Central African Republic

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Central African Republic

Central African Republic, republic (2020 est. pop. 4,829,767), 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.


The Central African Republic is governed under the constitution of 2015. The president, who is the head of state, is popularly elected for a five-year term and is eligible for a second term. The government is headed by a prime minister, who is appointed by the political party with a parliamentary majority. The unicameral legislature consists of the 140-seat National Assembly, whose members are popularly elected for five-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into 14 prefectures, two economic prefectures, and the Bangui autonomous commune.


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 (and did not return until 2019). 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 whose intervention now occurred under the mandate (Dec., 2013) of the UN Security Council. 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 remained in exile for six years), 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 a UN peacekeeping force of some 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 through 2015 and 2016 even as the country prepared for and held presidential and parlimentary elections. A new constitution was approved in a referendum in Dec., 2015, and Faustin-Archange Touadéra, a former prime minister, was elected president in Feb., 2016, after a runoff. The Dec., 2015, legislative elections, however, were annulled by the constitutional court, and rerun in February and March; the seats were divided among 17 parties and several dozen independents. Most French peacekeepers left the country in Oct., 2016.

With Touadéra's authority largely limited to the capital, various militias retain power elsewhere in the country and lawlessness continues to be a significant problem. As a result of a 2014 factional split within the Seleka, ethnically based fighting among Muslims also became a problem by late 2016; clashes between Christians and Muslims increased significantly beginning in late 2016 as well. The government and all but one of the militias signed a cease-fire in June, 2017, but fighting continued and intensified. By late 2018 more than 570,000 people had fled the country and more than 630,000 were displaced internally. A new peace deal was signed in Feb., 2019, and although the cease-fire initially held, there were recurring violations beginning in May.

Former president Bozizé sought to run in the 2020 presidential election but was ruled ineligible because he did not satisfy the good morality requirement. Subsequently, rebel attacks surged as disparate and opposing rebel factions united in an attempt to advance on the capital, and Bozizé was accused of attempting a coup. In the December election, for which only half the eligible voters could register and during which rebels prevented voting in more than 40% of the voting districts, Touadéra was reelected in the first round. Opposition candidates called for the election to be rerun, but the election was upheld. The rebel coalition continued to mount attacks after the election. The Seleka and Christian forces—formerly enemies—came together to attack the government. They formed a new political entity, the Coalition of Patriots for Change, which is rumored to be backed by the country’s former president François Bozizé. Russia has come to the Touadéra government’s aid in trying to restore peace, but many refugees have fled the ongoing violence in the country.


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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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Central African Republic


(Republique Centrafricain, called the Central African Republic prior to December 1976), a state in Central Africa bounded by Cameroon to the west and southwest, by the Congo and Zaïre to the south, by the Republic of Chad to the northwest, and by the Sudan to the northeast. It has an area of 623,000 sq km and a population of 3 million (1976). The capital is Bangui. For administrative purposes, the country is divided into 15 prefectures, including the capital.

Constitution and government. As a result of the coup d’etat of Sept. 20, 1979, the president became the head of state.

Natural features. The country lies in the basins of the Ubangi (Oubangui), a tributary of the Congo, and Chari (Shari) rivers in a zone of subequatorial savannas and open woodlands.

Most of the country occupies the rolling Azande Plateau, which has average elevations of 600 m to 900 m and reaches a maximum of 1,388 m. The plateau is dotted with dome-shaped insular mountains, and is crossed by broad valleys. Also characteristic are residual granite ranges, rising to more than 1,000 m at Bongo. In the extreme north the Azande Plateau gradually gives way to the flat, somewhat swampy plains lying at the southern edge of the Chad Depression.

Geologically, the country is situated in the northeastern part of the African Platform, on the Central African Shield between the Chad and Congo syneclises. Most of the shield is composed of dislocated and highly metamorphosed Archean rocks and less altered Lower Proterozoic deposits belonging to the platform cover. Weakly metamorphosed carbonate-terrigenous and terrigenous deposits of the Middle and Upper Proterozoic are found in isolated depressions in the south, southwest, and other parts of the country. Weakly metamorphosed terrigenous Paleozoic deposits occur in the southwest and northeast, and Cenozoic deposits of this type are found in the north and southwest. Archean and Proterozoic intrusions—granitic gneisses, gabbro-amphibolites, and granites—are widely distributed.

