Capital : Bangui
Size: 241 000 sq m Popn: 3 173 000
This area was once divided into kingdoms but these disappeared as a result of Arab and European slave trade in the C18th and C19th. Those who survived fled into the forests and empty lands, the Baya claimed the West, the Azande the East and the Azande the centre but various regions were exploited by French and Belgian empire-building in the 1880s. Conditions under the French were very bad and the Baya people resisted especially strongly but were conquered by wars. Along with Gabon and Congo (then the French Congo) the region became known as French Equatorial Africa.
MESAN (Movement for the Social Evolution of Black Africa) was established by Bartélemy Boganda in 1941 and demanded basic rights. It won support in the limited elections of 1956-8 but in 1959 Boganda died in a plane crash believed to have been arrange by French supporters. His nephew and associate David Dacko took over but MESAN degenerated into a French controlled agency. Abel Goumba broke away to form MEDAC which was banned by the French in 1960 and the leaders arrested. Dacko was allowed to declare independence as a puppet-ruler in 1960 with the French bringing in a national CAR army under Lieutenant Jean-Bedel Bokassa in 1962.
A general strike in 1965 led to the French ordering Dacko to give the Presidency to Jean Izambo but early in 1966, Bokassa, now a colonel, seized power and called the country the Central African Empire. His regime was cruel and corrupt and killed many before, in 1979, the French finally reinstated Dacko who was overthrown by Gen. André Kolingba in 1981. He broke his promise to return civilian rule and eliminated civilians from government although they were included in Kolingba's government after September 1985. Relations with France had been improved by an unofficial visit by President Miterrand in October 1982 and the after the leaders of the banned oppostions parties were granted an amnesty, there was a state visit.
In 1991, after wide-spread demonstraions calling for constitutional reform, the government announced a conference to determine the future of the country and multi-party elections were held in 1993.
The Banda and Baya tribes are dominant over the Zande and Baka, French is the official language with Arabic spoken in the North, Swahili in the East and some Hausa and Sango. Religions followed are Roman Catholicism (40%) , Islam (35%) and traditional beliefs.
This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.
Copies may be made for personal use only.
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