The African continent is comprised of 54 nations, each with its independent government and sovereignty, GDP, culture, natural resources, language(s), military, and religion. The treasure trove of mineral and raw material wealth has scarcely been touched and the continent's largely untapped fertile lands could feed the world. Herewith is Jewel of Africa, an interactive adventure in the cradle of mankind, an exploration of nations from A-Z in alphabetical order.
Central African Republic: Paradise marred by war
The Central African Republic is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It is bordered by Chad to the north, Sudan to the northeast, South Sudan to the southeast, the Democratic Republic of Congo to the south, the Republic of the Congo to the southwest, and Cameroon to the west.
The Central African Republic covers a land area of 240,535 square miles. As of 2022, it had a population of 5 million people. In 2021, the CAR is the scene of a civil war, ongoing since 2012, which has greatly hampered its growth, maturity, and wealth. Despite its significant mineral deposits and other resources, such as uranium reserves, crude oil, gold, diamonds, cobalt, lumber, and hydropower, as well as significant quantities of arable land, the Central African Republic is among the 10 poorest countries in the world, with the lowest GDP per capita at purchasing power parity in the world as of 2017. As of 2019, according to the Human Development Index (HDI), the country had the second-lowest level of human development (only ahead of Niger), ranking 188 out of 189 countries.
Most of the CAR consists of Sudano-Guinean savannas, but the country also includes a Sahelo-Sudanian zone in the north and an equatorial forest zone in the south. Two-thirds of the country is within the Ubangi River basin (which flows into the Congo), while the remaining third lies in the basin of the Chari, which flows into Lake Chad. What is today the Central African Republic has been inhabited for millennia, however, the country's current borders were established by France, which ruled the country as a colony starting in the late 19th century. After gaining independence from France in 1960, the Central African Republic was ruled by a series of autocratic leaders, including an abortive attempt at a monarchy.
Much of the the Central African Republic is flat or rolling plateau savanna approximately1,640 feet above sea level. In addition to the Fertit Hills in the northeast of the CAR, there are scattered hills in the southwest regions. In the northwest is the Yade Massif, a granite plateau with an altitude of 1,143 feet. The CAR contains six terrestrial eco-regions: Northeastern Congolian lowland forests, Northwestern Congolian lowland forests, Western Congolian swamp forests, East Sudanian savanna, Northern Congolian forest-savanna mosaic, and Sahelian Acacia savanna. At 240,535 square miles, the Central African Republic is the world's 44th-largest country, comparable in size to Ukraine.
Much of the southern border is formed by tributaries of the Congo River; the Mbomou River in the east merges with the Uele River to form the Ubangi River, which also comprises portions of the southern border. The Sangha River flows through some of the western regions of the country, while the eastern border lies along the edge of the Nile River watershed. It has been estimated that up to eight percent of the country is covered by forest, with the densest parts generally located in the southern regions. The forests are highly diverse and include com- mercially important species of Ayous, Sapelli and Sipo. The deforestation rate is about 0.4 per- cent annually, and lumber poaching is commonplace. In 2008, Central African Republic was the world's least light pollution affected country.
The Central African Republic occupies an immense rolling plateau that forms, along a crest that trends southwest to northeast, the major drainage divide between the Lake Chad and Congo River basins. The country is well supplied with waterways. Tributaries of the Chari River occupy the northern third of the country’s territory. The remaining two-thirds of the terrain drains southward into the Ubangi River on the Central African Republic’s southern border.
The capital city of Bangui, founded as a French trading post in 1889, sprawls on the banks of the Ubangi River. Famed in col- onial times as one of the most agreeable cities in equatorial Africa, Bangui blends wooded hills and grassy meadows with heavily populated shantytowns, a handsome if now somewhat run-down city center, and modern residential districts. Though strikes and curfews often bring the city to a standstill, Bangui enjoys a vibrant nightlife and a diverse musical culture. Bangui is indeed an economic miracle, having risen from birth in 1889,
from a mysterious and unknown country to a teeming metro- polis in 2022. Many of its best secrets are still hidden as the propensity for war between multiple factions has stunted pro- gress in the CAR bringing a literal standstill to the nation's mining interests, which are estimated to be considerable; and infrastructure like paved roads and bridges. Strides like wind energy, however, is enablng the Central African Republic to take great strides forward. Until recently, only 14 percent of the population had access to electricity, mainly in rural areas.
