Located between the equator and the Tropic of Cancer, the Central African Republic (CAR) is a landlocked country etched in the heart of Africa. Home to a melting pot of different ethnicities and fascinating cultures, the Central African Republic is blessed with staggeringly rare natural beauty and exotic wildlife. Poorly understood, the Central African Republic is a country well-worth getting to know. Here are some interesting facts about the Central African Republic.
Facts about the Central African Republic
1. The Central African Republic is the 44th largest country in the world.
The Central African Republic has a total area of 622,984 km² (240,535 sq mi), which makes it slightly larger in size than Sweden and the US state of Texas.
2. The Central African Republic is completely landlocked and shares a land border with six countries.
The Central African Republic is bordered by Chad (1556 km/967 mi) to the north, Sudan (174 km/108 mi) to the northeast, South Sudan (1055 km/656 mi) to the southeast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (1747 km/1086 mi) to the south, the Republic of the Congo (487 km/303 mi) to the southwest and Cameroon (901 km/560 mi) to the west.
3. The highest point in the Central African Republic is 1,410 m (4,626 ft) above sea level.
Located in the west of the country on the border with Cameroon, Mount Ngaoui is the highest point in the country and has a summit elevation of 1,410 meters (4,626 ft).
4. The lowest point in the Central African Republic is 335 m (1,099 ft) above sea level.
Since most of the Central African Republic is a vast, undulating plateau, the country’s lowest point is the Oubangui River, which is still 335 m (1,099 ft) above sea level.
5. The Central African Republic is one of the least densely populated countries in the world.
With a landmass nearly as big as the US state of Texas and a population of just over 4.8 million, the Central African Republic has one of the lowest population densities in the world. The population density of the Central African Republic is 8/km² (20/mi²). The majority of residents live in the western and central areas of the country,
6. Before colonization, European and Arab slave traders exploited the Central African Republic throughout the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.
Slave traders raided the Central African Republic as part of the expansion of the Saharan and Nile River slave routes. Their slaves were shipped to the Mediterranean coast, Europe, Arabia, the Western Hemisphere, or to the slave ports and factories along the West and North Africa.
7. A person from the Central African Republic is known as a Central African.
Central African Republic natives are called ‘Central Africans’, not Central African Republicans.
8. The Central African Republic is a former French colony and was formerly known as ‘Ubangi-Shari’.
In the late-19th, during the so-called ‘Scramble for Africa’, the French conquered the country, when an outpost was established at Bangui as part of a plan to link French colonies from the Atlantic to the Nile. The French territory of Ubangi-Shari was established in 1903 and was named after the Ubangi and Chari rivers along which it was colonized.
On one hand, the French oversaw cultivated large plantations and substantially improved Ubangi-Shari’s infrastructure. However, France’s practice of harshly forcing the Central Africans to work on the vast cotton, rubber, coffee, and tobacco plantations against their will caused widespread resentment.
9. The Central African Republic attained independence in 1960.
In the 1950s, the pan-African momentum for breaking free from the shackles of colonialism was rapidly catching on in Ubangi-Shari. On 1 December 1958, the colony of Ubangi-Shari became an autonomous territory within the French Community and took the name the Central African Republic. On 13 August 1960, the Central African Republic finally gained full independence from France.
10. From 1966 to 1979, the Central African Republic endured one of the most brutal regimes Africa has ever experienced.
Post-colonial Africa has been bedeviled with tyrants and oppressive dictators from Gabon’s Omar Bongo to Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Soko. Though not as well-known as some other African dictators, the Central African Republic’s Jean Bédel Bokassa certainly belongs in that unenviable group. Bokassa was a demagogue rivaling Muammar Gaddafi at his most eccentric, and Idi Amin at his most diabolical.
In 1966, with the backing of France, Jean-Bédel Bokassa overthrew his first cousin David Dacko and declared himself the president of the Central African Republic. He then began a reign of terror and his long rule became infamous for brutality, torture, and summary executions. It is claimed that he dealt with political rivals and acolytes whose loyalty he doubted by dispatching them either to the lions’ den or the crocodile pond in his personal zoo, depending on his whim.
Bokassa ran the Central African Republic as his personal playground and embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars from the impoverished nation’s coffers. Having annulled the constitution, Bokassa made himself President, then President for Life in 1972, then Marshal of the Republic in 1974. However, Bokassa’s ambition wasn’t sated and in December 1976, in emulation of his hero Napoleon, he appointed himself emperor of the Central African Empire (the name of the Central African Republic from 1976 to 1979).
In December 1977, Bokassa held a lavish coronation ceremony for which he imported a gold-plated eagle throne, gold crown, a pearl and diamond-studded ermine robe, and 60,000 bottles of champagne and burgundy. The entire ceremony cost 22 million USD (95 million USD today), paid for with the country’s entire annual aid from France, roughly one-third of the national budget. Bokassa’s ludicrous coronation made him the butt of many jokes worldwide and even Bokassa’s old friends—Idi Amin, Mobutu Sese Seko, and Omar Bongo refused to attend.
In 1979, Bokassa had hundreds of schoolchildren arrested for refusing to buy uniforms from a company owned by one of his wives. Bokassa was reported to have personally supervised the slaughter of 100 of the schoolchildren by his Imperial Guard. On 20 September 1979, French paratroopers deposed him and re-instated Dacko as president.
11. The Central African Republic is one of the three countries least affected by light pollution.
According to “The New World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness”, the Central African Republic is one of the three countries (Chad and Madagascar are the others) whose natives are least affected by light pollution. The night sky conditions in the country are pristine and the Milky Way can clearly be seen at night.
