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The History Of Central African Republic

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The history of Central African Republic can be easily divided into segments.  

Around 10,000 years ago, nomadic people first started to settle, farm, and fish in the area, marking the beginning of the first phase of settlement. The next era started about 10,000 years ago.

By the fifteenth century CE, the region was home to a number of ethnic groups who spoke languages related to modern ones. 

These peoples hunted and used the techniques to clear ground for farming while residing in relatively remote tiny communities. 

States like Dar al-Kuti, Zande, and Bandi, all of which were established in the 19th century, were also created in this area.

It took until the 17th century for the Central African Republic to have direct access to outside trade channels. 

Due to the expansion of the trans-Saharan and Nile River trade routes into the region at that time by Arabic-speaking slave traders, slavery started to play a significant role in Central African history. 

The captives of these slave dealers were either sent to North Africa before the middle of the 19th century, where they were finally sold to nations like Egypt or Turkey, or they were sent down the Ubangi and Congo rivers to the Atlantic coast, where slave ships carried them to the Americas.

Later in the middle of the 19th century, the Ubangi River region’s Bobangi people, who had developed into significant slave traffickers, raided the local Baya and Mandjia populations in search of captives. 

The slave dealers obtained weapons in return for captives, enabling them to carry out further raids in search of more slaves. 

Although most of these assaults were stopped by the turn of the century, they persisted in the north until Dar al-Kuti fell in 1912. 

The slave trade caused social unrest in its wake and led to a population decline in the area. 

Additionally, it led to enduring ethnic tensions. Many people in Central Africa still harbour animosity toward the ruling class since they frequently descend from riverine tribes like the Bobangi.

The Colonial Era

The dominance of equatorial Africa was a point of contention for Belgium, Great Britain, Germany, and France during the final two decades of the 19th century. 

The area that would eventually become the Central African Republic was sought for by Belgium, Germany, and France, respectively. 

In the end, the French were triumphant and gave it the name French Congo (later French Equatorial Africa), with Brazzaville serving as its capital.

Ubangi-Shari (Oubangui-Chari; afterwards known as the Central African Republic), Chad, Gabon, and the Middle Congo all became French colonies (which became the Republic of the Congo).

Also read: History on the Anglo-Zulu War (1879-1896)

In order to avoid having to pay for the development of its holdings in Central Africa, the French government sold significant areas of land to private European businesses. 

It also imposed few restrictions on their operations. 

These businesses ruled the people and exploited the land in return for a yearly fee. 

Men and women were both required by company managers to work on plantations, hunt for ivory, and collect wild rubber. 

They endured food shortages and famine because they were unable to develop their own farms due to the labour requirements of European corporations. 

The death rate significantly rose as a result of them being forced to work in unfamiliar settings where they were exposed to illnesses. 

The European powers had created borders for the Ubangi-Shari colony by the turn of the 20th century. 

In the first decade of the century, numerous military expeditions were required to destroy the resistance of the many Africans to French rule.

In the western and southern regions of the colony, the Kongo-Wara insurrection (1928–31) was a large, though ultimately unsuccessful, anticolonial uprising. 

Following its repression, its leaders were put behind bars and killed, and populations of Central Africans were forcibly transferred to communities designated by the colonial government where they could be watched over.

In order to combat disease, the French colonial authorities built a network of roads and a mobile health system in Ubangi-Shari, and Roman Catholic churches established schools and clinics. 

But the French also employed the Central Africans as forced labourers to increase the production of cotton, coffee, and other crops to feed their labour forces and military forces.

To build the Congo-Ocean Railway, which connected Congo to Pointe-Noire, the French enlisted Central Africans and dispatched them to southern Congo.

In order to resist the Germans during World War II, French General Charles de Gaulle called on the citizens of the colonial regions, and 3,000 volunteers came from Central Africa. 

These soldiers went home after the war with a renewed feeling of pride and a national identity rather than an ethnic one.

Following the war, de Gaulle organised the French Union and established new local assemblies with regional political representatives, made up of French colonists and a small number of Africans. 

Barthémy Boganda was the first Central African to be elected to the French National Assembly in November 1946.

Independence Of The Central African Republic

The Social Evolution Movement of Black Africa (Mouvement pour l’Évolution Sociale de l’Afrique Noire; MESAN) was founded by Boganda, a former Roman Catholic priest. 

In 1957, MESAN took over the Territorial Assembly, and Boganda was elected head of the Grand Council of French Equatorial Africa. 

Boganda desired the unification of the French colonies in Chad, Gabon, Congo, and Ubangi-Shari. 

When the other countries rejected the plan for unity, Boganda grudgingly consented to accept the new constitution that France had presented to Ubangi-Shari.

