History of Central African Republic (C.A.R)

Published on 20th December 2005

Between the 16th and 19th century, 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 century; 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. 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 forces. Libyan troops were withdrawn after the Nov., 2002, coup attempt and replaced by peacekeepers from the Central African Economic Community. In March, 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.

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 March 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.

ECONOMY 

The Central African Republic is classified as one of the world\'s least developed countries, sparsely populated and landlocked; the nation is overwhelmingly agrarian, with the vast bulk of the population engaged in subsistence farming and 55% of the country\'s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) arising from agriculture. Principal crops include cotton, food crops (cassava, yams, bananas, maize), coffee, and tobacco.

Hydroelectric plants based in Boali provide much of the country’s limited electrical supply. Fuel supplies must be barged in via the Ubangui River or trucked overland through Cameroon, resulting in frequent shortages of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. The C.A.R.\'s transportation and communication network is limited. The telephone system functions, albeit imperfectly.

In the more than 40 years since independence, the C.A.R. has made slow progress towards economic development. Economic mismanagement, poor infrastructure, a limited tax base, scarce private investment, and adverse external conditions have led to deficits in both its budget and external trade. Its debt burden is considerable, and the country has seen a decline in per capita Gross National Product (GNP) over the last 30 years.

The World Bank and IMF are now encouraging the government to concentrate exclusively on implementing much-needed economic reforms to jumpstart the economy and defining its fundamental priorities with the aim of alleviating poverty. As a result, many of the state-owned business entities have been privatized and limited efforts have been made to standardize and simplify labor and investment codes and to address problems of corruption. The C.A.R. Government has adopted the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) Charter of Investment, and is in the process of adopting a new labor code.

Below is an analysis of History of Central African Republic (C.A.R) according to the 2005 Index of Economic Freedom, The Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal

Rank: 117

Score: 3.51

Category: Mostly Unfree

Population: 3,820,000

Total Area: 622, 984 sq. km

GDP: $1.3 billion

GDP growth rate: -0.8%

GDP per capita: $331

Major exports: cotton. Coffee, timber, diamonds

Exports of goods and services: $105.1 billion

Major export trading partners: Belgium 66.8%, Spain 6.4%, Kazakstan 4.0%

Major imports: food, textiles, petroleum products, machinery, electrical equipment

Imports of goods and services: $129.4 billion

Major import trading partner: France 29.9%, US 5.1%, Cameroon 4.5%

Foreign direct investment (net): $4 million

REFERENCES

www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/4007.htm - 54k

www.infoplease.com/ce6/world/A0857229.html - 23k

2005 Index of Economic Freedom, The Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal


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