12. The Central African Republic holds vast natural resources, including diamonds, gold, oil, timber, and large amounts of arable land and hydropower.
One of the most tragic facts about the Central African Republic is that despite all its natural wealth, it often ranks as one of the five poorest nations in the world. Endemic corruption and political instability have kept the profits from benefiting the people.
13. The Central African Republic has the world’s second-lowest life expectancy.
According to the CIA World Factbook, the Central African Republic suffers from the world’s second-lowest life expectancy. On average, the life expectancy for Central Africans at birth is only 55.07 years.
14. French and Sango are the official languages of the Central African Republic.
Being a former French colony, it’s quite natural that the French language has carried over into Central African society and is widely used in higher education and administration. However, only about a third of the population can speak French fluently.
Sango is the primary language spoken in the Central African Republic and is spoken by over 95% of the country’s population. It is a Creole-based language that serves as a lingua franca among the country’s various ethnic groups.
15. The Central African Republic is home to a cornucopia of ethnic groups.
The Central African Republic is a multi-ethnic nation comprising over 70 distinct ethnic groups. The four largest ethnic groups of the Central African Republic are the Baya, Banda, Mandja, and Sara. They constitute around 85% of the nation’s population.
Baggara Arabs, Bayaka, Fula, Kara, Ngbandi, Vidiri, Wodaabe, Yakoma, and Zande are some of the minority ethnic groups in the Central African Republic. The forests of the country are home to the ethnic group of Pygmy people, known for their short stature – typically under 1.5 m (5 ft) tall.
16. A majority of the population of the Central African Republic is Christian.
Approximately 85-90% of the Central African Republic’s population is Christian. Muslims are a significant minority and represent 10-15% of the country’s population.
However, it is believed that most of these followers incorporate traditional indigenous elements into their faith practices. These traditional customs still strongly influence most people’s lives, regardless of their principal faith.
17. The Central African Republic doesn’t observe daylight-saving time.
Daylight saving has never been observed in the Central African Republic.
18. The currency of the Central African Republic is the Central African franc (CFA).
The currency of the Central African Republic is the Central African franc (CFA), which is pegged to both the West African franc and the Euro. The CFA franc was introduced in the Central African Republic in 1945, replacing the French Equatorial African franc.
19. The capital of the Central African Republic is Bangui.
Bangui is located in the southwest of the Central African Republic and is the country’s largest city, plus its commercial and cultural hub.
20. The Central African Republic has never won a medal at the Olympics.
Despite having participated in the Summer Olympics since 1968, the Central African Republic has never won a medal. The nation has never participated in the Winter Olympic Games.
21. Football is the most popular sport in the Central African Republic.
Like in most of Africa, football is undoubtedly the most popular sport in the Central African Republic. Unfortunately, the country’s men’s national football team has tasted very little success at the international level and has never even qualified for the FIFA World Cup.
22. The Central African Republic has one of the world’s most unique national flags.
The national flag of the Central African Republic consists of four horizontal stripes of blue, white, green, and yellow that are bisected by a vertical stripe of red. A golden star is displayed in the flag’s canton. The national flag was adopted in 1958.
The yellow stripe represents tolerance for the ethnic diversity of the nation, while the green stripe stands for faith and hope. The red stripe represents the blood that the people of the republic shed during their independence struggle, while the white stripe represents peace and the blue stripe stands for liberty. The star in the flag’s canton represents the country’s movement towards peace and freedom.
23. The Central African Republic is exceptionally rich in biodiversity.
The Central African Republic is home to at least 200 mammal species, 165 bird species, 180 reptile species, 25 amphibian species. and over 3,600 plant species. The country is home to many rare and endemic species including gorillas, elephants, hippos, lions, cheetahs, leopards, rhinos and crocodiles.
In addition, the Central African Republic is regarded by many lepidopterists to be one of the best places to see butterflies. Around 600 species of butterflies call the country home, and they come in a kaleidoscope of electric colors, flamboyant shapes, and exotic patterns.
24. The Central African Republic is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Central African Republic are the Manovo-Gounda St Floris National Park and the Sangha Trinational forest conservation complex.
25. The Central African Republic suffers from a low literacy rate.
Only about 35-40% of the Central African Republic’s population is literate, making it one of the least literate countries in the world.
26. The Central African Republic has the second-highest prevalence of child marriage globally.
According to UNICEF, 68% of girls in the Central African Republic are married before the age of 18 and 29% are married before the age of 15. 28% of boys in the Central African Republic are married before the age of 18. This makes the Central African Republic the country in the world with the highest prevalence of child marriage among boys.
27. The Central African Republic has been embroiled in a bloody civil war since 2012.
Since December 2012, the Central African Republic has been wracked by a bloody conflict in which civilians have paid the price. The brutal conflict has pitted the minority Muslims against the majority Christians in the country. People in the Muslim-dominated north have long felt ignored by leaders in Bangui.
Tensions came to a boiling point when the Seleka, a coalition of rebel groups, accused the government of failing to abide by peace agreements. The Seleka—an alliance of Muslim rebel groups, plundered, raped, and killed its way across the Central African Republic; ousted the corrupt Christian-dominated government and sparked a smoldering civil war. By the end of 2013, the crisis deepened when the mainly Christian anti-Balaka movement took up arms against Muslims in retaliation.
Ceasefires signed in 2014 and 2015 did little to stop the fighting and the Central African Republic Civil War is still ongoing. The war has killed thousands, displaced nearly a million others, and created food shortages. Infrastructure and government institutions have been destroyed, leaving millions of Central Africans without access to clean water, health care, and food.