The country’s principal mineral resource is diamonds, mined in Western and Eastern Ubangi. The placer deposits in Upper Cretaceous depressions contain diamond reserves of 10–15 million carats, of which 60 percent are of gem quality. Uranium deposits with U3O8 reserves of 10,000 tons have been discovered in clay-phosphate Eocene deposits near Bakouma. There are Upper Archean deposits of ferruginous quartzite in the eastern (Bogoin) and western parts of the country. Deposits of lignite are known in the east. Nonore raw materials (kaolin and ceramic clays, quartz sands) and small alluvial gold deposits are found in the southwest, northeast, and the central regions.

The country has an equatorial-monsoonal climate with hot, humid summers. In Bangui the temperature averages 31°C in the hottest month and 21°C in the coolest month. From north to south the annual precipitation increases from 1,000–1,200 mm to 1,500–1,600 mm and the duration of the winter dry season decreases from five months (November to March) to three months (December to February).

The Ubangi, a right tributary of the Congo and one of Africa’s largest rivers, flows along the country’s southern border. Its main tributaries are the Kotto and the Lobaye. In the southwestern part of the country the Mambéré and Kadei rivers join to form the Sangha River, a major tributary of the Congo. The northern edge of the country is drained by the numerous tributaries of the Chari, which empties into Lake Chad. The largest of these are the Ouham, Bamingui, and Aouk. The rapids on these rivers and the sharp seasonal fluctuations in water level limit their importance for transportation, although large stretches of the major rivers are navigable most of the year.

The vegetative cover consists for the most part of tall-grass savannas with scattered deciduous and evergreen trees, predominantly tamarinds, shea trees, Lofira data, and palmyra palms. In places the savannas alternate with forest savanna and open woodlands composed chiefly of various species of Leguminosae. The rivers in the south are fringed by gallery forests. In the extreme south grow dense rain forests, providing valuable wood for furniture-making and construction. The savanna and forest savanna occur on red lateritic soils, and the rain forests grow on reddish yellow ferrallitic soils. About 12 percent of the country’s territory is covered with forest and scrub.

The fauna includes many large mammals: elephants, rhinoceroses, buffaloes, antelopes, giraffes, and the carnivores that prey on them—lions, leopards, jackals, hyenas, and African hunting dogs. Monkeys abound in the dense forests, and hippopotamuses and crocodiles inhabit the rivers. The entire country teems with birds, snakes, lizards, fish, and insects, including the tsetse fly in the south. Elephants, rhinoceroses, giraffes, hippopotamuses, lions, and other species are protected in the André Félix, Bamingui Bangoran, and St. Floris national parks.

Population. Ethnic groups speaking eastern and central Sudanic languages make up more than 70 percent of the population. They include the Banda and Baya, who inhabit the area between the Ubangi and Chari rivers, and the Azande, who live in the southeast. Some parts of the south are inhabited by Bantu-speaking peoples, among them the Maka, Bakare, Ngiri, and Babinga Pygmies. Most of the small number of Europeans living in the country are Frenchmen. The official language is French, and Sango is the most widely spoken native language. More than 70 percent of the people adhere to traditional beliefs, 25 percent are Christians, predominantly Catholics, and the remainder are Muslims. The official calendar is the Gregorian.

The population is growing at an annual rate of about 2.5 percent. Some 85 percent of the economically active population, numbering 1.5 million in 1976, is engaged in agriculture. The average population density is 4.8 persons per sq km (1976), with the central and northwestern regions being the most densely populated. Urban dwellers accounted for about 30 percent of the population in 1975. The principal cities are Bangui (with more than 400,000 inhabitants in 1976), Berbérati, Bossangoa, and Bambari.

Historical survey. Little is known about the early history of the indigenous peoples in the area. In the 16th century the northwest was absorbed into the Baguirmi state. By the mid-19th century parts of the country were under the rule of the Darfur Sultanate and the Wadai state. At the end of the 19th century all but the territory settled by the Azande and Baya was brought into the Rabah state.

