The Central African Republic is a landlocked nation of five million people at almost the precise center of Africa. It is north of Democratic Republic of the Congo, south of Chad, east of Cameroon, and west of South Sudan.
The Central African Republic's major environmental issues include:
- tap water is not potable;
- poaching has diminished the country's reputation as one of the last great wildlife refuges;
- desertification; and,
It is susceptible to hot, dry, dusty harmattan winds affect northern areas; and floods are common.
The former French colony of Ubangi-Shari became the Central African Republic upon independence in 1960.
After three tumultuous decades of misrule - mostly by military governments - civilian rule was established in 1993 and lasted for one decade.
President Ange-Felix Patasse's civilian government was plagued by unrest, and in March 2003 he was deposed in a military coup led by General Francois Bozize, who established a transitional government.
Though the government has the tacit support of civil society groups and the main parties, a wide field of candidates contested the municipal, legislative, and presidential elections held in March and May of 2005 in which General Bozize was affirmed as president.
Bozize was reelected in the 2011 elections, which were widely viewed as having gross inaccuracies and discrepancies.
The government still does not fully control the countryside, where pockets of lawlessness persist.
Militant group Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) continues to affect stability in the Central African Republic as well.
Location: Central Africa, north of Democratic Republic of the Congo
Geographic Coordinates: 7 00 N, 21 00 E
Area: 622,984 km2 (622,984 km2 land and 0 km2 water)
arable land: 3.1%
permanent crops: 0.15%
other: 96.75% (2005)
Natural Hazards: hot, dry, dusty harmattan winds affect northern areas; floods are common
Terrain:Vast, flat to rolling, monotonous plateau; scattered hills in northeast and southwest. Its lowest point is the Oubangui River (335 metres) and its highest point is Mont Ngaoui (1,420 metres)
Climate: Tropical; hot, dry winters; mild to hot, wet summers
Topography of the Central African Republic. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Ecology and Biodiversity
Ecoregions of the Central African Republic. Source: World Wildlife Fund
- Northwestern Congolian lowland forests
- Northeastern Congolian lowland forests
- Northern Congolian forest-savanna mosaic
- East Sudanian savanna
- Sahelian Acacia savanna
|Falls of Boali on the Mbali River. Fall of 50m height on 250m width - Central African Republic - July / August 1993 Source: Philippe Jimenze/Freemages|
People and Society
Population: 5,057,208 (July 2012 est.)
There are more than 80 ethnic groups in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.), each with its own language. Sango, the language of a small group along the Oubangui River, is the national language spoken by the majority of Central Africans. Only a small part of the population has more than an elementary knowledge of French, the official language.
Approximately 61% of the population of the C.A.R. lives in rural areas. The chief agricultural areas are around Bossangoa, Bouar, and Bambari. Bangui, Berberati, Bangassou, and Bossangoa are the most densely populated urban centers.
Ethnic groups: Baya 33%, Banda 27%, Mandjia 13%, Sara 10%, Mboum 7%, M'Baka 4%, Yakoma 4%, other 2%
0-14 years: 41% (male 1,021,144/female 1,007,819)
15-64 years: 55.3% (male 1,353,600/female 1,382,291)
65 years and over: 3.7% (male 73,977/female 111,196) (2011 est.)
Population Growth Rate: 2.142% (2012 est.)
Birthrate: 36.13 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)
Death Rate: 14.71 deaths/1,000 population (July 2012 est.)
Net Migration Rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2012 est.)
Life Expectancy at Birth: 50.48 years
male: 49.23 years
female: 51.76 years (2012 est.)
Total Fertility Rate: 4.57 children born/woman (2012 est.)
Languages: French (official), Sangho (lingua franca and national language), tribal languages
Literacy: 48.6% (male: 64.8% - female: 33.5% [2000 est.])
Urbanization: 39% of total population (2010) growing at an annual rate of change of 2.5% (2010-15 est.)