The Central African Repub- lic is a blend of the contem- porary and antiquity, even
if this was not the intention. The largely unspoiled wild environment of the country co-existing with the con- temporary is the Central African Republic's resplen- dent charm.
Wild glistening rivers, lakes, and plunging waterfalls are wonderful for tourism, which much of the world knows little about due to stereotypes that unfortu-
nately are spread by media accounts. Fiery sunsets, Iridescent rivers, and scenic waterfalls are eye candy that could one day bring untold riches to the Central African Republic in tourism.
The Central African Republic is both a haven and natural wonderland for its people who depend on it for food and for recreation. One day there may be many popular ski resorts in Africa because, yes, it does snow in Africa.
Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania
at 19,321 foot altitude is but one snowy peak, But there are others and some are resorts. They are Oukaime- den, and Michlifen Ski Resort in Morocco; Ski Egypt resort, Mountain Resort in Lesotho, and Tiffindell Ski Resort in South Africa.
Other snowy peaks are Mt. Kenya, 17,057 feet; Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda, 16,762; Simien Mountains in Ethiopia, 14,872; and Mt. Meru, Tanza- nia, 14,968.
Subsistence farming in the Central African Republic brings a harvest bounty for those with the willingness and energy to till the earth. Agriculture con- tributes much to Central African Republic's GDP. Cassava is a food staple and cash crop. Sparsely populated and landlocked, the Central African Republic is overwhelmingly agrarian. The bulk of the population engages in subsistence farming and 55 percent of the country's GDP derives from subsistence agriculture.
The lower creation in the Central African Republic also flourishes off the land in their natural habitats, abundant with vegetation and grasses for grazers, and prey animals. The rivers and lakes in the Central African Republic are also tremendous fish resources for both humans and raptors like the fish eagle and numerous other birds of prey.
Elephant, hippo, lion, cheetah, leopard, great forest hog, buffalo, giraffe, bongo, sitatunga, Nile crocodile, python, green and black mamba, Gabon viper abound. Birds include grey parrot, ostrich, fish eagle, kingfisher subspecies.
The African golden cat, Okapi antelope, which resembles a short giraffe; and black eagle are all rare species endemic to the Central African Republic.
The vast central plains rise gradually in the northeast to the Bongos Massif, extending to an elevation of 4,360 feet at Mt. Toussoro, and to the Tondou Massif in the east. In the west they rise toward the high granite range of the Karre Mountains, reaching nearly 4,625 feet at Mt. Ngaoui, the country’s highest point, before declining eastward into sandstone plateaus. In the north the most significant mountains are those of the Dar Challa range, which rise to 4,350 feet at Mt. Ngaya near the border with Sudan. In the southeast is a plain cut by a number of rivers.
The Dzanga-Sangha National Park is located in a region of rain forest. The country is noted for its forest elephant population and western lowland gorillas. In the north, the Manovo-Gounda St Floris National Park is well-populated with wildlife, including leopards, lions, cheetahs ncluding leopards, lions, cheetahs and rhinos. The The Bamingui-Bangoran National Park is located in the northeast of CAR.
The climate of the Central African Republic is generally tropical, with a wet season that lasts from June to September in the northern regions of the country, and from May to October in the south. During the wet season, rainstorms are an almost daily occurrence, and early morning fog is commonplace. Maximum annual precipitation is approximately 71 inches in the upper Ubangi region. The northern areas are hot and humid from February to May, but can be subject to the hot, dry, and dusty trade wind known as the Harmattan. The southern regions have a more equatorial climate, but they are subject to desertification, while the extreme northeast regions of the country are a steppe, an eco-region characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes.