In the late 19th century the area was penetrated by French colonialists, who met with stubborn resistance from the natives. Between 1891 and 1895 the French colonialists established a number of garrisoned strongholds, among them Fort Possel, Fort Sibut, Fort Crampel, and Bangui. After routing the Rabah army in 1900, they seized the entire area now occupied by the Central African Republic, incorporating it into the colony of Ubangi-Char-i-Chad in 1904. Six years later, along with France’s other possessions in the region, the colony became part of French Equatorial Africa. In 1914 the area was designated a separate colony within French Equatorial Africa and given the name Ubangi-Chari.

The French government turned the colony over as a concession to large colonial companies, which acquired exclusive rights to rubber productions, the buying up of ivory, and later the production and sale of coffee and cotton. A system of forced labor was introduced, and the native peoples were compelled to grow cotton and coffee for export. Onerous taxes were imposed on the African population. The colonialist exploitation sparked a revolt (soon suppressed) in 1928 under the leadership of Karinou. The revolt is sometimes called the Baya War.

After World War II the national liberation movement gained momentum. The year 1946 saw the founding of the colony’s first African party, initially called the Movement for the Social Emancipation of Black Africa and later that year renamed the Movement for the Social Evolution of Black Africa (MESAN). The party committed itself to the national liberation struggle. That same year the colony was given the status of a French overseas territory. In 1957, several Africans were appointed to the newly formed Government Council.

On Dec. 1, 1958, in accordance with the results of the referendum on the adoption of a new French constitution (held on Sept. 28, 1958), Ubangi-Chari was proclaimed an autonomous republic within the French Community and renamed the Central African Republic. The republic’s first head of government was B. Boganda, the founder and leader of MESAN. After Boganda’s death in March 1959, the government was headed by D. Dacko. The escalation of the national liberation movement obliged the French government to sign an agreement granting the republic independence. On Aug. 13, 1960, the republic was proclaimed an independent state, and the same day its government concluded agreements with France providing for close political, economic, and military cooperation. On Aug. 14, 1960, Dacko was elected president of the republic, and on Sept. 20, 1960, the country joined the UN.

An opposition group emerged within MESAN in 1959, seceding the next year to form an independent party, the Movement for the Democratic Evolution of Central Africa. The new party was banned at the end of 1960, and two years later MESAN was proclaimed the only political party. After independence, the government assiduously tried to attract foreign capital and to encourage private enterprise, both foreign and national. In 1962 an investment code was adopted to promote foreign investments in the country’s economy.

On Jan. 1, 1966, a military coup brought J. B. Bokassa to power as president of the republic and leader of MESAN. The National Assembly was dissolved and the constitution abolished. Since the early 1970’s there has been a certain tendency to develop the state sector and to broaden the state’s economic functions (see below: Economic geography). Under a new constitution adopted on Dec. 4, 1976, the country was renamed the Central African Empire. Bokassa was proclaimed Emperor Bokassa I.

The antipopular corrupt regime of Emperor Bokassa I caused discontent and unrest in the country. On Sept. 20, 1979, Bokassa I was dethroned as the result of a coup d’etat carried out with the assistance of French troops. The country was proclaimed a republic, and D. Dacko became president. The Central African Republic is a member of the Organization of African Unity, the Afro-Mauritian Common Organization, and the Customs and Economic Union of Central Africa. It has concluded a preferential-treatment agreement with the European Economic Community, and it supports close relations with the Western countries, primarily France. Diplomatic relations were established with the USSR in 1960, but were suspended in January 1980. In the years 1965–70, the two countries concluded agreements on cultural and scientific cooperation (1965), air transport (1965), long-term trade (1969), and economic and technical cooperation (1970).


Political parties and trade unions. The country’s sole political party, the Central African Democratic Union, founded in 1980, replaced the disbanded Social Evolution of Black Africa (Mouvement d’Evolution Sociale de L’Afrique Noire, MESAN), founded in 1946.

The government-controlled General Union of Central African Workers, founded in 1964, includes two trade union federations, one for workers in the private sector and the other for state employees. Since April 1973 it has been a member of the Organization of African Trade Union Unity.

Economic geography. The Central African Republic is an agrarian country. In 1971 agriculture accounted for 32 percent of its gross national product, industry and construction for 18 percent, trade for 13 percent, and transportation and communications for 4 percent.

