Facts & figures
Full name: Central African Republic
Population: 4.6 million (UN, 2012)
Area: 622,984 sq km (240,535 sq miles)
Major languages: French, Sangho (lingua franca)
Major religions: Christianity, Islam, indigenous beliefs
Life expectancy: 48 years (men), 51 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc = 100 centimes
Main exports: Diamonds, timber, cotton, coffee, tobacco
GNI per capita: US $480 (World Bank, 2011)
Internet domain: .cf
International dialling code: +236
Catherine Samba-Panza was chosen as new interim president in January 2014 to lead the country out of months of sectarian killings.
Mrs Samba-Panza, is a French-trained lawyer who was the mayor of the capital Bangui.
Visa & travel advice
Visas for the Central African Republic are required by all nationals referred to in the chart above.
A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required.
Nationals not referred to in the chart are advised to contact the embassy to check visa requirements.
- Types and cost:
Short-stay visa: €75; long-stay visa: €155.
Short-stay visa: up to 30 days; long-stay visa: up to three months.
- Best period:
If possible, visit the Central African Republic during the dry season, from November to March.
The U.S. Department of State’s dedicated page on the Central African Republic has a wealth of information.
From the 16th to 19th century, the people of this region were ravaged by slave traders. The Banda, Baya, Ngbandi, and Azande make up the largest ethnic groups.
The French occupied the region in 1894. As the colony of Ubangi-Shari, what is now the Central African Republic was united with Chad in 1905. In 1910 it was joined with Gabon and the Middle Congo to become French Equatorial Africa. After World War II a rebellion in 1946 forced the French to grant self-government. In 1958 the territory voted to become an autonomous republic within the French Community, and on Aug. 13, 1960, President David Dacko proclaimed the republic's independence from France. Dacko moved the country politically into Beijing's orbit, but he was overthrown in a coup on Dec. 31, 1965, by Col. Jean-Bédel Bokassa, army chief of staff.
On Dec. 4, 1976, the Central African Republic became the Central African Empire. Marshal Jean-Bédel Bokassa, who had ruled the republic since he took power in 1965, was declared Emperor Bokassa I. Brutality and excess characterized his regime. He was overthrown in a coup on Sept. 20, 1979. Former president David Dacko returned to power and changed the country's name back to the Central African Republic. An army coup on Sept. 1, 1981, deposed President Dacko again.
In 1991, President André Kolingba, under pressure, announced a move toward parliamentary democracy. In elections held in Aug. 1993, Prime Minister Ange-Félix Patassé defeated Kolingba. Part of Patassé's popularity rested on his pledge to pay the back salaries of the military and civil servants.
A 1994 economic upturn was too small to effectively improve the catastrophic financial condition of the nation. Patassé was unable to pay the salaries due to government workers, and the military revolted in 1996. At Patassé's request, French troops suppressed the uprising. In 1998 the United Nations sent an all-African peacekeeping force to the country. In elections held in Sept. 1999, amid widespread charges of massive fraud, Patassé easily defeated Kolingba. Patassé survived a coup attempt in May 2001, but two years later, in March 2003, he was overthrown by Gen. François Bozizé. After two years of military rule, presidential elections were held, and Bozizé won in what international monitors called a free and fair election.
Prime Minister Elie Dote and his government resigned in January 2008, a day before Parliament was set to debate a censure motion against him. Faustin Archange Touadéra was named as his successor.
The trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former vice-president of Congo, began at the International Criminal Court in November 2010. He is accused of ordering his militia to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity, including rape, murder, and torture, in the Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003 during civil unrest that followed the attempted coup against Patassé.
The music of the Central African Republic includes many different forms. Western rock and pop music, as well as Afrobeat, soukous and other genres have become popular nation-wide. The sanza is a popular instrument.
