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« What should we do with Africans? | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #10 of 54: Chad Republic »

April 30, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #9 of 54: Central African Republic

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) --- 9. CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC Flag of Central African Republic

Formal Name: Central African Republic.

Term for Citizens: Central Africans.

Capital: Bangui. Population: 666, 000.

Independence Achieved: August 13, 1960 (from France).

Major Cities: Bangui.

Geography:

Central African Republic is in Central Africa. It is bordered by Sudan, Congo-Kinshasa, Congo-Brazzaville, Cameroon and Chad. Central African Republic has an area of 240, 535 square miles. Most of the country is located on a plateau 2500 feet above sea level, a plateau broken by even higher hills that rise to 4000 feet. The Ubangi River drains the southern and northwestern parts of the plateau, while the Shari River drain the North Country toward lake Chad. The south is rain forest and the north is savanna grassland. Only about 10% of the land is suitable for agriculture. The climate is very tropical, with two seasons, rainy (June to October…rain often is accompanied by tornados and floods) and dry (October to March).

Society:

The population of Central African Republic is estimated at 3, 865, 000.

Ethnic Groups: The major ethnic groups are Mandjia, Banda, Banziri, Sara, Mbum, Mbuti, Bunga, Mbaka, and Zande.

Languages: Each of the ethnic groups speaks its own language. Sangho is widely spoken. French is the official language.

Religion: Christian South and Muslim North and a variety of indigenous religions.

Education: Access to primary education is available to all but not free. Literacy rate is estimated at 51%.

Economy: Although less than 10% of the land is fertile, agriculture is the primary economic activity. Cotton, peanuts, and coffee are produced for export. Diamonds is a significant mining industry. The country depends heavily on France for supplies and on the Congo for military help. GDP estimate: $4.7 billion; Per Capita: $310. Monetary Unit: CFA Franc BEAC (XAF)

History and Government:

France took over what was then called Ubangi-Shari in 1894 and ruled it as part of its Equatorial Africa, which included present Chad. In 1958 the people voted to be an independent country within the French community. And in 1960, the country opted for independence. Subsequently, a series of army persons seized political power. Bokassa made himself an emperor and lavished spending on his coronation. Yet another army officer later dismissed him from power. Central African Republic remains one of the poorest countries in Africa. The country is divided into 14 prefectures, 2 economic prefectures and 1 commune.

CONTEMPORARY HISTORY AND POLITICS

During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the major European countries scrambled to carve out territories for themselves in Africa. The French carved out territory around the Ubangi and Shari river basin and called it the French Colony of Ubangi-Shari (1900). Not much took place in this territory until France formed the French community in 1958 and Ubangi Shari was one of the first French African countries to join up. In 1960, Ubangi-Shari became independent and changed its name to Central African Republic.

Since independence, Central Africa Republic has witnessed political instability that even by African standards is excessive. It seems that military generals highest job position is to overthrow the government and become the head of state, until another general overthrows them.

Upon independence, the head of state, Barthelemy Boganda, was quickly disposed by David Dacko in 1962.

Dacko, himself, was deposed in 1965 by Colonel Jean Bedel Bokassa. In 1977, Bokassa crowned himself the emperor of Central African Empire.

Two years later, with the aid of the French, Dacko returned to power and the world was told that the former emperor feasted on human flesh.

In 1981, Dacko was overthrown by General Andre Kolingba. Kolingba clung to power until 1993 when pressure from the international community forced him to hold an election.

Ange-Felix Patasse won that election. In 2002, a military coup led by Francois Bozize toppled the Patasse government. Mr. Bozizi held an election in 2003 and won and is the current President of Central African Republic.


In 2004, Bozize wrote a new constitution for the country. The new constitution established a Parliamentary system of democracy with multiple party systems. The constitution established a National Assembly, a Supreme Court and permitted political parties to compete for office. The president is overall in charge of government but appoints a prime minister from the party with majority seats in the National Assembly.

The country was divided into 14 administrative units (prefectures). The prefectures were further divided into 71 sub-prefectures.

In 2005, a parliamentary election was held and Mr. Elie Dote was appointed the Prime Minister under President Francois Bozize.

Central African Republic is one of the poorest countries in Africa. The per capita income is U.S $310 (World Bank, 2005). Though the country possesses loads of natural resources, such as diamonds and considerable agricultural resources, these are underdeveloped. What revenue there is, such as comes from diamonds, is wasted buying military weapons by the various generals competing for power. Central African Republic is blessed with arable lands that could be put to effective agricultural use and feed the three million plus population, but, instead, political strife caused by competition for power and control of the government makes sure that the people live in poverty. Indeed, these conflicts force the people to run and spill over into other countries as refugees. A considerable number of persons from Central African Republic live in Chad Republic as refugees.

Mr. Bozize’s government appears to be respecting the constitution. He permits news papers, independent radio stations and TV stations to exist and, more importantly, to criticize his government without reporters going missing, as was the case in the past. Whether these criticisms by the press have impact on the government is another matter. As in many Africans countries, the government, bowing to foreign pressure, learns to tolerate the existence of apparent free Press while ignoring it.

In the end, it remains to be seen how long Mr. Bozize’s government would last before another General topples him. In the meantime, the country remains grossly underdeveloped, even by African standards.

Ozodi@africainstituteseattle.org

Posted by Administrator at April 30, 2006 11:23 AM

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