In an effort to overcome the country’s economic backwardness, the government is taking steps to increase agricultural production and to create a state and a mixed sector in industry. State plans have been drawn up to regulate the country’s economic development. A number of foreign, chiefly French, private industrial enterprises and companies have been nationalized, including a French logging company and a joint French-Central African textile company. The government has also taken over the Boali-1 and Boali-2 hydroelectric power plants, automotive transport, and the port of Bangui. In 1974 the country had 31 state and 20 mixed companies. State farms have been organized, as well as agricultural marketing and production cooperatives. The government has established a state company to purchase farm produce, a bureau to administer state farms, and a company to manage slaughterhouses and expand livestock production. In general, the government advocates the coexistence of private (national and foreign) and state sectors of the economy. National economic development has been made possible largely owing to the influx of foreign capital investments.

Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy. Some 5.9 million hectares (ha) are under cultivation, with communal landowner-ship predominating among the indigenous peoples. As conditions in rural areas deteriorate, more and more peasants are migrating to the cities or hiring themselves out as seasonal workers. Slash-and-burn farming is widely practiced. The leading export crops are cotton and coffee. In 1975 47,500 tons of raw cotton were produced on 134,000 ha and 9,700 tons of coffee were harvested on 27,000 ha. Whereas cotton is raised only on peasant farms, coffee is grown both on peasant farms and on plantations owned by foreign companies. The main food crops are manioc (210,000 ha, 287,000 tons in 1975), millet (80,000 ha, 43,000 tons), rice (14,000 ha, 12,600 tons), and peanuts (105,000 ha, 85,000 tons). Livestock raising is of secondary importance. In 1975 the livestock population numbered 850,000 head of cattle, 67,600 sheep, 697,000 goats, and 101,600 hogs. In 1974 the country’s forests yielded 670,000 cu m of valuable wood, chiefly sapele, limba, and acajou. Gathered crops include the wild fruit of the oil palm and the juice of the rubber tree (Hevea). Among new crops being introduced are tobacco, pepper, cacao, and rubber (on plantations). Fish are caught in the rivers.

Most of the country’s industries are engaged in processing agricultural raw materials. There are cotton-ginning, oil-pressing, and soap-making plants and spinning and weaving mills. The largest enterprises are a textile combine (Bangui), a brewery, and an industrial complex producing flour, oil, soap, and feed concentrates for cattle. Bangui has a transistor radio assembly plant.

The leading mining industry is diamond extraction, carried out by some 50,000 prospectors. Industrial stones accounted for about half of the roughly 315,000 carats produced in 1976. Most of the diamonds are bought up by a mixed American-Central African company, which operates a lapidary workshop. Studies are under way to determine the feasibility of forming a mixed company to work the Bakouma uranium deposits. The company would be jointly owned by the national government, the French Atomic Energy Commissariat, and the Swiss company Alusuisse. Electricity is generated by the small Boali-1 and Boali-2 hydroelectric power plants and by steam power plants in Bangui, Bouar, Mbaiki, Bossangoa, Bambari, and Ndélé. Some 54 million kW-hrs of electric power were produced in 1974.

The country has 20,000 km of roads, of which 10,500 km are dirt roads. There were 12,800 motor vehicles in 1974, 5,500 of them trucks. The rivers are used for shipping. Bangui is the principal river port and the site of the international airport.

In 1975 exports amounted to 10.9 billion African francs, and imports totaled 12.5 billion African francs. The leading exports are cotton, coffee, timber, and diamonds. The main imports are foodstuffs, equipment, vehicles, petroleum products, cement, and textiles. The principal trading partner is France, which in 1975 bought 60 percent of the country’s exports and supplied 52 percent of its imports. The monetary unit is the African franc.


Armed forces. In 1976 the country had an army of about 140 men, an air force of about 250 men, a river flotilla of about 100 men and three patrol boats, and a gendarmerie of about 1400 men. All adult males are subject to compulsory military service. The president is the supreme commander in chief; day-to-day supervision of the armed forces is carried out by the Ministry of Defense through the General Staff.

Health and social welfare. According to statistics provided by the World Health Organization, the country had a birth rate of 46 and a mortality rate of 25 per 1,000 inhabitants in 1970. The infant mortality rate was high—190 per 1,000 live births. Infectious and parasitic diseases, especially malaria, tuberculosis, children’s infections, leprosy, and trypanosomiasis, are rampant and also the main cause of death.

