Currently viewing country profile for Central African Republic
The Central African Republic (CAR) has been unstable since its independence from France in 1960 and is one of the least-developed countries in the world.
It has endured several coups and a notorious period under a self-declared emperor, Jean-Bedel Bokassa, who headed a brutal regime.
The Bokassa era ended in 1979, when he was overthrown in a coup led by David Dacko and backed by French commandos based in the country.
After just two years in office Mr Dacko was toppled by Andre Kolingba, who eventually allowed multi-party presidential elections and was duly rejected in the first round.
Mr Kolingba's successor, Ange-Felix Patasse, had to contend with serious unrest which culminated in riots and looting in 1997 by unpaid soldiers.
When in that year the French pulled out, there were fears of a power vacuum, so Paris financed a group of French-speaking African countries to create a peacekeeping force. That force was then transformed into the UN Mission to the Central African Republic, or Minurca.
In 1999 Mr Patasse beat nine other candidates to become president again, but there were allegations of electoral fraud. He was overthrown in a coup in 2003 and went into exile in Togo.
Illegal weapons proliferate across the CAR, the legacy of years of unrest. Armed groups are active in the volatile north. The unrest has displaced tens of thousands of Central Africans; many of them have crossed the border into Chad.
Some progress towards ending the conflict was made in 2008, when peace talks led to an agreement committing two of the main rebel groups to disarm. The process culminated with the creation of a national unity government incorporating two rebel leaders in early 2009.
However, another threat has appeared - the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels of neighbouring Uganda, whose insurgency has spread to the wider region, including CAR. In 2009, LRA activities forced the populations of several towns and villages to flee, while government forces struggled to contain the gunmen.
The CAR possesses considerable agricultural, water and mineral resources. But corruption is rife, according to the IMF, and affects the timber and diamond industries.
The country is endowed with virgin rainforests and has some of the highest densities of lowland gorillas and forest elephants in Africa.
- Full name: Central African Republic
- Population: 4.5 million (UN, 2010)
- Capital: Bangui
- Area: 622,984 sq km (240,535 sq miles)
- Major languages: French, Sangho (lingua franca)
- Major religions: Christianity, Islam, indigenous beliefs
- Life expectancy: 47 years (men), 50 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: 1 CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc = 100 centimes
- Main exports: Diamonds, timber, cotton, coffee, tobacco
- GNI per capita: US $450 (World Bank, 2009)
- Internet domain: .cf
- International dialling code: +236
President: Francois Bozize
President Bozize seized power in a coup in 2003 before winning an election two years later, and again in 2011.
Mr Bozize ousted the unpopular Ange-Felix Patasse - who was out of the country at the time - and declared himself president.
He promised to return the country to democratic rule and ran as an independent in the 2005 poll, which he won with 64% of the vote.
He gained a similar percentage in the January 2011 elections, which the opposition denounced as fraudulent. One of his rivals in the poll was the man he overthrew in the 2003 coup, Ange-Felix Patasse.
Mr Bozize is no stranger to politics, or to coups. He stood for president in the republic's first democratic elections in 1993, but lost to Mr Patasse.
He led an unsuccessful coup in 1983 against military ruler Andre Kolingba and was suspected of being involved in a coup attempt against President Patasse in 2001, which was thwarted with the help of Libyan troops.
Private newspapers criticise government policies and alleged corruption, but have a limited impact because of their cost and the high level of illiteracy.
In the capital, UN-sponsored Radio Ndeke Luka ("bird of luck") provides balanced output, and rebroadcasts international news programmes.
Other radio and TV stations are run by the state-run Radiodiffusion-Television Centrafricaine and provide little coverage of the political opposition.
A media law passed in 2004 abolished prison terms for press offences.
BBC World Service (90.2 FM) and Radio France Internationale are available via local relays in Bangui.
- Le Citoyen - private, daily
- Le Confident - private, daily
- L'Hirondelle - private, daily
- Le Démocrate - private, daily
- L'Evenementiel - private, daily
- Centrafrique-Presse - state-owned, bi-weekly
- Television Centrafricaine (TVCA) - state-run
- Tropic RTV - private
- Radio Centrafrique - state-run
- Radio Notre Dame - Roman Catholic station in Bangui
- Radio Nostalgie - private
- Radio Ndeke Luka - Bangui FM station, UN-backed
A chronology of key events:
1880s - France annexes the area.
1894 - France sets up a dependency in the area called Ubangi-Chari and partitions it among commercial concessionaires.
1910 - Ubangi-Chari becomes part of the Federation of French Equatorial Africa.
1920-30 - Indigenous Africans stage violent protests against abuses by concessionaires.
1946 - The territory is given its own assembly and representation in the French parliament; Barthelemy Boganda, founder of the pro-independence Social Evolution Movement of Black Africa (MESAN), becomes the first Central African to be elected to the French parliament.
1957 - MESAN wins control of the territorial assembly; Boganda becomes president of the Grand Council of French Equatorial Africa.
1958 - The territory achieves self-government within French Equatorial Africa with Boganda as prime minister.
1959 - Boganda dies.
1960 - The Central African Republic becomes independent with David Dacko, nephew of Boganda, as president.
1962 - Dacko turns the Central African Republic into a one-party state with MESAN as the sole party.
1964 - Dacko confirmed as president in elections in which he is the sole candidate.
The Bokassa era
1965 - Dacko ousted by the army commander, Jean-Bedel Bokassa, as the country faces bankruptcy and a threatened nationwide strike.
1972 - Bokassa declares himself president for life.
1976 - Bokassa proclaims himself emperor and renames the country the "Central African Empire".
1979 - Bokassa ousted in a coup led by David Dacko and backed by French troops after widespread protests in which many school children were arrested and massacred while in detention.
