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Central African Republic



République Centrafricaine


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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%.


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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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%).


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.


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.


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.


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.


Current information is unavailable.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


The Central African Republic has no territories or colonies.


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


Major City:

Other Cities:
Bambari, Bangassou, Bouar, Bria


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 for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Mar. 29 Boganda Day

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Mar/Apr. Easter Monday*

May 1 Labor Day May/JuneAscension Day*



June 30 National Day of Prayer

Aug. 13Republic Day

Aug. 15Assumption Day

Nov. 1All Saints' Day

Dec. 1 Proclamation Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day



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




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.


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.


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.


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 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.

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 ( 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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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.


Central African Republic has no territories or colonies.


"Central African Republic and the IMF." International Monetary Fund. <>. Accessed January 2000.

"Central African Republic (CAR)." Mbendi: Information for Africa. <>. Accessed February 2001.

"Central African Republic." World Bank. <>. Accessed January 2000.

Central African Republic Page. <>. 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. <>. Accessed October 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Background Note: Central African Republic. <>. Accessed October 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide for Chad. <>. Accessed December 2000.

Alexander Gazis




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.


Diamonds, timber, cotton, coffee, and tobacco.


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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

BBC Monitoring. "Country profile: Central African Republic." Reading, UK: British Broadcasting Corporation, 2002. Available from

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

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

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

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.


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.


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.


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


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.


Central African Republic claims no territories or dependencies.


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)


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.


The Central African Republic is landlocked.


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


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.


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


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


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.


There are no significant caves in the Central African Republic.


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.


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.



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


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). (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.


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.


The Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 26 May 2001. Available from

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


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



capital (population):

Bangui (652,900)


Multiparty republic

ethnic groups:

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


French (official), Sango (most common)


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


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.


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


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Central African Republic

Central African Republic

Culture Name

Central African


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.


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.


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.


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.


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"Central African Republic." Countries and Their Cultures. . 10 Jul. 2018 <>.

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Central African Republic

Central African Republic


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." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . 10 Jul. 2018 <>.

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