proportion of exports, grown by about 80 percent of the population.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Social class is differentiated by place of residence and work: rural versus urban. In recent years, the imitation of French culture has led people to refer to the "provinces" and to their inhabitants as paysans "peasants." Power differentiates the bureaucrats from the governed. People with power, economic security, and education are considered intellectuals. These constitute the upper class. The middle class consists of people in commerce and business, most of whom are Muslims. Employees in the public sector support at least a tenth of the population. In 1982, only 52,000 people had regular employment. The vast majority of people are either farmers, self-employed, or are unemployed, including in urban centers the partially educated.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Traditionally, people avoided the display of power and wealth because they were shared in the lineage. In spite of the acquisition of wealth and Western goods, egalitarianism continues to be the ideal.

Political Life

Government. The government, patterned after that of France, has a parliament consisting of the National Assembly and an Economic and Regional Council that is led by the president. The president is elected by universal direct suffrage and serves a six-year term. There are ministers with domestic and international portfolios, but the president has personal control of the radio and television systems. The nation is divided into prefectures and subprefectures. At the village level, the government is represented by an appointed "chief" approved by the government whose main role is to represent the villagers and enforce laws such as the annual head tax imposed on males. In urban centers, there are wards and neighborhoods also headed by chiefs.

Leadership and Political Officials. Leadership at the highest level has usually come from the military, and sometimes from the civil service. Those holding high office play their roles with formality and a sense of invulnerability. Distance from the mainstream is maintained by the use of the French language.

Social Problems and Control. Very little has been done to control forced payments from drivers of cars and trucks at road blockades by young men and the violent highway banditry in the hinterland. Under most regimes, the security forces have not been paid regularly, leading to civil strife. Structures for social control resemble those of France; the gendarmerie (police), like the military, is largely ineffectual in controlling theft, a crime which often takes the form of armed robbery. There are two parrallel systems in the judiciary system, one similar to that in France, and one based on customary law.

Military Activity. An army serves to protect the presidency and maintain civil order.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Women traditionally are responsible for the production and preparation of food. Women also work in private holdings growing cotton and other products to participate in the money economy. They are the principal vendors of food products in markets. Men contribute heavy work in rural areas and constitute most of the employed workforce.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. In politics, the civil service, the military, and the police force, women are well represented despite being less educated. Women are less likely to attend, much less finish, primary school.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Traditionally, and to some extent in modern-day rural areas, marriages were arranged by the members of a family's lineage. Few could afford polygamous marriages, although polygamy varies both between rural areas and urban centers, and between ethnic groups. The young man is obliged to work for the girl's family for as long as up to four years, after which his family pays a brideprice. With the increased emphasis on acquiring monetary wealth, the brideprice and the accompanying gifts have become onerous or unachievable for many in urban centers. Due to the increased expenses associated with weddings, the number of church weddings among Christians has dropped. Stable common-law marriages are parallelled by liaisons ("relationships") in Africa, in which a woman remains with a man as long as he cares for her. A man can "divorce" his wife by putting her belongings in front of the house and locking the door. Divorce traditionally depends on the return of the brideprice, with added contributions that depend on the number of children. The woman's family can continue exacting payments as long as she bears children, who become members of the man's lineage.

Domestic Unit. The basic unit consists of the biological father and mother, their children, and other close kin for varying periods of time. The parents' siblings also take part in the rearing of the children and their resident cousins. Children in rural areas are sent away to serve adult kin, sometimes to receive a formal education in a larger village or town.

Socialization

Infant Care. Infants traditionally were not weaned until about age two, and everyone in the family was involved in their care. Children are lectured by their parents on social behavior, and corporal punishment is never severe. A child's exaggerated screams bring adults to mediate on behalf of the child. Siblings avoid fighting.

Child Rearing and Education. A child's most important responsibilities are to respect, obey, and serve adults and to avoid causing trouble (such as theft) with non-kin. Respect for age is encoded in the language. Education follows the French system, and is available to all, although the system is handicapped by insufficient funding. The educational system is frequently disrupted by walkouts by unpaid teachers. Attendance in primary school is around 50 percent but drops progressively in the upper grades. Dependence on foreigners for teachers has been almost eliminated, but the quality of teaching has fallen.

Higher Education. With a baccalaureate degree a person may enroll at the University of Bangui to prepare for a career in public service or to emigrate to France. The majority of the students attending higher education are male.

Etiquette

People adjust their speech according to the age and role of their interlocutors. Although the second person plural pronoun is used to express deference in speaking to an individual, among young urban dwellers there is an ideology of equality and solidarity that leads to the use of the singular pronoun.

Religion

Religious Beliefs. The practice of traditional religion has declined since the 1950s in favor of various forms of Christianity. The first missionaries established Saint Paul des Rapides at Bangui in 1894, and Protestant missionaries, mostly American, arrived in the early 1920s. Protestant Central African churches, once aligned with the denominations of the early missions, have splintered into several factions as a result of competition for leadership in the clergy. Charismatic forms of Christianity are practiced in independent churches. There are also syncretistic movements with traits from Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam. Islam is growing through immigration and conversion; boys sometimes convert to gain employment.

Rituals and Holy Places. Traditional religious practices continue in the annual grass-burning hunts of the dry season and in rare initiation rites. More common are ceremonies associated with clitorectomy, although modern-day circumcision has been almost entirely secularized with boys being sent to a local clinic. Expressions of traditional religion in Bangui are rare, but marches and parades, especially among Christian youth and women, are common, with uniforms and banners displaying one's allegiances. Members of syncretistic churches wear special clothing.

Death and the Afterlife. Most people believe that death is the consequence of ill will (sorcery). At traditional wakes, kin frequently charge each other with having killed the deceased; all-night dancing and mourning last for several days. There may have been traditional burial grounds, but cemeteries were introduced by Christians and Muslims. In Bangui and other urban centers, burial in cemeteries is obligatory.

Medicine and Health Care

The only major hospital is in Bangui, but there are mission-operated, private, and governmental clinics. By the 1950s, specialists in traditional medicine began to decline in importance. Belief in sorcery is widespread even among Christians, and protective charms on a person's body may be more common among some Muslims than among other Central Africans. The most common causes of death are AIDS, malaria, and schistosomiasis. Epidemics of meningitis occur frequently.

Secular Celebrations

Mother's Day has become a holiday of considerable importance in urban centers, used by women to exact gifts and privileges. The political celebrations are Independence Day and Memorial Day in honor of Barthélemy Boganda, the first president.

The Arts and Humanities

Literature. The CAR is an oral society and the percentage of literate people in both French and Sango is very low. There have been only intermittent and ephemeral periodicals, mostly in French. A poorly stocked nonreligious bookstore for readers of French exists in Bangui.

Performance Arts. Popular dance music, a local version of the style characteristic in Kinshasa, Democatic Republic of Congo, and Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, has been recorded and sold commercially and played on the radio.

Bibliography

Cordell, Dennis. Dar al-Kuti: A History of the Slave Trade and State Formation on the Islamic Frontier in Northern Equatorial Africa (Central African Republic and Chad) in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries, 1977.

. Dar al-Kuti and the Last Years of the Trans-Saharan Slave Trade, 1985.

Decalo, Samuel. Psychoses of Power: African Personal Dictatorships, 1989.

Hewlett, Barry S. Intimate Fathers: The Nature and Context of Aka Pygmy Paternal Infant Care, 1991.

Kalck, Pierre. Central African Republic: A Failure in Decolonisation, 1971.

. Historical Dictionary of the Central African Republic, 1980, 1992.

, compiler. Central African Republic, 1993.

Le Vine, Victor T. Political Leadership in Africa: Post-Independence Generational Conflict in Upper Volta, Senegal, Niger, Dahomey, and the Central African Republic, 1967.

Mangold, Max. A Central African Pronouncing Gazetteer, 1985.

O'Toole, Thomas. The Central African Republic: The Continent's Hidden Heart, 1986.

Samarin, W. J. "The Attitudinal and Autobiographic in Gbeya Dog-Names." Journal of African Languages 4: 5772, 1965.

. "The Art of Gbeya Insults." International Journal of American Linguistics 35: 323329, 1969.

. "French and Sango in the Central African Republic." Anthropological Linguistics 28: 379397, 1986.

. "Damned In-Laws and Other Problems." In Mohammad Ali Jazayery and Werner Winter, eds. Languages and Cultures: Studies in Honor of Edgar C. Polomé, 1988.

. "The Creation and Critique of a Central African Myth." In Revue française d'histoire d'outre-mer (318): 5581, 1998.

. "The Status of Sango in Fact and Fiction: On the One-Hundredth Anniversary of its Conception." In J. H. McWhorter, ed., Language Change and Language Contact in Pidgins and Creoles, 2000.

. "Explaining Shift to Sango in Bangui." In R.Nicolai, Ph. Dalbera, and De Feral, eds. Leçons d'Afrique: Filiations, Ruptures et Reconstitutions des Langues: Un Hommage a` Gabriel Manessy, 2001.

Titley, Brian. Dark Age: The Political Odyssey of Emperor Bokassa, 1997.

Villien, François. Entre Oubangui et Chari vers 1890, 1981.

William J. Samarin

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Central African Republic

Central African Republic

CENTRAL AFRICANS 105

Central Africans, the people in the Central African Republic, belong to more than 80 ethnic groups, which are classified according to geographic location. The Banda (34 percent) in the east central region and the Baya (27 percent) to the west are estimated to be the largest groups.

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Central African Republic

Central African Republic

PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
DEFENSE
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-C.A.R. RELATIONS
TRAVEL

Compiled from the June 2007 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:

Central African Republic

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 622,984 sq. km. (242,000 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than Texas.

Cities: Capital—Bangui (pop. 690,000). Other cities—Berberati (56,867), Bouar (39,676), Bambari (32,603), Bangassou (24,450), Bossangoa (31,723), Mbaiki (16,901), and Carnot (31,324).

Terrain: Rolling plain 600 meters-700 meters (1,980 ft.-2,310 ft.) above sea level; scattered hills in northeast and southwest.

Climate: Tropical, ranging from humid equatorial in the south to Sahelo-Sudanese in the north; hot, dry winters with mild to hot, wet summers.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Central African(s).

Population: (July 2007 est.) 4,369,038.

Annual growth rate: (2007 est.) 1.505%.

Ethnic groups: More than 80; Baya 33%, Banda 27%, Sara 10%, Mandja 13%, Mboum 7%, M’baka 4%, Yakoma 4%, other 2%.

Religions: Protestant 25%, Roman Catholic 25%, Muslim 15%, indigenous beliefs 35%.

Languages: Sangho (official), Sangho (national).

Education: Years compulsory—6. Enrollment—primary school 75%. Literacy—50%.

Health: Infant mortality rate—115 deaths/1,000. Life expectancy—avg. 43 yrs.

Work force: (approx. 53% of pop.) Agriculture—75%; industry—6%; commerce and services—4%; government—15%.

Government

Type: Republic.

Independence: August 13, 1960.

Constitution: Passed by referendum December 29, 1994; adopted January 1995. Suspended by decree in March 2003. New constitution passed by referendum December 5, 2004.

Government branches: Executive—president, prime minister, and Council of Ministers. Legislative—unicameral National Assembly. Judicial—Constitutional Court, inferior courts, criminal courts, Court of Appeals.

Political subdivisions: 16 prefectures, commune of Bangui.

Political parties: Alliance for Democracy and Progress (ADP), Central African Democratic Assembly (RDC), Civic Forum (FC), Democratic Forum (FODEM), Liberal Democratic Party (PLD), Movement for Democracy and Development (MDD), Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People (MLPC), Patriotic Front for Progress (FPP), People's Union for the Republic (UPR), National Unity Party (PUN), and Social Democratic Party (PSD). Suffrage: Universal over 21.

Economy

GDP: (2006) $1.542 billion.

Annual real GDP growth rate: - 7.2% (2003); 0.5% (2004 est.); 3% (2006 est.).

Per capita income: (2002) $260.

Avg. inflation rate: 4.2% (2003); 3.2 (2004 est.).

Natural resources: Diamonds, uranium, timber, gold, oil.

Agriculture: (2002, 54.8% of GDP) Products—Timber, cotton, coffee, tobacco, foodcrops, livestock. Cultivated land—unavailable.

Industry: (2002, 21.6% of GDP) Types—Diamond mining, sawmills, breweries, textiles, footwear, assembly of bicycles and motorcycles, and soap.

Services: (2002) 23.6% of GDP.

Trade: (2004) Exports—$161 million; diamonds, coffee, cotton, timber, tobacco. Major markets—Belgium, Italy, France, Luxembourg, Germany, Egypt, Spain, and Cote d’Ivoire. Imports—$119 million; food, textiles, petroleum products, machinery, electrical equipment, motor vehicles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, industrial products. Major suppliers—France, United States, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Germany, Japan.

Budget: (2002) $226 million.

Defense: (2002, 2.4% of budget) $5.4 million.

Fiscal year: Calendar year.

PEOPLE

There are more than 80 ethnic groups in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.), each with its own language. About 75% are Baya-Mandjia and Banda (40% largely located in the northern and central parts of the country), and 4% are M’Baka (southwestern corner of the C.A.R.). Sangho, the language of a small group along the Oubangui River, is the national language spoken by the majority of Central Africans. Only a small part of the population has more than an elementary knowledge of French, the official language.

More than 55% of the population of the C.A.R. lives in rural areas. The chief agricultural areas are around the Bossangoa and Bambari. Bangui, Berberati, Bangassou, and Bossan-goa are the most densely populated urban centers.

HISTORY

The C.A.R. appears to have been settled from at least the 7th century on by overlapping empires, including the Kanem-Bornou, Ouaddai, Baguirmi, and Dafour groups based in Lake Chad and the Upper Nile. Later, various sultanates claimed present-day C.A.R, using the entire Oubangui region as a slave reservoir, from which slaves were traded north across the Sahara and to West Africa for export by European traders. Population migration in the 18th and 19th centuries brought new migrants into the area, including the Zande, Banda, and Baya-Mandjia.

In 1875 the Egyptian sultan Rabah governed Upper-Oubangui, which included present-day C.A.R. 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 Ouban-gui 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 the Egyptian sultan Rabah 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 (A.E.F.), along with Chad, Congo (Brazzaville), and Gabon. The next 30 years were marked by small-scale revolts against French rule and the development of a plantation-style economy.

In August 1940, the territory responded, with the rest of the A.E.F., to the call from Gen. 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 1946, all A.E.F. inhabitants were granted French citizenship and allowed to establish local assemblies. The assembly in C.A.R. was led by Barthelemy Boganda, a Catholic priest who also was known for his forthright statements in the French Assembly on the need for African emancipation. In 1956 French legislation eliminated certain voting inequalities and provided for the creation of some organs of self-government in each territory. The French constitutional referendum of September 1958 dissolved the A.E.F., and on December 1 of the same year the Assembly declared the birth of the Central African Republic with Boganda as head of government. Boganda ruled until his death in a March 1959 plane crash. His cousin, David Dacko, replaced him, governing the country until 1965 and overseeing the country's declaration of independence on August 13, 1960. On January 1, 1966, following a swift and almost bloodless coup, Col. Jean-Bedel 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 December 4, 1976, the republic became a monarchy 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.

Following riots in Bangui and the murder of between 50 and 200 schoolchildren, former President Dacko led a successful French-backed coup against Bokassa on September 20, 1979. Dacko's efforts to promote economic and political reforms proved ineffectual, and on September 1, 1981, he in turn was overthrown in a bloodless coup by Gen. Andre Kol-ingba. For 4 years, Kolingba led the country as head of the Military Committee for National Recovery (CRMN). 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 Democratique Centrafricain (RDC), and the drafting of a new constitution that subsequently was ratified in a national referendum. General Kol-ingba was sworn in as constitutional President on November 29, 1986. The constitution established a National Assembly made up of 52 elected deputies, elected in July 1987. Due to mounting political pressure, in 1991 President Kolingba announced the creation of a national commission to rewrite the constitution to provide for a multi-party system. Multi-party presidential elections were conducted in 1992 but were later cancelled due to serious logistical and other irregularities. Ange Felix Patasse won a second-round victory in rescheduled elections held in October 1993, and was re-elected for another 6-year term in September 1999.

Salary arrears, labor unrest, and unequal treatment of military officers from different ethnic groups led to three mutinies against the Patasse government in 1996 and 1997. The French succeeded in quelling the disturbances, and an African peacekeeping force (MISAB) occupied Bangui until 1998 when they were relieved by a UN peacekeeping mission (MINURCA). Economic difficulties caused by the looting and destruction during the 1996 and 1997 mutinies, energy crises, and government mismanagement continued to trouble Patasse's government through 2000. In March 2000 the last of the MINURCA forces departed Bangui. In May 2001 rebel forces within the C.A.R. military, led by former President and Army General Andre Kol-ingba, attempted a military coup. After several days of heavy fighting, forces loyal to the government, aided by a small number of troops from Libya and the Congolese rebel Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC), were able to put down the coup attempt. In November 2001, there were several days of sporadic gunfire between members of the Presidential Security Unit and soldiers defending sacked Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Francois Bozize, who fled to Chad. In mid-2002 there were skirmishes on the C.A.R.-Chad border.

In October 2002, former Army Chief of Staff Francois Bozize launched a coup attempt that culminated in the March 15, 2003 overthrow of President Patasse and the takeover of the capital. General Bozize declared himself President, suspended the constitution, and dissolved the National Assembly. Since seizing power, President Francois Bozize has made significant progress in restoring order to Bangui and parts of the country, and professed a desire to promote national reconciliation, strengthen the economy, and improve the human rights situation. A new constitution was passed by referendum in December 2004. In spring 2005, the country held its first elections since the March 2003 coup. The first round of presidential and legislative elections were held in March 2005, and in May, President Bozize defeated former Prime Minister Martin Ziguele in a second-round runoff. On June 13, Bozize named Elie Dote, an agricultural engineer who had worked at the African Development Bank, his new Prime Minister.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

The government is a republic comprised of a strong executive branch (president, vice president, prime minister, and council of ministers), and weak legislative and judicial branches. Government and opposition party members, as well as civil society and the military are represented in the three branches, although the president appoints the vice president, prime minister, members of the cabinet (Council of Ministers), top military officials, and managers of national parastatals.

The National Assembly is made up of 109 members elected by popular vote to serve 5-year terms. Legislative elections were held in 1998; in contested results, the government's Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People (MLPC) won just over 50% control of the legislative body. Legislative elections were last held in spring 2005.

For administration purposes, the country is divided into 16 prefectures that are further divided into over 60 subprefectures; the commune of Bangui is administered separately. The president currently appoints heads of these administrative units, called “prefets” and “sous-prefet”. There are 174 communes, each headed by a mayor and council appointed by the president. Suffrage is universal over the age of 21.

The judicial sector encompasses the Constitutional Court, Court of Cassation, Court of Appeals, criminal and civil courts, Labor Court, and Juvenile Court, although several of these courts have insufficient resources and trained personnel to operate on a regular basis. The Criminal Court of Bangui sits once or twice a year, usually for 1 or 2 months each session. Judges are appointed by the president; executive influence often impedes transparent handling of judicial affairs. Military courts exist but are currently only used to try military personnel for crimes committed in the course of duty. There are a limited number of formal courts currently functioning outside Bangui; traditional arbitration and negotiation play a major role in administering domestic, property, and probate law.

The Central African Republic has a vibrant civil society, with numerous professional, labor, and local development associations actively carrying out campaigns and gaining greater local and international credibility.

The C.A.R. Government's human rights record remains flawed. There are continued reports of arbitrary detainment, torture and, to a lesser degree, extra judicial killings. Journalists have occasionally been threatened, and prison conditions remain harsh.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/1/2008

President: Francois BOZIZE

Prime Minister: Elie DOTE

Min. of Agriculture: Parfait MBAYE

Min. of Civil Service: Jacques BOTI

Min. of Defense: Francois BOZIZE

Min. of Economy: Sylvain MALIKO

Min. of Education: Charles-Armel DOUBANE

Min. of Equipment, Transport, & Civil Action: Jean-Prospere WODOBODE

Min. of Finance & Budget: Sylvain NDOUTINGAI

Min. of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration, & Francophonie Affairs: Come ZOUMARA

Min. of Interior & Security: Raymond Paul NDOUGOU, Brig. Gen.

Min. of Justice: Paul OTTO

Min. of Mining & Energy: Sylvain NDOUTINGAI

Min. of Public Health: Bernard Lala KONAMNA

Min. of Social Affairs: Solange Pagonendji N’DACKALA

Min. of Tourism, Development, & Crafts: Yvonne MBOISSONA

Min. of Trade, Industry, & Small & Medium Size Enterprises: Rosalie KOUDOUNGERE

Min. of Transport & Equipment: Charles MASSI

Min. of Youth, Sports, and Culture: Desire KOLINGBA

Min. of State for Communications, National Reconciliation, Democratic Culture, & Human Rights: Jabdoul Karim MECKASSOUA

Min. of State for Rural Development: Charles MASSI

Min., Office of the Prime Min., & Government Spokesman: Aurelian Simplice ZINGAS

Governor, Regional Central Bank: Alphonse KOYAMBA

Ambassador to the US: Emmanuel TOUABOY

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Fernand POUKRE-KONO

The Central African Republic maintains an embassy in the United States at 1618-22nd Street, NW, Washington, DC (tel: 202-483-7800/ 01, fax: 202-332-9893).

ECONOMY

The Central African Republic is classified as one of the world's least developed countries, with a 2002 annual per capita income of $260. Sparsely populated and landlocked, the nation is overwhelmingly agrarian, with the vast bulk of the population engaged in subsistence farming and 55% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) arising from agriculture. Principal crops include cotton, food crops (cassava, yams, bananas, maize), coffee, and tobacco. In 2002, timber accounted for about 30% of export earnings. The country also has rich but largely unexploited natural resources in the form of diamonds, gold, uranium, and other minerals. There may be oil deposits along the country's northern border with Chad. Diamonds are the only of these mineral resources currently being developed; in 2002, diamond exports made up close to 50% of the C.A.R.'s export earnings. Industry contributes only about 20% of the country's GDP, with artesian diamond mining, breweries, and sawmills making up the bulk of the sector. Services currently account for about 25% of GDP, largely because of the oversized government bureaucracy and high transportation costs arising from the country's landlocked position.

Hydroelectric plants based in Boali provide much of the country's limited electrical supply. Fuel supplies must be barged in via the Ubangui River or trucked overland through Cameroon, resulting in frequent shortages of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. The C.A.R.'s transportation and communication network is limited. The country has only 650 kilometers of paved road, limited international and no domestic air service (except charters), and does not possess a railroad. Commercial traffic on the Ubangui River is impossible from December to May or June, and conflict in the region has sometimes prevented shipments from moving between Kinshasa and Bangui. The telephone system functions, albeit imperfectly. Four radio stations currently operate in the C.A.R., as well as one television station. Numerous newspapers and pamphlets are published on a regular basis, and at least one company has begun providing Internet service.

In the more than 40 years since independence, the C.A.R. has made slow progress toward economic development. Economic mismanagement, poor infrastructure, a limited tax base, scarce private investment, and adverse external conditions have led to deficits in both its budget and external trade. Its debt burden is considerable, and the country has seen a decline in per capita gross national product (GNP) over the last 30 years. Structural adjustment programs with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) and interest-free credits to support investments in the agriculture, livestock, and transportation sectors have had limited impact. The World Bank and IMF are now encouraging the government to concentrate exclusively on implementing much-needed economic reforms to jumpstart the economy and defining its fundamental priorities with the aim of alleviating poverty. As a result, many of the state-owned business entities have been privatized and limited efforts have been made to standardize and simplify labor and investment codes and to address problems of corruption. The C.A.R. Government has adopted the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) Charter of Investment, and is in the process of adopting a new labor code.

DEFENSE

Under military restructuring plans formulated 1999-2000, the civilian Minister of Defense controlled and directed all armed forces, including the Presidential Security Unit (UPS), which had previously been seen as a militia supporting the president. In April 2001, the C.A.R. armed forces numbered about 3,000, including army, navy, air force, gendarmerie, national police, Presidential Security Unit, and local police personnel. An estimated 1,200 members of the army and gendarmerie fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo following the failed coup attempt of May 2001.

Following the 2003 coup, Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC-Communauté Economique et Monetaire de l’Afrique Centrale) and C.A.R. armed forces assumed responsibility for securing the capital city. CEMAC forces currently total approximately 400 soldiers, which are supported by an additional 200 French soldiers. The C.A.R. armed forces number approximately 2,000. Working with the French, the C.A.R. military is attempting to provide professional training and decentralize its troops in an effort to combat road bandits, thievery, and poaching throughout the C.A.R. territory.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

The Central African Republic is an active member in several Central African organizations, including the Economic and Monetary Union (CEMAC), the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC) Central African Peace and Security Council (COPAX—still under formation), and the Central Bank of Central African States (BEAC). Standardization of tax, customs, and security arrangements between the Central African states is a major foreign policy objective of the C.A.R. Government. The C.A.R. is a participant in the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), and the Organization of African Unity (OAU—now the African Union). Libya and, to a lesser degree, Sudan have shown increased interest in cooperation with the C.A.R. over the last year.