In 1972 there were 52 hospitals with 3,500 beds (two for every 1,000 inhabitants), of which 47 hospitals with 3,400 beds were state hospitals. Outpatient care was provided by ten polyclinics, 31 medical centers, 4 public health centers, 82 dispensaries, 204 first-aid posts, and 5 mobile teams. Mobile units have been formed to combat infectious diseases. In 1973 the country had 59 physicians (one per 43,400 inhabitants), one dentist, 11 pharmacists, and about 1,300 secondary and other medical personnel. Physicians are educated abroad, and secondary medical personnel are trained at the National Institute of Medical Training. In 1973 public health expenditures accounted for 8.9 percent of the national budget.


Veterinary services. Inasmuch as a veterinary service is only now being established, the data on animal diseases are incomplete. The greatest economic damage is inflicted by trypanosomiasis. Also widespread are piroplasmoses, epidemic pneumonia, pasteurellosis, blackleg, tuberculosis, rabies, Newcastle disease, helminthiases, and mange. Anthrax, cattle plague, and brucellosis have been recorded. Veterinary stations have been organized in some parts of the country, and measures are being taken to combat various infectious and parasitic diseases. As of 1975 the country had two veterinarians; specialists are trained abroad.

Education. Prior to 1911, when the first government-run school was opened in Bangui, the education of Africans was in the hands of missionaries. When the country gained its independence in 1960, not more than 20 percent of the children in the appropriate age group were attending primary school, and only about 1 percent were enrolled in secondary schools. In 1970 approximately 85 percent of the population over the age of 15 was illiterate. At independence there were no higher educational institutions, although 20 students were studying in France.

Since independence the number of pupils in primary schools has more than tripled, and secondary-school enrollments have increased almost eight-fold. The present educational system is modeled on the French system. The administration of public education has been centralized and placed under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of National Education. Along with state schools there are private mission schools, which came under state control in 1964. The six-year primary schools, compulsory for children between the ages of six and 14, are divided into three two-year stages: a preparatory, an elementary, and a middle. In order to be enrolled in secondary educational institutions, students must pass a competitive examination. An incomplete secondary education is provided by general-education collèges offering a four-year course of instruction. Seven-year lycées, divided into two cycles of four and three years each, provide a complete secondary education. Lycée graduates who have passed the examination for the baccalaureate may enroll in a higher educational institution without further examinations. The network of vocational-technical schools includes two-year vocational apprenticeship centers, four-year technical collèges, and seven-year technical lycées, all of them open to those who have completed the primary school. Teaching in all educational institutions is conducted in French.

During the 1972–73 academic year the country’s primary schools had an enrollment of 194,000, representing about 55 percent of the children in the appropriate age group. Some 16,600 students were enrolled in secondary schools, including 14,700 in general-education schools, 1,400 in vocational-technical schools, and 450 in teacher-training schools.

The country’s first higher educational institution, the National University of Bangui, was founded in 1969–70 with faculties of economics, natural sciences, and humanities. During the 1976–77 academic year the university had an enrollment of 624 students.

Press, radio, and television. In 1977 the country’s French-language press, concentrated in Bangui, included the newspaper Ta Tene (circulation 5,000), published irregularly since 1974, the government weekly Terre Africaine (circulation 1,500), published irregularly since 1974, and the daily information bulletin Les Nouvelles du jour (circulation 5,000), issued since 1976. The Sango-language newspaper Linga, founded in 1976, is aimed at the rural population. The Central African Press Agency was founded in 1974. The government-operated Central African Radio, founded in 1958, broadcasts in French and Sango. Television broadcasting was initiated in January 1974.

Architecture and decorative art. Rural settlements are dispersed along river banks in one or two rows. The pisé or frame huts are either round or rectangular in plan and have steep pitched roofs. In Bangui, Berbérati, Bangassou, and other cities there are well-planned quarters with multistory administrative buildings in modern architectural styles and private residences belonging to wealthy Europeans and Africans. Workers live in separate districts consisting of native huts. Wood carving is a highly developed folk art. Cups, plates, various vessels, benches, and musical instruments are lavishly decorated with geometric carving. Weapons are frequently encrusted with metal disks. The country’s ceramic ware, chiefly vessels and smoking pipes, is noteworthy for its perfect symmetry and varied ornamentation, which is traced on the clay by finger before firing. The indigenous peoples also excel in making braided articles (mats, baskets, bags, hats) and ornaments of iron and ivory (rings, necklaces, bracelets) adorned with geometric designs.