1981 - Dacko deposed in a coup led by the army commander, Andre Kolingba.
1984 - Amnesty for all political party leaders declared.
1986 - Bokassa returns to the CAR from exile in France.
1988 - Bokassa sentenced to death for murder and embezzlement, but has his sentence commuted to life imprisonment.
Ban on parties lifted
1991 - Political parties permitted to form.
1992 October - Multiparty presidential and parliamentary elections held in which Kolingba came in last place, but are annulled by the supreme court on the ground of widespread irregularities.
1993 - Ange-Felix Patasse beats Kolingba and Dacko in elections to become president, ending 12 years of military rule. Kolingba releases several thousand political prisoners, including Bokassa, before standing down as president.
1996 May - Soldiers stage a mutiny in the capital, Bangui, over unpaid wages.
1997 November - Soldiers stage more mutinies.
1997 - France begins withdrawing its forces from the republic; African peacekeepers replace French troops.
1999 - Patasse re-elected; his nearest rival, former President Kolingba, wins 19% of the vote.
2000 December - Civil servants stage general strike over back-pay; rally organised by opposition groups who accuse President Patasse of mismanagement and corruption deteriorates into riots.
2001 May - At least 59 killed in an abortive coup attempt by former president Andre Kolingba. President Patasse suppresses the attempt with help of Libyan and Chadian troops and Congolese rebels.
2001 November - Clashes as troops try to arrest sacked army chief of staff General Francois Bozize, accused of involvement in May's coup attempt. Thousands flee fighting between government troops and Bozize's forces.
2002 February - Former Defence Minister Jean-Jacques Demafouth appears in a Bangui court to answer charges related to the coup attempt of May 2001.
2002 October - Libyan-backed forces help to subdue an attempt by forces loyal to dismissed army chief General Bozize to overthrow President Patasse.
2003 March - Rebel leader Francois Bozize seizes Bangui, declares himself president and dissolves parliament. President Ange-Felix Patasse is out of the country at the time. Within weeks a transitional government is set up.
2004 December - New constitution approved in referendum.
2005 May - Francois Bozize is named the winner of presidential elections after a run-off vote.
2005 August - Flooding in the capital, Bangui, leaves up to 20,000 people homeless.
2005 June onwards - Thousands flee lawlessness in north-west CAR for southern Chad. Aid bodies appeal for help to deal with the "forgotten emergency".
2006 June - UN says 33 people have been killed in a rebel attack on an army camp in the north.
2006 August - Exiled Former President Ange-Felix Patasse is found guilty, in absentia, of fraud and sentenced to 20 years' hard labour.
2006 October - Rebels seize Birao, a town in the north-east. President Bozize cuts short an overseas visit.
2006 December - French fighter jets fire on rebel positions as part of support for government troops trying to regain control of areas in the northeast.
2007 February - The rebel People's Democratic Front, led by Abdoulaye Miskine, signs a peace accord with President Bozize in Libya and urges fighters to lay down their arms.
2007 May - The International Criminal Court says it is to probe war crimes allegedly committed in 2002 and 2003 following the failed coup against the Ange-Felix Patasse.
2007 September - UN Security Council authorises a peacekeeping force to protect civilians from violence spilling over from Darfur in neighbouring Sudan.
2008 January - Civil servants and teachers strike in protest over non-payment of salaries for several months.
2008 January - Prime Minister Elie Dote and his cabinet resign a day before parliament was to debate a censure motion against him.
President Bozize appoints Faustin-Archange Touadera, an academic with no previous background in politics, to replace Mr Dote.
2008 February - Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army rebels raid CAR.
2008 June - Two of three main rebel groups - the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR) and the Popular Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD) - sign peace agreement with government providing for disarmament and demobilisation of rebel fighters.
2008 September - Parliament adopts amnesty law seen as last remaining obstacle to successful conclusion of peace talks between rebels and the government.
2008 December - Government-rebel peace deal envisages formation of consensus government and elections in March 2010.
2009 January - National unity government unveiled; includes leaders of the two main rebel groups. Main opposition UVNF criticises the changes to the cabinet as insufficient.
2009 February - Ugandan LRA rebels cross into CAR.
2009 March - French troops reportedly deploy in Bangui after rebels infiltrate the capital.
2009 April - Clashes between government and rebels continue. UN Security Council agrees to creation of new UN peacebuilding office for CAR to address ongoing insecurity.
2009 July - New electoral commission established after parliament approves new election law.
2009 September - Ugandan army confirms that it is pursuing LRA rebels in CAR.
2009 August - UN report says more than a million people have been affected by civil unrest in CAR.
2009 October/November - Former President Ange-Felix Patasse returns from exile, hints that he may stand for the presidency in 2010.
2010 February - Rights groups, opposition and France call for prove into claims - denied by the authorities - that rebel leader Charles Massi was tortured to death in government custody.
President Bozize says elections to be held on 25 April; opposition rejects date, fearing vote will be rigged.
2010 April - Elections postponed. Parliament extends President Bozize's term until polls can be held.
2010 May - UN Security Council votes to withdraw a UN force from Chad and the Central African Republic, deployed to protect displaced Chadians and refugees from Sudan's Darfur.
2010 July - Rebels attack northern town of Birao.
2010 September - Voter registration begins for presidential, parliamentary elections due in January 2011.
2010 October - Four countries affected by LRA violence agree to form joint military force to pursue the rebels.
2010 November - Ex-DRCongo vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba goes on trial at International Criminal Court accused of letting his troops rape and kill in Central African Republic between 2002 and 2003.
2010 December - 50th independence anniversary. Former self-styled Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa is officially rehabilitated.
2011 January - Presidential and parliamentary elections. Mr Bozize wins another term.
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