Outside of Africa, the C.A.R. maintains fairly close ties to France, albeit considerably reduced from previous years. In the late 1990s, France withdrew forces stationed in the C.A.R.; drops in its external assistance budget have reduced French military and social development aid to the country. Other multilateral organizations—including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, UN agencies, European Union, and the African Development Bank—and bilateral donors—including Germany, Japan, the European Union, China, and the United States—are significant development partners for the C.A.R.

Seventeen countries have resident diplomatic or consular representatives in Bangui, and the C.A.R. maintains approximately the same number of missions abroad. Since early 1989 the government recognizes both Israel and the Palestinian state. The C.A.R. also maintains diplomatic relations with China. The C.A.R. generally joins other African and developing country states in consensus positions on major policy issues.

U.S.-C.A.R. RELATIONS

The U.S. and C.A.R. enjoy generally good relations, although concerns over the pace of political and economic liberalization and human rights have affected the degree of support provided by the U.S. to the country. The U.S. Embassy in Bangui was briefly closed as a result of the 1996-97 mutinies. It reopened in 1998 with limited staff, but U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Peace Corps missions previously operating in Bangui did not return. The American Embassy in Bangui again temporarily suspended operations on November 2, 2002 in response to security concerns raised by the October 2002 launch of Francois Bozize's 2003 military coup. The Embassy reopened in January 2005; however, there currently is limited U.S. diplomatic/consular representation in the C.A.R. As a result, the ability of the Embassy to provide services to American citizens remains extremely limited.

The Department of State approved the lifting of Section 508 aid restrictions triggered by the coup; U.S. assistance to the Central African Republic had been prohibited except in the areas of humanitarian aid and support for democratization.

The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against travel to the Central African Republic. Americans in the C.A.R. are urged to exercise caution and maintain security awareness at all times. U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in the Central African Republic and need emergency assistance should contact the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon at telephone (237) 223-4014, (237) 223-0512, fax (237) 223-0753, and 223-0581 (Consular).

Americans may also contact the American Embassy in N’djamena, Chad at telephone (235) 51-70-09, 51-92-33 or 51-90-52 and fax (235) 51-56-54. As noted above, since the United States has a limited diplomatic presence in the Central African Republic, the ability to provide services to U.S. citizens in the C.A.R. is extremely limited.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Last Updated: 2/19/2008

BANGUI (E) Blvd David Dacko, Bangui, (236) 21-61-02-00, Fax (236) 21-61-44-94, Workweek: Mon-Fri 8 to 5.

CON/POL ECO:ameron D. McGlothlin
MGT:M. Unglesbee
AMB:Frederick B. Cook
DCM:Charles Neary

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

December 21, 2007

Country Description: The Central African Republic is a developing African nation that has experienced several periods of political instability since independence from France in 1960. Despite an on-going peace process and the presence of a democratically-elected government in the capital, Bangui, rebels still control large portions of the northern provinces in the country, and highway bandits prey on civilians and travelers in much of western CAR. In the country's Dzanga-Sangha National Park in the southwest, facilities for tourists are being developed but remain limited.

Entry Requirements: A valid passport, visa, and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required for entry. Travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of the Central African Republic, 1618 22nd Street NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone: (202) 483—7800/7801, fax: (202) 332—9893. Overseas, inquiries should be made to the nearest Central African Republic Embassy or Consulate. Note: In any country where there is no Central African Republic diplomatic mission, the French Embassy has authorization to issue a visa for entry into the Central African Republic.

Safety and Security: The Central African Republic is one of the world's least developed nations, and much of the northern part of the country remains outside of central government control.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's web site, where the current World-wide Caution Travel Alert, Travel Warnings and other Travel Alerts can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.

Crime: Crime remains a significant problem in the capital, Bangui, though it has decreased notably in recent years. Americans should exercise caution while traveling around the city and immediate environs. Petty theft remains a problem in large market areas, particularly in the crowded markets near KM 5 on the outskirts of the city. Armed gangs may operate in outlying residential areas. During previous periods of civil unrest and civil conflict, including most recently in 2002 and 2003, foreign mercenaries and citizens engaged in widespread looting and damaged much of the city's infrastructure. In the northern and western parts of the country, there are consistent reports of armed robbery and kidnapping by highway bandits (called “coupeurs de routes” or “zara-guinas”), especially during the December to May dry season. When a crime does occur in Bangui, the victim may have to pay to send a vehicle to pick up police officers due to the shortage of police vehicles and fuel.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Medical facilities are extremely limited in the CAR, and the quality of acute care is unreliable. Sanitation levels are low. Many medicines are not available; travelers should carry properly labeled prescription drugs and other medications with them.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning CAR is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

In Bangui, road conditions vary, and many roads have large holes and degraded points that prevent the normal flow of traffic. Only a small portion of the roads in the country, including in the capital, are paved, and many of the compacted dirt roads have been degraded. Drivers tend to prefer to drive on the smoothest portion of the road and ignore basic traffic laws, thus slowing the flow of traffic and increasing the risk of collision. The city of Bangui does have a public transportation system consisting of green buses and yellow taxis, though these vehicles are often dangerously overcrowded and very badly maintained. Due to the risk of armed attacks on motorists in the northern and western regions of the country, overland travel in these areas should be avoided. Most remote areas in the CAR that are frequented by tourists are accessible only by four-wheel drive vehicles, although some roads are not passable at all during the rainy season, from May to October.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and the Central African Republic, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the CAR's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's internet web site at http://www.faa.gov.

Special Circumstances: Taking photographs of police or military installations, or any other government buildings, is prohibited. Unauthorized photography may result in the seizure of photographic equipment by CAR authorities. Police or other government authorities can provide information and grant permission for photographing a particular subject or location. Corruption remains a serious problem among CAR security forces, some members of which have harassed travelers for bribes and small amounts of money. At night, the roads in the capital are often manned with impromptu checkpoints, at which police or other military members ask motorists and travelers for money.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Central Africanlaws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the CARare severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Registration and Embassy Locations: The U.S. Embassy in Bangui resumed operations in January 2005, following the evacuation of all American staff in 2002 during the civil conflict and looting in Bangui in 2002. The Embassy's American presence increased in 2006, and a new American Ambassador to the CAR presented his credentials to President Bozize in 2007. Nonetheless, the Embassy continues to operate with limited staffing, and can only provide basic services to American citizens in the CAR.

Americans living or traveling in the CAR are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department's travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within the CAR. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located on Avenue David Dacko, B.P. 924, Bangui, tel: 2161-0200; fax: 2161-4494.

Travel Warning

August 9, 2007

This Travel Warning is being reissued to alert Americans of heightened security concerns as a result of fighting between rebels and government forces in the north prefectures of the country. It supersedes the travel warning for the Central African Republic issued March 6, 2007.

American citizens are strongly advised not to travel to the Central African Republic (CAR) until further notice. Active rebel movements are still present in the northern regions of the country. In the northwestern prefectures of Ouham and Ouham-Pende, roadblocks by rebels and by government forces pose a serious and continuing threat to aid workers and travelers. Fighting between rebels and government forces has forced much of the population near the town of Ngaounday to flee into neighboring Cameroon and Chad. An expatriate aid worker was killed in an attack on a well-marked vehicle north of Bocaranga in June 2007.

U.S.-sponsored development and aid work in the northwest area has been temporarily suspended, and U.S. Government employees on temporary duty and other contract visitors to the Mission will not be allowed to visit the northwestern or northeastern CAR prefectures without specific authorization of the Chief of Mission.

Rebels and armed men are also present in the northeastern Vakaga prefecture, and pose a threat to travelers in that area. The rebels wish to overthrow the constitutionally-elected president and seek new elections, and continue to pose a threat to travelers despite recent tentative steps in the peace process.

In addition, highway bandits (“coupeurs de route” in French) pose a serious threat to travelers through-out the country. Two World Health Organization physicians were murdered by unidentified assailants outside Bossembélé in April 2006. There have been repeated attacks on Central African and expatriate travelers on the Berberati-Carnot-Baoro-Bouar-Bozoum axis. The U.S. Embassy in Bangui strongly discourages American citizens, including aid, development, and religious workers, from traveling on these roads at any time of day or night.

Poachers and armed men also pose a threat to game hunters in the north central CAR, in and around the “Parc National de Bamingui-Bangoran.” A French hunter was murdered in a targeted attack on a hunting party that included an American outside the town of Ndélé in April 2007. The poachers in this area are heavily armed, often with automatic weapons, and outside local and national government authority.

The Central African government is unable to guarantee the safety of visitors in most parts of the country. The U.S. Embassy advises its personnel to exercise caution in traveling to all parts of the country. In addition to the above warnings, the Embassy recommends that Americans traveling outside the capital not travel with a CAR military escort, or any armed escort, as the armed escort may draw fire from rebel troops.

U.S. citizens already in the Central African Republic should contact the American Embassy in Bangui to verify their locations and contact points. They should avoid travel outside the capital unless absolutely necessary and exercise caution at all times, particularly at public gatherings. U.S. citizens are advised to avoid the area around the Presidential Palace in Bangui and to exercise caution if they encounter presidential guards. The presidential guards have various checkpoints around the Palace and have harassed official personnel driving in that area.

There are approximately 300 peacekeeping troops from neighboring member countries of the Economic and Monetary Union of Central Africa (CEMAC) that move in and out of the capital. CAR security forces, sometimes with French military assistance, staff checkpoints throughout the city. Some crimes are perpetrated by uniformed CAR security and military personnel. In particular, military elements charged with presidential security are likely to be aggressive and belligerent. Activities of the Presidential Guard throughout the CAR indicate that they operate with near-total impunity.

The U.S. Embassy in Bangui has just three American officers and can provide only limited emergency services to U.S. citizens at this time.

U.S. citizens in the CAR are strongly urged to register on the State Department's web site at https://travelregis-tration.state.gov. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Bangui. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.

The U.S. Embassy in the CAR is located at Avenue David Dacko, B.P. 924, Bangui; tel. (236) 61-02-00; fax (236) 61-44-94. For additional information on safety and security in the CAR, contact the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon, at telephone (237) 220-1500, fax (237) 220-1572; web site http://yaounde.usembassy.gov. Americans may also obtain updated information from the American Embassy in N′djamena, Chad, at telephone (235) 51-70-09, 51-92-33 or 51-90-52; fax (235) 51-56-54; web site http://ndjamena.usembassy.

U.S. citizens should also consult the Department of State's most recent Country Specific Information for Central African Republic and the Worldwide Caution Travel Alert, which are located on the Department's web site at http://travel.state.gov. Up-to-date information on safety and security is also available at 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers from other countries, on a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.

International Adoption

March 2007

The information in this section has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Patterns of Immigration: Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect that there have been only two immigrant visas issued to Central African Republic (“C.A.R.”) orphans in the past five fiscal years.

Adoption Authority: The “Adoption Committee,” which is composed of technical experts from the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Family & Social Affairs and the Ministry of Interior, serves as the adoption authority in the Central African Republic. The Adoption Committee's recommendations are passed to the Tribunal (Court) of First Instance in Bangui.

Comité d’Adoption Ministère de la Famille et des Affaires Sociales B.P. 917

Bangui, République Centrafricaine Chef de Service des Actions Sociales Jules Gueret 90 07 93

Assistant aux Services des Actions Sociales Bernard Azoumi 03 96 90

Eligibility Requirements for Adoptive Parents: The prospective adoptive parent must be at least 30 years old. A prospective adoptive couple must be married for at least 5 years, and both must consent to the adoption. In the Central African Republic, a single person or a married couple living together are both eligible to adopt.

Residency Requirements: Prospective adoptive parents need to provide an Acceptance Statement issued and signed by the Mayor where he/ she live(s) (Agrément du Maire où l’Adoptant réside). There is no requirement regarding the format of the statement. There is no residency requirement in the Central African Republic for foreign prospective adoptive parents.

Prospective adoptive parents need to provide an Acceptance Statement issued and signed by the Mayor where he/she live(s) (Agrément du Maire où l’Adoptant réside). There is no requirement regarding the format of the statement.

Time Frame: The adoption process can take six months to one year to complete and two weeks to one month for the immigrant visa.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: There are no private adoption agencies in the Central African Republic. All adoption matters are processed through the Ministry of Social Affairs’ Adoption Committee and the Courts. Prospective adoptive parents can engage lawyers to carry out adoption proceedings. The U.S. Embassy in Bangui maintains a list of attorneys who can handle inter-country adoptions which is available upon request.

Prospective adoptive parents are advised to fully research any adoption agency or facilitator they plan to use for adoption services.

Adoption Fees: CFA 500,000 or about US $1,000. This includes all services related to the adoption proceedings, but does not include immigrant visa fees.

Adoption Procedures: Prospective parents interested in adopting a child should send a letter directly to the Ministry of Family & Social Affairs with the appropriate documents. The committee will examine the request and contact an orphanage to identify a child for adoption. A social worker will conduct an investigation of the biological parents or relatives. After the birth parents’ agreement and the screening of adoption documents submitted, the committee gives written authorization to the orphanage to release the child to the adoptive parent(s). The file is then forwarded to the court for adjudication. The judge sets up a hearing to verify the circumstances of the adoption as well as to hear the parties: biological and adoptive parents. The judge could also request an investigation on the morality of the adoptive parents.

In the event that a child has already been identified, the committee works with the biological parents. The biological parents play a crucial role in the process, because they must consent to the adoption in writing. The written consent must be submitted to the court. In the case of an orphan, the judge would request consent from the extended family or from other relatives of the child if the biological parents are not available. If adopted from an orphanage, authorities might seek consent from the child's home village or community in addition to the orphanage management.

After a satisfactory review of the documents and the written consent of the biological parents, the judge issues an Adoption Decree (Jugement d’adoption). This allows the adoptive parents to apply for a new birth certificate at the city hall's civil registry (Mairie de Bangui or the Mairie in any other province.) The birth certificate is required for the issuance of a passport through the immigration office.

There are two types of adoptions: simple adoption and plenary adoption (adoption pléniére ). Plenary adoption severs the familial relationship between the child and the birth parents.

This adoption gives the adopted child the same rights as a child born to the adoptive parent. A simple adoption occurs when the biological parents die, abandon the child, or give the child up for adoption. Under this adoption procedure, the biological parents (if living) retain inheritance rights and other privileges of the child, and must be consulted if the prospective adoptive parents want to change the child's name or make significant changes in the life of the child.

A simple adoption does not meet the requirements of U.S. immigration law and therefore cannot be the basis for granting an immigrant visa to an adopted child.

Required Documents: All documents must be in the French language. Documents issued in a different language are returned to the sender for translation. The documents required for adoption in the Central African Republic are:

  • A Motivation Letter explaining why the prospective adoptive parents want to adopt a child. There is no specific format;
  • An Acceptance Statement issued and signed by the Mayor where the prospective adoptive child will reside. This document is issued by the Mayor's office of the prospective adoptive parents’ residence;
  • Certified copy of prospective adoptive parents’ birth certificate(s);
  • Certified copy of marriage certificate (if applicable);
  • Police Clearance;
  • Medical Certificate;
  • Income documents (such as W-2 statements);
  • A Notarized Statement of Net Worth issued by a bank;
  • A Certificate of Infertility (if applicable);
  • A Notarized Certificate from Next-of Kin or a Friend who is willing to take care of the child in the case of Death;
  • An Agreement Letter about the care of the Child. This is a statement indicating the prospective adoptive parents’ plans for caring for the child and also for his/her future;
  • Photos of the adoptive parents.

In addition, a home-study will be carried out by a social worker or other individual certified to complete home studies in the state in which the pro-spective adoptive parents’ reside in order to determine the prospective adoptive parent's suitability as parents.

Embassy of the Central Africa Republic 1618 22nd Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20008 Telephone: (202) 483-7800, 7801 Fax: (202) 332-9893

U.S. Immigration Requirements: Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

U.S. Embassy
Avenue David Dacko
Bangui
Tel: (236) 61-02-00
Fax: (236) 61-44-94.

Additional Information: Specific questions about adoption in the Central African Republic may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in Bangui. Questions about immigrant visa processing for Central African children should be directed to the U.S. Embassy in Yaoundé, Cameroon. General questions regarding inter-country adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.

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Central African Republic

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

Compiled from the December 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Central African Republic


PROFILE

Geography

Area:

622,984 sq. km. (242,000 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than Texas.

Cities:

Capital—Bangui (pop. 690,000). Other cities—Berberati (56,867), Bouar (39,676), Bambari (32,603), Bangassou (24,450), Bossangoa (31,723), Mbaiki (16,901), and Carnot (31,324).

Terrain:

Rolling plain 600 meters-700 meters (1,980 ft.-2,310 ft.) above sea level; scattered hills in northeast and southwest.

Climate:

Tropical, ranging from humid equatorial in the south to Sahelo-Sudanese in the north; hot, dry winters with mild to hot, wet summers.

People

Nationality:

Noun and adjective—Central African(s).

Population (2004):

3.9 million.

Annual growth rate:

1.1%.

Ethnic groups:

More than 80; Baya 33%, Banda 27%, Sara 10%, Mandja 13%, Mboum 7%, M'baka 4%, Yakoma 4%, other 2%.

Religion:

Protestant 25%, Roman Catholic 25%, Muslim 15%, indigenous beliefs 35%.

Language:

Sangho (official), Sangho (national).

Education:

Years compulsory—6. Enrollment—primary school 75%. Literacy—50%.

Health:

Infant mortality rate—115 deaths/1,000. Life expectancy—avg. 43 yrs.

Work force (approx. 53% of pop.):

Agriculture—75%; industry—6%; commerce and services—4%; government—15%.

Government

Type:

Republic.

Independence:

August 13, 1960.

Constitution:

Passed by referendum December 29, 1994; adopted January 1995. Suspended by decree in March 2003. New constitution passed by referendum December 5, 2004.

Branches:

Executive—president, prime minister, and Council of Ministers. Legislative—unicameral National Assembly. Judicial—Constitutional Court, inferior courts, criminal courts, Court of Appeals.

Administrative subdivisions:

16 prefectures, commune of Bangui.

Political parties:

Alliance for Democracy and Progress (ADP), Central African Democratic Assembly (RDC), Civic Forum (FC), Democratic Forum (FODEM), Liberal Democratic Party (PLD), Movement for Democracy and Development (MDD), Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People (MLPC), Patriotic Front for Progress (FPP), People's Union for the Republic (UPR), National Unity Party (PUN), and Social Democratic Party (PSD).

Suffrage:

Universal over 21.

Economy

GDP:

(2002) $1.045 billion.

Annual growth rate:

−7.2% (2003); 0.5% (2004 est.).

Per capita income (2002):

$260.

Avg. inflation rate:

4.2% (2003); 3.2 (2004 est.).

Natural resources:

Diamonds, uranium, timber, gold, oil.

Agriculture (2002, 54.8% of GDP):

Products—Timber, cotton, coffee, tobacco, foodcrops, livestock. Cultivated land—unavailable.

Industry (2002, 21.6% of GDP):

Types—Diamond mining, sawmills, breweries, textiles, footwear, assembly of bicycles and motorcycles, and soap.

Services (2002):

23.6% of GDP.

Trade (2004):

Exports—$161 million; diamonds, coffee, cotton, timber, tobacco. Major markets—Belgium, Italy, France, Luxembourg, Germany, Egypt, Spain, and Cote d'Ivoire. Imports—$119 million; food, textiles, petroleum products, machinery, electrical equipment, motor vehicles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, industrial products. Major suppliers—France, United States, Cote d'Ivoire, Cameroon, Germany, Japan.

Central government budget (2002):

$226 million.

Defense (2002, 2.4% of budget):

$5.4 million.

Fiscal year:

Calendar year.


PEOPLE

There are more than 80 ethnic groups in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.), each with its own language. About 75% are Baya-Mandjia and Banda (40% largely located in the northern and central parts of the country), and 4% are M'Baka (south-western corner of the C.A.R.). Sangho, the language of a small group along the Oubangui River, is the national language spoken by the majority of Central Africans. Only a small part of the population has more than an elementary knowledge of French, the official language.

More than 55% of the population of the C.A.R. lives in rural areas. The chief agricultural areas are around the Bossangoa and Bambari. Bangui, Berberati, Bangassou, and Bossangoa are the most densely populated urban centers.


HISTORY

The C.A.R. appears to have been settled from at least the 7th century on by overlapping empires, including the Kanem-Bornou, Ouaddai, Baguirmi, and Dafour groups based in Lake Chad and the Upper Nile. Later, various sultanates claimed present-day C.A.R, using the entire Oubangui region as a slave reservoir, from which slaves were traded north across the Sahara and to West Africa for export by European traders. Population migration in the 18th and 19th centuries brought new migrants into the area, including the Zande, Banda, and Baya-Mandjia.

In 1875 the Egyptian sultan Rabah governed Upper-Oubangui, which included present-day C.A.R. 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 the Egyptian sultan Rabah 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 (A.E.F.), along with Chad, Congo (Brazzaville), and Gabon. The next 30 years were marked by small-scale revolts against French rule and the development of a plantation-style economy.

In August 1940, the territory responded, with the rest of the A.E.F., to the call from Gen. 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 1946, all A.E.F. inhabitants were granted French citizenship and allowed to establish local assemblies. The assembly in C.A.R. was led by Barthelemy Boganda, a Catholic priest who also was known for his forthright statements in the French Assembly on the need for African emancipation. In 1956 French legislation eliminated certain voting inequalities and provided for the creation of some organs of self-government in each territory. The French constitutional referendum of September 1958 dissolved the A.E.F., and on December 1 of the same year the Assembly declared the birth of the Central African Republic with Boganda as head of government. Boganda ruled until his death in a March 1959 plane crash. His cousin, David Dacko, replaced him, governing the country until 1965 and overseeing the country's declaration of independence on August 13, 1960.

On January 1, 1966, following a swift and almost bloodless coup, Col. Jean-Bedel 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 December 4, 1976, the republic became a monarchy 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.

Following riots in Bangui and the murder of between 50 and 200 school-children, former President Dacko led a successful French-backed coup against Bokassa on September 20, 1979. Dacko's efforts to promote economic and political reforms proved ineffectual, and on September 20, 1981, he in turn was overthrown in a bloodless coup by Gen. Andre Kolingba. For 4 years, Kolingba led the country as head of the Military Committee for National Recovery (CRMN). 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 Democratique 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 November 29, 1986. The constitution established a National Assembly made up of 52 elected deputies, elected in July 1987. Due to mounting political pressure, in 1991 President Kolingba announced the creation of a national commission to rewrite the constitution to provide for a multi-party system. Multi-party presidential elections were conducted in 1992 but were later cancelled due to serious logistical and other irregularities. Ange Felix Patasse won a second-round victory in rescheduled elections held in October 1993, and was re-elected for another 6-year term in September 1999.

Salary arrears, labor unrest, and unequal treatment of military officers from different ethnic groups led to three mutinies against the Patasse government in 1996 and 1997. The French succeeded in quelling the disturbances, and an African peacekeeping force (MISAB) occupied Bangui until 1998 when they were relieved by a UN peacekeeping mission (MINURCA). Economic difficulties caused by the looting and destruction during the 1996 and 1997 mutinies, energy crises, and government mismanagement continued to trouble Patasse's government through 2000.

In March 2000 the last of the MINURCA forces departed Bangui. In May 2001 rebel forces within the C.A.R. military, led by former President and Army General Andre Kolingba, attempted a military coup.

After several days of heavy fighting, forces loyal to the government, aided by a small number of troops from Libya and the Congolese rebel Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC), were able to put down the coup attempt. In November 2001, there were several days of sporadic gunfire between members of the Presidential Security Unit and soldiers defending sacked Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Francois Bozize, who fled to Chad. In mid-2002 there were skirmishes on the C.A.R.-Chad border.

In October 2002, former Army Chief of Staff Francois Bozize launched a coup attempt that culminated in the March 15, 2003 overthrow of President Patasse and the takeover of the capital. General Bozize declared himself President, suspended the constitution, and dissolved the National Assembly. Since seizing power, President Francois Bozize has made significant progress in restoring order to Bangui and parts of the country, and professed a desire to promote national reconciliation, strengthen the economy, and improve the human rights situation. A new constitution was passed by referendum in December 2004. In spring 2005, the country held its first elections since the March 2003 coup. The first round of presidential and legislative elections were held in March 2005, and in May, President Bozize defeated former Prime Minister Martin Ziguele in a second-round runoff. On June 13, Bozize named Elie Dote, an agricultural engineer who had worked at the African Development Bank, his new Prime Minister.


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

The government is a republic comprised of a strong executive branch (president, vice president, prime minister, and council of ministers), and weak legislative and judicial branches. Government and opposition party members, as well as civil society and the military are represented in the three branches, although the president appoints the vice president, prime minister, members of the cabinet (Council of Ministers), top military officials, and managers of national parastatals.

The National Assembly is made up of 109 members elected by popular vote to serve 5-year terms. Legislative elections were held in 1998; in contested results, the government's Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People (MLPC) won just over 50% control of the legislative body. Legislative elections were last held in spring 2005.

For administration purposes, the country is divided into 16 prefectures that are further divided into over 60 subprefectures; the commune of Bangui is administered separately. The president currently appoints heads of these administrative units, called "prefets" and "sous-prefets". There are 174 communes, each headed by a mayor and council appointed by the president. Suffrage is universal over the age of 21.

