Central African Republic, a landlocked country in equatorial Africa. It is bordered by Chad, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, and Cameroon. The area is 240,535 square miles (622,984 km2). Maximum dimensions are about 480 miles (770 km) north-south and 900 miles (1,450 km) east-west.
Plateaus make up most of the Central African Republic's terrain. Elevations are generally between 1,600 and 3,600 feet (490–1,100 m) above sea level. In a few areas they exceed 4,500 feet (1,370 m). The Ubangi River, a major tributary of the Congo, drains the southern and central parts of the country. Other rivers form part of the Chari River system, which drains northward into Lake Chad.
The climate is hot, but not oppressively humid as in the lowlands of equatorial Africa. Average monthly temperatures range between 70º and 90° F. (21° and 32° C.). Rainfall is abundant throughout most of the country and comes primarily from May through October. Amounts vary from about 70 inches (1,780 mm) in the extreme south to 30 inches (760 mm) in the far north. Virtually all of the country is covered by savannas or tropical rain forests. Wildlife abounds throughout the country. For many years, elephants were hunted here for their ivory, but since 1985 elephant hunting has been banned by the government.
|Facts in brief about the Central African Republic|
|Official language: French.|
|Official name: République Centrafricaine (Central African Republic).|
|Area: 240,535 mi2 (622,984 km2).|
|Population: Current estimate—4,157,000; density, 17 per mi2 (7 per km2); distribution, 59 percent rural, 41 percent urban. 2003 official government estimate—3,859,139.|
|Chief products: Agriculture—bananas, coffee, cotton, livestock, palm kernels, peanuts, rubber, sesame, yams. Forestry—timber. Mining—diamonds, gold.|
|Flag: On the Central African Republic's flag, horizontal blue, white, green, and yellow stripes (top to bottom) are divided at the center by a red vertical stripe. A yellow star represents the guiding light of the future. Red, white, and blue recall the French flag. Green, yellow, and red are for the people and their unity.|
|Money: Basic unit—CFA franc. CFA stands for Coopération Financière en Afrique Centrale (Financial Cooperation in Central Africa).|
The Central African Republic is one of the least economically developed countries in Africa. It suffers from a severe lack of modern transport facilities, financial resources, and skilled labor, and it has no direct access to the sea. The vast majority of the people reside in rural areas and live by subsistence farming. Only about 3 per cent of the total land area is used for raising crops. The main subsistence crops are millet, sorghum, and cassava. The most important cash crops are cotton, coffee, and rubber. Raising of livestock is hindered by the climate and disease transmitted by the tsetse fly.
The country has large forest resources that remain relatively unexploited because of a lack of adequate transportation. The only minerals that are commercially mined are diamonds and gold. Manufacturing is minimal and consists primarily of food processing and the making of consumer items such as textiles, leather, and beer.
The country's transport system is very poor. Few of the roads are hard-surfaced and many stretches become impassable during the rainy months. There are no railways. The chief artery for external transport is the Ubangi River, which forms part of an 1,100-mile (1,770-km) river-and-rail route to the Atlantic. Bangui, the capital, is the chief river port and has an international airport.
The Central African Republic's main exports are diamonds, cotton, coffee, and timber. Primary imports include machinery, motor vehicles, food, petroleum products, and Pharmaceuticals. The country's main trading partners are France, Belgium, Cameroon, and Japan. The country relies heavily upon foreign aid, especially from France. The basic currency unit is the CFA franc.
The Central African Republic is inhabited by a great variety of ethnic groups, the largest of which are the Banda, Baya, and M'Baka. Half of the population professes Christianity, although many still adhere to animist beliefs. The official language is French, but Sanghocc, an African tongue, is understood throughout the country. Education is provided for some 50 per cent of the children of elementary school age. Only a small percentage go on to secondary school.
The constitution provides for a president and a parliament. Both are elected by the people.
The Central African Republic was the French colony of Ubangi-Shari from 1894 to 1958, when it became the autonomous Central African Republic. Complete independence was achieved in 1960. David Dacko became the first president.
In 1965, Colonel Jean-Bedel Bokassa overthrew Dacko and named himself president. He ruled as a dictator and in 1976 took the title emperor and renamed the country the Central African Empire. In 1979 he was overthrown, the country reassumed its former name, and Dacko became president again.
In 1981, a group of army officers led by General Andre Kolingba forced Dacko to resign. A junta was formed with Kolingba as head of state. Kolingba ruled by decree until the adoption of a new constitution and his election to the presidency in 1986. He established a one-party state in 1987. Opposition parties were legalized in 1991. Kolingba remained in power until 1993, when he was defeated in presidential elections. A series of rebellions and corrupt elections destabilized the country during the late 1990's.