Central African Republic
240,535.47 sq mi
622,984.00 sq km
3,512,751 (July 2000 est.) note: estimates for this country explicitly
take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS
Estimated Population in 2050
French (official), Sangho (lingua franca and national language), Arabic,
60.0% total, 68.5% male, 52.4% female (1995 est.)
indigenous beliefs 24%, Protestant 25%, Roman Catholic 25%, Muslim 15%,
42.26 male, 45.84 female (2000 est.)
1 Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFAF) = 100 centimes
GDP (per capita)
$1,700 (1999 est.)
Labor Force (by occupation)
diamond mining, sawmills, breweries, textiles, footwear, assembly of
bicycles and motorcycles
cotton, coffee, tobacco, manioc (tapioca), yams, millet, corn, bananas;
diamonds, timber, cotton, coffee, tobacco
food, textiles, petroleum products, machinery, electrical equipment,
motor vehicles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, industrial
diamonds, uranium, timber, gold, oil, hydropower
Current Environmental Issues
tap water is not potable; poaching has diminished its reputation as
one of the last great wildlife refuges; desertification; deforestation
Telephones (main lines in use)
Telephones (mobile cellular)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
Archaeological remains indicate that a civilisation existed in the region
of modern day CAR before the rise of Egypt. Little is known of that,
however, and of the CAR's present inhabitants, pygmies were the first
to arrive. More than 1000 years ago people began migrating from Sudan
in the east and Cameroon in the west. By 1600, the region was probably
part of the Gaoga empire; slavery was the rage and villages were continually
raided by Arab conquerors from Chad and Sudan, and via the coast by
European slavers. Whole villages in the north were depopulated, and
people were still being sold in Cairo slave markets until the late 19th
century. The CAR today is one of the most lightly populated countries
European powers carved up Africa, France was awarded most of the central
area. In 1889, a French post was set up in Bangui, although complete
control wasn't secured for another 12 years. The French government soon
realised it did not have the savoir-faire to exploit the region to the
full, so the government broke it down into 17 concessions and dished
them out to European companies in exchange for around 15% of profits
and a fixed annual payment. The companies weren't particularly enlightened
employers; they conscripted the local population into slave-like servitude.
Those who refused or deserted were killed or tortured, and thousands
WWII, cotton and diamond exports reached record levels, and the colony
had become a favourite ground for big-game hunters. Resistance to French
rule faded in the late 1920s under the combined weight of repression,
famine and smallpox epidemics, but the practice of corvée, or
forced labour, provoked a further series of rebellions during the 1930s.
But the region was proving too profitable for France to let go of it
easily, and a nationalist movement in anything more than name re-emerged
only after WWII.
the charismatic leader Barthelemy Boganda founded the first political
party, the Mouvement d'Evolution Sociale de l'Afrique Noire, calling
for independence. Boganda died in a mysterious plane crash in 1959,
however, and his successor, David Dacko, became the country's first
president. Dacko's rule quickly became highly repressive and dictatorial,
and in 1966, when the country was virtually on its knees, Jean-Bédel
Bokassa, the army's commander in chief, led a successful coup.
was a leader poured into virtually the same mould as Idi Amin of Uganda.
He personally supervised and sometimes participated in the public clubbing
to death of prisoners, took over the most important government portfolios,
and attempted to wipe out all opposition. France, coveting the uranium
deposits at Bakouma and the exclusive big-game hunting grounds near
the Sudanese border (patronised by former French president Giscard d'Estaing)
continued to indulge Bokassa and bail out his economy. Bokassa squandered
foreign loans on prestige projects, and his most outrageous fantasy
was to have himself crowned emperor in a renamed Central African Empire.
The French picked up most of the tab for the 1977 event, about US$20
million, or nearly the equivalent of the CAR's annual GDP.
downfall came in 1979, when he flew to Libya with a request for aid.
The French engineered a little musical chairs and flew former president
Dacko back into the country. But he proved unpopular and General André
Kolingba, head of the army, seized power in 1981. He promised to return
to civilian rule, but progress toward that was excruciatingly slow.
That year Bokassa flew back to the CAR, believing that Kolingba wouldn't
dare impeach him. He was convicted of treason, murder and cannibalism
and sentenced to death, which was later commuted to life imprisonment.
His death in 1996 passed almost without comment from the local press.
dragged his heels and postponed the elections until 1993, when he was
finally defeated by civilian Ange-Félix Patassé in October.
A new age could have been ushered in, but the light of the new dawn
turned out to be cold and blue, as Patassé stacked the government
with his fellow tribesmen. The harsh realities of a nation with its
finances and much of its infrastructure in a shambles hit hard, and
in 1996 dissident elements of the armed forces came out shooting no
fewer than four times. Violence between the government and rebel military
and civilian groups continued over pay issues, living conditions, and
lack of political representation. This state of unrest has depleted
government coffers, destroyed many local enterprises and partly unwound
the CAR's social fabric. The government's expulsion of a journalist
in January 1999 indicates that it is still struggling with the concept
of a free press.
2001, there was a coup attempt in Bangui. While the situation has been
diffused, and the alleged ringleader, General Bozize, was granted an
amnesty, tensions within the country remain. The situation is particularly
volatile near the border with Chad, where many of Bozize's supporters
remain and sporadic fighting continues to take place. In addition to
this, many state employees have not been paid for over two years, poverty
is rife and there are bandits patrolling some parts of the countryside.
2002, the UN Security Council expressed deep concern over the mounting
problems in the CAR. The Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has criticised
the CAR government's human rights record, focusing in particular on
the behaviour of the country's armed forces.
25, 2002, the renegade former army chief-of-staff, General Francois
Bozize, led ex-soldiers in an unsuccessful coup attempt. Civil war resumed.
Bozize soon gained control of areas in the north and south. People were
forced to flee their homes, villages and even the country. Tens of thousands
fled over CAR's five borders as life became unbearable: women and young
girls were raped by fighters allied to the government from neighbouring
Congo (Zaïre), and towns that were held captive by government or
rebel forces were cut off from outside supplies. In March 2003, Bozize
finally toppled Patasse, though this has brought little respite from
years of chaos.