The judicial sector encompasses the Constitutional Court, Court of Cassation, Court of Appeals, criminal and civil courts, Labor Court, and Juvenile Court, although several of these courts have insufficient resources and trained personnel to operate on a regular basis. The Criminal Court of Bangui sits once or twice a year, usually for 1 or 2 months each session. Judges are appointed by the president; executive influence often impedes transparent handling of judicial affairs. Military courts exist but are currently only used to try military personnel for crimes committed in the course of duty. There are a limited number of formal courts currently functioning outside Bangui; traditional arbitration and negotiation play a major role in administering domestic, property, and probate law.

The Central African Republic has a vibrant civil society, with numerous professional, labor, and local development associations actively carrying out campaigns and gaining greater local and international credibility.

The C.A.R. Government's human rights record remains flawed. There are continued reports of arbitrary detainment, torture and, to a lesser degree, extra judicial killings. Journalists have occasionally been threatened, and prison conditions remain harsh.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 3/10/2005

President: Francois BOZIZE
Prime Minister: Abel GOUMBA
Min. of Agricultural Modernization & Development: Pierre GUIANZA
Min. of Civil Service & Labor: Jacques VOTI
Min. of Communications & National Reconciliation: Parfait MBAYE
Min. of Defense: Francois BOZIZE
Min. of Energy & Mines: Sylvain MBUTINGAYE
Min. of Environment: Joseph Ki Tiki KOUAMBA
Min. of Equipment & Transport: Mpokomanji SOLI
Min. of Family & Social Affairs: Lea DOUMTA
Min. of Finance, Budget, & the Economy: Abel GOUMBA
Min. of Foreign Affairs: Abdou MECKASSOUA
Min. of Justice, Human Rights, & Good Governance: Faustin BAUDOU
Min. of Livestock Development: Denis KOSIBELA
Min. of National Education: Bevaroua LALA
Min. of Posts & Telecommunications: Idriss SALAO
Min. of Public Health & Population: Nestor Mamadou NALI
Min. of Public Security: Michel VANDEBOLI
Min. of Restoration of Govt. Buildings: Abraham GOTOBULU
Min. of Territorial Administration: Marcel MALONGA
Min. of Tourism & Craft Industry Development: Bruno DACKO
Min. of Trade, Industry, & Private Sector Promotion:
Min. of Water & Forests: Maurice YONDO
Min. of Youth, Sports, and Culture:
Dir., Central Bank: Alphonse KOYAMBA
Ambassador to the US: Emmanuel TOUABOY
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York:

The Central African Republic maintains an embassy in the United States at 1618-22nd Street, NW, Washington, DC (tel: 202-483-7800/01, fax: 202-332-9893).


ECONOMY

The Central African Republic is classified as one of the world's least developed countries, with an annual per capita income of $260 (2002). Sparsely populated and landlocked, the nation is overwhelmingly agrarian, with the vast bulk of the population engaged in subsistence farming and 55% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) arising from agriculture. Principal crops include cotton, food crops (cassava, yams, bananas, maize), coffee, and tobacco. In 2002, timber accounted for about 30% of export earnings. The country also has rich but largely unexploited natural resources in the form of diamonds, gold, uranium, and other minerals. There may be oil deposits along the country's northern border with Chad. Diamonds are the only of these mineral resources currently being developed; in 2002, diamond exports made up close to 50% of the C.A.R.'s export earnings. Industry contributes only about 20% of the country's GDP, with artesian diamond mining, breweries, and sawmills making up the bulk of the sector. Services currently account for about 25% of GDP, largely because of the oversized government bureaucracy and high transportation costs arising from the country's landlocked position.

Hydroelectric plants based in Boali provide much of the country's limited electrical supply. Fuel supplies must be barged in via the Ubangui River or trucked overland through Cameroon, resulting in frequent shortages of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. The C.A.R.'s transportation and communication network is limited. The country has only 650 kilometers of paved road, limited international and no domestic air service (except charters), and does not possess a railroad. Commercial traffic on the Ubangui River is impossible from December to May or June, and conflict in the region has sometimes prevented shipments from moving between Kinshasa and Bangui. The telephone system functions, albeit imperfectly. Four radio stations currently operate in the C.A.R., as well as one television station. Numerous newspapers and pamphlets are published on a regular basis, and at least one company has begun providing Internet service.

In the more than 40 years since independence, the C.A.R. has made slow progress toward economic development. Economic mismanagement, poor infrastructure, a limited tax base, scarce private investment, and adverse external conditions have led to deficits in both its budget and external trade. Its debt burden is considerable, and the country has seen a decline in per capita gross national product (GNP) over the last 30 years. Structural adjustment programs with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) and interest-free credits to support investments in the agriculture, livestock, and transportation sectors have had limited impact. The World Bank and IMF are now encouraging the government to concentrate exclusively on implementing much-needed economic reforms to jumpstart the economy and defining its fundamental priorities with the aim of alleviating poverty. As a result, many of the state-owned business entities have been privatized and limited efforts have been made to standardize and simplify labor and investment codes and to address problems of corruption. The C.A.R. Government has adopted the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) Charter of Investment, and is in the process of adopting a new labor code.


DEFENSE

Under military restructuring plans formulated 1999-2000, the civilian Minister of Defense controlled and directed all armed forces, including the Presidential Security Unit (UPS), which had previously been seen as a militia supporting the president. In April 2001, the C.A.R. armed forces numbered about 3,000, including army, navy, air force, gendarmerie, national police, Presidential Security Unit, and local police personnel. An estimated 1,200 members of the army and gendarmerie fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo following the failed coup attempt of May 2001.

Following the 2003 coup, Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC-Communauté Économique et Monétaire de l'Afrique Centrale) and C.A.R. armed forces assumed responsibility for securing the capital city. CEMAC forces currently total approximately 400 soldiers, which are supported by an additional 200 French soldiers. The C.A.R. armed forces number approximately 2,000. Working with the French, the C.A.R. military is attempting to provide professional training and decentralize its troops in an effort to combat road bandits, thievery, and poaching throughout the C.A.R. territory.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

The Central African Republic is an active member in several Central African organizations, including the Economic and Monetary Union (CEMAC), the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC) Central African Peace and Security Council (COPAX—still under formation), and the Central Bank of Central African States (BEAC). Standardization of tax, customs, and security arrangements between the Central African states is a major foreign policy objective of the C.A.R. Government. The C.A.R. is a participant in the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), and the Organization of African Unity (OAU—now the African Union). Libya and, to a lesser degree, Sudan have shown increased interest in cooperation with the C.A.R. over the last year.

Outside of Africa, the C.A.R. maintains fairly close ties to France, albeit considerably reduced from previous years. In the late 1990s, France withdrew forces stationed in the C.A.R.; drops in its external assistance budget have reduced French military and social development aid to the country. Other multilateral organizations—including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, UN agencies, European Union, and the African Development Bank—and bilateral donors—including Germany, Japan, the European Union, China, and the United States—are significant development partners for the C.A.R.

Seventeen countries have resident diplomatic or consular representatives in Bangui, and the C.A.R. maintains approximately the same number of missions abroad. Since early 1989 the government recognizes both Israel and the Palestinian state. The C.A.R. also maintains diplomatic relations with China. The C.A.R. generally joins other African and developing country states in consensus positions on major policy issues.


U.S.-C.A.R. RELATIONS

The U.S. and C.A.R. enjoy generally good relations, although concerns over the pace of political and economic liberalization and human rights have affected the degree of support provided by the U.S. to the country. The U.S. Embassy in Bangui was briefly closed as a result of the 1996-97 mutinies. It reopened in 1998 with limited staff, but U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Peace Corps missions previously operating in Bangui did not return. The American Embassy in Bangui again temporarily suspended operations on November 2, 2002 in response to security concerns raised by the October 2002 launch of Francois Bozize's 2003 military coup.

The Embassy reopened in January 2005; however, there currently is limited U.S. diplomatic/consular representation in the C.A.R. As a result, the ability of the Embassy to provide services to American citizens remains extremely limited. The Department of State has recently approved the lifting of Section 508 aid restrictions triggered by the coup; U.S. assistance to the Central African Republic had been prohibited except in the areas of humanitarian aid and support for democratization.

The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against travel to the Central African Republic. Americans in the C.A.R. are urged to exercise caution and maintain security awareness at all times. U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in the Central African Republic and need emergency assistance should contact the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon at telephone (237) 223-4014, (237) 223-0512, fax (237) 223-0753, and 223-0581 (Consular). Americans may also contact the American Embassy in N'Djamena, Chad at telephone (235) 51-70-09, 51-92-33 or 51-90-52 and fax (235) 51-56-54. As noted above, since the United States has a limited diplomatic presence in the Central African Republic, the ability to provide services to U.S. citizens in the C.A.R. is extremely limited.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

BANGUI (E) Address: Blvd David Dacko, Bangui; Phone: (236) 61-02-00; Fax: (236) 61-44-94

DCM/CHG:A.J. Panos
Last Updated: 1/27/2005

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

May 2, 2005

Country Description:

The Central African Republic is a developing African nation that has experienced several periods of political instability since independence from France in 1960. The capital is Bangui. While the country's Dzanga-Sangha National Park, a primeval rain forest in the southwest region of the country, is an attractive site for ecotourism, facilities for tourism are very limited.

Entry/Exit Requirements:

A valid passport, visa and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required for entry. Travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of the Central African Republic, 1618 22nd Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 483-7800/7801, fax (202) 332-9893. Overseas, inquiries should be made to the nearest Central African Republic embassy or consulate. NOTE: In any country where there is no Central African Republic diplomatic mission, the French Embassy has authorization to issue a visa for entry into the Central African Republic.

Safety and Security :

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to the CAR. Americans in the CAR are urged to exercise caution and maintain security awareness at all times. On March 15, 2003, rebel forces operating in the countryside outside Bangui took over the capital and seized power from the government. The leader of the rebel group declared himself the President of CAR and remains in power. Although the first round of elections was held in March 2005, the situation remains volatile. There are peace-keeping forces present throughout CAR, mostly concentrated in the capital city, Bangui.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime:

Americans should exercise caution while traveling around the city and immediate outlying areas. With unemployment around 80 percent, crime is a significant problem. Armed gangs operate in outlying residential areas. Looting has occurred during periods of civil unrest. There continue to be reports of armed highway robbery in rural areas, especially during the December through May dry season. When a crime does occur in Bangui, the victim may have to pay to send a vehicle to pick up police officers due to the shortage of police vehicles; the other option is to use a vehicle to take the police to the scene of the crime.

Information for Victims of Crime:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information:

Medical facilities are limited in the CAR, and the quality of acute care is unreliable. Sanitation levels are low. Many medicines are not available; travelers should carry properly labeled prescription drugs and other medications with them.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the CAR is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Due to the risk of armed attacks on motorists in the central, eastern and northern regions, overland travel in these areas without a military escort should be avoided. Most remote areas in CAR that are frequented by tourists are accessible only by four-wheel drive vehicles, although some roads are not passable at all during the rainy season, from May through October.

Aviation Safety Oversight:

As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and the CAR, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the CAR's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet web site at www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

Special Circumstances:

Taking photographs of police or military installations, or any other government buildings, is prohibited. Unauthorized photography may result in the seizure of photographic equipment by CAR authorities. Police or other government authorities can provide information and grant permission for photographing a particular subject or location.

Criminal Penalties:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating CAR laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the CAR are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues:

For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location:

In November 2002 the U. S. Embassy in Bangui closed and the Department of State formally suspended operations in April 2003. In early 2005 limited American staff returned to the Embassy. However, because there is currently no consular officer posted in Bangui, the Embassy can only provide limited emergency services to U.S. citizens.

Americans living or traveling in the CAR are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within the CAR. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

The U.S. Embassy in the CAR is located at Avenue David Dacko, B.P. 924, Bangui; tel. (236) 61-02-00; fax (236) 61-44-94. The U.S. Embassy in N 'djamena, Chad can be reached at tel. (235) 517-009, 519-209, 519-233 or 519-252; fax (235) 515-654; website http://ndjamena.usembassy.gov/. The U.S. Embassy in Cameroon can be reached at tel. (237) 223-4014 or 223-0512; fax (237) 223-0753 or (237) 223-0581; website: http://yaounde.usembassy.gov/.

Travel Warning

April 19, 2005

This Travel Warning is being issued to inform American citizens that although an American officer is now posted at the U.S. Embassy in Bangui, the Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against travel to the Central African Republic (CAR). This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Central African Republic issued October 29, 2004.

In March 2003, rebel forces that had been operating in the countryside outside Bangui took over the capital and seized power from the government of the CAR. The leader of the rebel group declared himself the President of CAR and remains in power. Although the country held peaceful elections in March 2005, the situation remains fluid and U.S. citizens who remain in the CAR despite this Travel Warning are urged to exercise caution at public gatherings. Furthermore, there continue to be reports of armed robberies along roads outside of the capital.

In November 2002, the U.S. Embassy in Bangui suspended operations. In early 2005, limited American staff returned to the Embassy, although dependent minors of American Embassy staff have not been allowed to return. Because there is currently no consular officer posted in Bangui, the Embassy can provide only limited emergency services to U.S. citizens.

U.S. citizens in the CAR are strongly advised to register their presence in the country by using the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov. Americans without Internet access, who are already in the CAR, may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Bangui. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in the CAR is located at Avenue David Dacko, B.P. 924, Bangui; tel. (236) 61-02-00; fax (236) 61-44-94. For additional information on safety and security in the CAR, contact the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon at telephone (237) 223-4014, (237) 223-0512, or 223-0581; fax (237) 223-0753. Americans may also obtain updated information from the American Embassy in N'Djamena, Chad at telephone (235) 51-70-09, 51-92-33 or 51-90-52; fax (235) 51-56-54.

U.S. citizens should also consult the Department of State's most recent Consular Information Sheet for Central African Republic, and the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, which are located on the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

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Central African Republic

Central African Republic

1 Location and Size

2 Topography

3 Climate

4 Plants and Animals

5 Environment

6 Population

7 Migration

8 Ethnic Groups

9 Languages

10 Religions

11 Transportation

12 History

13 Government

14 Political Parties

15 Judicial System

16 Armed Forces

17 Economy

18 Income

19 Industry

20 Labor

21 Agriculture

22 Domesticated Animals

23 Fishing

24 Forestry

25 Mining

26 Foreign Trade

27 Energy and Power

28 Social Development

29 Health

30 Housing

31 Education

32 Media

33 Tourism and Recreation

34 Famous Central Africans

35 Bibliography

République Centrafricaine

CAPITAL: Bangui

FLAG: The national flag consists of four horizontal stripes (blue, white, green, and yellow) divided at the center by a vertical red stripe. In the upper left corner is a yellow five-pointed star.

ANTHEM: La Renaissance (Rebirth).

MONETARY UNIT: The Communauté Financière Africaine franc (CFA Fr), which was originally pegged to the French franc, has been pegged to the euro since January 1999 with a rate of 655.957 CFA francs to 1 euro. The CFA franc is issued in coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500 CFA francs, and notes of 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 CFA francs. CFA Fr1 = $0.00189 (or $1 = CFA Fr528.28) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year’s Day, 1 January; Anniversary of President Boganda’s Death, 29 March; Labor Day, 1 May; National Day of Prayer, 30 June; Independence Day, 13 August; Assumption, 15 August; All Saints’ Day, 1 November; Proclamation of the Republic, 28 November; National Day, 1 December; and Christmas, 25 December. Movable religious holidays include Easter Monday, Ascension, Pentecost Monday.

TIME: 1 pm = noon GMT.

1 Location and Size

Located entirely within the tropical zone of Central Africa, the Central African Republic has an area of 622,984 square kilometers (240,534 square miles). Comparatively, the area occupied by the Central African Republic (CAR) is slightly smaller than the state of Texas. Entirely landlocked, it is bordered by Chad, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, and Cameroon, with a total boundary length of 5,203 kilometers (3,233 miles). The Central African Republic capital city, Bangui, is located in the southwestern part of the country.

2 Topography

The land consists of an undulating plateau varying in altitude from 610 to 762 meters (2,000

GEOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

Geographic Features

Area: 622,984 sq km (240,534 sq mi)

Size ranking: 42 of 194 Highest elevation: 1,420 meters (4,659 feet) at Mount Gaou (Mont Ngaoui)

Lowest elevation: 335 meters (1,099 ft) at the Oubangui River

Land Use*

Arable land: 3%

Permanent crops: 0%

Other: 97%

Weather**

Average annual precipitation: 156 centimeters (61.4 inches)

Average temperature in January: 25.9°c (78.6°f) Average temperature in July: 25.1°c (77.2°f)

* Arable Land: Land used for temporary crops, like meadows for mowing or pasture, gardens, and greenhouses.

Permanent crops: Land cultivated with crops that occupy its use for long periods, such as cocoa, coffee, rubber, fruit and nut orchards, and vineyards.

Other: Any land not specified, including built-on areas, roads, and barren land.

** The measurements for precipitation and average temperatures were taken at weather stations closest to the country’s largest city.

Precipitation and average temperature can vary significantly within a country, due to factors such as latitude, altitude, coastal proximity, and wind patterns.

to 2,500 feet). Two important escarpments are evident: in the northwest is a high granite plateau rising to 1,420 meters (4,659 feet), which is related to the Adamawa Plateau of Cameroon, and in the northeast the Bongos Range rises to 1,368 meters (4,488 feet) and extends into Sudan. The highest point, with a height of 1,420 meters (4,659 feet), is Mount Ngaoui in the Karre Mountains of the west. The lowest point is along the Ubangi River, at 335 meters (1,099 feet).

Soils are complex: sands and clays predominate, sometimes covered with a lateritic layer, over granite and quartz rocks. The land is well drained by two river systems: the Ubangi and its tributaries in the south and the tributaries of the Chari and Logone rivers in the north. The Ubangi is the longest river with a length of 2,253 kilometers (1,400 miles).

3 Climate

The climate is tropical, with abundant rainfall of about 178 centimeters (70 inches) annually in the south, decreasing to about 86 centimeters (30 inches) in the extreme northeast. Floods are common. Temperatures at Bangui have an average daily minimum and maximum range from 21°c (70°f) to 34°f (93°f).

4 Plants and Animals

The tropical rain forest in the southwest contains luxuriant plant growth, with some trees reaching a height of 46 meters (150 feet). Toward the north, the forest gradually becomes less dense, with wider patches of grassland, and eventually gives way to the rolling hills of the savanna, interrupted by taller growths along riverbeds. Almost every animal of the tropics is found, including the elephant; its ivory was once a major source of wealth but has declined in economic importance. The southwest has a colorful variety of butterflies.

5 Environment

The most significant environmental problems in the Central African Republic are desertification, water pollution, and the destruction of the nation’s wildlife due to poaching and mismanagement. Agricultural and forest lands are becoming desert-like through deforestation and soil erosion.

The Central African Republic reports major losses in its elephant population. In the mid-1990s, it was estimated that 90% of the nation’s elephant population had been killed over the previous 30 years, primarily so that their tusks could be sold for ivory. Elephant hunting is now banned.

Endangered species in the Central African Republic include the black rhinoceros and northern square-lipped rhinoceros. There are 13 national parks and wildlife reserves. As of 2006, in addition to the loss of the elephant population, 11 other species of mammals in a total of 209 were threatened. Three types of birds and one species of reptiles were also threatened. Of the nation’s 3,600 plant species, 15 species were threatened with extinction.

6 Population

In 2005, the population was estimated at 4.2 million. A population of 5.5 million was projected for the year 2025. About 41% of the population is urban. Bangui, the capital and principal city, had an estimated population of 698,000 in 2005.

7 Migration

Both internal and external migration is mainly seasonal. As of 1999, there were 34,831 Sudanese refugees and 3,590 Chadians within the country. Refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo also arrived in the Central African Republic in 1999. The total number of migrants in 2000 was 59,000, of which 95% were refugees. In 2003, there were 200,000 internally displaced persons within the country. The estimated net migration rate for the country in 2005 was zero.

8 Ethnic Groups

Central Africans belong to more than 80 ethnic groups, which are classified according to geographic location. The Baya (33% of the population) to the west and the Banda (27%) in the east central region are the largest ethnic 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. About 4% of the population are Yakoma. There were about 6,500 Europeans in 1998, including 3,600 French.

9 Languages

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. French is the official language of government and is taught in the schools.

10 Religions

Though about 50% of the population are Christians, it is believed that most of these followers incorporate traditional indigenous elements into their faith practices. Catholic and Protestant missions are scattered throughout the territory. Islam is followed primarily in the north. About 25% of the population are Protestant, another 25% are Roman Catholic, and 15% are Muslim. Traditional indigenous beliefs are practiced by about 35% of the population.

Though freedom of religion is constitutionally mandated, the government prohibits religious fundamentalism and intolerance. The Unification Church has been banned since the mid-1980s. The practice of witchcraft is considered a criminal offense, however, prosecution is generally made only in conjunction with other criminal activity, such as murder.

11 Transportation

Transportation is limited to river, road, and air, with river transportation the most important for movement of freight. The port of Kilongo (at Bangui) is the largest in the country. In 2004, the country had 23,810 kilometers (14,796 miles) of roads, of which only 429 kilometers (267 miles) were paved. There are no railroads.

Some 1,850 passenger cars and 1,650 commercial vehicles were in use in 2003. In 2003, about 46,000 passengers were carried on domestic and international flights.

12 History

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. 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 territory of Ubangi-Shari was formally established in 1894, and its borders fixed by treaties between the European colonial powers. The French explored and conquered the country, chiefly from 1889 to 1900, as part of a plan to link French colonies from the Atlantic to the Nile. In 1910, Gabon, Middle Congo, and Ubangi-Shari (including Chad) formed parts of a larger French Equatorial Africa.

In a referendum on 28 September 1958, Ubangi-Shari voted to become an autonomous republic within the French community. The Central African Republic was proclaimed on 1 December 1958, with Barthélémy Boganda as president. In 1961, the constitution was

BIOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

Name: Francois Bozize

Position: President of a republic

Took Office: March 2003 as head of transitional government, elected to office in May 2005

Birthplace: Mouila, Gabon

Birthdate: 14 October 1946

Of interest: In 2003 Bozize ousted then-president Ange-Felix Patasse and declared himself president with the promise to return the country to democratic rule.

amended to establish a presidential government with a single-party system.

On 1 January 1966, a military coup d’état, or forced takeover, led by Colonel (later Field Marshal) Jean-Bédel Bokassa abolished the constitution and dissolved the National Assembly. Bokassa, who became president in 1968 and president for life in 1972, proclaimed himself emperor of the newly formed Central African Empire on 4 December 1976. On 20 September 1979, David Dacko, with French support, led a bloodless coup that overthrew Bokassa while he was out of the country. The republic was restored, and Bokassa, who took refuge in Côte d’Ivoire and France, was sentenced to death in absentia for various crimes, including cannibalism.

A new constitution allowing free political activity was approved by referendum in February 1981. A month later, Dacko was elected, but he was overthrown on 1 September 1981 by a military coup. Free elections were not held again until 19 September 1993, when citizens elected Ange-Félix Patassé president.

The transition from military to elected government has gone smoothly, although the economy has faltered. The human rights picture has improved, yet the security forces still exercise arbitrary power. In 1993, the military engaged in two brief mutinies and in 1996, 200 soldiers briefly rebelled over non-payment of salaries. There was further unrest in the country that year and in June the government was reorganized to give more power to the prime minister, decreasing the power of the president. On 19 September 1999, President Patassé was reelected for his second six-year term.

On 28 May 2001, former president André Kolingba led an unsuccessful coup attempt against Patassé; at least 59 were killed and 15,000 fled Bangui in 10 days of violence. Former army chief of staff Francois Bozize was accused of being involved in the coup attempt, and in November 2001, fighting broke out between Bozize’s supporters and government forces attempting to arrest him. Thousands fled the fighting; Libya, Chad, and the United Nations intervened to attempt to resolve the conflict. Bozize fled to Chad.

In October 2002, Bozize’s supporters led an armed uprising against the government. There were six days of heavy fighting in Bangui, but Libyan forces aided Patassé’s troops in putting down the rebellion. On 15 March 2003, Bozize took power in a coup. Bangui was ravaged by two days of looting and violence, in which at least 13 people were killed.

Bozize contested the 13 March 2005 presidential elections in which all of the leading opposition candidates were allowed to run, except for Patassé. Bozize won the second run-off round on 8 May 2005.

13 Government

After a 1992 election was invalidated by the supreme court, new elections were conducted successfully in September 1993. For the 1998 elections, the national assembly was enlarged to 109 members. In 1993, Angé-Felix Patassé was elected president, and a graceful transition to multiparty democracy took place. The new coalition government was headed by the Central African People’s Liberation Movement (Mouvement pour la Libération du Peuple Centrafricaine; MLPC) and included members of three other parties. Constitutional reforms in 1995 and 1996 created a stronger prime minister, a constitutional court, and regional assemblies. On 15 March 2003, former army chief Francois Bozize seized power in a coup, declared himself president, dissolved parliament, and suspended the constitution. (In 2005 Bozize won the presidential election.) The national referendum on 5 December 2004 validated constitutional amendments that included shortening the presidential term from six to five years and strengthening the office of the prime minister and the national assembly.