David Dacko, a government official who claimed a familial connection to Boganda, took over as president after Boganda’s death in March 1959. 

On August 13, 1960, Ubangi-Shari gained independence and was renamed the Central African Republic. 

Dacko gave the French permission to aid the young nation in trade, defence, and international relations. 

In order to reward his followers, he also created new government jobs and raised a number of their salaries, draining the country’s budget.

In 1962, Dacko established MESAN, the sole recognised political party in the country. As a result, he faced no opposition in the early 1964 elections and was formally elected president. 

The national debt increased while the economy shrank sharply. In a staged coup, Jean-Bédel Bokassa, the army commander, took the post of Dacko in December 1965 amid looming bankruptcy and a threatening mass protest.

Bokassa forbade any resistance when he destroyed the constitution, disbanded the legislature, and gave administrative tasks to his appointed government. 

His one progressive deed was to nominate entrepreneur Elizabeth Domitien as the nation’s (and sub-Saharan Africa’s) first female prime minister in 1975. 

France persisted in aiding him and the nation’s ailing economy because it desired to keep sway over the nation’s diamond (and potential uranium) production. 

In 1972, Bokassa proclaimed himself to be president for life. He declared himself emperor of the Central African Empire four years later, and in extravagant festivities primarily funded by France, he was crowned Emperor Bokassa I the following year. 

While the government’s debt increased, Bokassa, who personally oversaw the country’s diamond trade, kept the majority of the earnings for himself. 

Finally, the French government reinstated Dacko as president and expelled Bokassa in September 1979; eventually he was permitted to stay in France.

Authoritarian Rule Under Kolingba

Dacko’s return was not well appreciated. He  was compelled to rely on French paratroopers and administrative officials who had previously worked for Bokassa’s administration in order to keep his position of authority. 

He relied more and more on the army to maintain his position of authority as the opposition increased, followed by strikes and bomb attacks. 

Finally, a bloodless revolution led by Gen. André Kolingba saw Dacko removed from power in September 1981, ushering in a military regime.

The government remained almost entirely under military control until 1985, when Kolingba disbanded the military committee that had administered the country since the coup and appointed a new 25-member cabinet that included a few civilians. 

A new constitution was ratified in a referendum later that year, with the National Assembly’s approval coming under pressure from the World Bank and other international organisations. 

Elections for the legislature were held in July 1987, but Kolingba, who essentially possessed both the executive and legislative branches of the government, continued to exercise direct control over how the government was run.

Early in the 1990s, Central Africa had grown increasingly resentful of Kolingba’s totalitarian rule and his extravagant lifestyle. 

Growing democratic movements had gained traction in other parts of Africa, which encouraged Central Africans to take initiative. In 1991, riots broke out because public employees hadn’t received their wages in more than eight months. 

It took Kolingba two more years to accede to calls for free and fair elections, at which point he permitted other parties to organise and nominate their own presidential candidates. 

Kolingba attempted to run for president but was defeated in the first round of voting.

Instead, Ange-Félix Patassé, a former prime minister and leader of the Central African People’s Liberation Movement (Mouvement pour la Libération du Peuple Centrafricain; MLPC), became the country’s first democratically elected leader since attaining independence.

The Quest For Democracy

Patassé’s presidency was anything but tranquil. His government experienced significant social unrest due to the practically bankrupt treasury it inherited and the unhappy state servants who were still owed back salaries. 

Three coup attempts were made by unpaid military factions in 1996, and Bangui was frequently robbed, causing serious damage to the city’s businesses and infrastructure. 

Similar factions in the provinces carried out banditry attacks, which led to discontent there as well as the disruption of trade and agricultural output. 

Additionally, the military and the government of Patassé did not uphold the rights of their population.

As an illustration, after the looting in 1996–1997, the police established the Squad for the Repression of Banditry and authorised the execution of criminals the next day after their capture. 

More than 20 alleged bandits were tortured and killed by the squad without a trial. In the late 1990s, the government also declined to schedule local elections, citing financial constraints.

The Bangui Accords were signed in January 1997 by the Patassé government, opposition parties, and religious organisations. 

The accords included a number of measures aimed at bringing together opposing political factions, strengthening and reforming the economy, and reorganising the armed forces. 

French involvement in the Central African Republic came to an end in October 1997 when France withdrew its troops from Bangui and shut its long-standing military installation in Bouar, despite the fact that the accord did not bring the nation back to peace. 

Six months after taking over the peacekeeping mission, the UN sent troops to the Central African Republic as part of the UN Mission (MINURCA). 