The Pygmies have a complex folk music tradition. Polyphony and counterpoint are common components, as is a varied rhythmic structure. The trumpet-based music of the Bandas has also gained some popularity outside of the area due to its jazzy structure. The Ngbaka use an unusual instrument called a mbela, which is made with an arched branch and a string strung between the two ends and held in front of the musician's mouth. When the string is struck, the mouth is used to amplify and modulate the tone. Instruments similar to the mbela are sometimes considered the oldest ancestors of all string instruments.
The national anthem of the Central African Republic is "La Renaissance". This song, which has been the anthem since 1960, was written by Barthélémy Boganda (words), the first President of the Central African Republic, and Herbert Pepper, who also composed the melody for the Senegalese national anthem.
Only a few writers have emerged to the notoriety. Pierre Makombo Bamboté was the first writer from the CAR to be published in 1962. He is an accomplished poet and novelist, and short story writer, most known for his work Princesse Mandapu.
Étienne Goyémidé is another poet who also wrote a number of plays and novels. He wrote his first novel (Le Silence de la Forêt) about the way of life of the pygmies. A year later, his second novel debuted, called Le Dernier Survivant de la Carivane, was written about the external and inner battles between the people and the slave traders.
- Film industry:
The Central African cinema holds a modest place in comparison with the other film producing African countries. The Central African director b e for his film "Zo kwe zo" ("Un homme est un Homme"). Produced in 1982, it was the first of a series entitled "Africa; is it only twenty years old?". It recalls the history of his country, using mainly oral sources, since the establishment of the French station in Bangui by Alberl Dolisie up until independence. The film represents a first attempt to describe an identity of Central Africans and their country. It won him a prizes at teh Fespaco film festival In 1982, Akouissonne directed "Les dieux noirs du stade". The first film of the scenario writer born in Bangassou in 1943, is a short film of 15 minutes, "Josepha" produced in 1974 and the first of a series featuring African woman in Europe. Victor Bissengué, another Central African scenario writer, coproduced. The letter being the driving force behind the introduction of the internet in Central Africa. In 1985 Léonie Yangba Zowe shot a series of ethnographic short films. In "Lengue" she filmed the the songs and tribal dances of the Yacoba and the Chari Sango ethnic groups. The first film to gain some international acclaim was "Silence de la forêt" by Didier Florent Ouenangare, he won a prize at the Film Festival of Amiens. It tells the story of a civil servant, in revolt against the institutions, leaving food in the bushes for the Pygmies, getting him in all kinds of trouble. Today the film industry in the Central African Republic is virtually non existent, hopes remain the young democratic government will start supporting local initatives.
- Famous places:
Dzanga-Sangha National Park, in remote southwest C.A.R. near the borders with Cameroon and the Republic of Congo, protects the rain forest habitats of forest elephants, western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, bongos, leopards and hippos, among more than 100 mammal species.
Les Chutes de la Mbi, which are on the tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site list, drop 656 feet from a tributary of the Upper Mpoko River into the basin of the Oubangui. The falls are known for their natural beauty and are easy to see from a bridge. Another significant waterfall in C.A.R. is the Chutes de Boali, a 164-foot cascade not far from Les Chutes de la Mbi. These falls really are worth a visit only in the rainy season, when the cascades reach full volume. The closest major town to these waterfalls is Bossembele, about 160 miles from Bangui off the main road to Cameroon.
- Architecture history:
Villages, mostly inhabited by the male descendants of a lineage or clan, are located along and face the roads. This practice was introduced in the 1920s, to create "plantation villages" for cotton cultivation. In the 1970s, villages often were consolidated, ostensibly to modernize agriculture.
The typical dwelling, which must be replaced frequently because of termites, is made with sundried brick and thatched with wild grass; in the deep forest area palm fronds are tiled on. Mud-and-wattle structures were discouraged under French rule but still exist. Floors are made of pounded earth, on which people sleep on mats with adults sometimes using home-made beds. A whole family lives in a single dwelling, the interior of which is divided, especially when the owners have been influenced by Western culture.