14 Political Parties

In 1991, opposition parties were legalized and on 19 September 1993, new elections led to President André Kolingba’s defeat. His old rival, Ange-Félix Patassé, became president and the Movement for the Liberation of the Central African Republic (MLPC) gained 33 of the 85 seats in the national assembly. The Rassemblement Démocratique Centrafricaine won 14 seats. Other parties in the governing coalition include the Liberal Democratic Party, the Alliance for Democracy and Progress, and the David Dacko Movement. The MLPC celebrated another victory with the reelection of President Patassé on 19 September 1999.

The national assembly was dissolved in March 2003 after Francois Bozize seized power in a coup.

On 8 May 2005, Bozize’s coalition, the Convergence Kwa Na Kwa, won 42 parliamentary

Yearly Growth Rate

This economic indicator tells by what percent the economy has increased or decreased when compared with the previous year.

seats in the legislative run-off vote, giving it the largest coalition in the 105-seat body.

15 Judicial System

There are civil courts, criminal courts, and a court of appeal located in Bangui. At the top is a supreme court. A constitutional court was formed in 1996 to confirm the constitutionality of laws. New courts of justice were created in 1997 in both urban and rural areas, and a juvenile court in 1998. Criminal defendants are presumed innocent and have the right to counsel, to public trial, and to confrontation of witnesses. Trials are public and frequently broadcast on national media.

In 2003, Francois Bozize seized power in a coup and suspended the constitution.

16 Armed Forces

The army, numbering about 1,400 personnel in 2005, had three main battle tanks and eight reconnaissance vehicles. The 150-man Air Force had no combat aircraft or helicopters. The paramilitary gendarmerie numbered around 1,000. The defense budget in 2005 totaled $15 million.

17 Economy

The Central African Republic has a basically agricultural economy; 85% of the workforce is engaged in agriculture, accounting for about half of gross domestic product. The economy is also supported by the export of diamonds. Coffee, tobacco, cotton, and timber lead the list of agricultural exports. Economic growth decreased between 1989 and 1991, and was severely affected by the devaluation of the currency in 1994. Diamond mining is the largest nonagri-cultural industry. Sales of uncut diamonds contributed approximately 47% of export revenues in 2004.

The country runs both budget deficits and trade deficits and has a large debt burden and limited foreign direct investment. Until 2003, the economy had been in decline for more than 30 years. In 2004, the economy experienced slight growth (under 1%), and by 2005, annual growth was 2.2%. International aid organizations as of 2005 were concentrating on poverty reduction programs and reform plans to aid the economy, including the privatization of state-owned businesses and corruption-fighting measures.

Components of the Economy

This pie chart shows how much of the country’s economy is devoted to agriculture (including forestry, hunting, and fishing), industry, or services.

18 Income

In 2005, the Central African Republic’s gross domestic product (GDP) was $4.5 billion and per capita GDP was $1,200. The annual growth rate of the GDP was estimated at 2.2%. The inflation rate in 2005 was 2.5%.

19 Industry

Industry contributed 20% of the gross domestic product in 2004. Textile and leather manufacturing are the leading industries. All cotton produced in the country is ginned locally, with cotton-ginning plants scattered throughout the cotton-producing regions. Refined sugar and palm oil also are produced, as are soap, cigarettes, beer, bottled water, and soft drinks. The Central African Republic is the world’s tenth-largest producer of diamonds.

20 Labor

The vast majority of the labor force is employed in agriculture. The unemployment rate was approximately 8% in 2001, with up to 23% unemployed in the capital city of Bangui. Workers can join or form a union without getting prior authorization, but must give advance notice of a planned strike. The government sets a minimum wage by sector, with agricultural workers earning $12 per month and office workers $28. The minimum wage provides a family with only the basic living essentials. Although the labor code prohibits the employment of children under the age of 14, child labor is common, especially in rural areas.

21 Agriculture

Agriculture (including forestry and fisheries) accounts for about 55% of the economy and employs about 70% of the labor force. About 3% of the total land area is arable or under permanent crops. The Central African Republic is nearly self-sufficient in food production and has potential as an exporter.

Manioc, the basic food crop, had a 2004 harvest of about 563,000 tons. Bananas were the second major food crop, with production at 110,000 tons. Plantain production was 80,000 tons. Other food crops in 2004 included 119,000 tons of corn, 10,162 tons of millet, and 42,480 tons of sorghum. Some tropical fruits were produced in small quantities, including 20,000 tons of oranges and 1,800 tons of lemons and limes. Production of palm kernels totaled 2,000 tons.

In 2004, 1,000 tons of cotton seed were produced. Production of peanuts, which are cultivated in conjunction with cotton, was an estimated 133,600 tons in 2004. In 2004, coffee production was 7,500 tons and coffee exports were valued at $587,000.

22 Domesticated Animals

In 2004, there were an estimated 3.4 million head of cattle, 3.1 million goats, 805,000 pigs, and 259,000 sheep. About 127,300 tons of meat were produced in 2004, with beef accounting for 58% of the total. Cow’s milk production was around 65,000 tons the same year. There were an estimated 4.8 million chickens in 2004 when about 1,476 tons of eggs were produced. Honey production amounted to 13,000 tons in the same year.

23 Fishing

Fishing is carried on extensively along the rivers, but most of the catch is sold or traded on the Democratic Republic of the Congo side of the Ubangi. The 2003 fish catch was about 15,000 tons.

24 Forestry

There are about 22.9 million hectares (56.5 million acres) of forest (37% of the total land area), but only 3.4 million hectares (8.4 million acres) of dense forest, all in the south in the regions bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Transportation bottlenecks on rivers and lack of rail connections limit the potential of commercial logging. Most timber is shipped down the Ubangi and Zaire rivers and then on the Congo railway to the Atlantic. More than a dozen types of trees are felled, but 95% of the total is composed of obeche, sapele, ebony, and sipo.

In 2003, a dozen sawmills produced 516,000 cubic meters (18 million cubic feet) of sawn logs and veneer logs. Roundwood production was estimated at 2.8 million cubic meters (99.7 million cubic feet). In 2003, the country exported $89.8 million of forest products.

25 Mining

Diamond mining was the country’s leading industry and top export commodity in 2002. Diamond production was estimated at 350,000 carats in 2005. Sizable quantities were smuggled out of the country. Gold production in 2004 was about seven kilograms. The country’s uranium reserves are estimated at 18,000 tons and there are iron deposits estimated at 3.5 million tons. The country also had deposits of nickel, graphite, ilmenite, lignite, monazite, rutile, manganese, cobalt, tin, copper, china clay, and limestone. The lack of adequate transportation and industrial infrastructure hinders the development of the nation’s mineral industry.

26 Foreign Trade

Diamonds are the largest export, but cotton and coffee are important as well. Industrial supplies, machinery, consumer goods, food, and transport equipment are the leading imports. The Central African Republic’s major trading partners are Belgium, Italy, Spain, France, the United States, and Cameroon.

27 Energy and Power

Electric power production was 103 million kilowatt hours in 2003. Total installed capacity was 40,000 kilowatts (about 50% hydroelectric) in 2002.

Selected Social Indicators

The statistics below are the most recent estimates available as of 2006. For comparison purposes, data for the United States and averages for low-income countries and high-income countries are also given. About 15% of the world’s 6.5 billion people live in high-income countries, while 37% live in low-income countries.

IndicatorCentral African Republic Low-income countriesHigh-income countriesUnited States
sources: World Bank. World Development Indicators. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2006; Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2006; World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C.
Per capita gross national income (GNI)*$1,100 $2,258$31,009$39,820
Population growth rate2.0% 2%0.8%1.2%
People per square kilometer of land6 803032
Life expectancy in years: male39 587675
female40 608280
Number of physicians per 1,000 people0.1 0.43.72.3
Number of pupils per teacher (primary school)n. a. 431615
Literacy rate (15 years and older)48.6% 65%>95%99%
Television sets per 1,000 people6 84735938
Internet users per 1,000 people2 28538630
Energy consumed per capita (kg of oil equivalent)n. a. 5015,4107,843
CO2 emissions per capita (metric tons)0.07 0.8512.9719.92
* The GNI is the total of all goods and services produced by the residents of a country in a year. The per capita GNI is calculated by dividing a country’s GNI by its population and adjusting for relative purchasing power.
n. a.: data not available >: greater than <: less than

28 Social Development

Only a small percentage of the workforce is eligible for social insurance programs, since most people work in agriculture and are not salaried. For those who are eligible, old age pensions are payable at age 55 for men or age 50 for women. There are disability and survivor benefits, and prenatal allowances. The constitution mandates that women have equal treatment, but they sometimes suffer severe discrimination. Female circumcision is banned, but is still practiced in some rural areas. The forest forager people, a minority group, also experience discrimination.

29 Health

Mobile crews treat local epidemic diseases, conduct vaccination and inoculation campaigns, and enforce local health regulations. They conduct research on sleeping sickness, malaria, and other tropical diseases. The most common diseases are schistosomiasis, leprosy, malaria, tuberculosis, and yaws. The Central African Republic is a yellow fever endemic zone country. The Pasteur Institute at Bangui cooperates actively with vaccination campaigns.

As of 2004, it was estimated that there were fewer than 1 physician and 9 nurses per 100,000 people. Average life expectancy was 39 years for men and 40 years for women in 2005. The infant mortality rate was 87.33 per 1,000 live births.

The Central African Republic is one of several African nations with a high incidence of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. At the end of 2004, the number of people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or AIDS was estimated at 260,000. Deaths from AIDS in 2003 were estimated at 23,000.

The Central African Real Estate Investments Society makes small loans for the repair of existing houses and larger loans for new construction. In 2000, about 60% of the population had access to improved water systems, and 31% had access to improved sanitation systems.

31 Education

Education is provided free in government-financed schools. Education is compulsory between ages 6 and 12. Primary education lasts for six years; secondary lasts for four years. Average class size is almost 80 students.

Specialized institutions include two agricultural colleges, a national college of the performing and plastic arts, and the University of Bangui, founded in 1969.

As of 2004, the adult illiteracy rate was estimated at 48.6%.

32 Media

In 2003, there were more an estimated two mainline telephones and ten mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

Radio–Télévision Centrafrique broadcasts radio and television programs, and is controlled by the government. Television transmissions are available only in Bangui. Broadcasting is in Sango and French. In 2003, there were about 80 radios and 6 televisions for every 1,000 people. There was one Internet provider serving 1,500 subscribers in 2001.

The nation’s first daily newspaper is controlled by the government. Called E Le Songo, it began publication in 1986. The Centrafrique Presse was created by the government in 2001 to reflect the views of the ruling MLPC. Echo de CentrAfrique is a private daily newspaper, but it also seems to be linked to the ruling party. Le Citoyen, Be Afrika, and Le Democrate are the most widely read private newspapers; however, many private papers publish sporadically. The official news agency is Agence Centrafricaine de Presse. The Agence Centrafricaine de Presse (ACAP) bulletin appears sporadically.

The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press. In 2000, the president dissolved the High Broadcast Council, which had been created to regulate the media. However, the government still seems to control much media and its content.

33 Tourism and Recreation

The main tourist attractions are hunting, fishing, the waterfalls, and the many varieties of wild animals. Of special interest are the falls at Boali and Kembé and the megaliths of Bouar. In 1998, 7,748 tourists visited the country.

34 Famous Central Africans

Barthélémy Boganda (1910–1959), a dynamic leader of Central African nationalism, worked toward independence and attained virtually complete political power. The first president of the independent Central African Republic was David Dacko (1930–2003), who served from 1960 to 1966, and again from 1979 to 1981.

35 Bibliography

BOOKS

Kalck, Pierre. Central African Republic. Santa Barbara, CA: Clio Press, 1993.

Kalck, Pierre. Historical Dictionary of the Central African Republic. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1992.

O’Toole, Thomas. The Central African Republic: The Continent’s Hidden Heart. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1986.

O’Toole, Thomas. Central African Republic in Pictures. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 1989.

WEB SITES

Country Pages. www.state.gov/p/af/ci/ct/. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

World Heritage List. whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/cf. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

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Central African Republic

Central African Republic

Compiled from the September 2006 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Central African Republic

PROFILE

PEOPLE

HISTORY

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

ECONOMY

DEFENSE

FOREIGN RELATIONS

U.S.-C.A.R. RELATIONS

TRAVEL

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 622,984 sq. km. (242,000 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than Texas.

Cities: Capital—Bangui (pop. 690,000). Other cities—Berberati (56,867), Bouar (39,676), Bambari (32,603), Bangassou (24,450), Bossangoa (31,723), Mbaiki (16,901), and Carnot (31,324).

Terrain: Rolling plain 600 meters-700 meters (1,980 ft.-2,310 ft.) above sea level; scattered hills in northeast and southwest.

Climate: Tropical, ranging from humid equatorial in the south to Sahelo-Sudanese in the north; hot, dry winters with mild to hot, wet summers.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Central African(s).

Population: (2004) 3.9 million.

Annual growth rate: 1.1%.

Ethnic groups: More than 80; Baya 33%, Banda 27%, Sara 10%, Mandja 13%, Mboum 7%, M’baka 4%, Yakoma 4%, other 2%.

Religions: Protestant 25%, Roman Catholic 25%, Muslim 15%, indigenous beliefs 35%.

Languages: Sangho (official), Sangho (national).

Education: Years compulsory—6. Enrollment—primary school 75%. Literacy—50%.

Health: Infant mortality rate—115 deaths/1,000. Life expectancy—avg. 43 yrs.

Work force: (approx. 53% of pop.) Agriculture—75%; industry—6%; commerce and services—4%; government—15%.

Government

Type: Republic.

Independence: August 13, 1960.

Constitution: Passed by referendum December 29, 1994; adopted January 1995. Suspended by decree in March 2003. New constitution passed by referendum December 5, 2004.

Government branches: Executive—president, prime minister, and Council of Ministers. Legislative—unicameral National Assembly. Judicial—Constitutional Court, inferior courts, criminal courts, Court of Appeals.

Political subdivisions: 16 prefectures, commune of Bangui.

Political parties: Alliance for Democracy and Progress (ADP), Central African Democratic Assembly (RDC), Civic Forum (FC), Democratic Forum (FODEM), Liberal Democratic Party (PLD), Movement for Democracy and Development (MDD), Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People (MLPC), Patriotic Front for Progress (FPP), People’s Union for the Republic (UPR), National Unity Party (PUN), and Social Democratic Party (PSD).

Suffrage: Universal over 21.

Economy

GDP: (2002) $1.045 billion.

Annual growth rate: -7.2% (2003); 0.5% (2004 est.).

Per capita income: (2002) $260.

Avg. inflation rate: 4.2% (2003); 3.2 (2004 est.).

Natural resources: Diamonds, uranium, timber, gold, oil.

Agriculture: (2002, 54.8% of GDP) Products—Timber, cotton, coffee, tobacco, foodcrops, livestock. Cultivated land—unavailable.

Industry: (2002, 21.6% of GDP) Types—Diamond mining, sawmills, breweries, textiles, footwear, assembly of bicycles and motorcycles, and soap.

Services: (2002) 23.6% of GDP.

Trade: (2004) Exports—$161 million; diamonds, coffee, cotton, timber, tobacco. Major markets—Belgium, Italy, France, Luxembourg, Germany, Egypt, Spain, and Cote d’Ivoire. Imports—$119 million; food, textiles, petroleum products, machinery, electrical equipment, motor vehicles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, industrial products. Major suppliers—France, United States, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Germany, Japan.

Budget: (2002) $226 million.

Defense: (2002, 2.4% of budget) $5.4 million.

Fiscal year: Calendar year.

PEOPLE

There are more than 80 ethnic groups in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.), each with its own language. About 75% are Baya-Mandjia and Banda (40% largely located in the northern and central parts of the country), and 4% are M’Baka (southwestern corner of the C.A.R.). Sangho, the language of a small group along the Oubangui River, is the national language spoken by the majority of Central Africans. Only a small part of the population has more than an elementary knowledge of French, the official language.

More than 55% of the population of the C.A.R. lives in rural areas. The chief agricultural areas are around the Bossangoa and Bambari. Bangui, Berberati, Bangassou, and Bossangoa are the most densely populated urban centers.

HISTORY

The C.A.R. appears to have been settled from at least the 7th century on by overlapping empires, including the Kanem-Bornou, Ouaddai, Baguirmi, and Dafour groups based in Lake Chad and the Upper Nile. Later, various sultanates claimed present-day C.A.R, using the entire Oubangui region as a slave reservoir, from which slaves were traded north across the Sahara and to West Africa for export by European traders. Population migration in the 18th and 19th centuries brought new migrants into the area, including the Zande, Banda, and Baya-Mandjia.

In 1875 the Egyptian sultan Rabah governed Upper-Oubangui, which included present-day C.A.R. 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 the Egyptian sultan Rabah 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 (A.E.F.), along with Chad, Congo (Brazzaville), and Gabon. The next 30 years were marked by small-scale revolts against French rule and the development of a plantation-style economy.

In August 1940, the territory responded, with the rest of the A.E.F., to the call from Gen. 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 1946, all A.E.F. inhabitants were granted French citizenship and allowed to establish local assemblies. The assembly in C.A.R. was led by Barthelemy Boganda, a Catholic priest who also was known for his forthright statements in the French Assembly on the need for African emancipation. In 1956 French legislation eliminated certain voting inequalities and provided for the creation of some organs of self-government in each territory. The French constitutional referendum of September 1958 dissolved the A.E.F., and on December 1 of the same year the Assembly declared the birth of the Central African Republic with Boganda as head of government. Boganda ruled until his death in a March 1959 plane crash. His cousin, David Dacko, replaced him, governing the country until 1965 and overseeing the country’s declaration of independence on August 13, 1960.

On January 1, 1966, following a swift and almost bloodless coup, Col. Jean-Bedel 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 December 4, 1976, the republic became a monarchy 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.

Following riots in Bangui and the murder of between 50 and 200 school-children, former President Dacko led a successful French-backed coup against Bokassa on September 20, 1979. Dacko’s efforts to promote economic and political reforms proved ineffectual, and on September 1, 1981, he in turn was overthrown in a bloodless coup by Gen. Andre Kolingba. For 4 years, Kolingba led the country as head of the Military Committee for National Recovery (CRMN). 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 Democratique 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 November 29, 1986. The constitution established a National Assembly made up of 52 elected deputies, elected in July 1987. Due to mounting political pressure, in 1991 President Kolingba announced the creation of a national commission to rewrite the constitution to provide for a multi-party system. Multi-party presidential elections were conducted in 1992 but were later cancelled due to serious logistical and other irregularities. Ange Felix Patasse won a second-round victory in rescheduled elections held in October 1993, and was re-elected for another 6-year term in September 1999.

Salary arrears, labor unrest, and unequal treatment of military officers from different ethnic groups led to

three mutinies against the Patasse government in 1996 and 1997. The French succeeded in quelling the disturbances, and an African peacekeeping force (MISAB) occupied Bangui until 1998 when they were relieved by a UN peacekeeping mission (MINURCA). Economic difficulties caused by the looting and destruction during the 1996 and 1997 mutinies, energy crises, and government mismanagement continued to trouble Patasse’s government through 2000. In March 2000 the last of the MINURCA forces departed Bangui. In May 2001 rebel forces within the C.A.R. military, led by former President and Army General Andre Kolingba, attempted a military coup. After several days of heavy fighting, forces loyal to the government, aided by a small number of troops from Libya and the Congolese rebel Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC), were able to put down the coup attempt. In November 2001, there were several days of sporadic gunfire between members of the Presidential Security Unit and soldiers defending sacked Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Francois Bozize, who fled to Chad. In mid-2002 there were skirmishes on the C.A.R.-Chad border.

In October 2002, former Army Chief of Staff Francois Bozize launched a coup attempt that culminated in the March 15, 2003 overthrow of President Patasse and the takeover of the capital. General Bozize declared himself President, suspended the constitution, and dissolved the National Assembly. Since seizing power, President Francois Bozize has made significant progress in restoring order to Bangui and parts of the country, and professed a desire to promote national reconciliation, strengthen the economy, and improve the human rights situation. A new constitution was passed by referendum in December 2004. In spring 2005, the country held its first elections since the March 2003 coup. The first round of presidential and legislative elections were held in March 2005, and in May, President Bozize defeated former Prime Minister Martin Ziguele in a second-round runoff. On June 13, Bozize named Elie Dote, an agricultural engineer who had worked at the African Development Bank, his new Prime Minister.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

The government is a republic comprised of a strong executive branch (president, vice president, prime minister, and council of ministers), and weak legislative and judicial branches. Government and opposition party members, as well as civil society and the military are represented in the three branches, although the president appoints the vice president, prime minister, members of the cabinet (Council of Ministers), top military officials, and managers of national parastatals.

The National Assembly is made up of 109 members elected by popular vote to serve 5-year terms. Legislative elections were held in 1998; in contested results, the government’s Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People (MLPC) won just over 50% control of the legislative body. Legislative elections were last held in spring 2005.

For administration purposes, the country is divided into 16 prefectures that are further divided into over 60 subprefectures; the commune of Bangui is administered separately. The president currently appoints heads of these administrative units, called “prefets” and “sous-prefets.” There are 174 communes, each headed by a mayor and council appointed by the president. Suffrage is universal over the age of 21.

The judicial sector encompasses the Constitutional Court, Court of Cassation, Court of Appeals, criminal and civil courts, Labor Court, and Juvenile Court, although several of these courts have insufficient resources and trained personnel to operate on a regular basis. The Criminal Court of Bangui sits once or twice a year, usually for 1 or 2 months each session. Judges are appointed by the president; executive influence often impedes transparent handling of judicial affairs. Military courts exist but are currently only used to try military personnel for crimes committed in the course of duty. There are a limited number of formal courts currently functioning outside Bangui; traditional arbitration and negotiation play a major role in administering domestic, property, and probate law.

The Central African Republic has a vibrant civil society, with numerous professional, labor, and local development associations actively carrying out campaigns and gaining greater local and international credibility.

The C.A.R. Government’s human rights record remains flawed. There are continued reports of arbitrary detainment, torture and, to a lesser degree, extra judicial killings. Journalists have occasionally been threatened, and prison conditions remain harsh.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 9/15/2006

President: Francois BOZIZE

Prime Minister: Elie DOTE

Min. of Agriculture: Parfait MBAYE

Min. of Civil Service: Jacques BOTI

Min. of Defense: Francois BOZIZE

Min. of Economy: Sylvain MALIKO

Min. of Education: Charles-Armel DOUBANE

Min. of Equipment, Transport, & Civil Action: Jean-Prospere WODOBODE

Min. of Finance & Budget: Elie DOTE

Min. of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration, & Francophonie Affairs: Come ZOUMARA

Min. of Interior & Security: Michel SALLE

Min. of Justice: Paul OTTO

Min. of Mining & Energy: Sylvain NDOUTINGAI

Min. of Public Health: Bernard Lala KONAMNA

Min. of Social Affairs: Solange Pagonendji N’DACKALA

Min. of Tourism, Development, & Crafts: Yvonne MBOISSONA

Min. of Trade, Industry, & Small & Medium Size Enterprises: Rosalie KOUDOUNGERE

Min. of Transport & Equipment: Charles MASSI

Min. of Youth, Sports, and Culture: Desire KOLINGBA

Min. of State for Communications, National Reconciliation, Democratic Culture, & Human Rights: Jabdoul Karim MECKASSOUA

Min. of State for Rural Development: Charles MASSI

Min., Office of the Prime Min., & Government Spokesman: Aurelian Simplice ZINGAS

Governor, Regional Central Bank: Alphonse KOYAMBA

Ambassador to the US: Emmanuel TOUABOY

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Fernand POUKRE-KONO

The Central African Republic maintains an embassy in the United States at 1618-22nd Street, NW, Washington, DC (tel: 202-483-7800/01, fax: 202-332-9893).

ECONOMY

The Central African Republic is classified as one of the world’s least developed countries, with an annual per capita income of $260 (2002). Sparsely populated and landlocked, the nation is overwhelmingly agrarian, with the vast bulk of the population engaged in subsistence farming and 55% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) arising from agriculture. Principal crops include cotton, food crops (cassava, yams, bananas, maize), coffee, and tobacco. In 2002, timber accounted for about 30% of export earnings. The country also has rich but largely unexploited natural resources in the form of diamonds, gold, uranium, and other minerals. There may be oil deposits along the country’s northern border with Chad. Diamonds are the only of these mineral resources currently being developed; in 2002, diamond exports made up close to 50% of the C.A.R.’s export earnings. Industry contributes only about 20% of the country’s GDP, with artesian diamond mining, breweries, and sawmills making up the bulk of the sector. Services currently account for about 25% of GDP, largely because of the oversized government bureaucracy and high transportation costs arising from the country’s landlocked position.

Hydroelectric plants based in Boali provide much of the country’s limited electrical supply. Fuel supplies must be barged in via the Ubangui River or trucked overland through Cameroon, resulting in frequent shortages of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. The C.A.R.’s transportation and communication network is limited. The country has only 650 kilometers of paved road, limited international and no domestic air service (except charters), and does not possess a railroad. Commercial traffic on the Ubangui River is impossible from December to May or June, and conflict in the region has sometimes prevented shipments from moving between Kinshasa and Bangui. The telephone system functions, albeit imperfectly. Four radio stations currently operate in the C.A.R., as well as one television station. Numerous newspapers and pamphlets are published on a regular basis, and at least one company has begun providing Internet service.

