History of the Central African Republic
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The known history of the Central African Republic dates back to the 7th century AD.
The territory of modern Central African Republic is known to have been settled from at least the 7th century on by overlapping empires, including the Kanem-Bornu, Ouaddai, Baguirmi, and Dafour groups based on the Lake Chad region and along the Upper Nile. Later, various sultanates claimed present-day CAR, using the entire Oubangui region as a source of slave, from which slaves were traded north across the Sahara Desert. Population migration in the 18th and 19th centuries brought new migrants into the area, including the Zande, Banda, and Baya-Mandjia.
Colonial to Decolonization
French colony (1894–1940)
In 1875 the Sudanese sultan Rabih az-Zubayr governed Upper-Oubangui, which included present-day CAR. Europeans, primarily the French, German, and Belgians, arrived in the area in 1885. The French consolidated their legal claim to the area through an 1887 convention with Congo Free State, which granted France possession of the right bank of the Oubangui River. Two years later, the French established an outpost at Bangui, and in 1894, Oubangui-Chari became a French territory. However, the French did not consolidate their control over the area until 1903, after having defeated the forces of Rabih in the battle of Kousséri, and established colonial administration throughout the territory. In 1906, the Oubangui-Chari territory was united with the Chad colony; in 1910, it became one of the four territories of the Federation of French Equatorial Africa (AEF), along with Chad, Middle Congo, and Gabon. The next thirty years were marked by mostly small scale revolts against French rule and the development of a plantation-style economy. The largest of these revolts was the Kongo-Wara rebellion, when over 350,000 natives rebelled against the colonial administration.
In August 1940, the territory responded, with the rest of the AEF, to the call from General Charles de Gaulle to fight for Free France. After World War II, the French Constitution of 1946 inaugurated the first of a series of reforms that led eventually to complete independence for all French territories in western and equatorial Africa. In 1946, all AEF inhabitants were granted French citizenship and allowed to establish local assemblies. The assembly in CAR was led by Barthélemy Boganda, a Catholic priest who also was known for his forthright statements in the French Assembly on the need for African emancipation. In 1956 French legislation eliminated certain voting inequalities and provided for the creation of some organs of self-government in each territory.
The French constitutional referendum of September 1958 dissolved the AEF, and on 1 December of the same year the Assembly declared the birth of the autonomous Central African Republic with Boganda as head of government. Boganda ruled until his death in a plane crash on 29 March 1959. His cousin, David Dacko, replaced him as head of Government. On 12 July 1960 France agreed to the Central African Republic becoming fully independent. On 13 August 1960 the Central African Republic became an independent country and David Dacko became its first President.
On 1 January 1966, following a swift and almost bloodless coup, Colonel Jean-Bédel Bokassa assumed power as president of the Republic. Bokassa abolished the constitution of 1959, dissolved the National Assembly, and issued a decree that placed all legislative and executive powers in the hands of the president. On 4 December 1976, the republic became a monarchy—the Central African Empire—with the promulgation of the imperial constitution and the proclamation of the president as Emperor Bokassa I. His regime was characterized by numerous human rights atrocities.
On 20 September 1979, Dacko, with French support, led a bloodless coup that overthrew Bokassa while he was out of the country. The republic was restored, and Bokassa, who took refuge in Côte d'Ivoire and France, was sentenced to death in absentia for various crimes, including cannibalism. Moreover, an African judicial commission reported that he had "almost certainly" taken part in the massacre of some 100 children for refusing to wear the compulsory school uniforms. In January 1981, six of his supporters, including two sons-in-law, were executed.
Bokassa made an unexpected return in October 1986 and was retried. On 12 June 1987, he was convicted of having ordered the murders of at least 20 prisoners and the arrest of the schoolchildren who were murdered. He was sentenced to death, but this was commuted to a life term in February 1988. He was released from prison on 1 September 1993, as a result of an amnesty. He died of a heart attack in Bangui on 3 November 1996 at age 75.
Dacko's efforts to promote economic and political reforms proved ineffectual, and on 20 September 1981, he in turn was overthrown in a bloodless coup by General André Kolingba. For four years, Kolingba led the country as head of the Military Committee for National Recovery (CRMN).
In 1985 the CRMN was dissolved, and Kolingba named a new cabinet with increased civilian participation, signaling the start of a return to civilian rule. The process of democratization quickened in 1986 with the creation of a new political party, the Rassemblement Démocratique Centrafricain (RDC), and the drafting of a new constitution that subsequently was ratified in a national referendum. General Kolingba was sworn in as constitutional President on 29 November 1986. The constitution established a National Assembly made up of 52 elected deputies, elected in July 1987.
Due to mounting political pressure, in 1991 President Kolingba announced the creation of National Commission to rewrite the constitution to provide for a multi-party system. Internal and international pressure led to multi-party presidential elections being held in 1992. Much of the resources for these first democratic elections since independence came from locally represented donors and agencies called the "Groupe informel des bailleurs de fonds et representants residents" (GIBAFOR). Help was also received from the UN Office of Electoral Assistance. Pressure came from the US and France. The elections were held, but the government provoked logistical problems and other irregularities so they could nullify the results as a means to prolong their stay in office.
Internal and international pressure in particular from France continued and in rescheduled elections held in October 1993, again with the help of the international community Ange-Félix Patassé won a second-round victory. This election also saw the first female African presidential candidate run, Jeanne-Marie Ruth-Rolland.
