Conflict, weak governance and the coup as the most common method of power transmission are hallmarks of the Central African Republic. The country is one of Africa’s, and most valued, poorest and least developed. Despite the great wealth of minerals and timber, most of the country’s 4.5 million inhabitants live in poverty. A peace process between government forces, rebel forces and civil society is underway, and in 2011, the Central African Republic faces its third democratic election.
From the liberation in the 1960s to the early 1990s, various military regimes supported by France have ruled the former French colony. Ange-Félix Patassé was elected president in the first multi-party in 1993, but instability and ethnic turmoil characterized the decade after. In March 2003, Francois Bozize took state power in a coup supported by soldiers from neighboring Chad, and Patassé was forced into exile. After the 2005 presidential election, Bozize became a new tenant.
Bozize has been central to the politics of the Central African Republic (Central African Republic) since 1983, when he was involved in a failed coup attempt. He stood for election with Patassé in 1993 and in 2001 was appointed as military camp. Even though civil society and the majority of political parties supported the election in 2005, a number of candidates were critical. But more than a hundred thousand were sent on the run when fighting broke out in northern parts of the country in 2006. Since then, insurgent forces in the north and northwest, together with unrest in neighboring Chad, Sudan and Congo, threaten the stability of the Central African Republic, defying many peace agreements.
The third democratic election in Central African Republic’s history should take place in March 2010. But ongoing conflicts show that governments have limited control over national territory. This complicates the precursors to the election, which has exposed several gongs. Nevertheless, our progress has been achieved by the establishment of a new electoral commission. Former President Patassé has returned to take part in the presidential election and represents the main opposition with the party MLPC. However, due to the rivalry in MLPC between Patasse and former prime minister Martin Ziguele, the incumbent president is expected to re-elect in 2011.
Peace and security
After a long and challenging negotiation process, Bozize’s government in 2008 entered into a peace agreement with opposition, rebel forces and civil society. The UN’s Peacebuilding Commission has been engaged as mediators. Integration of rebel leaders, disarmament of insurgents, security reform and amnesty have been our central elements in the negotiations. Nonetheless, the mineral wealth and unstable political history create major challenges for a long-term and lasting peace agreement.
Neighborhood instability also characterizes the situation in the Central African Republic. The authorities have little control outside the capital Bangui. The UN’s peacekeeping force, MINURCAT, has been present in the Northeast in the Central African Republic and in the Eastern Chad since 2007 to increase stability and control of the porous borders in the Northeast towards Sudan and Chad. France and the EU share with peacekeeping forces, and alternative security partners, such as South Africa and China, are increasingly offering investment and technical assistance.
Central African Republic has large untapped natural resources. State revenue comes from mineral extraction, especially untreated diamonds. The country is the ninth largest diamond producer in Africa and thirteenth largest in the world, and in addition, exports large quantities of diamonds illegally. There are also large quantities of gold, uranium, copper and iron. Timber is the second largest export, but illegal cutting and smuggling contributed to an increasing deforestation problem. The revenue from timber and diamond exports was reduced as a consequence of the global financial crisis in 2009. Corruption is very widespread in Central African Republic, which is still considered a high-risk investment country. The Central African Republic ranks 158th out of 180 on Transparency International’s corruption index.
Due to conflict, lack of infrastructure and investment, the mineral wealth did not contribute to socio-economic development in the Central African Republic. Around 80 percent of the population feed on self-storage farming, forestry and fishing, and close to two-thirds live below the poverty line. About 60 percent of the inhabitants live in rural areas, and these have minimal access to the formal economy.
Historically, the Central African Republic has received little assistance, but has in recent years experienced increased interest from foreign humanitarian organizations. Central African Republic also qualifies for the HIPC Debt Relief Initiative. The EU and the US have indicated that their relations with the country, and more are expected to do so if the peace process goes straight. France has been an important trading partner for Central African Republic, but it also sees more cooperation with new and alternative partners such as Sudan, Congo, South Africa and China. During President Bozizé’s first state visit to China in 2009, our cooperation in mining, forest management, agriculture and energy was discussed.
Infrastructure and transport services in Central African Republic are very limited and highly priced. Large parts of the country are inaccessible, but the World Bank, the EU and the African Bank are financing a regional project to expand the rail and road networks between Central African Republic, Chad and Cameroon to improve the transport situation. Telecommunications and ICT are poorly developed and only 30 percent of the population is covered by mobile networks and about 15 percent have access to landline.
Manovo-Gounda St. Floris National Park was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988 because of its biodiversity. The large areas of rainforest and one of the highest numbers of lowland gorillas and forest elephants in Africa can represent a great potential for ecotourism.
Humanitarian challenges and social conditions
Central African Republic faces enormous humanitarian challenges. There are nearly 400,000 internally displaced people in the country, and 139,000 have fled to neighboring countries. At the same time, there are around 7500 refugees from other countries. Humanitarian relief projects are underfunded and ongoing turmoil and human rights violations by government armies and rebel forces, as well as highway robbers and armed bandits, lead to civilian abuse and hinder the opportunities for return.
Based on countryaah.com, only half of the population in the Central African Republic has access to the limited health tests in the country. Life expectancy is 46.7 years, which is 7 years lower than the average for Africa. Around 11 percent are infected with HIV / AIDS. 70 percent of households in the country do not have adequate sanitary conditions, and few have access to clean drinking water. More than half of the adult population cannot read and write, and less than 30 percent attend primary school. Urbanization rates are high, at 39 percent, and increase by about 2.3 percent annually. New laws were adopted in 2004 to increase the room for critical press. Despite the new law, the coverage of political opposition, and the general media coverage, are minimal. Reports Without Borders Central African Republic ranks 80 out of 175 countries when it comes to press freedom.
Political strategies for poverty reduction exist, but insufficient funds and start-up mechanisms create challenges. Strict shallow shortages of wages have created tensions between government and trade unions, and in Bangui there have been major demonstrations in response to the instability in the country.
Area: 622 984 km2 (19th largest)
Population: 4.5 million
Population density: 7 per km2
Urban population: 38 percent
Largest city: Bangui – approx. 672 000
Per capita GDP: $ 465
Economic growth: 2.2 percent
HDI Position: 179