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The history of the Central African Republic.


Early history

The Central African Republic is believed to have been settled from at least the 7th century on by overlapping empires, including the Kanem-Bornu, Ouaddai, Baguirmi, and Dafour groups based around Lake Chad region and along Upper Nile. Later, various sultanates claimed present-day C.A.R, using the entire Oubangui region as a slave reservoir, from which slaves were traded north across the Sahara. Population migration in the 18th and 19th centuries brought new migrants into the area, including the Zande, Banda, and Baya-Mandjia.

French control

In 1875 the Sudanese sultan Rabih az-Zubayr governed Upper-Oubangui, which included present-day C.A.R. Europeans, primarily the French, German, and Belgians, arrived in the area in 1885. The French consolidated their legal claim to the area through an 1887 convention with Congo Free State, which granted France possession of the right bank of the Oubangui River. Two years later, the French established an outpost at Bangui, and in 1894, Oubangui-Chari became a French territory. However, the French did not consolidate their control over the area until 1903, after having defeated the forces of Rabih in the battle of Kousséri, and established colonial administration throughout the territory. In 1906, the Oubangui-Chari territory was united with the Chad colony; in 1910, it became one of the four territories of the Federation of French Equatorial Africa (A.E.F.), along with Chad, Republic of the Congo, and Gabon. The next thirty years were marked by smallscale revolts against French rule and the development of a plantation-style economy.


In August 1940, the territory responded, with the rest of the A.E.F., to the call from General Charles de Gaulle to fight for Free France. After World War II, the French Constitution of 1946 inaugurated the first of a series of reforms that led eventually to complete independence for all French territories in western and equatorial Africa. In 1946, all A.E.F. inhabitants were granted French citizenship and allowed to establish local assemblies. The assembly in C.A.R. was led by Barthélemy Boganda, a Catholic priest who also was known for his forthright statements in the French Assembly on the need for African emancipation. In 1956 French legislation eliminated certain voting inequalities and provided for the creation of some organs of self-government in each territory. The French constitutional referendum of September 1958 dissolved the A.E.F., and on 1 December of the same year the Assembly declared the birth of the Central African Republic with Boganda as head of government. Boganda ruled until his death in a March 1959 plane crash. His cousin, David Dacko, replaced him, governing the country until 1965 and overseeing the country's declaration of independence on 13 August 1960.

Bokassa coup

On 1 January 1966, following a swift and almost bloodless coup, Colonel Jean-Bédel Bokassa assumed power as president of the Republic. Bokassa abolished the constitution of 1959, dissolved the National Assembly, and issued a decree that placed all legislative and executive powers in the hands of the president. On 4 December 1976, the republic became a monarchy—the Central African Empire -- with the promulgation of the imperial constitution and the proclamation of the president as Emperor Bokassa I. His regime was characterized by numerous human rights atrocities.

Dacko counter-coup

On September 20, 1979, Dacko, with French support, led a bloodless coup that overthrew Bokassa while he was out of the country. The republic was restored, and Bokassa, who took refuge in Côte d’Ivoire and France, was sentenced to death in absentia for various crimes, including cannibalism. Moreover, an African judicial commission reported that he had “almost certainly” taken part in the massacre of some 100 children for refusing to wear the compulsory school uniforms. In January 1981, six of his supporters, including two sons-in-law, were executed.

Bokassa made an unexpected return in October 1986 and was retried. On June 12, 1987, he was convicted of having ordered the murders of at least 20 prisoners and the arrest of the schoolchildren who were murdered. He was sentenced to death, but this was commuted to a life term in February 1988. He was released from prison on September 1, 1993, as a result of an amnesty. He died of a heart attack in Bangui on November 3, 1996 at age 75.