Administrations of CAR
The Central African Republic is divided into 16 administration, two of which are economic, and one autonomous commune. The administrations are Bamingui-Bangoran, Basse-Kotto, Haute Kotto, Mbomou, Kemo, Lobaye, Mambéré-Kadéï, Nana-Mambéré, Ombella-M'Poko, Ouaka, Ouham, Ouham-Pendé, and Vakaga. The economic administrations are Nana-Grébizi and Sangha-Mbaéré, while the commune is the capital city of Bangui. The coun-
try had the lowest inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI), ranking 150th out of 150 countries. The Central African Republic is also estimated to be the unhealthiest country as well as the worst country in which to be young.
The Central African Republic is a member of the United Nations, the African Union, the Economic Community of Central African States, the Organization Internationale de la Francophonie and the Non-Aligned Movement. By the
1990s, calls for democracy led to the first multi-party democratic elections in 1993. Ange-Félix Patassé became
president, but was later removed by General François Bozizé in the 2003 coup. The Central African Republic Bush War began in 2004 and, despite a peace treaty in 2007 and another in 2011, civil war resumed in 2012. The civil war perpetuated the country's poor human rights record: it was characterized by widespread and increasing abuses by various participating armed groups, such as arbitrary imprisonment, torture, and restrictions on freedom of the press and freedom of movement.
Military situation in CAR
French President François Hollande called on the UN Security Council and African Union to increase their efforts to stabilize the country. On Feb. 18, 2014, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the UN Security Council to immediately deploy 3,000 troops to the country, bolstering the 6,000 African Union soldiers and 2,000 French troops already in the country, to combat civilians being murdered in large numbers.
The Séléka government was said to be divided, and in September 2013, Djotodia officially disbanded Seleka, but many rebels refused to disarm, becoming known as ex-Seleka, and veered further out of government control. It is argued that the focus of the initial disarmament efforts exclusively on the Seleka inadvertently handed the anti-Balaka the upper hand, leading to the forced displacement of Muslim civilians by anti-Balaka in Bangui and western CAR.
In January 2014, Michael Djotodia and Nicolas Tiengaye resigned as part of a deal negotiated at a regional sum- mit in neighboring Chad. Catherine Samba-Panza was elected as interim president by the National Transitional Council, becoming the first ever female Central African president. On July 23, 2014, following Congolese med- iation efforts, Séléka and anti-balaka representatives signed a ceasefire agreement in Brazzaville. By the end of 2014, the country was de facto partitioned with the anti-Balaka in the southwest and ex-Seleka in the northeast. In March 2015, Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said 417 of the country's 436 mosques had been destroyed, and Muslim women were so frightened to appear publicly, they gave birth in their homes. On Dec. 14, 2015, Séléka rebel leaders declared an independent Republic of Logone.
Presidential elections were held in December 2015. As no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote, a second election was held on Feb. 14, 2016, with run-offs on March 31. In the second vote, former Prime Min- ister Faustin-Archange Touadéra was declared the winner with 63 percent of the vote, defeating Union for Central African Renewal candidate Anicet-Georges Dologuélé, another former prime minister. While the elections suffered from many absent voters who had taken refuge in other nations, the fears of widespread violence were ultimately unfounded and the African Union regarded the elections as successful. Touadéra was sworn in on March 30. No representatives of the Seleka rebel group or the "anti-balaka" militias were included in the new government.
After the end of Touadéra's first term, presidential elections were held in December 2020. Former pres- ident François Bozizé announced his candidacy on 25 July 2020 but was rejected by the Constitutional Court of the country, which held that Bozizé did not satisfy the “good morality” requirement for candidates because of an international warrant and United Nations sanctions against him for alleged assassinations, torture and other crimes. As large parts of the country were at the time controlled by armed groups, the election could not be conducted in many areas of the country. Some 800 of the country's polling stations, 14 percent of the total, were closed due to violence. President Touadéra was reelected in the first round of the election in December 2020.