The C.A.R. appears to have been settled from at least the 7th century on by overlapping empires, including the Kanem-Bornou, Ouaddai, Baguirmi, and Dafour groups based in Lake Chad and the Upper Nile. Later, various sultanates claimed present-day C.A.R., using the entire Oubangui region as a slave reservoir, from which slaves were traded north across the Sahara and to West Africa for export by European traders. Population migration in the 18th and 19th centuries brought new migrants into the area, including the Zande, Banda, and M’Baka-Mandjia.
In 1875 the Egyptian sultan Rabah governed Upper-Oubangui, which included present-day C.A.R. Europeans, primarily the French, German, and Belgians, arrived in the area in 1885. The French consolidated their legal claim to the area through an 1887 convention with Congo Free State, which granted France possession of the right bank of the Oubangui River. Two years later, the French established an outpost at Bangui, and in 1894, Oubangui-Chari became a French territory. However, the French did not consolidate their control over the area until 1903 after having defeated the forces of the Egyptian sultan Rabah and established colonial administration throughout the territory. In 1906, the Oubangui-Chari territory was united with the Chad colony; in 1910, it became one of the four territories of the Federation of French Equatorial Africa (A.E.F.), along with Chad, Congo (Brazzaville), and Gabon. The next 30 years were marked by small-scale revolts against French rule and the development of a plantation-style economy.
In August 1940, the territory responded, with the rest of the A.E.F., to the call from Gen. Charles de Gaulle to fight for Free France. After World War II, the French Constitution of 1946 inaugurated the first of a series of reforms that led eventually to complete independence for all French territories in western and equatorial Africa. In 1946, all A.E.F. inhabitants were granted French citizenship and allowed to establish local assemblies. The assembly in C.A.R. was led by Barthelemy Boganda, a Catholic priest who also was known for his forthright statements in the French Assembly on the need for African emancipation. In 1956 French legislation eliminated certain voting inequalities and provided for the creation of some organs of self-government in each territory. The French constitutional referendum of September 1958 dissolved the A.E.F., and on December 1 of the same year the Assembly declared the birth of the Central African Republic with Boganda as head of government. Boganda ruled until his death in a March 1959 plane crash. His cousin, David Dacko, replaced him, governing the country until 1965 and overseeing the country's declaration of independence on August 13, 1960.
On January 1, 1966, following a swift and almost bloodless coup, Col. Jean-Bedel Bokassa assumed power as President of the Republic. Bokassa abolished the constitution of 1959, dissolved the National Assembly, and issued a decree that placed all legislative and executive powers in the hands of the president. On December 4, 1976, the republic became a monarchy with the promulgation of the imperial constitution and the proclamation of the president as Emperor Bokassa I. His regime was characterized by numerous human rights atrocities.
Following riots in Bangui and the murder of between 50 and 200 schoolchildren, former President Dacko led a successful French-backed coup against Bokassa on September 20, 1979. Dacko's efforts to promote economic and political reforms proved ineffectual, and on September 1, 1981, he in turn was overthrown in a bloodless coup by Gen. Andre Kolingba. For 4 years, Kolingba led the country as head of the Military Committee for National Recovery (CRMN). In 1985 the CRMN was dissolved, and Kolingba named a new cabinet with increased civilian participation, signaling the start of a return to civilian rule. The process of democratization quickened in 1986 with the creation of a new political party, the Rassemblement Democratique Centrafricain (RDC), and the drafting of a new constitution that subsequently was ratified in a national referendum. General Kolingba was sworn in as constitutional President on November 29, 1986. The constitution established a National Assembly made up of 52 elected deputies, elected in July 1987. Due to mounting political pressure, in 1991 President Kolingba announced the creation of a national commission to rewrite the constitution to provide for a multi-party system. Multi-party presidential elections were conducted in 1992 but were later cancelled due to serious logistical and other irregularities. Ange Felix Patasse won a second-round victory in rescheduled elections held in October 1993, and was re-elected for another 6-year term in September 1999.
