Central African Republic
Area: 622,984 sq. km. (242,000 sq. mi.);
slightly smaller than Texas.
(pop. 690,000). Other
cities--Berberati (56,867), Bouar (39,676),
Bambari (32,603), Bangassou (24,450), Bossangoa
(31,723), Mbaiki (16,901), and Carnot (31,324).
Terrain: Rolling plain 600 meters-700 meters
(1,980 ft.-2,310 ft.) above sea level; scattered
hills in northeast and southwest.
Climate: Tropical, ranging from humid equatorial
in the south to Sahelo-Sudanese in the north;
hot, dry winters with mild to hot, wet summers.
and adjective--Central African(s).
Population (July 2007 est.): 4,369,038.
Annual growth rate (2007 est.): 1.505%.
Ethnic groups: More than 80; Baya 33%, Banda
27%, Sara 10%, Mandja 13%, Mboum 7%, M'baka 4%,
Yakoma 4%, other 2%.
Religions: Protestant 25%, Roman Catholic 25%,
Muslim 15%, indigenous beliefs 35%.
Languages: Sangho (official), Sangho (national).
school 75%. Literacy--50%.
mortality rate--115 deaths/1,000. Life
expectancy--avg. 43 yrs.
Work force (approx. 53% of pop.): Agriculture--75%; industry--6%; commerce
and services--4%; government--15%.
Independence: August 13, 1960.
Constitution: Passed by referendum December 29,
1994; adopted January 1995. Suspended by decree
in March 2003. New constitution passed by
referendum December 5, 2004.
prime minister, and Council of Ministers. Legislative--unicameral
National Assembly. Judicial--Constitutional
Court, inferior courts, criminal courts, Court
Administrative subdivisions: 16 prefectures,
commune of Bangui.
Political parties: Alliance for Democracy and
Progress (ADP), Central African Democratic
Assembly (RDC), Civic Forum (FC), Democratic
Forum (FODEM), Liberal Democratic Party (PLD),
Movement for Democracy and Development (MDD),
Movement for the Liberation of the Central
African People (MLPC), Patriotic Front for
Progress (FPP), People's Union for the Republic
(UPR), National Unity Party (PUN), and Social
Democratic Party (PSD).
Suffrage: Universal over 21.
GDP (2007, nominal): $1.647 billion.
Annual real GDP growth rate: -7.2% (2003); 0.5%
(2004 est.); 3% (2006 est.); 3.045% (2007 est.).
Per capita income (2007, PPP): $700.
Avg. inflation rate: (2007): 0.9%.
Natural resources: Diamonds, uranium, timber,
Agriculture (2006, 56% of GDP): Products--Timber,
cotton, coffee, tobacco, food crops, livestock. Arable
Industry (2006, 15% of GDP): Types--Diamond
mining, sawmills, breweries, textiles, footwear,
assembly of bicycles and motorcycles, and soap.
Services (2006): 29% of GDP.
Trade (2007): Exports--$146.7
million f.o.b.; diamonds, coffee, cotton,
timber, tobacco. Major
markets--Belgium, Italy, France, Luxembourg,
Germany, Egypt, Spain, and Cote d'Ivoire. Imports--$237.3
million f.o.b.; food, textiles, petroleum
products, machinery, electrical equipment, motor
vehicles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, consumer
goods, industrial products. Major
suppliers--France, United States, Cote
d'Ivoire, Cameroon, Germany, Japan.
Central government budget (2007): $250 million.
Defense (2006): 1.1% of GDP.
Fiscal year: Calendar year.
There are more than 80 ethnic groups in the
Central African Republic (C.A.R.), each with its
own language. About 75% are Baya-Mandjia and
Banda (40% largely located in the northern and
central parts of the country), and 4% are M'Baka
(southwestern corner of the C.A.R.). Sangho, the
language of a small group along the Oubangui
River, is the national language spoken by the
majority of Central Africans. Only a small part
of the population has more than an elementary
knowledge of French, the official language.
More than 55% of the population of the C.A.R.
lives in rural areas. The chief agricultural
areas are around the Bossangoa and Bambari.
Bangui, Berberati, Bangassou, and Bossangoa are
the most densely populated urban centers.
The C.A.R. appears to have been settled from at
least the 7th century on by overlapping empires,
including the Kanem-Bornou, Ouaddai, Baguirmi,
and Dafour groups based in Lake Chad and the
Upper Nile. Later, various sultanates claimed
present-day C.A.R., using the entire Oubangui
region as a slave reservoir, from which slaves
were traded north across the Sahara and to West
Africa for export by European traders.
Population migration in the 18th and 19th
centuries brought new migrants into the area,
including the Zande, Banda, and Baya-Mandjia.
In 1875 the Egyptian sultan Rabah governed
Upper-Oubangui, which included present-day C.A.R.
