Facts about Central Africa Republic

By benim
In Facts about Africa
Oct 15th, 2010
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The Central African Republic (CAR) has been unstable since its independence from France in 1960 and is one of the least-developed countries in the world.

It has endured several coups and a notorious period under a self-declared emperor, Jean-Bedel Bokassa, who headed a brutal regime.

Overview

The Bokassa era ended in 1979, when he was overthrown in a coup led by David Dacko and backed by French commandos based in the country.

After just two years in office Mr Dacko was toppled by Andre Kolingba, who eventually allowed multi-party presidential elections and was duly rejected in the first round.

Mr Kolingba’s successor, Ange-Felix Patasse, had to contend with serious unrest which culminated in riots and looting in 1997 by unpaid soldiers.

When in that year the French pulled out, there were fears of a power vacuum, so Paris financed a group of French-speaking African countries to create a peacekeeping force. That force was then transformed into the UN Mission to the Central African Republic, or Minurca.

AT-A-GLANCE
Central African Republic rebel
Politics: Country described as a failed state in permanent crisis, facing mutinies and rebellions. Peace process envisages elections in 2010, demobilisation and reintegration of rebel groups
Economy: Decades of instability have undermined the economy. People here are among world’s poorest.
International: Suffers spill-over of violence from neighbours; assisted by French military; hosts international peacekeepers. Ugandan troops pursuing rebels

In 1999 Mr Patasse beat nine other candidates to become president again, but there were allegations of electoral fraud. He was overthrown in a coup in 2003 and went into exile in Togo.

Illegal weapons proliferate across the CAR, the legacy of years of unrest. Armed groups are active in the volatile north. The unrest has displaced tens of thousands of Central Africans; many of them have crossed the border into Chad.

Some progress towards ending the conflict was made in 2008, when peace talks led to an agreement committing two of the main rebel groups to disarm. The process culminated with the creation of a national unity government incorporating two rebel leaders in early 2009.

However, another threat has appeared – the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels of neighbouring Uganda, whose insurgency has spread to the wider region, including CAR. In 2009, LRA activities forced the populations of several towns and villages to flee, while government forces struggled to contain the gunmen.

The CAR possesses considerable agricultural, water and mineral resources. But corruption is rife, according to the IMF, and affects the timber and diamond industries.

The country is endowed with virgin rainforests and has some of the highest densities of lowland gorillas and forest elephants in Africa.

Facts

  • Full name: Central African Republic
  • Population: 4.4 million (UN, 2009)
  • Capital: Bangui
  • Area: 622,984 sq km (240,535 sq miles)
  • Major languages: French, Sangho (lingua franca)
  • Major religions: Christianity, Islam, indigenous beliefs
  • Life expectancy: 45 years (men), 48 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc = 100 centimes
  • Main exports: Diamonds, timber, cotton, coffee, tobacco
  • GNI per capita: US $410 (World Bank, 2008)
  • Internet domain: .cf
  • International dialling code: +236

Leaders

President: Francois Bozize

President Bozize seized power in a coup in 2003 before winning an election two years later.

Francois Bozize

Francois Bozize first took power in a 2003 coup

Mr Bozize ousted the unpopular Ange-Felix Patasse – who was out of the country at the time – and declared himself president. He promised to return the country to democratic rule and ran as an independent in the 2005 poll.

He took more than 64% of the vote in the second round of presidential elections in May 2005.

The newly-elected president called for national unity. He had pledged in his campaign to bring security to the coup-prone country.

Mr Bozize set 14 April 2010 as the date for fresh general elections, but the polls were postponed. The election authorities said they could not organise the vote in time.

Parliament voted to extend his mandate until new elections are held.

Mr Bozize is no stranger to politics, or to coups. He stood for president in the republic’s first democratic elections in 1993, but lost to Mr Patasse.

He led an unsuccessful coup in 1983 against military ruler Andre Kolingba and was suspected of being involved in a coup attempt against President Patasse in 2001, which was thwarted with the help of Libyan troops.

Media

Private newspapers criticise government policies and alleged corruption, but have a limited impact because of their cost and the high level of illiteracy.

In the capital, UN-sponsored Radio Ndeke Luka (“bird of luck”) provides balanced output, and rebroadcasts international news programmes.

Other radio and TV stations are run by the state-run Radiodiffusion-Television Centrafricaine and provide little coverage of the political opposition.

A media law passed in 2004 abolished prison terms for press offences.

BBC World Service (90.2 FM) and Radio France Internationale are available via local relays in Bangui.

The press

  • Le Citoyen – private, daily
  • Le Confident – private, daily
  • L’Hirondelle – private, daily
  • Le Démocrate – private, daily
  • L’Evenementiel – private, daily
  • Centrafrique-Presse – state-owned, bi-weekly

Television

  • Television Centrafricaine (TVCA) – state-run
  • Tropic RTV – private

Radio

  • Radio Centrafrique – state-run
  • Radio Notre Dame – Roman Catholic station in Bangui
  • Radio Nostalgie – private
  • Radio Ndeke Luka – Bangui FM station, UN-backed

News agency

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