Salary arrears, labor unrest, and unequal treatment of military officers from different ethnic groups led to three mutinies against the Patasse government in 1996 and 1997. The French succeeded in quelling the disturbances, and an African peacekeeping force (MISAB) occupied Bangui until 1998 when they were relieved by a UN peacekeeping mission (MINURCA). Economic difficulties caused by the looting and destruction during the 1996 and 1997 mutinies, energy crises, and government mismanagement continued to trouble Patasse's government through 2000. In March 2000 the last of the MINURCA forces departed Bangui. In May 2001 rebel forces within the C.A.R. military, led by former President and Army General Andre Kolingba, attempted a military coup. After several days of heavy fighting, forces loyal to the government, aided by a small number of troops from Libya and the Congolese rebel Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC), were able to put down the coup attempt. In November 2001, there were several days of sporadic gunfire between members of the Presidential Security Unit and soldiers defending sacked Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Francois Bozize, who fled to Chad. In mid-2002 there were skirmishes on the C.A.R.-Chad border.
In October 2002, former Army Chief of Staff Francois Bozize launched a coup attempt that culminated in the March 15, 2003 overthrow of President Patasse and the takeover of the capital. General Bozize declared himself President, suspended the constitution, and dissolved the National Assembly. Since seizing power, President Francois Bozize has made significant progress in restoring order to Bangui and parts of the country, and professed a desire to promote national reconciliation, strengthen the economy, and improve the human rights situation. A new constitution was passed by referendum in December 2004. In spring 2005, the country held its first elections since the March 2003 coup. The first round of presidential and legislative elections were held in March 2005, and in May, President Bozize defeated former Prime Minister Martin Ziguele in a second-round runoff. On June 13, Bozize named Elie Dote, an agricultural engineer who had worked at the African Development Bank, his new Prime Minister. Following a countrywide strike, Elie Dote resigned on January 18, 2008.
In September 2006, rebel activity in the northwestern and northeastern part of the country intensified, resulting in the government losing control over parts of its territory. The subsequent fighting between government troops and rebels displaced nearly 300,000 citizens. In January 2007, the Libyan Government brokered a peace agreement between the government and the Democratic Front of the Central African People (FPDC), a rebel group operating in the northeastern part of the country headed by Abdoulaye Miskine. Other rebels disavowed the peace agreement, but by May 2008, most rebel groups had either entered into a peace agreement with the government--the peace agreement with the Popular Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD) being the most significant--or declared a cease-fire. In June 2008, the government signed the Libreville Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the APRD and the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR), led by Zakaria Damane, in Libreville, Gabon. One rebel group, the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) remained outside of the comprehensive peace process. The CPJP attacked the Central African Army on numerous occasions, including in November 2010 when they briefly captured the town of Birao. In June 2011, the government signed a cease-fire agreement with CPJP. Since that time, the government and CPJP have not fought; however, the CPJP engaged in skirmishes with UFDR in the northeastern region of C.A.R. in September 2011. CPJP and UFDR signed a cease-fire agreement in October 2011.
Implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, particularly its provisions granting amnesty to former fighters, furthered an Inclusive Political Dialogue (IPD) intended to help end instability in the C.A.R. In December 2008, the Inclusive Political Dialogue formally convened and issued its recommendations, which included, among other items, the establishment of a government of national unity and of an independent electoral commission in advance of planned 2010 elections. As of December 2011, the implementation of the results of the IPD remained incomplete.
In January 2009, a new coalition government was appointed. While there was little change in the government’s composition, with key ministers allied with the President remaining in place, some members of the political opposition and rebel groups obtained ministerial portfolios.
In early 2010, President Bozize twice delayed constitutionally mandated elections scheduled for April and May due to a poorly functioning Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and bickering between C.A.R.’s political parties. The first round of presidential and parliamentary elections took place in January 2011. The elections, though not without flaws, were held peacefully and without major incident during polling. The IEC declared President Bozize the winner of the presidential election in the first round and determined that a third of the 105 parliamentary races were also decided in this round. Nine members of President Bozize’s family, also members of his KNK party, won victory in the first round.
Members of the opposition, citing irregularities in the counting process, filed 88 challenges with the Constitutional Court and called unsuccessfully for a boycott of the second round of elections, which took place in March 2011. In April 2011, the Constitutional Court invalidated the results of 13 races run in January and ordered a special election to re-run those races. In May 2011, the Constitutional Court again intervened to reverse the results of nine races in the second round March elections. A special election, also protested by the opposition, was held in September 2011. In the end, the KNK party won at least 64 of 105 parliamentary seats.