In the more than 40 years since independence, the C.A.R. has made slow progress toward economic development. Economic mismanagement, poor infrastructure, a limited tax base, scarce private investment, and adverse external conditions have led to deficits in both its budget and external trade. Its debt burden is considerable, and the country has seen a decline in per capita gross national product (GNP) over the last 30 years. Structural adjustment programs with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) and interest-free credits to support investments in the agriculture, livestock, and transportation sectors have had limited impact. The World Bank and IMF are now encouraging the government to concentrate exclusively on implementing much-needed economic reforms to jumpstart the economy and defining its fundamental priorities with the aim of alleviating poverty. As a result, many of the state-owned business entities have been privatized and limited efforts have been made to standardize and simplify labor and investment codes and to address problems of corruption. The C.A.R. Government has adopted the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) Charter of Investment, and is in the process of adopting a new labor code.

DEFENSE

Under military restructuring plans formulated 1999-2000, the civilian Minister of Defense controlled and directed all armed forces, including the Presidential Security Unit (UPS), which had previously been seen as a militia supporting the president. In April 2001, the C.A.R. armed forces numbered about 3,000, including army, navy, air force, gendarmerie, national police, Presidential Security Unit, and local police personnel. An estimated 1,200 members of the army and gendarmerie fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo following the failed coup attempt of May 2001.

Following the 2003 coup, Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC-Communauté Économique et Monétaire de l’Afrique Centrale) and C.A.R. armed forces assumed responsibility for securing the capital city. CEMAC forces currently total approximately 400 soldiers, which are supported by an additional 200 French soldiers. The C.A.R. armed forces number approximately 2,000. Working with the French, the C.A.R. military is attempting to provide professional training and decentralize its troops in an effort to combat road bandits, thievery, and poaching throughout the C.A.R. territory.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

The Central African Republic is an active member in several Central African organizations, including the Economic and Monetary Union (CEMAC), the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC) Central African Peace and Security Council (COPAX—still under formation), and the Central Bank of Central African States (BEAC). Standardization of tax, customs, and security arrangements between the Central African states is a major foreign policy objective of the C.A.R. Government. The C.A.R. is a participant in the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), and the Organization of African Unity (OAU—now the African Union). Libya and, to a lesser degree, Sudan have shown increased interest in cooperation with the C.A.R. over the last year.

Outside of Africa, the C.A.R. maintains fairly close ties to France, albeit considerably reduced from previous years. In the late 1990s, France withdrew forces stationed in the C.A.R.; drops in its external assistance budget have reduced French military and social development aid to the country. Other multilateral organizations—including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, UN agencies, European Union, and the African Development Bank—and bilateral donors—including Germany, Japan, the European Union, China, and the United States—are significant development partners for the C.A.R.

Seventeen countries have resident diplomatic or consular representatives in Bangui, and the C.A.R. maintains approximately the same number of missions abroad. Since early 1989 the government recognizes both Israel and the Palestinian state. The C.A.R. also maintains diplomatic relations with China. The C.A.R. generally joins other African and developing country states in consensus positions on major policy issues.

U.S.-C.A.R. RELATIONS

The U.S. and C.A.R. enjoy generally good relations, although concerns over the pace of political and economic liberalization and human rights have affected the degree of support provided by the U.S. to the country. The U.S. Embassy in Bangui was briefly closed as a result of the 1996-97 mutinies. It reopened in 1998 with limited staff, but U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Peace Corps missions previously operating in Bangui did not return.

The American Embassy in Bangui again temporarily suspended operations on November 2, 2002 in response to security concerns raised by the October 2002 launch of Francois Bozize’s 2003 military coup.

The Embassy reopened in January 2005; however, there currently is limited U.S. diplomatic/consular representation in the C.A.R. As a result, the ability of the Embassy to provide services to American citizens remains extremely limited. The Department of State has recently approved the lifting of Section 508 aid restrictions triggered by the coup; U.S. assistance to the Central African Republic had been prohibited except in the areas of humanitarian aid and support for democratization.

The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against travel to the Central African Republic. Americans in the C.A.R. are urged to exercise caution and maintain security awareness at all times. U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in the Central African Republic and need emergency assistance should contact the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon at telephone (237) 223-4014, (237) 223-0512, fax (237) 223-0753, and 223-0581 (Consular). Americans may also contact the American Embassy in N’djamena, Chad at telephone (235) 51-70-09, 51-92-33 or 51-90-52 and fax (235) 51-56-54. As noted above, since the United States has a limited diplomatic presence in the Central African Republic, the ability to provide services to U.S. citizens in the C.A.R. is extremely limited.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

BANGUI (E) Address: Blvd David Dacko, Bangui; Phone: (236) 61-02-00; Fax: (236) 61-44-94; Workweek: Mon-Thurs 8 to 5 Frid 8 to 2.30.

DCM/CHG:A.J. Panos
MGT:M. Unglesbee

Last Updated: 1/16/2007

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet : January 9, 2007

Country Description: The Central African Republic (CAR) is a developing African nation that has experienced several periods of political instability since independence from France in 1960. The capital is Bangui. While the country’s Dzanga-Sangha National Park, a primeval rain forest in the southwest region of the country, is an attractive site for ecotourism, facilities for tourism elsewhere are very limited.

Entry/Exit Requirements: A valid passport, visa, and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required for entry. Travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of the Central African Republic, 1618 22nd Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 483-7800/7801, fax (202) 332-9893. Overseas, inquiries should be made to the nearest Central African Republic embassy or consulate. NOTE: In any country where there is no Central African Republic diplomatic mission, the French Embassy has authorization to issue a visa for entry into the Central African Republic.

Safety and Security: For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet website where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Travel Warning for the CAR and the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime: With unemployment at about 80 percent, crime is a significant problem. Americans should exercise caution while traveling around the city and immediate environs. Armed gangs operate in outlying residential areas. Looting has occurred during periods of civil unrest. There continue to be reports of armed highway robbery in rural areas, especially during the December through May dry season. When a crime does occur in Bangui, the victim may have to pay to send a vehicle to pick up police officers due to the shortage of police vehicles; the other option is to use a vehicle to take the police to the scene of the crime.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Medical facilities are limited in the CAR, and the quality of acute care is unreliable. Sanitation levels are low. Many medicines are not available; travelers should carry properly labeled prescription drugs and other medications with them.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the CAR is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Due to the risk of armed attacks on motorists in the central and northern regions, overland travel in these areas without a military escort should be avoided. Most remote areas in THE CAR that are frequented by tourists are accessible only by four-wheel drive vehicles, although some roads are not passable at all during the rainy season, from May through October.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and the CAR, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the CAR’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s website at http://www.faa.gov.

Special Circumstances: Taking photographs of police or military installations or any other government buildings is prohibited. Unauthorized photography may result in the seizure of photographic equipment by CAR authorities. Police or other government authorities can provide information and grant permission for photographing a particular subject or location.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating the CAR’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the CAR are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children’s Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/familyfamily_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location: In November 2002 the U. S. Embassy in Bangui closed and the Department of State formally suspended operations in April 2003. In early 2005 limited American staff returned to the Embassy. However, because there is currently no consular officer posted in Bangui, the Embassy can only provide limited emergency services to U.S. citizens. The U.S. Embassy in Bangui has two American officers and can provide only limited emergency services to U.S. citizens. Routine consular services are provided by the U.S. Embassies in Yaounde, Cameroon and N’djamena, Chad.

U.S. citizens in the CAR are strongly advised to register their presence in the country by using the State Department’s travel registration website. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Bangui. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in the CAR is located at Avenue David Dacko, B.P. 924, Bangui; tel. (236) 61-02-00; fax (236) 61-44-94. For additional information on safety and security in the CAR, contact the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon at telephone (237) 223-4014, (237) 223-0512, or 223-0581; fax (237) 223-0753; website: http://yaounde.usembassy.gov/. Americans may also obtain updated information from the American Embassy in N’djamena, Chad at telephone (235) 51-70-09, 51-92-33 or 51-90-52; fax (235) 51-56-54; website http://ndjamena.usembassy.gov/

Travel Warning : December 19, 2006

This Travel Warning is revised to strongly advise Americans against travel to the Central African Republic and to provide an update on the security situation. It supersedes the Travel Warning for the Central African Republic issued October 20, 2006.

American citizens are strongly advised not to travel to the Central African Republic (CAR) until further notice. Active rebel movements continue in the northern and northeastern regions of the country. In northern prefectures from Ouham to Gribingui, rogue army troops and robbers are also active, making road travel dangerous even with an armed escort. Many civilians have died or been wounded in attacks by these elements. The Central African government is unable to guarantee the safety of visitors to any part of the country including the capital. U.S. citizens already in the Central African Republic should contact the American Embassy in Bangui at once to verify their locations and contact points. They should avoid travel outside the capital unless absolutely necessary and exercise caution at all times, particularly at public gatherings.

In Bangui, tensions are high due to unpaid civil servant salaries and skirmishes between government forces and opposition groups. There are approximately 300 peacekeeping troops from neighboring member countries of the Economic and Monetary Union of Central Africa (CEMAC) that move in and out of the capital. CAR security forces, sometimes with French military assistance, staff checkpoints throughout the city. Some crimes are perpetrated by uniformed CAR security and military personnel. Two World Health Organization physicians were murdered by unidentified assailants on the outskirts of Bangui in April 2006.

Outside the capital many areas are lawless; rebel groups are active in the western, northern, northeastern, and southeastern provinces. The U.S. Embassy advises its personnel to take a CAR military escort when traveling outside the capital, particularly near the borders with Chad, Sudan, and Cameroon. The Central African Republic held peaceful elections in March 2005, but the country’s economic and security situations have not improved markedly. The rebels wish to overthrow the constitutionally-elected president and seek new elections.

The U.S. Embassy in Bangui has just two American officers and can provide only limited emergency services to U.S. citizens.

U.S. citizens in the CAR are strongly urged to register on the State Department’s web site at https://travelregistration.state.gov. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Bangui. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.

The U.S. Embassy in the CAR is located at Avenue David Dacko, B.P. 924, Bangui; tel. (236) 61-02-00; fax (236) 61-44-94. For additional information on safety and security in the CAR, contact the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon, at telephone (237) 223-4014, (237) 223-0512, or 223-0581; fax (237) 223-0753; web site http://yaounde.usembassy.gov/. Americans may also obtain updated information from the American Embassy in N’djamena, Chad, at telephone (235) 51-70-09, 51-92-33 or 51-90-52; fax (235) 51-56-54; web site http://ndjamena.usembassy.gov/.

U.S. citizens should also consult the Department of State’s most recent Consular Information Sheet for Central African Republic and the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, which are located on the Department’s web site at http://travel.state.gov. Up-to-date information on safety and security is also available at 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers from other countries, on a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

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Central African Republic

Central African Republic

Type of Government

By constitution the Central African Republic (CAR) is a parliamentary democracy with executive, legislative, and judiciary branches. In practice, however, it operates as a presidential regime with close ties to the military. The president, who is elected by popular vote, serves as head of state and commander of the armed forces. The prime minister, who serves as head of government, is chosen by the unicameral legislature, which is constituted through direct, popular vote. The judicial branch is constitutionally independent, although, like the rest of the government, it is subordinate to presidential policy. The nation is divided into prefectures and subprefectures, whose leaders are appointed by the president.

Background

Archaeological evidence indicates that the Central African Republic has been occupied continually since Paleolithic times. In the seventh century AD the nation was occupied by a succession of imperial dynasties. With the rise of the Islamic slave trade in neighboring nations, the Central African Republic became the site of numerous slave camps, and the native tribes were threatened with capture and exportation. By the nineteenth century the Banda, the Baya, and the Ngbandi were the primary ethnic groups.

At the same time the French were sending expeditions into the area from their outposts in the Congo. They negotiated trade agreements with local leaders and, by 1897, were claiming the CAR as French territory. As they explored the interior, they confronted Sudanese slave trader Rabih al-Zabayr (1842–1900), who had established a formidable empire in neighboring Chad. In 1899 they dispatched Ferdinand de Béhagle (1857–1899) to negotiate with Rabih, but he imprisoned De Béhagle and his party. The French retaliated with a military detachment, which was defeated in its first encounter with Rabih’s forces. The French then sent additional troops from Gabon and ended Rabih’s empire, claiming possession of all of the warlord’s territories.

In 1905 the French organized the CAR, Chad, the Congo, and Gabon into a single administrative unit known as Afrique Équatoriale Française (French Equatorial Africa), or AEF, and in the next several decades developed its agricultural production, focusing on such plantation crops as coffee, cotton, and rubber, and mining operations—the region was rich in gold and diamonds. They allowed private companies to lease and operate portions of the territory without any governmental oversight. Forced labor was common, and the natives were allowed few rights.

An underground independence movement led several failed rebellions. After the Kongo-Wara uprising of 1928–1931, led by workers groups in the South, the French forced large portions of the population into prisons and work camps. When a second rebellion erupted in 1935, France committed additional troops to the region at significant expense to its ailing economy.

During World War II CAR natives joined the Free French Movement, which was founded to resist the Vichy government that controlled France after it surrendered to the Nazis. Following the war the independence movement gained greater support among the French populace. A final rebellion in 1946 persuaded the government to allow moderate democratic reforms: It granted French citizenship to all CAR natives and allowed the formation of local assemblies.

In 1946 Roman Catholic priest Barthélemy Boganda (1910–1959) became the first African elected to the French National Assembly; from there he led the legislative effort for emancipation, working to enact a new voting system and eventually to dissolve the AEF. When the nation became an autonomous French territory in 1958, Boganda served as its first prime minister.

Boganda died in a plane crash in March 1959, shortly before the country gained its full independence. His relative and political ally David Dacko (1930–2003) took over as the nation’s second prime minister and presided over the official independence ceremonies in August 1960. After independence Dacko became the nation’s first president.

Government Structure

The Central African Republic is divided into fourteen prefectures, each of which is divided into subprefectures. The leader of each prefecture is appointed by the president of the republic. The capital region, Bangui, is considered an autonomous commune , or township, and is administered by the central government. According to the revised constitution, which was adopted in 2004, the central government operates as a parliamentary democracy, with officials chosen in two-round runoff elections: Several candidates stand for office in the first round; the two candidates who get the most votes then compete in a second round to determine a winner by simple majority.

The executive branch is the most powerful in the government. The president, who is elected by direct, popular vote for a maximum of two terms of five years, serves as head of state and commander of the armed forces. The president appoints military leaders, the judiciary, prefects, subprefects, mayors, council members, and leaders of the state-controlled industries, which include mining and some agricultural enterprises. In times of emergency the president may rule by decree, temporarily suspending the government and granting himself authority to dismiss any governmental official.

According to the constitution, the leading political party in the legislature appoints the prime minister, who serves as head of government. The prime minister then appoints the cabinet, whose members run the various executive departments. In actuality the president has significant influence over all ministerial appointments. The executive branch shares legislative responsibility with the parliament.

The unicameral National Assembly has 105 members, who serve five-year terms and can stand for re-election. The assembly has the power to originate legislation and, according to the constitution, is required to approve executive actions, treaties, and emergency orders. The executive exerts considerable control over the legislature’s efforts.

The highest court in the CAR is the Constitutional Court, which handles all cases involving constitutional law. Its justices are appointed: three by the president of the republic, three by the president of the National Assembly, and three by a committee of justices from lower courts. Below the constitutional court are the Court of Cassation, which is the final appeals court; the Court of Appeals; and the district courts. Courts in most regions of the CAR are poorly funded and operate infrequently, so most criminal cases are referred to courts in the capital region. Observers have noted that the president exerts considerable influence over the operation of the judiciary.

Political Parties and Factions

Convergence Nationale “Kwa Na Kwa” (National Convergence Party), the dominant political organization in the 2005 election, was founded to support President François Bozizé (1946–), who ran for office as an independent candidate. The party’s platform is based on ending the rebel insurgency and initiating democratic and economic reforms.

The Mouvement pour la Libération du Peuple Centrafricain (Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People), or MLPC, was founded in 1979 by Ange-Félix Patassé (1937–), who was president of the republic from 1993 to 2003. The MLPC opposed the government of David Dacko and supported a platform of increased participation in a streamlined government. In the 2005 elections the MLPC was the primary opposition party to Bozizé and the National Convergence, winning eleven seats in the legislature.

The Rassemblement Démocratique Centraficaine (Central African Democratic Union), or RDC, was founded by former military leader André-Dieudonne Kolingba (1935–). The party was in power until Kolingba was replaced by Patassé in the 1993 elections. Like the other major parties, the RDC is democratic and centrist in basic policies. During the 2005 elections the RDC won eight seats in the legislature, placing third in terms of popular support.

The CAR has a number of minor ethnic and special-interest parties, and during the Bozizé administration, which has focused on democratization, numerous new lobbyist groups have emerged. The defining characteristics of many of them remain unclear.

Major Events

After gaining independence, the CAR kept close economic and political ties to France, which helped to maintain the nation’s agricultural export revenues. In 1962 Dacko named the Mouvement d’Évolution Sociale de l’Afrique Noire (Movement for the Social Evolution of Black Africa), or MESAN, as the nation’s sole legal political party. Other signs that he was developing an authoritarian regime led to widespread public dissatisfaction. In December 1965 Dacko was overthrown in a military coup led by Jean-Bédel Bokassa (1921–1996).

Although Bokassa initially had public support, he quickly lost that support when it became clear he intended to establish a more authoritarian regime than his predecessor’s. Bokassa abrogated the constitution and appointed a cabinet of military leaders to help him rule. In 1976 he crowned himself emperor—the ceremony cost some $200 million—and renamed the nation the Central African Empire. The regime violently stopped any attempts to form opposition groups.

For four years the French government continued its financial support of the Bokassa government in hopes of maintaining its supply of diamonds and raw materials for industry. In September 1979, however, it removed the dictator from power, largely because he was mismanaging the state’s mining industry and reducing French profits. The French government reinstated Dacko as president in 1980. Dacko’s administration was faced with the imminent threat of public uprising and was forced to rely on the French military to stay in power. In 1981 André Kolingba (1935–), at the time a general, staged a military coup that removed Dacko from power, after which Kolingba formed a provisional military government.

Kolingba’s government was led by the Comité Militaire de Redressement National (Military Committee for National Recovery), or CRMN, which functioned as an authoritarian regime but allowed some local participation in the government. Kolingba dissolved the CRMN in 1985—he remained as president—and allowed the formation of a National Assembly with limited public representation. Kolingba and the assembly drafted a new constitution that included provisions for elections. Patassé defeated Kolingba in the 1993 presidential elections, becoming the first democratically elected president since the nation gained its independence.

Patasse’s government was faced with frequent turmoil as rival leaders, many representing the military, attempted to organize rebellion. With the help of the French military Patassé avoided three attempted coups in 1996. Shortly thereafter France removed its military from the nation. Patassé was reelected in 1999; further unrest followed.

Twenty-First Century

In 2001 and 2002 two coup attempts were foiled with the assistance of the Libyan military, which intervened in defense of trade agreements between the two nations. In 2003, however, a bloodless coup by Bozizé (1946–) successfully overthrew Patassé. After suspending the constitution and abolishing the government, Bozizé immediately began a campaign to forge peace agreements with rebel leaders. He also promulgated a new constitution, which was adopted in 2004. In the elections held in 2005, Bozizé won the presidential vote, and his party held a slight majority in the newly formed legislature.

In 2006 and 2007 the government fought repeated skirmishes with insurgent groups. The administration continued to negotiate with their leaders, however, and in 2007 signed a peace agreement with the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR), a powerful rebel organization.

The CAR is one of the most economically impoverished nations in the world. Though the region is rich in natural resources, centuries of European exploitation followed by decades of political turmoil have prevented the nation from achieving economic growth and stability. More than half of the nation’s agricultural production goes to subsistence. The CAR’s diamond mining and refinement industry accounts for more than half of the nation’s export revenue, but is underdeveloped.

O’Toole, Thomas E. The Central African Republic: The Continent’s Hidden Heart . Boulder: Westview Press, 1986.

Titley, Brian. Dark Age: The Political Odyssey of Emperor Bokassa Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002.

Villalón, Leonardo A., and Peter VonDoepp, eds. The Fate of Africa’s Democratic Experiments: Elites and Institutions Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005.

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Central African Republic

Central African Republic

  • Area: 240,534 sq mi (622,984 sq km) / World Rank: 44
  • Location: Northern and Eastern Hemispheres, Central Africa, bordering Sudan to the northeast and east, Republic of the Congo to the southwest, Democratic Republic of the Congo to the southeast, Cameroon to the west, Chad to the northwest
  • Coordinates: 7°N, 21°E
  • Borders: 3,233 mi (5,203 km) total / Cameroon, 495 mi (797 km); Chad, 744 mi (1,197 km); Democratic Republic of the Congo, 980 mi (1,577 km); Republic of the Congo, 290 mi (467 km); Sudan, 724 mi (1,165 km)
  • Coastline: None
  • Territorial Seas: None
  • Highest Point: Mont Ngaoui, 4,659 ft (1,420 m)
  • Lowest Point: Ubangi River, 1,099 ft (335 m)
  • Longest Distances: 893 mi (1,437 km) E-W / 480 mi (772 km) N-S
  • Longest River: Ubangi 1,400 mi (2,253 km; including the Uele River)
  • Natural Hazards: Subject to flooding, harmattan winds in the north
  • Population: 3,576,884 (July 2001 est.) / World Rank: 126
  • Capital City: Bangui, southwestern Central African Republic
  • Largest City: Bangui, 553,000 (2000 est.)

OVERVIEW

In accordance with its name, the landlocked Central African Republic, in equatorial Africa, lies roughly at the center of the African continent, more than 375 mi (603 km) from the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the country consists of a large plateau that separates the basin of Lake Chad, to the north, from that of the Congo River to the south. The dominant features of the landscape are the Bongo Mountains in the eastern part of the country and the Karre Mountains (Yadé Massif) to the west. The Central African Republic is located on the African Tectonic Plate.

MOUNTAINS AND HILLS

Mountains

The country's central plateau rises to the Bongo Mountains near the border with Sudan in the northeast, and to the Karre Mountains near the borders with Came-roon and Chad in the northwest. The Bongo Mountains rise to elevations as high as 4,488 ft (1,368 m) and extend into the Sudan. The granite escarpment of the Karre Mountains in the northwest, a continuation of Came-roon's Adamawa Plateau, includes Mont Ngaoui (4,659 ft / 1,420 m), the Central African Republic's highest peak.

Plateaus

An undulating plateau with elevations roughly between 2,000 ft and 2,500 ft (610 m and 762 m) extends across the center of the country, covered with grass and scattered groups of trees, and broken in places by river valley, ridges, and isolated granite peaks called kaga. Its eastern portion slopes southward toward the Mbomou and Ubangi rivers. A large expanse of sandstone plateau is located in the southwestern part of the country, in the vicinity of Berbérati and Bouar.

INLAND WATERWAYS

Lakes

Many of the country's lakes are seasonal, filling during the rainy season and drying up when the rains stop.

Rivers

The Central African Republic is drained by two river systems: one flowing south, the other flowing north. Of the southward-flowing rivers, the Chinko, Mbari, Kotto, Ouaka, and Lobaye are tributaries of the Ubangi River, which forms most of the country's southern border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo; the Mambéré and Kadei, which join in the southwest to form the Sangha, are tributaries of the Congo River. Two northern rivers, the Ouham and Bamingui, are tributaries of the Chari River, which flows northward to the Chad Basin.

From the conjunction of the Uele and Mbomou rivers, the Ubangi flows westward along the Congo border from Bangassou, turning south after Bangui to form the border between the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and draining into the Congo River Basin. Draining frequently flood-swollen water, the Ubangi transports large volumes of water, discharging at least 30,000 cu ft of water (849 cu m) per second at Bangui during the rainy seasons.

THE COAST, ISLANDS, AND THE OCEAN

The Central African Republic is landlocked.

CLIMATE AND VEGETATION

Temperature

The climate is tropical, but temperatures are moderated by rainfall and altitude, and temperatures average around 80°F (27°C) all year. Temperatures in Bangui average 70°-84°F (21-29°C) in July and August, and 70°-93°F (21-34°C) in February. The harmattan, a hot, dry Saharan wind, affects the climate during the summer months.

Rainfall

Rainfall varies, increasing from north to south. The northern part of the country, influenced by proximity to the sub-Saharan Sahel region, is relatively dry, with an annual average rainfall of about 30 in (76 cm) and a six-month dry season from November to April. The northeast, with a semiarid climate, is the driest part of the country.