Europeans, primarily the French, German, and
Belgians, arrived in the area in 1885. The
French consolidated their legal claim to the
area through an 1887 convention with Congo Free
State, which granted France possession of the
right bank of the Oubangui River. Two years
later, the French established an outpost at
Bangui, and in 1894, Oubangui-Chari became a
French territory. However, the French did not
consolidate their control over the area until
1903 after having defeated the forces of the
Egyptian sultan Rabah and established colonial
administration throughout the territory. In
1906, the Oubangui-Chari territory was united
with the Chad colony; in 1910, it became one of
the four territories of the Federation of French
Equatorial Africa (A.E.F.), along with Chad,
Congo (Brazzaville), and Gabon. The next 30
years were marked by small-scale revolts against
French rule and the development of a
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
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
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 country-wide strike,
Elie Dote resigned on January 18, 2008.
Humanitarian emergencies continued to plague the
north of C.A.R., as unrest and fighting between
rebel groups and government troops displaced
nearly 300,000 citizens.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The government is a republic comprised of a
strong executive branch (president, vice
president, prime minister, and council of
ministers), and weak legislative and judicial
branches. Government and opposition party
members, as well as civil society and the
military are represented in the three branches,
although the president appoints the vice
president, prime minister, members of the
cabinet (Council of Ministers), top military
officials, and managers of national parastatals.
The National Assembly is made up of 109 members
elected by popular vote to serve 5-year terms.
Legislative elections were held in 1998; in
contested results, the government's Movement for
the Liberation of the Central African People (MLPC)
won just over 50% control of the legislative
body. Legislative elections were last held in
For administration purposes, the country is
divided into 16 prefectures that are further
divided into over 60 subprefectures; the commune
of Bangui is administered separately. The
president currently appoints heads of these
administrative units, called "prefets" and "sous-prefets".
There are 174 communes, each headed by a mayor
and council appointed by the president. Suffrage
is universal over the age of 21.
The judicial sector encompasses the
Constitutional Court, Court of Cassation, Court
of Appeals, criminal and civil courts, Labor
Court, and Juvenile Court, although several of
these courts have insufficient resources and
trained personnel to operate on a regular basis.
The Criminal Court of Bangui sits once or twice
a year, usually for 1 or 2 months each session.
Judges are appointed by the president; executive
influence often impedes transparent handling of
judicial affairs. Military courts exist but are
currently only used to try military personnel
for crimes committed in the course of duty.
There are a limited number of formal courts
currently functioning outside Bangui;
traditional arbitration and negotiation play a
major role in administering domestic, property,
and probate law.
The Central African Republic has a vibrant civil
society, with numerous professional, labor, and
local development associations actively carrying
out campaigns and gaining greater local and
The C.A.R. Government's human rights record
remains flawed. There are continued reports of
arbitrary detainment, torture and, to a lesser
degree, extra judicial killings. Journalists
have occasionally been threatened, and prison
conditions remain harsh.
Principal Government Officials
President of the Republic, Head of
Prime Minister--Faustin Archange Touadéra
State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional
Integration and Francophony--Marie-Reine Hassen
Minister of Finance and Budget--Théodore DABANGA
Ambassador to the United States--Emmanuel
Ambassador to the United Nations--Fernand
The Central African Republic maintains an
embassy in the United States at 1618-22nd
Street, NW, Washington, DC (tel:
202-483-7800/01, fax: 202-332-9893).
The Central African Republic is classified as
one of the world's least developed countries,
with a 2007 annual per capita income of $700
(purchasing power parity). 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 in 2006. Principal crops include
cotton, food crops (cassava, yams, bananas,
maize), coffee, and tobacco. In 2002, timber
accounted for about 30% of export earnings. The
country also has rich but largely unexploited
natural resources in the form of diamonds, gold,
uranium, and other minerals. There may be oil
deposits along the country's northern border
with Chad. Diamonds are the only of these
mineral resources currently being developed; in
2002, diamond exports made up close to 50% of
the C.A.R.'s export earnings. Industry
contributed only about 15% of the country's GDP
in 2006, with artesian diamond mining,
breweries, and sawmills making up the bulk of
the sector. Services accounted for about 29% of
GDP in 2006, largely because of the oversized
government bureaucracy and high transportation
costs arising from the country's landlocked
Hydroelectric plants based in Boali provide much
of the country's limited electrical supply. Fuel
supplies must be barged in via the Ubangui River
or trucked overland through Cameroon, resulting
in frequent shortages of gasoline, diesel, and
jet fuel. The C.A.R.'s transportation and
communication network is limited. The country
has only 650 kilometers of paved road, limited
international and no domestic air service
(except charters), and does not possess a
railroad. Commercial traffic on the Ubangui
River is impossible from December to May or
June, and conflict in the region has sometimes
prevented shipments from moving between Kinshasa
and Bangui. The telephone system functions,
albeit imperfectly. Four radio stations
currently operate in the C.A.R., as well as one
television station. Numerous newspapers and
pamphlets are published on a regular basis, and
at least one company has begun providing
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
C.A.R. Government has adopted the Central
African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC)
Charter of Investment, and is in the process of
adopting a new labor code.