While international observers cited some irregularities in the election, the fragmented nature of the opposition likely meant that it could not pose a credible challenge to the KNK or President Bozize.
The government is a republic comprised of a strong executive branch (president, vice president, prime minister, and council of ministers), and weak legislative and judicial branches. Government and opposition party members, as well as civil society and the military are represented in the three branches, although the president appoints the vice president, prime minister, members of the cabinet (Council of Ministers), top military officials, and managers of national parastatals.
The National Assembly is made up of 105 members elected by popular vote to serve 5-year terms. Legislative elections were last held in 2011.
For administrative purposes, the country is divided into 16 prefectures that are further divided into over 60 subprefectures; the commune of Bangui is administered separately. The president currently appoints heads of these administrative units, called "prefets" and "sous-prefets". There are 174 communes, each headed by a mayor and council appointed by the president. Suffrage is universal over the age of 18.
Government Type: Republic
Capital: Bangui - 702,000 (2009)
Administrative divisions: 14 prefectures (prefectures, singular - prefecture), 2 economic prefectures* (prefectures economiques, singular - prefecture economique), and 1 commune**;
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Independence Date: 13 August 1960 (from France)
Legal System: civil law system based on the French model. The Central African Republic has not submitted an International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction declaration; but accepts International Criminal Court (ICCt) jurisdiction.
The judicial sector encompasses the Constitutional Court, Court of Cassation, Court of Appeals, criminal and civil courts, Labor Court, and Juvenile Court, although several of these courts have insufficient resources and trained personnel to operate on a regular basis. The Criminal Court of Bangui sits once or twice a year, usually for 1 or 2 months each session. Judges are appointed by the president; executive influence often impedes transparent handling of judicial affairs. Military courts exist but are currently only used to try military personnel for crimes committed in the course of duty. There are a limited number of formal courts currently functioning outside Bangui; traditional arbitration and negotiation play a major role in administering domestic, property, and probate law.
The Central African Republic has a very weak civil society, with its various actors struggling for funding and sustainability in an impoverished country.
The C.A.R. Government's human rights record remains flawed. There are continued reports of arbitrary detainment, torture and, to a lesser degree, extra judicial killings. Journalists have occasionally been threatened, and prison conditions remain harsh.
Suffrage: 21 years of age; universal
International Environmental Agreements
The Central African Republic is party to international agreements on: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Tropical Timber 94, and Wetlands. It has signed, but not ratified the international Law of the Sea.
Total Renewable Water Resources: 144.4 cu km (2003)
Freshwater Withdrawal: Total: 0.03 cu km/yr (80% domestic, 16% industrial, 4% agricultural).
Per capita Freshwater Withdrawal: 7 cu m/yr (2000)
Access to improved sources of drinking water: 67% of population
Access to improved sanitation facilities: 34% of population
Subsistence agriculture, together with forestry, remains the backbone of the economy of the Central African Republic (CAR), with about 60% of the population living in outlying areas.
The agricultural sector generates more than half of GDP.
Agricultural Products: timber, cotton, coffee, tobacco, manioc (tapioca), yams, millet, corn, bananas; timber
Irrigated Land: 20 sq km (2003)
Natural Resources: diamonds, uranium, timber, gold, oil, hydropower.
Hydroelectric plants based in Boali provide much of the Bangui’s limited electrical supply, with towns in the rest of the country relying on diesel generators to provide electricity. Fuel supplies must be barged in via the Ubangui River or trucked overland through Cameroon, resulting in frequent shortages of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.
160 million kWh
148.8 million kWh
(1 January 2011 est.)
0 cu m
0 cu m
0 cu m
0 cu m
0 cu m
(1 January 2011 est.)
|Source: CIA Factbook|
The Central African Republic is classified as one of the world's least developed countries, with an estimated 2010 per capita GDP of $457. Sparsely populated and landlocked, the nation is overwhelmingly agrarian, with the vast bulk of the population engaged in subsistence farming; 56% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) came from agriculture (including timber) in 2009. Principal crops include cotton, food crops (cassava, yams, bananas, maize), coffee, and tobacco.