Music. Centuries of mutually enriching cultural contacts among the many tribes in the area have given rise to a highly diverse indigenous musical tradition. The music of the native peoples may be divided into two main spheres: (1) group ritual activity—solo and choral singing accompanied by instrumental ensembles or dancing—associated with important events in the life of the community and (2) solo performances by professional poet-musicians, called wagbo ngombi among the Ngbaka and bi-ya-bia among the Izakara, who recite historical epics, lyric songs, fables, and proverbs. Choral singing is usually accompanied by drumming. Especially popular are ensembles consisting of four ngili drums—two-sided wooden drums in the shape of a truncated cone—supplemented with makembe metal bells and rattles. The professional wagbo ngombi musicians sing songs, usually lyrical narratives, to the accompaniment of the two-stringed ngombi harp, which is tuned to a pentatonic scale of two octaves.

The music of the Pygmies, chiefly choral singing, is highly distinctive. It is characterized by a polyphonic texture, rich melismatics, and a unique kind of syllabic singing, called mokombi, that includes yodels and trills. Falsetto and various onomatopoeic devices are also employed. There is a definite system of rhythms, and the use of the three basic rhythms—goboko, muya, and bondo—is strictly regulated.

During the colonial period some traditional musical forms disappeared almost entirely. Since the proclamation of independence in 1960, efforts have been made to revive, preserve, and develop the national music. Important work in this respect is being done by the Arts and Culture Service in Bangui, headed by J. R. Zana, and the Folk Arts and Traditions Section of the Barthélémy Boganda National Museum, which houses a large collection of recordings of traditional music. The National School of Arts, established in Bangui in 1966, has departments of music, dance, drama, and the plastic arts. Among well-known musicians are G. Lekema, Benibandi (wagbo ngombi), Gbianzolo (bi-ya-bia), and Mángalo, a performer of ba-benzele mimetic tales.



Noveishaia istoriia Afriki, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1968.
Subbotin, V. A. Kolonii Frantsii v 1870–1918 gg. Moscow, 1973.
Suret-Canale, J. Afrika Zapadnaia i Tsentral’naia. Moscow, 1961. (Translated from French.)
Kalck, P. Réalites oubanguiennes. Paris, 1959.
Kalck, P. La République Centrafricaine. Paris, 1971.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Central African Republic

Official name: Central African Republic

Capital city: Bangui

Internet country code: .cf

Flag description: Four equal horizontal bands of blue (top), white, green, and yellow with a vertical red band in cen­ter; there is a yellow five-pointed star on the hoist side of the blue band

National anthem: “Le Renaissance” (Rebirth)

Geographical description: Central Africa, north of Demo­cratic Republic of the Congo

Total area: 242,000 sq. mi. (622,983 sq. km.)

Climate: Tropical; hot, dry winters; mild to hot, wet summers Nationality: noun: Central African(s); adjective: Central African

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

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

Languages spoken: Sangho

Religions: Indigenous religions 35%, Roman Catholic 25%, Protestant 25%, Muslim 15%

Legal Holidays:

All Saints' DayNov 1
Assumption DayAug 15
Boganda DayMar 29
Christmas DayDec 25
Easter MondayApr 25, 2011; Apr 9, 2012; Apr 1, 2013; Apr 21, 2014; Apr 6, 2015; Mar 28, 2016; Apr 17, 2017; Apr 2, 2018; Apr 22, 2019; Apr 13, 2020; Apr 5, 2021; Apr 18, 2022; Apr 10, 2023
Independence DayAug 13
Labor DayMay 1
National DayDec 1
New Year's DayJan 1
Prayer DayJun 30
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.

Central African Republic

a landlocked country of central Africa: joined with Chad as a territory of French Equatorial Africa in 1910; became an independent republic in 1960; a parliamentary monarchy (1976--79); consists of a huge plateau, mostly savanna, with dense forests in the south; drained chiefly by the Shari and Ubangi Rivers. Official language: French; Sango is the national language. Religion: Christian and animist. Currency: franc. Capital: Bangui. Pop.: 3 912 000 (2004 est.). Area: 622 577 sq. km (240 376 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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