Politics and government
Politics in the Central African Republic formally take place in a framework of a semi-presidential republic. In this system, the president is the head of state, with a prime minister as head of government. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament. Changes in government have occurred in recent years by three methods—violence, negotiations, and elections. A new cons- titution was approved by voters in a referendum held on Dec. 5, 2004. The president is elected by popular vote for a six-year term, and the prime minister is appointed by the president. The president also appoints and presides over the Council of Ministers, which initiates laws and oversees government operations. The National Assem- bly has 140 members, elected for a five-year term using the two-round (or Run-off) system.
As in many other former French colonies, the Central African Republic's legal system is based on French law. The Supreme Court is made up of judges appointed by the president. There is also a Constitutional Court, and its judges are also appointed by the president.
The Central African Republic relies heavily on Russian mercenaries for the protection of its diamond mines, and is heavily dependent on foreign aid. In 2019, more than $100 million in US aid was spent in the country, mostly on humanitarian assistance. In 2006, due to ongoing violence, over 50,000 people in the country's northwest were at risk of starvation but this was averted due to assistance from the United Nations. The UN in January 2008, declared that the Central African Republic was eligible to receive assistance from the Peace Building Fund. Three priority areas were identified: reform of the security sector, promotion of good governance and the rule of law; and revitalization of communities affected by conflicts.
In response to concerns of a potential genocide, a peacekeeping force—the International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) was authorized in December 2013. This African Union force of 6,000 personnel was accompanied by the French Operation Sangaris.
The 2009 Human Rights Report by the US Department of State noted that human rights in CAR were poor and expressed concerns over numerous government abuses. The U.S. State Department alleged that major human rights abuses such as extrajudicial executions by security forces, torture, beatings and rape of suspects and prisoners occurred with impunity. It also alleged harsh and life-threatening conditions in prisons and detention centers, arbitrary arrest, prolonged pretrial detention and denial of a fair trial, restrictions on freedom of move- ment, official corruption, and restrictions on workers' rights.
The State Department report also cites widespread mob violence, the prevalence of female genital mutilation, dis- crimination against women and Pygmies, human trafficking, forced labor, and child labor. Freedom of movement is limited in the northern part of the country "because of actions by state security forces, armed bandits, and other non-state armed entities," and due to fighting between government and anti-government forces, many persons have been internally displaced.
Freedom of speech is addressed in the country's constitution, but there have been incidents of government intimidation of the media. A report by the International Research & Exchanges Board's media sustainability index noted that "the country minimally met objectives, with segments of the legal system and government opposed to a free media system."
The population of the Central African Republic has almost quadrupled since independence. In 2022, the total population is 4.9 million according to the UN. The largest city and capital of the Central African Republic is Bangui, with a population of 933,000 people. The nation is divided into more than 80 ethnic groups, each having its own language. Ethnic groups include the Baggara, Arabs, Baka, Banda, Bayaka, Fula, Gbaya, Kara, Kresh, Mbaka, Mandja, Ngbandi, Sara, Yakoma, Vidiri, Yulu, Wodaabe, Zande, and Europeans of mostly French descent.
According to the Pew Research Center, in 2010, Christians constituted 89.8 percent of the population, while Muslims comprised 8.9 percent. The Catholic Church claims over 1.5 million adherents, approximately one-third of the population.] Indigenous beliefs or animism is also practiced. Many Christian missionary groups operate in the country, including Lutherans, Baptists, Catholics, and Grace Brethren. While these missionaries are predominantly from the US, France, Italy, and Spain, many are from Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and other African countries. According to Overseas Development Institute research, during the crisis ongoing since 2012, religious leaders mediated between communities and armed groups and provided refuge for people seeking shelter.
The per capita income of the Republic is often listed as approximately $400 per year, one of the lowest in the world. But this figure is based mostly on reported sales of exports and largely ignores the unregistered sale of food, locally produced alcoholic beverages, diamonds, ivory, bush meat, and traditional medicine. The currency of the Central African Republic is the CFA franc, which is accepted across the former countries of French West Africa and trades at a fixed rate to the euro.
Diamonds are the nation's most important export, accounting for 40-55 percent of export revenues.