The dry season is shorter in most of the central plateau region, which receives up to 60 in (152 cm) of rain per year, sometimes falling in very heavy showers. The southern part of the country has only a very brief dry season of about two months, and in some parts of the region

Population Centers – Central African Republic
(2000 POPULATION ESTIMATES)
Name Population
Bangui (capital) 553,000
Berwrati 125,000
SOURCE : Projected from United Nations Statistics Division data.
Prefectures – Central African Republic
Name Area (sq mi) Area (sq km) Capital
Bamingui-Bangoran 22,471 58,200 Ndélé
Bangui 26 67 Bangui
Basse-Kotto 6,797 17,604 Mobaye
Gribingui-Économique 7,720 19,996 Kaga-Bandoro
Haut-Mbomou 21,440 55,530 Obo
Haute-Kotto 33,456 86,650 Bria
Haute-Sangha 11,661 30,203 Berbérati
Kemo-Gribingui 6,642 17,204 Sibut
Lobaye 7,427 19,235 Mbaïki
Mbomou 23,610 61,150 Bangassou
Nana-Mambere 10,270 26,600 Bouar
Ombella-Mpoko 12,292 31,835 Bimbo
Ouaka 19,266 49,900 Bambari
Ouham 19,402 50,250 Bossangoa
Ouham-Pendé 12,394 32,100 Bozoum
Sangha-Économique 7,495 19,412 Nola
Vakaga 17,954 46,500 Birao
SOURCE : Geo-Data: The World Geographical Encyclopedia, 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale Research, 1989.

rain falls year round. Annual rainfall here averages 70 in (178 cm) per year or more, and river levels can rise several feet in a few hours during the rainy season.

Grasslands

Much of the plateau region is savanna grassland, with forest growth along the rivers. Ground cover varies with the seasons. Foliage is lush during the rainy season, but the leaves turn brown and fall during dry periods.

Deserts

The country's northeastern tip, which borders the Sahel, has species of vegetation that are supported by a semiarid climate, including various hardy grasses and shrubs, as well as shea and acacia trees.

Forests and Jungles

More than half the country is wooded, with thick tropical rainforest growing along the Ubangi River and in the country's southwestern tip. This gives way to savanna woodlands and grassland further north. The trees of the rainforest, which can grow as high as 150 ft (46 m), include sapele mahogany and obeche.

HUMAN POPULATION

Most of the country is sparsely inhabited, with populated areas concentrated along the rivers. Urban dwellers account for about half the population, and this percentage is on the increase.

NATURAL RESOURCES

The tropical hardwoods that grow in the country's rainforests are a substantial source of potential wealth. Rubber is another natural resource of the rainforest. Diamond mining is carried out in the sandstone plateau in the southwest, and other mineral resources include uranium and gold. The numerous rivers and waterfalls are a rich potential source of hydropower.

FURTHER READINGS

Fung, Karen. Africa South of the Sahara. http://wwwsul.stanford.edu/depts/ssrg/africa/centralafr.html (accessed March 4, 2002).

Hagmann, Michael. "On the Track of Ebola's Hideout?" Science, October 22, 1999, p. 654.

Kalck, Pierre. Central African Republic: A Failure in Decolonisation. Translated by Barbara Thomson. New York: Praeger, 1971.

O'Toole, Thomas. Central African Republic in Pictures. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 1989.

Sillery, Bob. "Urban Rainforest: An African Jungle Comes to Life on New York's West Side." Popular Science, March 1998, pp. 70-1.

Titley, Brian. Dark Age: The Political Odyssey of EmperorBokassa. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1997.

GEO-FACT

I n the southwest region of the country around the Sangha River, the Central African Republic established the Dzanga-Sangha nature reserve. It protects the last of the country's rainforests, a habitat for such wildlife as lowland gorillas, forest elephants, bongos, crowned eagles, water-buck, warthogs, chimpanzees, and many monkey species (including the white-bearded DeBrazza monkey).

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Central African Republic

Central African Republic

At a Glance

Official Name: Central African Republic

Continent: Africa

Area: 241,313 square miles (622,980 sq km)

Population: 3,576,884

Capital City: Bangui

Largest City: Bangui (706,000)

Unit of Money: CFA franc

Major Languages: French (official), Sangho

Literacy: 60%

Land Use: 3% arable, 5% meadows, 75% forest, 17% other

Natural Resources: Diamonds, uranium, timber, gold

Government: Republic

Defense: 21 million

The Place

The Central African Republic lies in the middle of the African continent on the northern edge of the Congo River Basin. This landlocked nation is approximately 500 miles (805 km) north of the equator.

Most of the Central African Republic is located on a low plateau that ranges from 2,000 to 2,600 feet (610 to 790 m) above sea level. The flat central plains gradually rise in the north to an elevation of 4,600 feet (1,400 m) at Mount Toussoro. Located to the northwest is 4,700-foot (1,500-m) Mount Ngaouri, the country's highest point. The land also rises in the west, where the Karre Mountains reach 4,000 feet (1,200 m). The Ubangi River flows along the country's southern border with Zaire and, at 1,100 feet (335 m) above sea level, is the lowest point in the nation.

The climate in the Central African Republic is hot and humid. The average annual temperature hovers around 80° F (26° C). The south receives about 70 inches (178 cm) of rain a year, and a dense rain forest covers most of the southwest. The north, however, receives about 8 inches (20 cm) of rain per year and is covered by savanna grasses with few trees.

The People

About 65% of Central Africans live in rural areas, and the majority of the population lives in the southern and western parts of the country. A large number of urban dwellers reside in the nation's capital, Bangui.

[Image not available for copyright reasons]

The Central African Republic's population growth rate is offset by its high emigration and infant mortality rates. More than 40% of the country's population is under the age of 15. The average life expectancy is 45 years. Many factors contribute to this, including a lack of doctors, insufficient food, and poor sanitation.

Agriculture employs 85% of the population and plays a major role in the lives of the men and women in the Central African Republic. The men of the country hunt and trap food for their families, as well as tend to the commercial crops. The women gather, produce, and prepare family meals.

Religious activities are important to Central Africans. Men, women, and children take part in church services, religious school, and community groups.

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Central African Republic

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

Compiled from the October 2003 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Central African Republic

PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
DEFENSE
U.S.-C.A.R. RELATIONS
TRAVEL


PROFILE

NOTE: On November 2, 2002, the U.S. Embassy in Bangui suspended operations. There is no U.S. diplomatic or consular representation in the Central African Republic (CAR). The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to the CAR. Americans in the CAR are urged to exercise caution and maintain security awareness at all times. On March 15, 2003, rebel forces that had been operating in the countryside outside Bangui took over the capital and seized power from the government. Data on the CAR in this report date from 2002 and are subject to error.


Geography

Area: 622,984 sq. km. (242,000 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than Texas.

Cities: Capital—Bangui (Pop. 690,000). Other cities—Berberati (56,867), Bouar (39,676), Bambari (32, 603), Bangassou (24, 450), Bossangoa (31,723), Mbaiki (16,901), and Carnot (31,324).

Terrain: Rolling plain 600 meters-700 meters (1,980 ft.-2,310 ft.) above sea level; scattered hills in northeast and southwest.

Climate: Tropical, ranging from humid equatorial in the south to Sahelo-Sudanese in the north; hot, dry winters with mild to hot, wet summers.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Central African(s).

Population: (1999) 3.5 million. Annual growth rate: 1.85%. Ethnic groups: More than 80; Baya 33%, Banda 27%, Sara 10%, Mandja 13%, Mboum 7%, M'baka 4%. Takoma 4%, other 2%

Religions: Protestant 25%, Roman Catholic 25%, Muslim 15%, indigenous beliefs 35%.

Languages: French (official), Sangho (national).

Education: Years compulsory—6. Attendance—primary school 46%, secondary school 19.4%, higher education—1.1%. Literacy—46%.

Health: Infant mortality rate—130.6 deaths/1,000. Life expectancy—avg. 44 yrs.

Work force: (approx. 53% of pop) Agriculture—75%; industry—6%; commerce and services—4%; government—15%.


Government

Type: Republic.

Independence: August 13, 1960.

Constitution: Passed by referendum December 29, 1994; adopted January 1995.

Branches: Executive—president, prime minister and Council of Ministers. Legislative—Unicameral National Assembly. Judicial—Constitutional Court, Inferior Courts, Criminal Courts, Courts of Appeal.

Administrative subdivisions: 16 prefectures, commune of Bangui.

Political parties: Alliance for Democracy and Progress (ADP), Central African Democratic Assembly (RDC), Civic Forum (FC), Democratic Forum (FODEM), Liberal Democratic Party (PLD), Movement for Democracy and Development (MDD), Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People (MLPC), Patriotic Front for Progress (FPP), People's Union for the Republic (UPR), National Unity Party (PUN), and Social Democratic Party (PSD).

Suffrage: Universal over 21.


Economy

GDP: (2001) $975,142,857.00; est. 2001: $1.052 billion.

Annual growth rate: 1.8% from 2001.

Per capita income: (2000) $260

Avg. inflation rate: (2001) 3.6%.

Natural resources: Diamonds, uranium, timber, gold, oil.

Agriculture: (2002, 55.1% of GDP) Products—Timber, cotton, coffee, tobacco, foodcrops, livestock. Cultivated land—unavailable.

Industry: (2002, 19.6% of GDP) Types—Diamond mining, sawmills, breweries, textiles, footwear, assembly of bicycles and motorcycles and soap. Services (2002) 25.3% of GDP.

Trade: (2001) Exports—$144 million; diamonds, coffee, cotton, timber, tobacco. Major markets—Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Germany, Egypt, Spain, and Cote d'Ivoire. Imports—$131 million; food, textiles, petroleum products, machinery, electrical equipment, motor vehicles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, industrial products. Major suppliers—France, Cote d'Ivoire, Cameroon, Germany, Japan.

Central government budget: (2002) $226 million.

Defense: (2002, 2.4% of budget) $5.4 million.

Fiscal year: Calendar year.

U.S. aid received: (2001) $213,000 development assistance and IMET.




PEOPLE

There are more than 80 ethnic groups in the C.A.R., each with its own language. About 75% are Baya-Mandjia and Banda (40% largely located in the northern and central parts of the country), and 4% are M'Baka (southwestern corner of the CAR. Sangho, the language of a small group along the Oubangui River, is the national language spoken by the majority of Central Africans. Only a small part of the population has more than an elemental knowledge of French, the official language.


More than 55% of the population of the C.A.R. lives in rural areas. The chief agricultural areas are around the Bossangoa and Bambari. Bangui, Berberati, Bang assou, and Bossangoa are the most densely populated urban centers.




HISTORY

The C.A.R. appears to have been settled from at least the 7th century on by overlapping empires, including the Kanem-Bornou, Ouaddai, Baguirmi, and Dafour groups based in Lake Chad and the Upper Nile. Later, various sultanates claimed present-day C.A.R, using the entire Oubangui region as a slave reservoir, from which slaves were traded north across the Sahara and to West Africa for export by the Europeans. Population migration in the 18th and 19th centuries brought new migrants into the area, including the Zande, Banda, and Baya-Mandjia.

In 1875 the Egyptian sultan Rabah governed Upper-Oubangui, which included present-day C.A.R. 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 the Egyptian sultan, Rabah, 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 (A.E.F.), along with Chad, Congo (Brazzaville), and Gabon. The next 30 years were marked by small-scale revolts against French rule and the development of a plantation-style economy.


In August 1940, the territory responded, with the rest of the A.E.F., to the call from Gen. 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 1946, all A.E.F. inhabitants were granted French citizenship and allowed to establish local assemblies. The assembly in C.A.R. was led by Barthelemy Boganda, a Catholic priest who also was known for his forthright statements in the French Assembly on the need for African emancipation. In 1956 French legislation eliminated certain voting inequalities and provided for the creation of some organs of self-government in each territory. The French constitutional referendum of September 1958 dissolved the A.E.F., and on December 1 of the same year the Assembly declared the birth of the Central African Republic with Boganda as head of government. Boganda ruled until his death in a March 1959 plane crash. His cousin, David Dacko, replaced him, governing the country until 1965 and overseeing the country's declaration of independence on August 13, 1960.

On January 1, 1966, following a swift and almost bloodless coup, Col. Jean-Bedel 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 December 4, 1976, the republic became a monarchy 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.


Following riots in Bangui and the murder of between 50 and 200 school-children, former President Dacko led a successful French-backed coup against Bokassa on September 20, 1979. Dacko's efforts to promote economic and political reforms proved ineffectual, and on September 20, 1981, he in turn was overthrown in a bloodless coup by Gen. Andre Kolingba. For 4 years, Kolingba led the country as head of the Military Committee for National Recovery (CRMN). 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 Democratique 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 November 29, 1986. The constitution established a National Assembly made up of 52 elected deputies, elected in July 1987. Due to mounting political pressure, in 1991 President Kolingba announced the creation of National Commission to rewrite the constitution to provide for a multi-party system. Multi-party presidential elections were conducted


in 1992 but were later cancelled due to serious logistical and other irregularities. Ange Felix Patasse won a second-round victory in rescheduled elections held in October 1993, and was re-elected for another 6-year term in September 1999.


Salary arrears, labor unrest, and unequal treatment of military officers from different ethnic groups led to three mutinies against the Patasse government in 1996 and 1997. The French succeeded in quelling the disturbances, and an African peacekeeping force (MISAB) occupied Bangui until 1998 when they were relieved by a UN peacekeeping mission (MINURCA). Economic difficulties caused by the looting and destruction during the 1996 and 1997 mutinies, energy crises, and government mismanagement continued to trouble Patasse's government through 2000. In March 2000 the last of the MINURCA forces departed Bangui. In May 2001 rebel forces within the CAR military, led by former President and army General Andre Kolingba, attempted a military coup. After several days of heavy fighting, forces loyal to the government, aided by a small number of troops from Libya and the Congolese rebel Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC), were able to put down the coup attempt. In November 2001, there were several days of sporadic gun fire between members of the Presidential Security Unit and soldiers defending sacked Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Francois Bozize, who fled to Chad. In mid-2002 there were skirmishes on the CAR-Chad border.


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

The government is a republic comprised of a strong executive branch (president, prime minister, and Council of Ministers), and weaker legislative branch (unicameral National Assembly) and judicial branch. Government and opposition party members, as well as civil society and the military are represented in the three branches, although the President appoints the Prime Minister, members of the cabinet (Council of Ministers), top military officials and managers of national parastatals. For administration purposes, the country is divided into 16 prefectures that are further divided into over 60 subprefectures; the commune of Bangui is administered separately. Heads of these administrative units, called "prefets" and "sous-prefets" are currently appointed by the president.


The National Assembly is made up of 109 members elected by popular vote to serve 5-year terms. The last legislative elections were held in 1998; in contested results, the governments MLPC won just over 50% control of the legislative body. There are 174 communes, each headed by a mayor and council appointed by the president. Municipal elections are planned for late 2002. Suffrage is universal over the age of 21.


The judicial sector encompasses the Constitutional Court, Criminal Court, Court of Cassation, Court of Appeals, criminal and civil courts, Labor Court and Juvenile Court, although several of these courts have insufficient resources and trained personnel to operate on a regular basis. The Criminal Court of Bangui sits once or twice a year, usually for one or 2 months each session. Judges are appointed by the president; executive influence often impedes transparent handling of judicial affairs. Military courts exist but are currently only used to try military personnel for crimes committed in the course of duty. There is a limited number of formal courts currently functioning outside Bangui; traditional arbitration and negotiation play a major role in administering domestic, property, and probate law.


The Central African Republic has a vibrant civil society, with numerous professional, labor, and local development associations actively carrying out campaigns and gaining greater local and international credibility.


The C.A.R. Government's human rights record remains flawed. There are continued reports of arbitrary detainment, torture and, to a lesser degree, extrajudicial killings. Journalists have occasionally been threatened, and prison conditions remain harsh.

Principal Government Officials
Last Updated: 4/18/03


President: Bozize, Francois

Prime Minister: Goumba, Abel

Min. of Agricultural Modernization & Development: Guianza, Pierre

Min. of Civil Service & Labor: Voti, Jacques

Min. of Communications & National Reconciliation: Mbaye, Parfait

Min. of Defense: Bozize, Francois

Min. of Energy & Mines: Mbutingaye, Sylvain

Min. of Environment: Kouamba, Joseph Ki Tiki

Min. of Equipment & Transport: Soli, Mpokomanji

Min. of Family & Social Affairs: Doumta, Lea

Min. of Finance, Budget, & the Economy: Goumba, Abel

Min. of Foreign Affairs: Meckassoua, Abdou

Min. of Justice, Human Rights, & Good Governance: Baudou, Faustin

Min. of Livestock Development: Kosibela, Denis

Min. of National Education: Lala, Bevaroua

Min. of Posts & Telecommunications: Salao, Idriss

Min. of Public Health & Population: Nali, Nestor Mamadou

Min. of Public Security: Vandeboli, Michel

Min. of Restoration of Govt. Buildings: Gotobulu, Abraham

Min. of Territorial Administration: Malonga, Marcel

Min. of Tourism & Craft Industry Development: Dacko, Bruno

Min. of Trade, Industry, & Private Sector Promotion:

Min. of Water & Forests: Yondo, Maurice

Min. of Youth, Sports, and Culture:

Dir., Central Bank: Koyamba, Alphonse

Ambassador to the US: Touaboy, Emmanuel

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York:



The Central African Republic maintains an embassy in the United States at 1618-22nd Street, NW, Washington, D.C. (tel: 202-483-7800/01, fax: 202-332-9893).


ECONOMY

The Central African Republic is classified as one of the world's least developed countries, with an annual per capita income of $260 (2002). Sparsely populated and landlocked, the nation is overwhelmingly agrarian, with the vast bulk of the population engaged in subsistence farming and 55% of the country's GDP arising from agriculture. Principal crops include cotton, food crops (cassava, yams, bananas, maize), coffee, and tobacco. In 2001, timber accounted for about 38% of export earnings. The country also has rich but largely unexploited natural resources in the form of diamonds, gold, uranium, and other minerals. There may be oil deposits along the country's northern border with Chad. Diamonds are the only of these mineral resources currently being developed; in 2001, reported sales of largely uncut diamonds made up close to 39% of the CAR's export earnings. Industry contributes less than 20% of the country's GDP, with artesian diamond mining, breweries, and sawmills making up the bulk of the sector. Services currently account for 25% of GDP, largely because of the oversized government bureaucracy and high transportation costs arising from the country's landlocked position.


Much of the country's limited electrical supply is provided by hydroelectric plants based in Boali. Fuel supplies must be barged in via the Ubangui River or trucked overland through Cameroon, resulting in frequent shortages of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. The C.A.R.'s transportation and communication network is limited. The country has only 650 kilometers of paved road, limited international, and no domestic air service (except charters), and does not possess a railroad. Commercial traffic on the Ubangui River is impossible from December to May or June, and conflict in the region has sometimes prevented shipments from moving between Kinshasa and Bangui. The telephone system functions, albeit imperfectly. Four radio stations currently operate in the C.A.R., as well as one television station. Numerous newspapers and pamphlets are published on a regular basis, and one company has begun providing internet service.


In the 40 years since independence, the C.A.R. has made slow progress toward economic development. Economic mismanagement, poor infrastructure, a limited tax base, scarce private investment, and adverse external conditions have led to deficits in both its budget and external trade. Its debt burden is considerable, and the country has seen a decline in per capita GNP over the last 30 years. Structural adjustment programs with the World Bank and IMF and interest-free credits to support investments in the agriculture, livestock, and transportation sectors have had limited impact. The World Bank and IMF are now encouraging the government to concentrate exclusively on implementing much-needed economic reforms to jump-start the economy and defining its fundamental priorities with the aim of alleviating poverty. As a result, many of the state-owned business entities have been privatized and limited efforts have been made to standardize and simplify labor and investment codes and to address problems of corruption. The C.A.R. Government has adopted the CEMAC Charter of Investment, and is in the process of adopting a new labor code.




FOREIGN RELATIONS

The Central African Republic is an active member in several Central African organizations, including the Economic and Monetary Union (CEMAC), the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC) Central African Peace and Security Council (COPAX—still under formation), and the Central Bank of Central African States (BEAC). Standardization of tax, customs, and security arrangements between the Central African states is a major foreign policy objective of the C.A.R. Government. President Patasse also has manifested considerable interest in mediating conflicts in the region. The C.A.R. is a participant in the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), and the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Libya and, to a lesser degree, Sudan have shown increased interest in cooperation with the C.A.R. over the last year.

Outside of Africa, the C.A.R. maintains fairly close ties to France, albeit considerably reduced from previous years. In the late 1990s, France withdrew its forces stationed in the C.A.R.; drops in its external assistance budget have reduced French military and social development aid to the country. Other multilateral organizations—including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, UN agencies, European Union, and the African Development Bank—and bilateral donors—including Germany, Japan, the European Union, China, and the United States—are significant development partners for the C.A.R.


Seventeen countries have resident diplomatic or consular representatives in Bangui, and the C.A.R. maintains approximately the same number of missions abroad. Since early 1989 the government recognizes both Israel and the Palestinian state. The C.A.R. also maintains diplomatic relations with China. The C.A.R. generally joins other African and developing country states in consensus positions on major policy issues.




DEFENSE

As of April 2001, the C.A.R. armed forces numbered about 3,000, including army, navy, air force, gendarmerie, national police, Presidential Security Unit (UPS), and local police personnel. An estimated 1,200 members of the army and gendarmerie fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo following the failed coup of May 2001. Under military restructuring plans formulated 1999-2000, the civilian Minister of Defense now controls and directs all armed forces, including the Presidential Security Unit, which had previously been seen as a militia supporting the president. Working with the French, the C.A.R. military is attempting to provide professional training and decentralize its troops in an effort to combat road bandits, thievery, and poaching throughout the C.A.R. territory. There also are plans underway to encourage some voluntary demobilization and recruitment of more capable and ethnically balanced personnel.




U.S.-C.A.R. RELATIONS

The U.S. and C.A.R. enjoy generally good relations, although concerns over the pace of political and economic liberalization and human rights have affected the degree of support provided by the U.S. to the country. The U.S. embassy in Bangui was briefly closed as a result of the 1996-97 mutinies. It reopened in 1998 with limited staff, but USAID and Peace Corps missions previously operating in Bangui have not returned. The U.S. cultural center is currently open, and operates a library, various public diplomacy programs, and an English-language teaching program. Encouraging U.S. investment to the C.A.R. has been a major objective of the embassy.


U.S. assistance to the Central African Republic is limited to small development assistance projects, and support for democratization. The U.S. also contributes substantial funding to the World Bank, IMF, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and African Development Bank, which provide financial and other assistance to the C.A.R. Some indirect assistance also has been provided to environmental conservation projects in C.A.R.'s national parks.


Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Bangui (E), Avenue David Dacko, B.P. 924, Tel [236] 61-02-00, 61-02-10, 65-25-78, Fax 61-44-94, duty phone (236) 50-12-08.

AMB: Mattie R. Sharpless
AMB OMS: Henrietta Austin
DCM: Lynn Allison
MGT: Anne G. Molyneaux
RSO: William Mellott (res. N'Djamena)
DAO: MAJ Scott Womack (res. N'Djamena)
FAA: Ronald L. Montgomery (res. Dakar)
IRM: Leslie Oly
CON/ECO: Alex D. Greenstein
RBFO: [Vacant]
RMO: Robert Frampton (res. Lagos)
RPER: Julia Sullivan (res. Yaounde)
IRS: Frederick D. Pablo (res. Paris)
DEA: Robert Shannon (res. Cairo)


Last Modified: Wednesday, September 24, 2003




TRAVEL


Consular Information Sheet
May 5, 2003


Americans planning travel to Central African Republic should read the Travel Warning for Central African Republic and the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website at http://travel.state.gov.


Country Description: The Central African Republic (CAR) is a developing African nation that has experienced several periods of political instability since independence from France in 1960. The capital is Bangui. While the country's Dzanga-Sangha National Park, a primeval rain forest in the southwest region of the country, is an attractive site for ecotourism, facilities for tourism are very limited.


Entry and Exit Requirements: A valid passport, visa and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required for entry. Travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of the Central African Republic, 1618 22nd Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 483-7800/7801, fax (202) 332-9893. Overseas, inquiries should be made to the nearest Central African Republic embassy or consulate. NOTE: In any country where there is no Central African Republic diplomatic mission, the French Embassy has authorization to issue a visa for entry into the Central African Republic.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments, including the Central African Republic, have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.


Safety and Security: The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to the Central African Republic. Americans in the Central African Republic are urged to exercise caution and maintain security awareness at all times. On March 15, 2003, rebel forces that had been operating in the countryside outside Bangui took over the capital and seized power from the government. Although the situation in Bangui is calm, the security situation in the countryside remains unstable.


Crime: Street crime is uncommon in downtown Bangui, but armed gangs operate in outlying residential areas. Looting has occurred during periods of civil unrest. Armed highway robbery in rural areas is common, especially during the December through May dry season. When a crime does occur in Bangui, the victim may have to pay to send a vehicle to pick up police officers due to the shortage of police vehicles; the other option is to use a vehicle to take the police to the scene of the crime.


The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The pamphlets "A Safe Trip Abroad" and "Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa" provide useful information on personal security while traveling abroad and on travel in the region in general. Both are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

Medical Facilities: Medical facilities are limited in the CAR, and the quality of acute care is unreliable. Sanitation levels are low. Many medicines are not available; travelers should carry properly labeled prescription drugs and other medications with them.


Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.


When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the United States may cost well in excess of 50,000 dollars (US). Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.


