Overview

Central African Republic is an independent republic, which lies between Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and forms part of the landlocked West African Region. The capital city is Bangui. Other major towns are Bambari and Bossangoa.

The official language is French but Sango is the lingua franca of most people. Very little English is spoken although Swahili is spoken in the east of the country and Arabic in the north. The local currency is the CFA-franc. (US$ / CFA Franc – current exchange rate).

Agriculture and forestry are the key elements of the economy, with the main export crop being coffee. Timber is also an important export from the largely under-utilised natural forests in the extreme south of the country, although there is pressure from environmentalists to limit the logging activities in the country. Other export products include wax, rubber, tobacco and leather.

The country is essentially self-sufficient in terms of food, with the staples of maize, groundnuts, rice, millet, cassava and sesame being grown in the country. The livestock industry is growing in Central African Republic, although the growth is hampered by the strong presence of tsetse flies as well as marketing problems.

Key industries in the Central African Republic are the mining and oil industries. Electricity is provided by the parastatal utility Enerca.

The manufacturing industry in Central African Republic is very small and does not contribute significantly to GDP. The industry is mainly focussed on processing agricultural and forest products (cotton ginning, leather tanning and textiles) and with light industry (soap, paint, bricks and utensil manufacture, motor cycle and bicycle assembly and brewing). Manufacture in Central African Republic serves only the needs of local consumers.

Central African Republic is potentially a popular tourist destination. The rainforest and savannah regions could be used to bring in much foreign exchange. However, as such, tourism infrastructure is almost non-existent in the country.

The country is ruled by a democratically elected government after 35 years of dictatorship. The Central African Republic government is attempting to restore normal financial conditions in the country, bring public expenditure under control, address poverty and restore relations with external creditors. The government is also addressing the issues of access to potable water and sanitation in the country.

Malaria, tuberculosis, cholera, hepatitis A, meningitis, typhoid fever, yellow fever, schistosomiasis and dengue fever may be contracted while travelling in CAR. A certificate of vaccination against yellow fever is required by all visitors over the age of 1. The certificate is also required by passengers in transit who do not intend leaving the airport. Malaria, predominantly in the malignant form exists throughout the year and across the entire country and resistance to chloroquine has been reported. The risk of contraction of the above diseases is based on a number of factors including location, individual’s state of health, current immunisation status, and the local disease situation.

The international time zone for the Central African Republic is Greenwich +1 and the international dialling code is +236. There is an international airport at Bangui and the principal airlines which fly there are Air Afrique, which also services internal routes, and Air France and regional airlines. As at January 1996 visas are required by all nationals except those of France, Germany, Italy and some west African countries.

History

  • The former French territory of Oubangui-chari became the Central African republic (CAR) in 1958, and Boganda became the first Prime Minister.
  • CAR became independent on 13 August 1960 and the ruling Mouvement d’evolution sociale de l’Afrique noire (MESAN) was declared the sole legal party.
  • In 1966 Col Jean-Bedel Bokassa staged a coup d’êtat.
  • Bokassa declared himself president for life in 1972 with little open opposition.
  • Open opposition to Bokassa’s rule mounted from the beginning of 1979 and he was deposed in a bloodless coup by Dacko, supported by French troops.
  • A new multi-party constitution was approved by referendum in February 1981 and Dacko was elected President.
  • Opposition to Dacko’s rule increased in 1981 and transfer of power was handed to military government under Gen. André Kolingba. All party-political activity was suspended.
  • By 1985 the military government became increasingly unpopular and the cabinet was dissolved. A new administration was formed, in which civilians were appointed ministers and held the majority of portfolios
  • In 1987 the RDC (the sole party), drafted a new constitution wherein a clear separation between state and party was made.
  • In 1986 Bokassa returned to the country and was arrested upon arrival. He was brought to trial and found guilty in 1987, and was sentenced to death.
  • In 1988, Kolingba commuted the sentence to one of life and in 1989 it was announced that all remaining sentences were to be similarly commuted .
  • After the Bokassa trial, Kolingba resumed his earlier attempts at democratsation and national reconciliation.
  • In 1990 the RDC ruled that a multi-party system in the CAR would be incompatible with the country’s political and economic development.
  • The government’s unpopularity intensified and from 1991 sporadic strikes occurred.
  • In 1993 Kolingba was defeated and Patassé was sworn in as president.
  • In 1994 several committees of specialists, appointed by the government, began to draft a new constitution, empowering the president to nominate senior military, civil service and judicial officials, and requiring the prime minister to implement policies decided by the president.
  • In early 1995, Jean-Luc Mandaba resigned as prime minister and Patassé appointed Gabriel Koyambounou as the new prime minister