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Also known as the Republic of Central Africa, the Central African Republic is a landlocked nation in the central region of Africa. It is bounded by Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, and Cameroon.

Prior to its independence from France in the late 1950s, there was no sense of a common culture among its indigenous people, whose loyalty were with their clans, tribes, and villages. After colonization, a sense of affinity developed among river people, forest people, or grassland people.

The region that was to become the Central African Republic was populated about ten thousand years ago, when desertification led hunter-gatherer people to move into Central Africa, where some of them eventually took up farming. The earliest inhabitants were probably ancestors of the Aka (Pygmy) people, who lived in the western and southern forested regions. From 1,000 BC to about 1,000 AD, other groups of people settled in the area.

Slave traders began raiding the are during the 16th and 17th centuries, when several people from the region were captured and sent to various parts of the world. In the 19th century, the Bobangi people became major slave traders, selling their captives to the Americas.

European occupation of Central Africa began in the late 1800s. French, Germans and Belgians arrived in the area in 1885. Portions of what is now the Central African Republic were occupied by the Germans for a short time before being ceded to France after World War I.

French Equatorial Africa was established in 1920, and concessions were awarded to private companies who stripped the region's resources as quickly as possible, with France taking a portion of the profits.

French colonial administrators favored some indigenous groups over others, creating rivalries and conflicts among the local people that persisted even after independence was achieved. Although its current government does not allow the use of ethnic names in government documents, most everyone is aware of the ethnicity of others, and this figures highly in daily life and politics. The nation is divided into more than eighty ethnic groups, each with its own language.

After colonization by the French, the subdued population began to communicate in a language that became known as Sango, a form of pidgin that was used by the militia, laborers, and servants, and people who lived along the Upper Ubangi River. By 1910, Sango had become the common language used by those who had contact with whites. It was adopted by Christian missionaries, who published written material in Sango. Since independence, most people in the Central African Republican have become fluent in Sango, even within households. Today, French and Sango are the official languages of the country.

Since independence, the Central African Republic has experienced several coups, attempted coups, suspensions of the constitution, and human rights violations against political opponents, and it has been engaged in a series of civil wars beginning in 2004

Its population has quadrupled since 1960, and the United Nations estimates that more than ten percent of its population between 15-49 is HIV positive. Approximately half of the adult population of the country is illiterate. The per capita income of the Central African Republic is one of the lowest in the world, although the country is believed to have an extensive black market.

Human rights groups cite instances of mob violence, the prevalence of female genital mutilation, human trafficking, child labor, and discrimination against women and Pygmies. Freedom of movement is limited in the north because of state actions, armed bandits, and fighting between government and non-government forces. Violence against women and children occurs in relation to charges of witchcraft, which is a criminal offense under the law.

The terrain of the Central African Republic is mostly plateau, covered by savannah, with dense topical forests in the south and a semi-desert terrain in the east. There are mountains in the northeast, some reaching heights of more than four thousand feet. There are no railroads, and the country's road system is poor, so rivers are the main source of transport. There are several rivers and other waterways, but only the Ubangi River is navigable for commerce.

There are several species of antelope, as well as baboons, buffalo, and elephants in the savannahs, while the rainforests house chimpanzees, gorillas, and other primates, as well as leopards, and there are several species of fish, crocodiles, and hippopotamuses in the rivers.



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