Other Health Information: Malaria is prevalent in the Central African Republic. P. falciparum malaria, the serious and sometimes fatal strain found in CAR and many parts of Central Africa, is resistant to the anti-malarial drug chloroquine. Because travelers to CAR are at high risk for contracting malaria, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that travelers should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: mefloquine (Lariam - tm), doxycycline, or atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone –tm). The CDC has determined that a traveler who is on an appropriate antimalarial drug has a greatly reduced chance of contracting the disease. In addition, other personal protective measures, such as the use of insect repellents, help to reduce malaria risk. Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what antimalarials they have been taking. For additional information on malaria, protection from insect bites, and antimalarial drugs, please visit the CDC Travelers' Health website at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/malinfo.htm.


Further information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299); or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/ith. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/ or http://www.cdc.gov/travel/

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning CAR is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:


Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor


Due to the risk of armed attacks on motorists in the central, eastern and northern regions, overland travel in these areas without a military escort should be avoided. Most remote areas in CAR that are frequented by tourists are accessible only by four-wheel drive vehicles, although some roads are not passable at all during the rainy season, from May through October.


For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road-safety.html.


Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and the CAR by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the CAR Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of CAR's air carrier operations.


For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at tel. (618) 229-4801.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating CAR laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in CAR are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.


Photography Prohibition: Taking photographs of police or military installations, or any other government buildings, is prohibited. Unauthorized photography may result in the seizure of photographic equipment by CAR authorities. Police or other government authorities can provide information and grant permission for photographing a particular subject or location.


Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our website at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.


Registration/Embassy Location: The U.S. Embassy in Bangui is not currently open. U.S. citizens living in or visiting CAR are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon at telephone (237) 223-4014, 223-0512, fax (237) 223-0753 and 223-0581 (Consular). Americans may also register with the American Embassy in N'djamena, Chad at telephone (235) 51-70-09, 51-92-33 or 51-90-52 and fax (235) 51-56-54. However, since the United States does not have a diplomatic presence in the Central African Republic at present, the ability to provide services to U.S. citizens in CAR is extremely limited.


Travel Warning
April 7, 2003


This Warning provides updated information on the security situation in the Central African Republic and reflects the continued suspension of operations at the U.S. Embassy. This Travel Warning supersedes that of February 13, 2003.


The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to the Central African Republic (CAR), and recommends that any Americans remaining in the country depart. On March 15, rebel forces that had been operating in the countryside outside Bangui took over the capital and seized power from the government of the CAR. The security situation throug hout the country remains unstable.

On November 2, 2002, the U.S. Embassy in Bangui suspended operations. There is no U.S. diplomatic or consular representation in the CAR. U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in the Central African Republic despite this Travel Warning and need emergency assistance should contact the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon at telephone (237) 223-4014, (237) 223-0512; fax (237) 223-0753, and 223-0581 (Consular). Americans may also contact the American Embassy in N'djamena, Chad at telephone (235) 51-70-09, 51-92-33 or 51-90-52 and fax (235) 51-56-54. However, since the United States does not have a diplomatic presence in the Central African Republic, the ability to provide services to U.S. citizens in the CAR is extremely limited.

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Central African Republic

Central African Republic

POPULATION 3,642,739
CHRISTIAN 50 percent
TRADITIONAL 25 percent
MUSLIM 15 percent
OTHER 10 percent

Country Overview

INTRODUCTION

The Central African Republic is a landlocked country located in the middle of the continent. It is a complex nation, with at least 10 distinct ethnic groups that follow three principal religions—Christianity, traditionalism, and Islam. These various groups, living at one of the continent's most important crossroads between black Africa in the west and south and the Arab world in the north and east, were loosely united by the French beginning in 1885, culminating in the establishment of the colony of Oubangui-Shari during the 1920s. Christianity was introduced beginning in the late nineteenth century. The colonial period was relatively short, with independence coming on 13 August 1960, and it has been difficult for the government to forge a true nation capable of integrating the country's ethnic groups as well as the thousands of immigrants from Nigeria, Niger, and the Sudan, people often generally classified as Hausa or Muslim. In contrast to countries such as Chad and Nigeria, however, the postindependence leaders have never associated religion with their governance of the country.

RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE

The constitution of the Central Africa Republic protects religious freedom and calls for the separation of church and state. In the history of the country, however, Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism, has been favored, with the first prominent leader, Barthélemy Boganda, having been a Catholic. Yet, except for the violent slave raids on non-Muslim communities conducted by regional sultans, the country has not had a history of religious persecution. Since independence Christians, traditionalists, and Muslims have lived together, even though ecumenism among the faiths has not been strongly promoted.

Major Religions

CHRISTIANITY

AFRICAN INDIGENOUS BELIEFS

CHRISTIANITY

DATE OF ORIGIN 1894 c.e. (Roman Catholicism) and 1924 c.e. (Protestantism)
NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS 1.8 million

HISTORY

The Roman Catholic Church penetrated West Africa as early as the fifteenth century, and evidence indicates that Catholic missionaries were in Central Africa, including the Sudan and parts of Chad, during the eighteenth century. Church activity did not begin in the Oubangui-Shari region until the 1890s, however, when the first Capuchin and Saint-Esprit priests arrived and began their evangelization. Their work along the riverbanks was so promising that in 1909 the Holy See created an apostolic prefecture at Bangui, the colony's capital. The missionaries slowly penetrated farther into the interior, making major inroads into Banda and Baya country, a move that compelled the pope to create an apostolic curate in Bangui in 1937 followed by an apostolic prefecture at Berbérati. Thus, by 1940 some 45,000 people in Oubangui-Shari had embraced Catholicism.

Baptists were the first to establish Protestant missions in Oubangui-Shari, in 1932, followed by the Foreign Missionary Society of Oubangui-Shari, the Lutheran Sudan Mission at Baboua, the Central African Pioneer Mission at Carnot, and the Swedish Baptist Mission at Alindao. As an incentive to their work, both Catholics and Protestants received subsidies from the French government, although the Catholic Church enjoyed preferential treatment. In addition, both were entrusted with the primary education of the Africans and were allowed to establish hospitals in the colony.

EARLY AND MODERN LEADERS

Because Christianity in the colony of Oubangui-Shari was dominated by foreign missionaries, no prominent African leaders emerged. In addition, Christianity in Oubangui-Shari did not give rise to independent, so-called Ethiopian, churches or to religious cults that might have challenged the colonial order.

There are no more than 45 Catholic priests in the Central African Republic. Since 2003 the leader of the Catholic Church has been Archbishop Paulin Pomodimo, of the archdiocese of Bangui, the capital. Catholic bishops also maintain an episcopal conference. Protestants have organized themselves into L'Église Protestante de Bangui for the discussion of ecclesiastical and social matters.

MAJOR THEOLOGIANS AND AUTHORS

Given that education in the colony remained essentially at the elementary level and that the few seminarians received only the training essential for the priesthood or the ministry, Oubangui-Shari did not produce distinguished church theologians or authors. The same has been true of the country since independence.

HOUSES OF WORSHIP AND HOLY PLACES

Other than cathedrals and church buildings, there are no special houses of worship or holy places for Christians in the Central African Republic. In these matters Catholic churches follow the directives of the Vatican, and Protestant churches of the various foreign boards located in the United States and Europe.

WHAT IS SACRED?

As in Western Christianity, there are no animals or plants sacred to Christians in the Central African Republic. Whereas relics have lost their value in many parts of the Western world, however, in the Central African Republic, as in Africa generally, Christians continue to venerate such objects. These include the relics of European saints, crosses, and necklaces and medals that have been blessed. This aspect of African Christianity is least appreciated by Protestants, who consider such practices to border on superstition and idolatry.

HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS

The same major holidays—Christmas, Easter Sunday, Ascension, and Assumption—celebrated by the Western church are observed in the Central African Republic. The prominent role of the Catholic Church is demonstrated by the fact that it is the Catholic holidays, and not those of Protestants, that are observed. No African saints are celebrated in the Central African Republic, in spite of the fact that in some parts of the continent Charles Lwanga and the Martyrs of Uganda are honored.

MODE OF DRESS

As with believers throughout the world, Christians in the Central African Republic are expected to dress modestly both inside and outside places of worship. In contrast to the West, however, where people sometimes go to church in casual clothes, Christians in the Central African Republic strive to wear their best on Sundays and religious holidays, even when they are poor.

DIETARY PRACTICES

As is generally the case with Christians elsewhere, there are no taboos regarding diet for Christians in the Central African Republic. Catholics, and Protestants even less so, no longer take seriously the practice of abstaining from meat on the eve of certain sacred days. Christians are told that they should break the ethnic tradition of not hurting or eating an animal associated with their clan, but the practice has continued.

RITUALS

Africans have traditionally taken rituals quite seriously, and they continue to do so. Thus, baptism, first Communion, confirmation, matrimony, and ordination to the priesthood or the ministry are great and solemn occasions for Christians in the Central African Republic, as are births and funerals. Catholic funeral services, for example, include a Mass, elaborate processions and singing, and, following the burial, a feast, from which many people come away intoxicated and with full stomachs. Death is seen simultaneously as a sad and a happy occasion, marking the time when a person has fulfilled his contribution to the survival of his lineage and stands ready to join the invisible world of his ancestors, or "heaven."

RITES OF PASSAGE

Christians are forbidden to participate in the traditional initiation rites practiced by virtually every Central African ethnic group to mark the transition from childhood to adulthood. In the past any Christian participating in such "pagan" customs, as they were called, was excommunicated or disfellowshipped by the church, but such punishment is rarely carried out today. For Christians the principal rites of passage are confirmation, when a person is said to become a soldier of Christ, and matrimony, the most visible proof that a child has become an adult.

MEMBERSHIP

Even though neither Catholics nor Protestants exclude any potential member, there is a major difference between the two churches in recruitment in the Central African Republic. Catholics tend to favor group membership, whereby converts are instructed together as "people of God," thus emphasizing the community of the faithful. Protestants prefer individual conversions, which may take years, in agreement with the doctrine of individual interpretation of the Scriptures.

The Catholic Church has maintained the practice of going into villages, establishing temporary conversion and teaching centers, and sending priests, often by motorcycle, to the countryside. Catechists sometimes live with potential members in rural areas until they are baptized.

SOCIAL JUSTICE

Following independence, Christian churches in the Central African Republic promoted social justice and became sources of protest against government corruption and the abuse of human rights. Speaking on behalf of the poor and using their meager resources to uplift those in need have been hallmarks of the churches, even though the perpetrators of the worst crimes against Central Africans, including President Jean-Bédel Bokassa, have been Christians.

SOCIAL ASPECTS

Christianity has become the principal defender of the nuclear, as opposed to the extended, family in the Central African Republic. Many Christian males, however, continue to practice polygyny, carrying on secret relationships with girlfriends and concubines. Given the low status of women, wives are powerless to stop the practice.

POLITICAL IMPACT

Christianity has little political impact in the Central African Republic. The church has no political party or organization of its own, even though most political leaders are Christians, and the Catholic Church is often reminded by the Vatican to stay out of politics. At the same time relations among the various faiths have not led to civil strife or war.

CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES

Christians in the Central African Republic uphold traditional teachings on matters such as divorce, abortion, birth control, and the subordinate role of women. Unlike many of their counterparts in the West, few of the country's Christians espouse one thing and live another. Catholics in the Central African Republic, for example, take the pope's messages more seriously than do many Catholics in the West.

Apart from serving as catechists, teachers, altar girls, and, in the Catholic Church, nuns, women in the Central African Republic have played an insignificant role in church affairs. There are no Christian feminists in the country.

CULTURAL IMPACT

Through translations of the Bible, teaching manuals written in the vernacular, and the popularization of religious music, Christian churches have been a major force in the propagation of Sango as the lingua franca of the Central African Republic. Except for the erection of cathedrals in the Western artistic style, Christianity has had little effect on architecture. In fact, Christianity has had little impact on the arts in general, including dance, which it has tried to eliminate. On the other hand, traditional practices and artistic styles—including dancing, hand clapping, drumming and the playing of other instruments, and sculpture—have influenced the Christian churches as they strive to become Africanized.

AFRICAN INDIGENOUS BELIEFS

DATE OF ORIGIN c. 6000 b.c.e.
NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS 900,000

HISTORY

The area of what is now the Central African Republic was probably inhabited as early as 6000 b.c.e. The original inhabitants are believed to have been the Aka, also known as the Babinga or the Tvide or, in the Western world, as Pygmies. Around 1000 c.e. they were overpowered by Bantu-speaking migrants who were technologically more advanced farmers and by Sudanic and Nilotic conquerors. As a result, the Babinga and others were relegated to the forests, where they have continued to live.

The events that have shaped the history of traditional religion in the region are varied. They include the arrival, in the eastern and northern parts of the country, of Islam and slavery from the Sudan and Chad, as well as the European colonial conquest and the introduction of Christianity, both of which occurred during the nineteenth century. Whereas the conditions prevailing in the area before the introduction of Islam and Christianity helped to stabilize traditional religion, the arrival of Islam, at times through violence and the enslavement of non-Muslims, and of Christianity, which was allied with the colonial state, weakened the traditional religious fabric, especially in the newly developing urban areas. This accounts for the fact that in the Central African Republic only 25 percent of the population can be considered to be truly traditional in religion.

Since the beginning the major elements of traditional religion in Africa have included the belief in a single great God, who is never referred to in the plural, along with spirit mediums and ancestors. There is, as well, belief in a "vital force," or "vital energy," that emanates from God to permeate all living and nonliving things.

EARLY AND MODERN LEADERS

Because of the nonliterate nature of Central African Republic societies and the dominance of Christianity and Islam, no traditional religious leaders are remembered permanently. Generally, however, each clan and lineage recalls its most prominent priests and divine rules of the previous two generations.

MAJOR THEOLOGIANS AND AUTHORS

The nonliterate nature of the societies of the Central African Republic and the absence of organized efforts at proselytizing make it impossible to cite theologians, religious authors, or renowned spiritual leaders. It should be pointed out, however, that each lineage or family has its own local priests, religious experts, diviners, healers, and magicians who control religion. At times the village chief or the clan leader enjoys the powers of a high priest, deciding, for example, when the community may plant, harvest, and fish. This is the case among the Sara in the north.

HOUSES OF WORSHIP AND HOLY PLACES

In the Central African Republic, as is common in all of sub-Saharan Africa, a designated house in a family compound may serve as the place of worship for the family unit. Certain forests or parts of forest, cemeteries, specific trees and mountains, or perhaps ancestor's abodes may be held as sacred objects and places.

WHAT IS SACRED?

Each ethnic group, clan, and lineage in the Central African Republic has its own sacred animal, or totem, that may not be hurt, killed, or consumed. Objects buried with the dead or those found in cemeteries or sacred forests are not to be touched, lest the person incur the ire of ancestors. Certain figurines, amulets, and special bracelets and necklaces, as well as beads worn around the waist, may also acquire a sacred character, as may objects related to fertility and maternity.

HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS

The beginning of the harvest, the birth of a child, a successful hunting trip, the end of rites of passage, and the day of a chief's enthronement are examples of occasions that are celebrated by the village community in the Central African Republic. Unlike Islam, which holds every Friday as a day of prayer and a holiday, or Christianity, with its annual cycles of Sundays and specific days of common worship for the faithful, traditionalists observe festivals whenever there is an important social occurrence.

MODE OF DRESS

There is no religiously prescribed way of dressing among traditionalists in the Central African Republic. Decency is always emphasized, and people dress in traditional attire such as a tanga, a cloth wrapped around the waist for women and around the body for men. Sandals may be worn to protect the feet.

DIETARY PRACTICES

There are very few dietary prohibitions among the societies of the Central African Republic. Pregnant women are forbidden to eat fish or eggs or certain animal meats in the belief that the unborn may be endangered or born with physical defects. Because it is considered sacred, a totemic animal may not be consumed.

RITUALS

Rituals among traditionalists in the Central African Republic follow harvests and the rhythm of life—birth, adulthood, marriage, ascent to power, elderly status, death, and migration to the world of the ancestors. Ceremonies are held to announce a child's birth, to name the child, and to present the newborn to the lineage and the community. For each of these occasions, there is usually a religious ceremony presided over by the head of the family, a priest, or the village chief, with the ancestors playing an important role.

The phenomenon of "possession"—emotionally charged dances—takes place during rituals. It is believed that spirits or ancestors speak through the person in a state of possession, although some experts say that the possessed may be in a state of self-induced ecstasy.

RITES OF PASSAGE

In virtually every ethnic group in the Central African Republic, adulthood is preceded by rites of passage, which may take place over weeks or months. These initiation ceremonies, as they are generally called, usually involve seclusion from the community under the supervision of an elder—a man for boys and a woman for girls—and the learning of a new language that can be understood only by the initiated. During the time of initiation, the young people are taught to think and care about the community rather than about themselves as individuals. They are taught that society expects them to perpetuate the lineage of the clan and that death should not matter to them if they have helped the clan to survive; it is the reason they were born. In this context marriage is presented as obligatory and an abundance of children as a blessing. The young people are taught that, as adults, they will be expected to perform the tasks of fathers and mothers and perhaps, as among the Babinga, those of warriors or hunters. They learn that, as they move to the next stage, some will be called upon to assume the responsibility of leading the community. Old age is presented as a time of experience, wisdom, and earned respect.

MEMBERSHIP

Membership in a traditional African religion is automatic, and no child may question his household's teachings. This is one reason it makes no sense to speak of an atheist in traditional societies.

As is the case in all of sub-Saharan Africa, in the Central African Republic there are no traditionalist missionaries who try to convert people. Traditionalism does not prevent other religions from seeking converts in its midst, however, since traditionalists do not hold their religion to be better than that of anyone else. People convert to other religions when they become convinced that the new God is stronger than the one they have been worshiping.

SOCIAL JUSTICE

A sense of justice is strong within traditionalism, and in the Central African Republic wrongs are usually addressed publicly by a presiding member of the family, the chief, or designated community leaders. Accompanying this is the principle of proportional retribution for a wrong committed, something that is well entrenched in traditional religion. Notions of justice and fairness are conveyed and reinforced through household education and consist mainly of daily observation, listening, and practice.

Traditionalists in the Central African Republic no longer shun a Western education and its social teachings. The material benefits to the family that are derived from a Western education, even if the young person rejects traditionalism and embraces Christianity in the process, are held to outweigh the negatives. Traditionalists continue, however, to find it difficult to accept the Western practice of incarceration as a proportional retribution for a horrendous crime such as murder.

SOCIAL ASPECTS

Among all ethnic groups in the Central African Republic, marriage is expected of every young man and woman. Traditional society sanctions polygyny and the extended family. Having many children is considered to be a sign of a blessing from ancestors and the divine realm. The family or the community takes precedence over the individual, and a person is believed to be on earth to perpetuate the lineage. This is the order that God ordained and that he entrusted certain members of the community—priests, chiefs, diviners, ancestors, and spirit mediums—to enforce and preserve. The child also learns from the family how to acquire a sense of community responsibility and to avoid evils such as sorcery, jealousy, laziness, theft, adultery, and disrespect for human life, including murder.

POLITICAL IMPACT

The political power of traditional leaders was severely curtailed and weakened by the colonial government and, later, by the nation-state. Nonetheless, chiefs and kings in the Central African Republic continue to be seen as sharing in divinity, and there have been instances in which people have cast their votes on behalf of a particular political candidate because of the advice of a chief. When this occurs, the authority of the chief is derived from his personal experience and reputation for wisdom and from the traditional belief that a chief enjoys a greater share of the vital force that is present in every living and nonliving thing.

Most of the people in power in the Central African Republic today are Christians or are mission educated.

CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES

Traditional religion in the Central African Republic does everything possible to preserve the family and the clan. Modern contraceptives are proscribed, and abortion is shunned in the belief that it will bring the wrath of ancestors. Because marriage is an alliance between two families or clans, divorce is difficult, and when it does occur, the bride wealth may have to be returned. Women and men have clearly defined roles in society, with women expected to be subordinate and submissive to their husbands, a tradition that is believed to be sanctioned directly by ancestors and indirectly by God.

In spite of these prohibitions, clandestine abortions do take place, as in the case of incest, and infanticide is practiced when, for example, an abominable physical or mental handicap or disease is suspected at birth. On the advice of and with prescription by a medicine man, natural contraceptives are sometimes used.

CULTURAL IMPACT

Because traditional religion permeates all aspects of daily life, its specific impact on the arts is difficult to assess. It is possible, however, to discern the religious undertones, or spirituality, of various elements of culture. This can be seen, for example, in certain songs that invoke the names of ancestors or of the great God, as well as in the reverence surrounding a house of worship or a sacred place, with its accompanying figurines and symbols, that is recognized as belonging to a specific society.

In the Central African Republic today the tendency is to move away from traditionalism to embrace Western culture. This is made more compelling by the phenomenon of globalization.

Other Religions

When Hausa traders, Arab merchants from North Africa, and migrants from West Africa, especially from the Niger and Nigerian regions, moved into Central Africa, they took Islam with them. In the Central African Republic today there are some 550,000 followers of Islam, representing about 15 percent of the population. Most of the Muslims are concentrated in the north, in the prefecture of Bamingui-Bangoran, with its capital at Ndélé, which makes up the former sultanate of Dar-al-Kuti. Even though Muslims and Christians live together in peace, the history of the Arab and Muslim slave trade has not been forgotten.

Religious instruction provided in the large Islamic households and in the few remaining madrasahs (Koranic schools) serve to keep Islam growing in the Central African Republic. There is little or no proselytizing. As in other parts of the world, Islam is attractive in the Central African Republic for its doctrine of equality before Allah, its theoretical aversion to racism, and its stand on human brotherhood. For the noneducated Muslim, reciting the Koran in Arabic is another factor that increases the lure and prestige of Islam, with the work of the madrasahs contributing to this aura. Islam allows a man to marry as many as four wives, thus complementing the sub-Saharan African tradition of polygyny. To preserve the family and promote the expansion of Islam, Muslims tend to speak out against abortion. No major leaders, theologians, or authors of the faith are celebrated in the Central African Republic.

Given their relatively small size within the population, Muslims wield little political power in the Central African Republic. There has been no Muslim presidential candidate. There is, however, a fundamentalist political party, the Union Nationale Démocratique du Peuple Centrafricain, founded in 1998 and led by Mahamat Saleh, that attracts the Muslim population in the east. Because of their low educational level, Muslims have had little influence on literature, art, and architecture in the Central African Republic, the exception being the few Middle Eastern-appearing mosques in the east and northeast. Islamic music in the country is usually a blend of Sudanese-Arabic-Nilotic rhythms, tunes, and instruments that have little resemblance to the music of the Bantu-speaking population.

There are pockets of Hindus and Bahais in the Central African Republic, but their numbers are insignificant. The Hindus mostly came from Asia during the colonial period. As in most of Africa, the Bahais are of recent arrival.

Mario J. Azevedo

See Also Vol. 1: Baptist Tradition, Christianity, Islam, Lutheranism, Roman Catholicism

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Central African Republic

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

Compiled from the February 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Central African Republic


PROFILE

Geography

Area: 622,984 sq. km. (242,000 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than Texas.

Cities: Capital—Bangui (pop. 690,000). Other cities—Berberati (56,867), Bouar (39,676), Bambari (32,603), Bangassou (24,450), Bossangoa (31,723), Mbaiki (16,901), and Carnot (31,324).

Terrain: Rolling plain 600 meters-700 meters (1,980 ft.-2,310 ft.) above sea level; scattered hills in northeast and southwest.

Climate: Tropical, ranging from humid equatorial in the south to Sahelo-Sudanese in the north; hot, dry winters with mild to hot, wet summers.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Central African(s).

Population: (2004) 3.9 million.

Annual growth rate: 1.1%.

Ethnic groups: More than 80; Baya 33%, Banda 27%, Sara 10%, Mandja 13%, Mboum 7%, M'baka 4%, Yakoma 4%, other 2%.

Religions: Protestant 25%, Roman Catholic 25%, Muslim 15%, indigenous beliefs 35%.

Languages: Sangho (official), Sangho (national).

Education: Years compulsory—6. Enrollment—primary school 75%. Literacy—50%.

Health: Infant mortality rate—115 deaths/1,000. Life expectancy—avg. 43 yrs.

Work force: (approx. 53% of pop.) Agriculture—75%; industry—6%; commerce and services—4%; government—15%.

Government

Type: Republic.

Independence: August 13, 1960.

Constitution: Passed by referendum December 29, 1994; adopted January 1995. Suspended by decree in March 2003. New constitution passed by referendum December 5, 2004.

Branches: Executive—president, prime minister, and Council of Ministers. Legislative—unicameral National Assembly. National Transitional Council created following 2003 dissolution of the National Assembly. Judicial—Constitutional Court, inferior courts, criminal courts, Court of Appeals.

Administrative subdivisions: 16 prefectures, commune of Bangui.

Political parties: Alliance for Democracy and Progress (ADP), Central African Democratic Assembly (RDC), Civic Forum (FC), Democratic Forum (FODEM), Liberal Democratic Party (PLD), Movement for Democracy and Development (MDD), Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People (MLPC), Patriotic Front for Progress (FPP), People's Union for the Republic (UPR), National Unity Party (PUN), and Social Democratic Party (PSD).