Agriculture is dominated by the cultivation and sale of crops such as cassava, peanuts, corn, sorghum, millet, sesame, and plantain. The annual GDP growth rate is just above three percent. The importance of food crops over exported cash crops is underscored by the annual production of cassava, the staple food of most Central Africans, ranging between 200,000 and 300,000 tons per year. Cotton, the principal export crop, accounts for 25,000 to 45,000 tons annually.
Food crops are not exported in large quantities, but still constitute major cash crops of CAR because Central Africans derive far more income from the periodic sale of surplus food crops than from exported cash crops such as cotton or coffee. Much of the country is self-sufficient in food crops, but livestock development is hindered by the presence of the tsetse fly.
CAR’s primary import partner is France at 31.2 percent. Other import partners are Burundi (16.2 percent), China (12.5 percent), the US (12.3 percent), India (11.5 percent), Cameroon (9.6 percent), and Austria (7.8 percent).
Transportation and infrastructure
Bangui is the transport hub of the Central African Republic. As of 1999, eight roads connected the city to other main towns in the country, Cameroon, Chad, and Sudan. Of these only the toll roads are paved. During the rainy season from July to October, some roads are impassable.
River ferries sail from the river port at Bangui to Brazzaville and Zongo. The river can be navigated most of the year between Bangui and Brazzaville. From Brazzaville, goods are transported by rail to Pointe-Noire, Congo's Atlantic port. The river port handles the overwhelming majority of the country's international trade and has a cargo handling capacity of 350,000 tons. It has 1,150 feet length of wharfs and 260,000 square feet of warehousing space. Bangui M'Poko International Airport is Central African Republic's only international airport. As of June 2014 it had regularly scheduled flights to Brazzaville, Casablanca, Cotonou, Douala, Kinshasa, Lomé, Malabo, Luanda, N'Djamena, Paris, Pointe-Noire, and Yaoundé.
The Central African Republic primarily uses hydroelectricity estimated at 2,000 MW (MMEH, 2013). Existing power stations include the Boali I (8.75 MW), Boali II (10 MW) and Boali III (10 MW). Other large hydropower installations are the 300 MW Palambo project, north of Bangui. as there are few other resources for energy and power. Energy Access in the Central African Republic is extremely limited for both electricity and non-solid fuels. Only 14 percent of the population has access to electricity, mainly in the capital Bangui, while access is almost absent in rural areas.
Presently, the Central African Republic has active television services, radio stations, internet service providers, and mobile phone carriers; Socatel is the leading provider for both internet and mobile phone access throughout the country. The primary government regulating bodies of telecommunications are the Ministère des Postes and Télécommunications et des Nouvelles Technologies. In addition, the Central African Republic receives international support on telecommunication related operations from the International Telecommunication Union to improve infrastructure.
Education and languages
Public education in the Central African Republic is free and is compulsory from ages 6 to 14. However, approximately half of the adult population of the country is illiterate. Higher education centers on two institutions of higher education in the Central African Republic—the University of Bangui, a public university located in Bangui, which includes a medical school; and Euclid University, an international university.
The Central African Republic's two official languages are French and Sangho, the latter a creole lingo developed as an inter-ethnic tongue based on the local Ngbandi language. CAR is one of the few African countries to have an African language as their official language.
The largest hospitals in the country are located in the Bangui district. As a member of the World Health Organization, the Central African Republic receives vaccination assistance, such as a 2014 intervention for the prevention of a measles epidemic. In 2007, female life expectancy at birth was 48.2 years and male life expectancy at birth was 45.1 years. Women's health is poor in the Central African Republic. As of 2010, the country had the 4th highest maternal mortality rate in the world. The total fertility rate in 2014 was estimated at 4.46 children born/woman.
Basketball is the country's most popular sport and a good way to connect with its people. The national team won the African Championship twice and was the first Sub-Saharan African team to qualify for the Basketball World Cup in 1974. The country also has a national football team, which is governed by the Central African Football Federation, and stages matches at the Barthélemy Boganda Stadium.
Jarrette Fellows, Jr. / Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License