From 2002 to 2007, timber accounted for an average of 48% of export receipts. More than 4,000 Central Africans work in the forestry sector, more than in any other private sector.
The country also has rich but largely unexploited natural resources in the form of diamonds, gold, uranium, and other minerals. There may be oil deposits along the country's northern border with Chad. Diamonds are the only of these mineral resources currently being developed; in 2002, diamond exports made up close to 50% of the C.A.R.'s export earnings. Industry contributed only about 15% of the country's GDP in 2009, with artisanal diamond mining, breweries, and sawmills making up the bulk of the sector. Services accounted for about 29% of GDP in 2009, largely because of the oversized government bureaucracy and high transportation costs arising from the country's landlocked position.
|Astronaut Photo of Bangui, Central African Republic taken from the International Space Station (ISS) during Expedition 12 on November 11, 2005. Source: NASA|
|Refugee camp in Sam Ouandja, north-eastern Central African Republic housing almost 3,000 refugees from Darfur, Sudan (December 2007). Pierre Holtz, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.|
Timber has accounted for about 16% of export earnings and the diamond industry, for 40%.
Hydroelectric plants based in Boali provide much of the Bangui’s limited electrical supply, with towns in the rest of the country relying on diesel generators to provide electricity. Fuel supplies must be barged in via the Ubangui River or trucked overland through Cameroon, resulting in frequent shortages of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. The C.A.R.'s transportation and communication network is limited. The country has just over 700 kilometers of paved road, limited international and no domestic air service (except charters), and does not possess a railroad. Commercial traffic on the Ubangui River is impossible from December to May or June, and conflict in the region has sometimes prevented shipments from moving between Kinshasa and Bangui. The telephone system functions, albeit imperfectly. Eighteen radio stations currently operate in the C.A.R., as well as one television station. Numerous newspapers and pamphlets are published on a regular basis, and at least one company has begun providing Internet service.
In the more than 40 years since independence, the C.A.R. has made slow progress toward economic development. Economic mismanagement, poor infrastructure, a limited tax base, scarce private investment, and adverse external conditions have led to deficits in both its budget and external trade. The country saw a 30-year decline in per capita gross national product (GNP), and its debt burden is considerable. Structural adjustment programs with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) and interest-free credits to support investments in the agriculture, livestock, and transportation sectors have had limited impact.
The World Bank and IMF are now encouraging the government to concentrate exclusively on implementing much-needed economic reforms to jumpstart the economy and defining its fundamental priorities with the aim of alleviating poverty. As a result, many of the state-owned business entities have been privatized and limited efforts have been made to standardize and simplify labor and investment codes and to address problems of corruption. The IMF recognized the C.A.R.’s achievements in these domains by certifying its attainment of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) completion point in 2009. The C.A.R. Government has adopted the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC - Communaute Economique et Monetaire de l'Afrique Centrale) Charter of Investment, and is in the process of adopting a new labor code.
Important constraints to economic development include the CAR's landlocked position, a poor transportation system, a largely unskilled work force, and a legacy of misdirected macroeconomic policies.
Factional fighting between the government and its opponents remains a drag on economic revitalization.
The government's additional spending in the run-up to the election in 2011 worsened CAR's fiscal situation.
Distribution of income is extraordinarily unequal.
Grants from France and the international community can only partially meet humanitarian needs. CAR currently lacks an IMF program.
GDP (Purchasing Power Parity): $3.672 billion (2011 est.)
GDP (Official Exchange Rate): $2.3 billion (2011 est.)
GDP-per capital (PPP): $800 (2011 est.)
GDP-composition by sector:
services: 32.1% (2011 est.)
Industries: gold and diamond mining, logging, brewing, textiles, footwear, assembly of bicycles and motorcycles
Exports: diamonds, timber, cotton, coffee, tobacco
Imports: food, textiles, petroleum products, machinery, electrical equipment, motor vehicles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals
Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XAF)
Ports and Terminals: Bangui, Nola, Salo, Nzinga