The Central African Republic , or Centrafrique is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It borders Chad in the north, Sudan in the northeast, South Sudan in the east, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo in the south and Cameroon in the west. The CAR covers a land area of about 620,000 square kilometres (240,000 sq mi) and has an estimated population of about 4.4 million as of 2008. The capital is Bangui.
France called the colony it carved out in this region Oubangui-Chari, as most of the territory was located in the Ubangi and Chari river basins. It became a semi-autonomous territory of the French Community in 1958 and then an independent nation on 13 August 1960, taking its present name. For over three decades after independence, the CAR was ruled by presidents or an emperor, who either were unelected or who took power by force. Local discontent with this system was eventually reinforced by international pressure, following the end of the Cold War.
The first multi-party democratic elections in the CAR were held in 1993, with the aid of resources provided by the country’s donors and help from the United Nations. The elections brought Ange-Félix Patassé to power, but he lost popular support during his presidency and was overthrown in 2003 by the French-backed General François Bozizé, who went on to win a democratic election in May 2005. Bozizé’s inability to pay public sector workers led to strikes in 2007, which led him to appoint a new government on 22 January 2008, headed by Faustin-Archange Touadéra. In February 2010, Bozizé signed a presidential decree which set 25 April 2010 as the date for the next presidential election. This was postponed, but elections were held in January and March 2011, which were won by Bozizé and his party. Despite maintaining a veneer of stability, Bozizé’s rule was plagued with heavy corruption, underdevelopment, nepotism and authoritarianism, which led to an open rebellion against his government. The rebellion was led by an alliance of armed opposition factions known as the Séléka Coalition during the Central African Republic Bush War (2004–2007) and the 2012–2013 Central African Republic conflict. This eventually led to his overthrow on 24 March 2013.
Most of the CAR consists of Sudano-Guinean savannas but it also includes a Sahelo-Sudanian zone in the north and an equatorial forest zone in the south. Two thirds of the country lies in the basins of the Ubangi River, which flows south into the Congo, while the remaining third lies in the basin of the Chari, which flows north into Lake Chad.
Despite its significant mineral and other resources, such as uranium reserves in Bakouma, crude oil, gold, diamonds, lumber and hydropower, as well as arable land, the Central African Republic is one of the poorest countries in the world and is among the ten poorest countries in Africa. The Human Development Index for the Central African Republic is 0.343, which puts the country at 179th out of those 187 countries with data.
The Central African Republic is a landlocked nation within the interior of the African continent. It is bordered by Cameroon, Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo. The country lies between latitudes 2° and 11°N, and longitudes 14° and 28°E.
Much of the country consists of flat, or rolling plateau savanna, typically about 500 metres (1,640 ft) above sea level, of which most of the northern half lies within the World Wildlife Fund’s East Sudanian savanna ecoregion. As well as the Fertit Hills in the northeast of the CAR, there are scattered hills in the southwest. To the northwest is the Yade Massif, a granite plateau with an altitude of 1,143 feet (348 m).
At 622,941 square kilometres (240,519 sq mi), the Central African Republic is the world’s 45th-largest country. It is comparable in size to Ukraine, and is somewhat smaller than the US state of Texas.
Much of the southern border is formed by tributaries of the Congo River, with the Mbomou River in the east merging with the Uele River to form the Ubangi River. In the west, the Sangha River flows through part of the country. The eastern border lies along the edge of the Nile River watershed.
It has been estimated that up to 8% of the country is covered by forest, with the densest parts in the south. The forest is highly diverse in nature and includes commercially important species of Ayous, Sapelli and Sipo. The deforestation rate is 0.4% per annum, and lumber poaching is commonplace.
In the November 2008 issue of National Geographic, the Central African Republic was named the country least affected by light pollution.
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