The objectives of MINURCA included preserving peace and security, serving as a go-between for conflicting national groupings, and offering guidance and assistance for the 1998 parliamentary elections.

At the start of the new millennium, the government was still facing protests over its ongoing failure to pay public servants and the military. 

Mid-’90s military coup attempts persisted into the twenty-first century, ending in Patassé’s removal in a coup led by former army leader Gen. François Bozizé in 2003. 

A new constitution was passed in late 2004 and was written under the supervision of Bozizé’s transitional administration, which also oversaw the democratic elections the same year in which he was elected president.

The following presidential election, originally scheduled for 2010, was continuously delayed. When it finally happened, on January 23, 2011, Bozizé and Patassé were both candidates. 

Polling was difficult before the declaration of the election’s results, Patassé and other Bozizé rivals had filed petitions alleging electoral fraud. 

When the results were finally revealed, Bozizé was named the victor with 66 percent of the vote.

A new rebel coalition known as Seleka began an incursion into the country’s north at the end of 2012.

The group, which includes ex-rebel movement splinter groups, charged Bozizé with failing to carry out certain provisions of an earlier peace accord.

It urged that he be removed from office and brought before the International Criminal Court.

In December, Seleka made a swift southward push but halted short of Bangui and started talks with the government.

Seleka and Bozizé’s government agreed to a cease-fire and a power-sharing arrangement in January 2013 that fulfilled a number of rebel demands, including the freeing of prisoners and the withdrawal of foreign forces stationed in the nation.

Additionally, it permitted Bozizé to complete his term, with new elections to be held in 2016.

It also allowed for the inclusion of some Seleka members in the new unity administration.

Bozizé appointed Nicolas Tiangaye, a lawyer backed by both the opposition and Seleka, as prime minister as part of the accord.

Midway through March, the group gave Bozizé an ultimatum, and a few days later, hostilities were renewed despite some last-minute concessions from the president.

Bozizé left the nation as Seleka pushed on Bangui, taking the city on March 24. The government was then allegedly under Seleka’s authority.

International condemnation of Seleka’s conduct led the African Union (AU) to suspend the nation from the group and impose sanctions on rebel leaders.

Michel Djotodia, one of the rebel commanders, asserted to be the de facto ruler and first made a commitment to fulfil the conditions of the power-sharing agreement from January. 

The National Assembly and the administration were then dissolved, and he later declared that he was suspending the constitution.

The opposition and the regional organisation known as the Economic Community of Central African States rejected Djotodia’s initial attempt to establish a transitional government.

The recommendations of ECCAS were approved by Djotodia, and a council was established in April.

Djotodia was chosen shortly after to lead the temporary body, but he wasn’t sworn in until August 18, 2013.

The ECCAS held a summit in January 2014 to discuss the country’s deteriorating status.

Both Djotodia and Tiangaye announced their resignations on January 10 under pressure from regional leaders who were dissatisfied with the interim government’s inability to reestablish order.

Later on in the same month, Catherine Samba-Panza, the mayor of Bangui, was chosen by the transitional council to serve as the new interim leader.

She took office on January 23. Even after Seleka and the anti-balaka agreed to a cease-fire in July, unrest persisted the entire year. 

A UN-led peacekeeping mission was sent out in April with UN Security Council approval; it took over the country’s operations from African and French-led forces in September.

The problem of insecurity persisted, nevertheless. The Bangui National Forum, a week-long gathering of representatives of the transitional government, militias, and civil society, was convened by the interim administration and took place in May 2015.

Representatives from various militias and the transitional government signed an agreement outlining the terms for the disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration, and repatriation (DDRR) of militia members at the conclusion of the meeting.

The 2015 general elections and constitutional referendum were continually pushed back, but they eventually happened.

A new constitution was approved in the referendum on December 13, 2015, with almost 93 percent of the vote.

On December 30, 2015, public voting for the presidential and legislative elections took place.

The top two vote-getters, former prime ministers Anicet Georges Dologuélé and Faustin-Archange Touadéra, were scheduled to compete against one another in a runoff election in early 2016.

However, none of the 30 presidential contenders won an absolute majority.

Due to issues with the legislative elections, the Constitutional Court declared on January 25, 2016, that the results would be void and that new elections would be held at a later time.

On February 14, 2016, there were reruns of the parliamentary elections and the presidential runoff.

With more than 62 percent of the vote, Touadéra was proclaimed the winner and swore in on March 30.

The AU lifted its suspension of the nation shortly after, citing the achievements achieved in reestablishing constitutional order. In May, the brand-new National Assembly met for the first time.

The Central African Republic was still plagued by insecurity despite the advancements achieved in the changeover to a democratically elected government.

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