Suffrage: Universal over 21.

Economy

GDP: (2002) $1.045 billion.

Annual growth rate: −7.2% (2003); 0.5% (2004 est.).

Per capita income: (2002) $260.

Avg. inflation rate: 4.2% (2003); 3.2 (2004 est.).

Natural resources: Diamonds, uranium, timber, gold, oil.

Agriculture: (2002, 54.8% of GDP) Products—Timber, cotton, coffee, tobacco, foodcrops, livestock. Cultivated land—unavailable.

Industry: (2002, 21.6% of GDP) Types—Diamond mining, sawmills, breweries, textiles, footwear, assembly of bicycles and motorcycles, and soap.

Services: (2002) 23.6% of GDP.

Trade: (2004) Exports—$161 million; diamonds, coffee, cotton, timber, tobacco. Major markets—Belgium, Italy, France, Luxembourg, Germany, Egypt, Spain, and Cote d'Ivoire. Imports—$119 million; food, textiles, petroleum products, machinery, electrical equipment, motor vehicles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, industrial products. Major suppliers—France, United States, Cote d'Ivoire, Cameroon, Germany, Japan.

Central government budget :(2002) $226 million.

Defense: (2002, 2.4% of budget) $5.4 million.

Fiscal year: Calendar year.

U.S. aid received: (2003) Due to Section 508 restrictions triggered by the 2003 coup, U.S. assistance to the Central African Republic government is prohibited except in the areas of humanitarian aid and support for democratization.


PEOPLE

There are more than 80 ethnic groups in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.), each with its own language. About 75% are Baya-Mandjia and Banda (40% largely located in the northern and central parts of the country), and 4% are M'Baka (south-western corner of the C.A.R.). Sangho, the language of a small group along the Oubangui River, is the national language spoken by the majority of Central Africans. Only a small part of the population has more than an elementary knowledge of French, the official language.

More than 55% of the population of the C.A.R. lives in rural areas. The chief agricultural areas are around the Bossangoa and Bambari. Bangui, Berberati, Bangassou, and Bossangoa are the most densely populated urban centers.


HISTORY

The C.A.R. appears to have been settled from at least the 7th century on by overlapping empires, including the Kanem-Bornou, Ouaddai, Baguirmi, and Dafour groups based in Lake Chad and the Upper Nile. Later, various sultanates claimed present-day C.A.R, using the entire Oubangui region as a slave reservoir, from which slaves were traded north across the Sahara and to West Africa for export by European traders.

Population migration in the 18th and 19th centuries brought new migrants into the area, including the Zande, Banda, and Baya-Mandjia.

In 1875 the Egyptian sultan Rabah governed Upper-Oubangui, which included present-day C.A.R. 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 the Egyptian sultan Rabah 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 (A.E.F.), along with Chad, Congo (Brazzaville), and Gabon. The next 30 years were marked by small-scale revolts against French rule and the development of a plantation-style economy.

In August 1940, the territory responded, with the rest of the A.E.F., to the call from Gen. 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 1946, all A.E.F. inhabitants were granted French citizenship and allowed to establish local assemblies. The assembly in C.A.R. was led by Barthelemy Boganda, a Catholic priest who also was known for his forthright statements in the French Assembly on the need for African emancipation. In 1956 French legislation eliminated certain voting inequalities and provided for the creation of some organs of self-government in each territory. The French constitutional referendum of September 1958 dissolved the A.E.F., and on December 1 of the same year the Assembly declared the birth of the Central African Republic with Boganda as head of government. Boganda ruled until his death in a March 1959 plane crash. His cousin, David Dacko, replaced him, governing the country until 1965 and over-seeing the country's declaration of independence on August 13, 1960.

On January 1, 1966, following a swift and almost bloodless coup, Col. Jean-Bedel 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 December 4, 1976, the republic became a monarchy 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.

Following riots in Bangui and the murder of between 50 and 200 school-children, former President Dacko led a successful French-backed coup against Bokassa on September 20, 1979. Dacko's efforts to promote economic and political reforms proved ineffectual, and on September 20, 1981, he in turn was overthrown in a bloodless coup by Gen. Andre Kolingba. For 4 years, Kolingba led the country as head of the Military Committee for National Recovery (CRMN). 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 Democratic 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 November 29, 1986. The constitution established a National Assembly made up of 52 elected deputies, elected in July 1987. Due to mounting political pressure, in 1991 President Kolingba announced the creation of a national commission to rewrite the constitution to provide for

a multi-party system. Multi-party presidential elections were conducted in 1992 but were later cancelled due to serious logistical and other irregularities. Ange Felix Patasse won a second-round victory in rescheduled elections held in October 1993, and was re-elected for another 6-year term in September 1999.

Salary arrears, labor unrest, and unequal treatment of military officers from different ethnic groups led to three mutinies against the Patasse government in 1996 and 1997. The French succeeded in quelling the disturbances, and an African peacekeeping force (MISAB) occupied Bangui until 1998 when they were relieved by a UN peacekeeping mission (MINURCA). Economic difficulties caused by the looting and destruction during the 1996 and 1997 mutinies, energy crises, and government mismanagement continued to trouble Patasse's government through 2000. In March 2000 the last of the MINURCA forces departed Bangui. In May 2001 rebel forces within the C.A.R. military, led by former President and Army General Andre Kolingba, attempted a military coup. After several days of heavy fighting, forces loyal to the government, aided by a small number of troops from Libya and the Congolese rebel Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC), were able to put down the coup attempt.

In November 2001, there were several days of sporadic gunfire between members of the Presidential Security Unit and soldiers defending sacked Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Francois Bozize, who fled to Chad. In mid-2002 there were skirmishes on the C.A.R.-Chad border.

In October 2002, former Army Chief of Staff Francois Bozize launched a coup attempt that culminated in the March 15, 2003 overthrow of President Patasse and the takeover of the capital. General Bozize declared himself President, suspended the constitution, and dissolved the National Assembly. Since seizing power, President Francois Bozize has made significant progress in restoring order to Bangui and parts of the country, and professed a desire to promote national reconciliation, strengthen the economy, and hold elections. However, this progress is precarious and could be easily derailed. In spite of the irregular nature of Bozize's accession to power, the new government has been inclusive and attempted to promote political reconciliation. Bozize has appointed people from across the political spectrum, including respected oppositionists, to his government and launched a national dialogue. Bozize's government has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to restoring democratic processes, and appears to be taking steps in that direction. Bozize released an electoral calendar, and on March 31, 2004 the National Transitional Council, established to assist the transition to democracy, voted to create an independent commission to oversee the county's first elections since the March 2003 coup. The first round of the presidential and legislative elections will be held on March 13, 2005. Eleven candidates, including General Bozize, are official candidates in the presidential election.


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Under the suspended constitution, the government is a republic comprised of a strong executive branch (president, vice president, prime minister, and council of ministers), and weak legislative (unicameral National Transitional Council) and judicial branches. Government and opposition party members, as well as civil society and the military are represented in the three branches, although the president appoints the vice president, prime minister, members of the cabinet (Council of Ministers), top military officials, and managers of national parastatals. A constitutional referendum is scheduled to be held on November 28, 2004. For administration purposes, the country is divided into 16 prefectures that are further divided into over 60 subprefectures; the commune of Bangui is administered separately. The president currently appoints heads of these administrative units, called "prefets" and "sous-prefets".

When functioning, the National Assembly is made up of 109 members elected by popular vote to serve 5-year terms. The last legislative elections were held in 1998; in contested results, the government's Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People (MLPC) won just over 50% control of the legislative body. There are 174 communes, each headed by a mayor and council appointed by the president. Suffrage is universal over the age of 21. The current National Transitional Council is composed of 70 representatives, some of whom were appointed, and some elected by their various civil society groups. Legislative elections are scheduled to take place in early 2005, and it is anticipated that the National Assembly will be reinstated at that time.

The judicial sector encompasses the Constitutional Court, Court of Cassation, Court of Appeals, criminal and civil courts, Labor Court, and Juvenile Court, although several of these courts have insufficient resources and trained personnel to operate on a regular basis. The Criminal Court of Bangui sits once or twice a year, usually for 1 or 2 months each session. Judges are appointed by the president; executive influence often impedes transparent handling of judicial affairs. Military courts exist but are currently only used to try military personnel for crimes committed in the course of duty. There are a limited number of formal courts currently functioning outside Bangui; traditional arbitration and negotiation play a major role in administering domestic, property, and probate law.

The Central African Republic has a vibrant civil society, with numerous professional, labor, and local development associations actively carrying out campaigns and gaining greater local and international credibility.

The C.A.R. Government's human rights record remains flawed. There are continued reports of arbitrary detainment, torture and, to a lesser degree, extra judicial killings. Journalists have occasionally been threatened, and prison conditions remain harsh.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 4/18/03

President: Bozize , Francois
Prime Minister: Goumba , Abel
Min. of Agricultural Modernization & Development: Guianza , Pierre
Min. of Civil Service & Labor: Voti , Jacques
Min. of Communications & National Reconciliation: Mbaye , Parfait
Min. of Defense: Bozize , Francois
Min. of Energy & Mines: Mbutingaye , Sylvain
Min. of Environment: Kouamba , Joseph Ki Tiki
Min. of Equipment & Transport: Soli , Mpokomanji
Min. of Family & Social Affairs: Doumta , Lea
Min. of Finance, Budget, & the Economy: Goumba , Abel
Min. of Foreign Affairs: Meckassoua , Abdou
Min. of Justice, Human Rights, & Good Governance: Baudou , Faustin
Min. of Livestock Development: Kosibela, Denis
Min. of National Education: Lala , Bevaroua
Min. of Posts & Telecommunications: Salao , Idriss
Min. of Public Health & Population: Nali , Nestor Mamadou
Min. of Public Security: Vandeboli , Michel
Min. of Restoration of Govt. Buildings: Gotobulu , Abraham
Min. of Territorial Administration: Malonga , Marcel
Min. of Tourism & Craft Industry Development: Dacko , Bruno
Min. of Trade, Industry, & Sector Promotion:
Min. of Water & Forests: Yondo , Maurice
Min. of Youth, Sports, and Culture:
Dir., Central Bank: Koyamba , Alphonse
Ambassador to the US: Touaboy , Emmauel
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York:

The Central African Republic maintains an embassy in the United States at 1618-22nd Street, NW, Washington, DC (tel: 202-483-7800/01, fax: 202-332-9893).


ECONOMY

The Central African Republic is classified as one of the world's least developed countries, with an annual per capita income of $260 (2002). Sparsely populated and landlocked, the nation is overwhelmingly agrarian, with the vast bulk of the population engaged in subsistence farming and 55% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) arising from agriculture. Principal crops include cotton, food crops (cassava, yams, bananas, maize), coffee, and tobacco. In 2002, timber accounted for about 30% of export earnings. The country also has rich but largely unexploited natural resources in the form of diamonds, gold, uranium, and other minerals. There may be oil deposits along the country's northern border with Chad. Diamonds are the only of these mineral resources currently being developed; in 2002, diamond exports made up close to 50% of the C.A.R.'s export earnings. Industry contributes only about 20% of the country's GDP, with artesian diamond mining, breweries, and sawmills making up the bulk of the sector. Services currently account for about 25% of GDP, largely because of the oversized government bureaucracy and high transportation costs arising from the country's landlocked position.

Hydroelectric plants based in Boali provide much of the country's limited electrical supply. Fuel supplies must be barged in via the Ubangui River or trucked overland through Cameroon, resulting in frequent shortages of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. The C.A.R.'s transportation and communication network is limited. The country has only 650 kilometers of paved road, limited international and no domestic air service (except charters), and does not possess a railroad. Commercial traffic on the Ubangui River is impossible from December to May or June, and conflict in the region has sometimes prevented shipments from moving between Kinshasa and Bangui. The telephone system functions, albeit imperfectly. Four radio stations currently operate in the C.A.R., as well as one television station. Numerous newspapers and pamphlets are published on a regular basis, and at least one company has begun providing Internet service.

In the more than 40 years since independence, the C.A.R. has made slow progress toward economic development. Economic mismanagement, poor infrastructure, a limited tax base, scarce private investment, and adverse external conditions have led to deficits in both its budget and external trade. Its debt burden is considerable, and the country has seen a decline in per capita gross national product (GNP) over the last 30 years. Structural adjustment programs with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) and interest-free credits to support investments in the agriculture, livestock, and transportation sectors have had limited impact. The World Bank and IMF are now encouraging the government to concentrate exclusively on implementing much-needed economic reforms to jumpstart the economy and defining its fundamental priorities with the aim of alleviating poverty. As a result, many of the state-owned business entities have been privatized and limited efforts have been made to standardize and simplify labor and investment codes and to address problems of corruption. The C.A.R. Government has adopted the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) Charter of Investment, and is in the process of adopting a new labor code.


DEFENSE

Under military restructuring plans formulated 1999-2000, the civilian Minister of Defense controlled and directed all armed forces, including the Presidential Security Unit (UPS), which had previously been seen as a militia supporting the president. In April 2001, the C.A.R. armed forces numbered about 3,000, including army, navy, air force, gendarmerie, national police, Presidential Security Unit, and local police personnel. An estimated 1,200 members of the army and gendarmerie fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo following the failed coup attempt of May 2001.

Following the 2003 coup, Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC-Communauté Économique et Monétaire de l'Afrique Centrale) and C.A.R. armed forces assumed responsibility for securing the capital city. CEMAC forces currently total approximately 400 soldiers, which are supported by an additional 200 French soldiers. The C.A.R. armed forces number approximately 2,000. Working with the French, the C.A.R. military is attempting to provide professional training and decentralize its troops in an effort to combat road bandits, thievery, and poaching throughout the C.A.R. territory.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

The Central African Republic is an active member in several Central African organizations, including the Economic and Monetary Union (CEMAC), the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC) Central African Peace and Security Council (COPAX—still under formation), and the Central Bank of Central African States (BEAC). Standardization of tax, customs, and security arrangements between the Central African states is a major foreign policy objective of the C.A.R. Government. The C.A.R. is a participant in the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), and the Organization of African Unity (OAU—now the African Union). Libya and, to a lesser degree, Sudan have shown increased interest in cooperation with the C.A.R. over the last year.

Outside of Africa, the C.A.R. maintains fairly close ties to France, albeit considerably reduced from previous years. In the late 1990s, France withdrew forces stationed in the C.A.R.; drops in its external assistance budget have reduced French military and social development aid to the country. Other multilateral organizationsincluding the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, UN agencies, European Union, and the African Development Bank—and bilateral donors—including Germany, Japan, the European Union, China, and the United States—are significant development partners for the C.A.R. Seventeen countries have resident diplomatic or consular representatives in Bangui, and the C.A.R. maintains approximately the same number of missions abroad. Since early 1989 the government recognizes both Israel and the Palestinian state. The C.A.R. also maintains diplomatic relations with China. The C.A.R. generally joins other African and developing country states in consensus positions on major policy issues.


U.S.-C.A.R. RELATIONS

The U.S. and C.A.R. enjoy generally good relations, although concerns over the pace of political and economic liberalization and human rights have affected the degree of support provided by the U.S. to the country. The U.S. Embassy in Bangui was briefly closed as a result of the 1996-97 mutinies. It reopened in 1998 with limited staff, but U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Peace Corps missions previously operating in Bangui did not return. The American Embassy in Bangui again tempo-rarily suspended operations on November 2, 2002 in response to security concerns raised by the October 2002 launch of Francois Bozize's 2003 military coup.

The Department of State has approved the lifting of suspended operations and the gradual return of American personnel to Embassy Bangui. However, there currently is limited U.S. diplomatic/consular representation in the C.A.R. As a result, the ability of the Embassy to provide services to American citizens remains extremely limited. The Embassy remains fully staffed by Foreign Service Nationals in anticipation of fully reopening the post once the security situation is deemed stable. Political relations with the government in Bangui are handled by the Department of State. Due to Section 508 restrictions triggered by the coup, U.S. assistance to the Central African Republic is prohibited except in the areas of humanitarian aid and support for democratization.

The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against travel to the Central African Republic. Americans in the C.A.R. are urged to exercise caution and maintain security awareness at all times. U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in the Central African Republic and need emergency assistance should contact the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon at telephone (237) 223-4014, (237) 223-0512, fax (237) 223-0753, and 223-0581 (Consular). Americans may also contact the American Embassy in N'djamena, Chad at telephone (235) 51-70-09, 51-92-33 or 51-90-52 and fax (235) 51-56-54. As noted above, since the United States has a limited diplomatic presence in the Central African Republic, the ability to provide services to U.S. citizens in the C.A.R. is extremely limited.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

BANGUI (E) Phone: (236) 61-02-00;
Fax: (236) 61-44-94

DCM/CHG:A.J. Panos
Last Updated: 1/27/2005

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

November 1, 2004

Country Description: The Central African Republic (CAR) is a developing African nation that has experienced several periods of political instability since independence from France in 1960. The capital is Bangui. While the country's Dzanga-Sangha National Park, a primeval rain forest in the southwest region of the country, is an attractive site for ecotourism, facilities for tourism are very limited. Read the Department of State Background Notes on the Central African Republic for additional information.

Entry/Exit Requirements: A valid passport, visa and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required for entry. Travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of the Central African Republic, 1618 22nd Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 483-7800/7801, fax (202) 332-9893. Overseas, inquiries should be made to the nearest Central African Republic embassy or consulate. NOTE: In any country where there is no Central African Republic diplomatic mission, the French Embassy has authorization to issue a visa for entry into the Central African Republic. See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on CAR and other countries. Visit the Embassy of CAR web site for the most current visa information.

Safety and Security: The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to the Central African Republic. Americans in the Central African Republic are urged to exercise caution and maintain security awareness at all times.

On March 15, 2003, rebel forces operating in the countryside outside Bangui took over the capital and seized power from the government. The leader of the rebel group declared himself the President of CAR and remains in power. There are peace-keeping forces present throughout CAR, mostly concentrated in the capital city, Bangui.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.

Up-to-date information of safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-317-472-2328. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

Crime: Street crime is uncommon in downtown Bangui, but armed gangs operate in outlying residential areas. Looting has occurred during periods of civil unrest. There continue to be reports of armed highway robbery in rural areas, especially during the December through May dry season. When a crime does occur in Bangui, the victim may have to pay to send a vehicle to pick up police officers due to the shortage of police vehicles; the other option is to use a vehicle to take the police to the scene of the crime.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while over-seas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. Posts in countries that have victims of crime assistance programs should include that information. See our information on Victims of Crime at http://travel.state.gov/travel/brochure_victim_assistance.html.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Medical facilities are limited in the CAR, and the quality of acute care is unreliable. Sanitation levels are low. Many medicines are not available; travelers should carry properly labeled prescription drugs and other medications with them.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning CAR is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Due to the risk of armed attacks on motorists in the central, eastern and northern regions, overland travel in these areas without a military escort should be avoided. Most remote areas in CAR that are frequented by tourists are accessible only by four-wheel drive vehicles, although some roads are not passable at all during the rainy season, from May through October.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and CAR, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed CAR's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

Special Circumstances: Taking photographs of police or military installations, or any other government buildings, is prohibited. Unauthorized photography may result in the seizure of photographic equipment by CAR authorities. Police or other government authorities can provide information and grant permission for photographing a particular subject or location.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offences. Persons violating CAR laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in CAR are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/index.html.

Registration/Embassy Location: In November 2002 the U. S. Embassy in Bangui closed and the Department of State formally suspended operations in April 2003. In late October 2004, the Department of State made a decision to gradually resume operations at the U.S. Embassy in Bangui. Although the U.S. Department of State has approved the return of personnel to the Embassy, there is no official staff in-country. As there is no official staff present in Bangui, the ability to provide services to U.S. citizens in the CAR is extremely limited.

Americans living or traveling in CAR despite the Travel Warning and need emergency assistance are strongly advised to register with U.S. Embassy Yaoundé or U.S. Embassy N'djamena through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain update information on travel an security within CAR. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in N'Djamena, Chad can be reached at telephone (235) 517-009, 519-209, 519-233 or 519-252 and fax (235) 515-654. The U.S. Embassy in Cameroon can be reached at (237) 223-4014, 223-0512, fax (237) 223-0753 and (237) 223-0581.

Travel Warning

October 29, 2004

This Travel Warning is being issued to inform American citizens of the decision to gradually resume operations at the U.S. Embassy in Bangui.Although the Department of State has approved the return of personnel to the Embassy, there is no official staff in-country.

The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against travel to the CAR. There continue to be reports of armed robberies along roads outside of the capital. Americans in CAR are urged to exercise caution and maintain security awareness at all times.

In March 2003, rebel forces that had been operating in the countryside outside Bangui took over the capital and seized power from the government of the CAR. The leader of the rebel group declared himself the President of CAR and remains in power. Preparations for Presidential elections in January 2005 are under-way, and Americans in CAR may expect to encounter large public demonstrations with increasing frequency. U.S. citizens are urged to exercise caution in public gatherings.

In November 2002, the U.S. Embassy in Bangui suspended operations. The gradual resumption of operations was approved in late October 2004. However, because there is currently no official staff, diplomatic or consular, present in Bangui the ability to provide services to U.S. citizens in the CAR remains extremely limited. U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in the CAR despite this Travel Warning and need emergency assistance are strongly advised to register either online at https://travelregistration.state.gov or contact the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon to enroll in the warden system to obtain updated information on travel and security in CAR. The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon can be reached at telephone (237) 223-4014, (237) 223-0512, fax (237) 223-0753, and 223-0581 (Consular). Americans may also register or obtain updated information from the American Embassy in N'djamena, Chad at telephone (235) 51-70-09, 51-92-33 or 51-90-52 and fax (235) 51-56-54.

Travelers should also consult the Department of State's latest Consular Information Sheet for CAR and the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement at http://travel.state.gov. American citizens may also obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States or Canada or 1-317-472-2328 from overseas.

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Central African Republic

Central African Republic

The Central African Republic is located in the heart of Equatorial Africa. It is a land-locked country with an extensive plateau with several hills in the northeast and southwest regions. The country is about the size of Texas, with a surface area of 622,984 square kilometers (240,470 square miles). The majority of the country's 3.7 million people live in the rural areas. The official language is French; other spoken languages include Songo, Arabic, and some Swahili. There is ethnic and religious diversity in the country with the Baya (34%), the Banda (27%), and the Mandja (21%) as the more dominant; religions include indigenous believers (35%), protestants (25%), Roman Catholics (25%), and Muslims (15%).

The varied geographical, ethnic and religious structure of the country impacts the social, economic, and political framework. Ethnic groups from the southern parts of the country tend to be better educated and play dominating roles in government and the military.

The Central African Republic gained its independence from France on August 13, 1960. Barthelemy Boganda (1910–1959), a Catholic priest who is often referred to as the "Father of the Nation," headed a pre-independence governing assembly. When he died in a plane crash in March 1959, he was replaced by his cousin, David Dacko (1930–2003), who served as the country's first president from 1960 to January 1966.

Political leadership thereafter has been a litany of military coups, imperial rule, civilian misrule, army mutiny, and the seemingly progressive military government under General Francois Bozize (b. 1946), which was serving in the early twenty-first century. Colonel Jean-Bedel Bokassa (b. 1921) led the country's first military coup in January 1966. Ten years later, he transformed the republic into the Central African Empire, with himself as Emperor Bokassa I. Bokassa ruled the country brutally and corruptly. Following a 1979 massacre of schoolchildren protesting against having to wear uniforms manufactured by the Bokassa family, the French engineered a coup against Bokassa and reinstalled David Dacko as president of a republic.

Dacko did not last long in office. A bloodless coup led by General Andre Kolingba (b. 1935) swept him from office in 1981. Kolingba retained power until the democratic wave of the early 1990s that led to the election of Ange Patasse (b. 1937), a long-time civilian operative in several governments, as president in

October 1993. Patasse survived several army mutinies in his first six-year term, thanks to rescue packages by the French government to pay soldiers' salaries. Reelected to a second term in 1999, Patasse faced a rebel insurgency and needed help from an African and United Nations peacekeeping force in March 2003. The continued mismanagement and economic crises facilitated a rebel victory by Commander Bozize over a demoralized military.

The Bozize regime announced an ambitious agenda to fix the persistent malaise in the country, to restore peace and security, fight corruption, and suspend timber and mineral exploitation from the criminal networks during a one- to three year transition period. A sixty-three-member National Transitional Council serves as an advisory and law making organ. The council planned to draft an electoral code for the country and organize a national dialogue to bring a sense of harmony and decency to public life. The constitution was approved by public referendum in December 2004. Elections were held in early 2005, and Bozize garnered 64 percent of the vote. With Bozize officially elected to serve as president and the election of a parliament, the country's period of transitional rule ended.

See also: Presidential Systems; Republic.

bibliography

Banks, Arthur S., ed. Political Handbook of the World, 2000–2002. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2004.

"Central African Republic." In CIA World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2005. <http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ct.html>.

Mars-Proietti, Laura. Nations of the World 2005: A Political, Economic and Business Handbook. Millerton, NY: Grey House Publishing, 2005.

Ramsay, F. Jeffress, ed. Global Studies: Africa. 10th ed. Guilford, CT: McGraw Hill/Dushkin, 2004.

H. Mbella Mokeba

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