Kolingba coup

Dacko's efforts to promote economic and political reforms proved ineffectual, and on 20 September 1981, he in turn was overthrown in a bloodless coup by General André Kolingba. For four years, Kolingba led the country as head of the Military Committee for National Recovery (CRMN). In 1985 the CRMN was dissolved, and Kolingba named a new cabinet with increased civilian participation, signaling the start of a return to civilian rule. The process of democratization quickened in 1986 with the creation of a new political party, the Rassemblement Démocratique Centrafricain (RDC), and the drafting of a new constitution that subsequently was ratified in a national referendum. General Kolingba was sworn in as constitutional President on 29 November 1986. The constitution established a National Assembly made up of 52 elected deputies, elected in July 1987.

Multiparty elections

Due to mounting political pressure, in 1991 President Kolingba announced the creation of National Commission to rewrite the constitution to provide for a multi-party system. Internal and international pressure led to multi-party presidential elections being held in 1992. Much of the resources for these first democratic elections since independence came via locally represented donors and agencies called the "Groupe informel des bailleurs de fonds et representants residents" (GIBAFOR)and help from the UN Office of Electoral Assistance was also obtained. Most of the pressure came from the US and then somewhat less enthusiastically France. The elections were held, but the government provoked logistical problems and other irregularities so they could nullify the results as a means to prolong their stay in office. Internal and international pressure in particular from France continued and in rescheduled elections held in October 1993, again with the help of the international community Ange-Félix Patassé won a second-round victory, Notwithstanding several army mutinies and increasing civic concern both at his erratic style and arbitrary, corrupt method of governing he was re-elected for another 6-year term in September 1999.

Salary arrears, labor unrest, and unequal treatment of military officers from different ethnic groups had also been among the causes of the three mutinies against the Patassé government in 1996 and 1997. The French succeeded in helping it to quell the disturbances, and an African peacekeeping force (MISAB) occupied Bangui until 1998 when they were relieved by a United Nations peacekeeping mission (MINURCA). Economic difficulties caused by the looting and destruction during the 1996 and 1997 mutinies, energy crises, and government mismanagement continued to trouble Patassé's government through 2000. In March 2000 the last of the MINURCA forces departed Bangui.

Bozizé coup

On 15 March 2003 rebels who controlled part of the country moved into Bangui and installed their commander, General François Bozizé, as president, while President Patassé was out of the country. Bozize has since been elected President in an election considered by observers to be fair and free. Patasse has been found guilty of major crimes in Bangui and CAR has brought a case to the International Criminal Court against him and Jean Pierre Bemba from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo accusing them both of multiple crimes in suppressing one of the mutinies against Patasse. Civil tranquillity has yet to be established and parts of the country remain out of government control. The UN continues to maintain a peace building mission in Bangui.

Despite these shortcomings, and his promise to step down at the end of the transition, Bozizé contested the March 13, 2005 presidential elections in which all of the leading opposition candidates were allowed to run except for Patassé. Bozizé won on the second run-off round on May 8, 2005, defeating Martin Ziguélé, who ran on the former ruling party ticket of the MLPC. The National Elections Commission declared Bozizé the winner with 64.6 percent of the vote to 35.4 percent for Ziguélé. Th election received a general declaration of fairness, although the absence of Patassé cast a shadow over the legitimacy of the process.

On May 8, 2005, Bozizé gained yet a further victory when his coalition, Convergence Kwa Na Kwa won 42 parliamentary seats in the legislative run-off vote. The MLPC came in second with 11 seats while the RDC managed only eight seats. The remaining seats were won by independents or by smaller parties. In June later that year, the African Union (AU) lifted sanctions against the country, which had been applied after the 2003 usurpation of power.

In early 2006, Bozizé’s government appeared stable. However, Patassé, who was living in exile in Togo, and whose supporters reportedly were joining or were prepared to join rebel movements in belief that their leader was still the official elected leader of the MLPC and the rightful head of state of the country, could not be ruled out as a leader of a future uprising. Further, members of Kolingba’s Yakoma tribe in the south posed a potential threat to Bozizé’s government because of their widespread boycott of the second round of the legislative elections. Members of the Yakoma currently dominate the army.


  • Maria Petringa, Brazza, A Life for Africa (2006) ISBN 9781-4259-11980

External links

See also



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