CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
Geography and Landscape
As the name suggests, the Central African Republic is located in Central Africa. The republic is bordered to the north by Chad, to the east by Sudan, to the south by Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) and to the west by Cameroon. The area of the Central African Republic is 622,984 square kilometers.
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The north of the country is dry and fairly barren, but dense tropical forest grows along the rivers in the southwest. Vast savannas lie between these landscapes. At the border with Cameroon, the land rises to 2000 meters. The Chari River crosses the Central African Republic from east to west.
Climate and Landscape
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The climate in the Central African Republic is tropical. Temperatures rarely fall below 20 degrees Celsius and in April, just before the rains start, daytime temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius. The rainy season lasts until October and most rain falls in August and September. The best time to travel is from December to February.
Plants and Animals
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The Central African Republic has a lot of variety in vegetation. There are both rainforests and savannas. Common in the Central African Republic are acacia, banana, groundnut, cotton, coffee, mahogany, okoumé and palm.
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The Central African Republic is one of the countries of Africa with a very varied animal life. There is a large bird population and there are many beautiful butterfly and insect species, bats and snakes. Antelopes, buffaloes and elephants can be found on the savannas and hippos, crocodiles and rhinos live along the rivers.
In the heart of the Congo River basin, in the south of the Central African Republic, the Western Lowland Gorilla lives. Lowland gorillas live in a very dense and inaccessible area and it is almost impossible to observe these animals directly.
The Central African Republic (CAR) is a former French colony that gained independence in 1960.
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The history of the Central African Republic after its independence in 1960 is a succession of coups and military governments. In 1966, the then commander Jean-Bedel Bokassa came to power thanks to a coup d'état. Bokassa revoked the constitution and dissolved parliament. In 1976 he proclaimed himself emperor. The bloody crackdown on student protests in 1979 led to its end. With the help of French troops, ex-president Dacko was brought back to power. In 1981 General Kolingba took power. It held elections for 1993, which were won by Ange-Félix Patassé (who had attempted a coup in 1983). Patassé was re-elected in September 1999 by a narrow majority.
Due to the lack of salary payments, units within the army mutinied in 1996. French troops evacuated the foreigners present and came to Patassé's aid. It then remained restless. In January 1997, African negotiators reached an agreement and a regional peacekeeping force "Mission inter-africaine de surveillance des accords de Bangui" (MISAB) was set up to oversee the implementation of the peace agreement. MISAB was replaced by the peace force "Mission des Nations Unies en République Centrafricaine" (MINURCA). In February 2000, MINURCA was terminated and succeeded by “Bureau des Nations Unions for Construction de la Paix and RCA (BONUCA).
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In May 2001, former president André Kolingba made a coup attempt. Patassé succeeded in thwarting the attempt by deploying both a Congolese rebel movement and Libyan troops. The Commission of Inquiry set up after the coup accused General Bozizé, Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Patassé's confidant, of involvement in the coup. Bozizé then fled to Chad. In October 2002, General Bozizé made an initially unsuccessful coup attempt. President Patassé was initially able to hold his own in the north of the country, but was expelled on March 15, 2003 after the capture of Bangui by the Bozizé rebels. He proclaimed himself president. Patassé fled to Togo. In May 2005 Bozizé is proclaimed president. In January 2008, Prime Minister Elie Dote and his government resign. President Bozizé appoints Faustin-Archange Touadera, an academic with no political background, as Dote's successor. In January 2009 he formed a cabinet of national unity together with Francois Naouyama of the APRD and Djomo Didou of the FDR. In February 2010 President Bozize announced that elections will be held on April 25, the opposition is against this date. In April 2010, elections are postponed and the parliament extended the presidency of Bozizé until elections can be held. Elections will take place in January 2011 and Bozizé wins another term as president. In March 2013, Seleka Rebels seize power and Bozizé takes flight. In August 2013 the rebel leader Michel Djotodia is sworn in as president. In December 2013 there are massacres between Muslims and Christians. The violence takes on the character of ethnic cleansing. In January 2014, Djotodia stepped down after much criticism and Catherine Samba-Panza became interim leader. The situation remains very unstable. In 2015 and 2016, the situation remains tense between Muslims and Christians.
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In March 2016 Faustin-Archange Touadera wins the presidential election, Simplice Sarandji becomes prime minister. In September 2017, the UN Refugee Agency said the ongoing violence was the cause of the greatest refugee flow since the crisis began. More than 1 million people have been driven from their homes. the following years the situation hardly improved. Touadera will be re-elected in December 2020, the outcome being contested by his main rival Anicet-Georges Dologuélé.
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5.6 million people live in the Central African Republic (2017). The population density is approximately 9 inhabitants per square kilometer.
- The natural population growth is 2.1%. (2017)
- Birth rate per 1000 inhabitants is 34.3 (2017)
- Mortality rate per 1000 inhabitants is 13.2 (2017)
- Life expectancy is 52.8 years. (men 51.4 and women 54.2 years (2017)
The inhabitants of the Central African Republic can be divided into four groups: the Bantu tribes (Aka, Azande, Nzakara), the Pygmies, the Mbororo and the Arabs.