Salary arrears, labor unrest, and unequal treatment of military officers from different ethnic groups had also been among the causes of the three mutinies against the Patassé government in 1996 and 1997. The French succeeded in helping it to quell the disturbances, and an African peacekeeping force (MISAB) occupied Bangui until 1998 when they were relieved by a United Nations peacekeeping mission (MINURCA). Economic difficulties caused by the looting and destruction during the 1996 and 1997 mutinies, energy crises, and government mismanagement continued to trouble Patassé's government through 2000. Despite several army mutinies and increasing civic concern both at his erratic style and arbitrary, corrupt method of governing he was re-elected for another 6-year term in September 1999.
In March 2000 the last of the MINURCA forces departed Bangui.
Bozizé coup and rule
On 15 March 2003 rebels who controlled part of the country moved into Bangui and installed their commander, General François Bozizé, as president, while President Patassé was out of the country. Bozizé has since been elected President in an election considered by observers to be fair and free.
Patassé has been found guilty of major crimes in Bangui and CAR has brought a case to the International Criminal Court against him and Jean Pierre Bemba from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo accusing them both of multiple crimes in suppressing one of the mutinies against Patasse. Civil tranquillity has yet to be established and parts of the country remain out of government control. The UN continues to maintain a peace building mission in Bangui.
Despite these shortcomings, and his promise to step down at the end of the transition, Bozizé contested the 13 March 2005 presidential elections in which all of the leading opposition candidates were allowed to run except for Patassé. Bozizé won on the second run-off round on 8 May 2005, defeating Martin Ziguélé, who ran on the ticket of the MLPC, the former ruling party. The National Elections Commission declared Bozizé the winner with 64.6 percent of the vote to 35.4 percent for Ziguélé. The election was generally considered to be fair, although the absence of Patassé cast a shadow over the legitimacy of the process.
After Bozizé seized power in 2003, the Central African Republic Bush War began with the rebellion by the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR), led by Michel Djotodia. This quickly escalated into major fighting during 2004. The UFDR rebel forces consisted of three allies, the Groupe d'action patriotique pour la liberation de Centrafrique (GAPLC), the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP), the People's Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD), the Movement of Central African Liberators for Justice (MLCJ), and the Front démocratique Centrafricain (FDC).
On 8 May 2005, Bozizé gained yet a further victory when his coalition, Convergence Kwa Na Kwa, won 42 parliamentary seats in the legislative run-off vote. The MLPC came in second with 11 seats while the RDC won only eight seats. The remaining seats were won by independents or by smaller parties. In June later that year, the African Union (AU) lifted sanctions against the country, which had been applied after the 2003 coup.
In early 2006, Bozizé's government appeared stable. However, Patassé, who was living in exile in Togo, could not be ruled out as a leader of a future uprising. His supporters reportedly were joining or were prepared to join rebel movements in belief that their leader was still the rightful head of state of the country. Further, members of Kolingba's Yakoma tribe in the south posed a potential threat to Bozizé's government because of their widespread boycott of the second round of the legislative elections. Members of the Yakoma dominate the army.
On 13 April 2007, a peace agreement between the government and the UFDR was signed in Birao. The agreement provided for an amnesty for the UFDR, its recognition as a political party, and the integration of its fighters into the army. Further negotiations resulted in an agreement in 2008 for reconciliation, a unity government, and local elections in 2009 and parliamentary and presidential elections in 2010. The new unity government that resulted was formed in January 2009.
In late 2012 a coalition of old rebel groups under new name of Séléka renewed fighting. Two other, previously unknown groups, the Alliance for Revival and Rebuilding (A2R) and the Patriotic Convention for Saving the Country (CPSK) also joined the coalition, as well as the Chadian group FPR,. On 27 December 2012, CAR President Francois Bozizé requested international assistance to help with the rebellion, in particular from France and the United States. French President Francois Hollande rejected the plea, saying that the 250 French troops stationed at Bangui M'Poko International Airport are there "in no way to intervene in the internal affairs".
On 11 January 2013, a ceasefire agreement was signed Libreville, Gabon. The rebels dropped their demand for President François Bozizé to resign, but he had to appoint a new prime minister from the opposition party by 18 January 2013. On 13 January, Bozizé signed a decree that removed Prime Minister Faustin-Archange Touadéra from power, as part of the agreement with the rebel coalition. On 17 January, Nicolas Tiangaye was appointed Prime Minister.
On 24 March 2013, rebel forces heavily attacked the capital Bangui and took control of major structures, including the presidential palace. Bozizé's family fled across the river to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and then to Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon where he has been granted temporary refuge. Séléka leader Michel Djotodia declared himself President. Djotodia said that there would be a three-year transitional period and that Tiangaye would continue to serve as Prime Minister. Djotodia promptly suspended the constitution and dissolved the government, as well as the National Assembly. He then reappointed Tiangaye as Prime Minister on 27 March 2013. Top military and police officers met with Djotodia and recognized him as President on 28 March 2013. Catherine Samba-Panza assumed the office of interim president on 23 January 2014.
- Central African Republic
- History of Africa
- Politics of the Central African Republic
- List of heads of state of the Central African Republic
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- Maria Petringa, Brazza, A Life for Africa (2006) ISBN 978-1-4259-1198-0