Join the RAS

Join now!

Membership benefits include:

  • Taking part in our meetings, launches and receptions;
  • Receiving quarterly issues of African Affairs;
  • Support the work of the society.

Read more »

Central African Republic

The Central African Republic gained its independence on 13 August 1960. By 1962 a one-party state was established under President David Dacko. However, Dacko was overthrown in a coup by Colonel Jean-Bédel Bokassa, who suspended the constitution and dissolved the National Assembly. Bokassa named himself Emperor Bokassa I of the Central African Empire and declared himself President for life. Bokassa – a former captain in the French army – created a violent and flambuoyant regime often compared to those of Idi Amin in Uganda and Mobuto in Zaire.  Bokassa enjoyed close relations with the French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing. The latter even went so far as to declare that he regarded Bokassa as a "friend and family member".

With support ebbing away, France sponsored a coup against Bokassa in 1979 and "restored" Dacko to power. This was termed by France’s oldest Africa hand, Jacques Foccart, as "France's last colonial expedition." Dacko, in turn, was overthrown in a coup by General André Kolingba in 1981.Kolingba suspended the constitution and ruled with a military junta until 1985. He introduced a new constitution in 1986 which was adopted by a nationwide referendum.

By 1990, inspired by global politcal changes, a pro-democracy movement became active and influential in the CAR. Influenced by pressure from the United States, France, and from a group called GIBAFOR (France, USA, Germany, Japan, EU, World Bank and UN) finally Kolingba agreed to hold elections in 1992, with help from the UN Office of Electoral Affairs.

When elections were finally held in 1993  Ange-Félix Patassé won 53 percent of the vote, narrowly beating Presidential rival Abel Goumba. Most of Patassé's support came from Gbaya, Kare and Kaba voters in seven heavily populated prefectures in the northwest while Goumba's came largely from ten less-populated prefectures in the south and east. Patassé's party, the Mouvement pour la Libération du Peuple Centrafricain (MLPC) or Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People gained a simple but not an absolute majority of seats in parliament, which Patassé to rule as part of a coalition.

A new constitution was approved on 28 December 1994 and promulgated on 14 January 1995, but did not have much impact on the practice of politics. In 1996–1997, reflecting steadily decreasing public confidence in its erratic behaviour, three mutinies against Patassé's government were accompanied by widespread destruction of property and heightened ethnic tension. On 25 January 1997, the Bangui Peace Accords were signed which provided for the deployment of an inter-African military mission, the Mission Interafricaine de Surveillance des Accords de Bangui (MISAB). The MISAB mission was later replaced by a U.N. peacekeeping force, the Mission des Nations Unies en RCA (MINURCA). In 1999, despite widespread public anger in urban centers with his corrupt rule, Patassé won elections to become president for a second term.

On 28 May 2001 rebels stormed strategic buildings in Bangui in an unsuccessful coup attempt. The army chief of staff, Abel Abrou, and General François N'Djadder Bedaya were shot, but Patassé regained the upper hand by bringing in at least 300 troops of the rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba (from  the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Libyan soldiers.
In the aftermath of this failed coup, militias loyal to Patassé sought revenge against rebels in many neighborhoods of the capital, Bangui, which resulted in the destruction of many homes as well as the torture and murder of many opponents. Eventually Patassé came to suspect that General François Bozizé was involved in another coup attempt against him and so Bozizé fled with loyal troops to Chad.

In March 2003, Bozizé launched a surprise attack against Patassé, who was out of the country. Libyan troops and some 1,000 soldiers of Bemba's  failed to stop the rebels, who took control of the country and thus succeeded in overthrowing Patassé. Bemba is currently under trial with the International Criminal Court for charges that he unleashed his personal militia to murder, rape and pillage in the CAR 2002/03.

Bozizé established a broad-based National Transition Council to draft a new constitution and announced that he would step down and run for office once the new constitution was approved. A national dialogue was held from 15 September to 27 October 2003, and Bozizé won a fair election that excluded Patassé.

The CAR currently suffers from attacks from the formerly Ugandan scourge of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Since the LRA was forced out of Northern Uganda it has taken its violent methods to Eastern DRC and the CAR – these include indiscriminate murder of rural communities, rape and abduction of children.

Related articles

Related events & meetings