French and Sangho are the official languages of the Central African Republic. The most used language is Sangho, 90% of the population speaks Sangho. French is used more for formal situations and as a written language, 30% of the population can get by in French. Furthermore, many indigenous languages and dialects are spoken.
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In the Central African Republic 50% of the population has a Christian faith, mainly Catholicism. 15% are Muslim, especially in the north of the country, and the rest adhere to an indigenous religion. Religious freedom is guaranteed in the constitution, but certain forms of fundamentalism are prohibited.
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A new constitution was adopted in 2004. The parliament consists of the National Assembly, with 109 members, elected for five years. The president is elected for a period of 5 years and can stand for re-election for a maximum of a second term. In December 2005, parliament passed a law allowing the president to rule by decree for nine months.
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After taking power, Bozizé suspended the constitution, dissolved parliament and declared himself head of state. In December 2004 a new constitution was adopted by referendum. Presidential and parliamentary elections took place in March and May 2005, which were won by Bozizé. After these elections, Bozizé's Convergence Kwa Na Kwa will hold 42 seats out of 105, making it the main party in the coalition government of Prime Minister Elie Doté from the North.
In the north and north-west of the country, rebel movements are active, such as the Armée Popular pour la Restauration de la Démocratie et de la Ré publique, the Union des Forces africaines and the Mouvement Patriotique pour la Renaissance du Peuple centrumfricain.
For the current political situation see the chapter history.
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Due to the specific circumstances of the CAR (no access to the open sea, inadequate physical infrastructure and a small population) the country has little development potential. The economy is mainly based on the agricultural sector (43% of GDP), in which more than 70% of the population finds its right to exist. (2017) Agriculture in the north, in particular, has suffered greatly from banditry. Agriculture takes place on small-scale businesses; there are hardly any large plantations. The domestic market is too small and poor to support large-scale activities in the industrial and services sector.
Wood and diamonds are by far the most important export products. However, these exports involve high transport costs. In addition, the Central African Republic has been expelled from the Kimberley process because it has not complied with the agreements. The Kimberley Process involves the certification of diamonds so that greater transparency prevents smuggling and trade in "blood diamonds". Although the presence of oil along the border with Chad is suspected, the Central African Republic has no oil production of its own and as a result has to import it.
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A devaluation of 50% of the CFA franc caused a short-lived economic recovery in 1994. After that, however, the economic situation deteriorated significantly. After the Bozizé coup d'état in 2003, the republic even experienced negative growth of –7.7%. Growth in 2005 is estimated at 2%. Depending on the stabilization of the country, the IMF expects the economy to have an annual growth rate of 3.5 to 4% in the medium term. The recovery of the economy is hampered by political instability, poor (transport) infrastructure and insecurity in large parts of the country.
Relations with the Bretton Woods institutions have always been difficult. The Central African Republic has a long history of failing to comply with IMF requirements. The IMF has expressed concern about the excessively high level of government spending and the high external debt. Because reforms are slow and there is uncertainty about the new political and economic direction, qualification for the "Highly Indebted Poor Countries" (HIPC) initiative does not appear to be feasible within a short period of time.
Following the May 2005 elections, considered relatively fair, the EU has resumed its partly suspended program since the coup. In January 2006, the IMF approved an emergency post-conflict assistance loan (EPCA) of $ 10.2 million. With a successful implementation of this program, the CAR could qualify for a Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) from 2007. The civil war has made the economy exceptionally bad. The economy grew by 4% in 2017.
Holidays and Sightseeing
The Central African Republic is an exceptionally beautiful country with a varied wildlife, according to the Lonely Planet guide. Before you leave, check the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in connection with security risks.
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The capital of the Central African Republic of Bangui is an important trade and transport hub along the Oubangui River. A capital's facilities make Bangui an essential stopover for visitors on their way to see the country's natural wonders. Bangui also has its own attractions. The old town of Bangui was founded by the French in 1880 and has a typical colonial charm with wide boulevards leading to a central market square.
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A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Les Chutes de la Mbi waterfalls descend 656 meters from a tributary of the Upper Mpoko River into the Oubangui basin. The falls are known for their natural beauty and can be easily seen from a bridge. Another important waterfall in the C.A.R. is the Boali, a 164 meter high waterfall not far from Les Chutes de la Mbi. A visit is only worthwhile in the rainy season, when the waterfalls are at their full volume. The major city closest to these waterfalls is Bossembele, about 1200 km. from Bangui on the main road to Cameroon.
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The Manovo-Gounda St. Floris National Park in Chetenige UNESCO World Heritage Park. Located in the north at the border with Chad, the park encompasses three types of landscape: the floodplains around the Bahr Aouk and Bahr Kameur rivers, the mountainous south and the plains in between. Numerous rivers flow through the park where many animal species can be seen, including large mammals such as lions, giraffes, hippos and buffalo. There are also about 320 bird species. The development of tourism in the park has been significantly curtailed by illegal poaching. Poaching has decimated the mammal population and threatens the safety of visitors.
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