A landlocked country in Africa stretching west-to-east from Cameroon to the Sudan and south-to-north from humid equatorial forests bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo to the savannah plains of the Chad basin.
The country mainly comprises low plateaux, with the highest point at 1420 m (4660 feet) in the west. The Oubangi River forms the southern boundary and is an important channel of communication.
The Central African Republic is one of Africa's poorer countries, with a largely agricultural economy. There are export crops of coffee, cotton, and hardwood timber, and subsistence crops such as maize, bananas, and cassava, which are often adversely affected by drought. Diamonds, followed by coffee and cotton, constitute the largest export commodity; some gold is mined and uranium extraction is planned.
Archaeological finds have shown that the area was inhabited from palaeolithic times (from about three million years ago), but there are no documentary records until the 19th century. The Central African Republic is thought to have been part of the empire of Gaoga, which flourished in the 16th century, and the region was raided for slaves during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The French began exploring the country in 1889 and by 1911 had taken full control of it. As the French colony of Ubangi Shari, it formed part of French Equatorial Africa. In 1958 it became a republic within the French Community, and fully independent in 1960. In 1976 its President, Jean Bedel Bokassa, declared it an empire, and himself Emperor. Following allegations of atrocities, he was deposed in 1979, and the country reverted to a republic. Political instability persisted, and in 1981 General Kolingba seized power from the civilian government. This was restored in 1986 with Kolingba still President. There were demands for multiparty politics, and a new constitution was adopted in 1992. Elections were held in 1993: Ange-Félix Patassé became President and a coalition government was formed. Patassé was re-elected in 1999. There were failed coup attempts in 1996 and 2001 before a successful military coup in 2003 installed General François Bozizé as President. Elections held in 2005 confirmed Bozizé in office.
622,436 sq km (240,324 sq miles)
1 CFA franc = 100 centimes
Roman Catholic 18.4%; Muslim 15.6%; traditional beliefs 15.4%; Protestant 14.4%; other Christian 35%
Banda 31.0%; Baya 29.0%; Mandjia 8.5%
French, Sango (both official); Banda; Baya; local languages
UN; AU; Non-Aligned Movement; Franc Zone; WTO
Subjects: History — African Studies.