Under military restructuring plans formulated
1999-2000, the civilian Minister of Defense
controlled and directed all armed forces,
including the Presidential Security Unit (UPS),
which had previously been seen as a militia
supporting the president. In April 2001, the
C.A.R. armed forces numbered about 3,000,
including army, navy, air force, gendarmerie,
national police, Presidential Security Unit, and
local police personnel. An estimated 1,200
members of the army and gendarmerie fled to the
Democratic Republic of the Congo following the
failed coup attempt of May 2001.
Following the 2003 coup, Central African
Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC-Communauté
Économique et Monétaire de l'Afrique Centrale)
and C.A.R. armed forces assumed responsibility
for securing the capital city. CEMAC forces
currently total approximately 400 soldiers,
which are supported by an additional 200 French
soldiers. The C.A.R. armed forces number
approximately 2,000. Working with the French,
the C.A.R. military is attempting to provide
professional training and decentralize its
troops in an effort to combat road bandits,
thievery, and poaching throughout the C.A.R.
The Central African Republic is an active member
in several Central African organizations,
including the Economic and Monetary Union (CEMAC),
the Economic Community of Central African States
(CEEAC) Central African Peace and Security
Council (COPAX--still under formation), and the
Central Bank of Central African States (BEAC).
Standardization of tax, customs, and security
arrangements between the Central African states
is a major foreign policy objective of the C.A.R.
Government. The C.A.R. is a participant in the
Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), and
the African Union. Libya and, to a lesser
degree, Sudan have shown increased interest in
cooperation with the C.A.R. over the last year.
Outside of Africa, the C.A.R. maintains fairly
close ties to France, albeit considerably
reduced from previous years. In the late 1990s,
France withdrew forces stationed in the C.A.R.;
drops in its external assistance budget have
reduced French military and social development
aid to the country. Other multilateral
organizations--including the World Bank,
International Monetary Fund, UN agencies,
European Union, and the African Development
Bank--and bilateral donors--including Germany,
Japan, the European Union, China, and the United
States--are significant development partners for
Seventeen countries have resident diplomatic or
consular representatives in Bangui, and the
C.A.R. maintains approximately the same number
of missions abroad. Since early 1989 the
government recognizes both Israel and the
Palestinian state. The C.A.R. also maintains
diplomatic relations with China. The C.A.R.
generally joins other African and developing
country states in consensus positions on major
The U.S. and C.A.R. enjoy generally good
relations, although concerns over the pace of
political and economic liberalization and human
rights have affected the degree of support
provided by the U.S. to the country. The U.S.
Embassy in Bangui was briefly closed as a result
of the 1996-97 mutinies. It reopened in 1998
with limited staff, but U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID) and Peace
Corps missions previously operating in Bangui
did not return. The American Embassy in Bangui
again temporarily suspended operations on
November 2, 2002 in response to security
concerns raised by the October 2002 launch of
Francois Bozize's 2003 military coup.
The Embassy reopened in January 2005; however,
there currently is limited U.S.
diplomatic/consular representation in the C.A.R.
As a result, the ability of the Embassy to
provide services to American citizens remains
extremely limited. The Department of State
approved the lifting of Section 508 aid
restrictions triggered by the coup; U.S.
assistance to the Central African Republic had
been prohibited except in the areas of
humanitarian aid and support for democratization
that have focused on strengthening the media and
the parliament, which are largely inexperienced
and remain susceptible to pressure from the
In international fora, the United States has
supported the mandates of the UN Peace-building
Office in the Central African Republic (BONUCA)
and of the Multinational Force of the Central
African Monetary and Economic Community (also
known as FOMUC) in order to promote stability in
C.A.R. Both BONUCA and FOMUC, while constrained
by their small sizes and budgets, have
contributed considerably to the pursuit of peace
in C.A.R. We also support C.A.R.'s upcoming
national dialogue, in hopes that the C.A.R.
Government, the political opposition, and the
armed opposition will be better able to reach
peace and move towards security in the
countryside and in Bangui.
The U.S. Department of State continues to warn
U.S. citizens against travel to the Central
African Republic. Americans in the C.A.R. are
urged to exercise caution and maintain security
awareness at all times. U.S. citizens who travel
to or remain in the Central African Republic and
need emergency assistance should contact the
U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon at telephone
(237) 2220 15 00, fax (237) 2220 16 20, and
(237) 2220 16 03 (Consular). Americans may also
contact the American Embassy in N'djamena, Chad
at telephone (235) 51-70-09, 51-92-33 or
51-90-52 and fax (235) 51-56-54. As noted above,
since the United States has a limited diplomatic
presence in the Central African Republic, the
ability to provide services to U.S. citizens in
the C.A.R. is extremely limited.
Principal U.S. Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Charles Neary
Political Officer--Cameron McGlothlin
The U.S. Embassy in Bangui is located on Blvd
David Dacko, Bangui (tel: 236-61-02-00, fax:
61-44-94, B.P. 924, Bangui).