Central African Republic. In June, the government and three rebel groups signed a ceasefire agreement aimed at stopping years of armed conflict in the country’s northern parts. However, the formal peace talks that followed the ceasefire went slow, and an amnesty for war crimes adopted by Parliament in September was received with doubt by the rebels, who considered the amnesty too tight. Meanwhile, smaller rebel groups, which were not covered by the ceasefire, continued to attack villages in the north.
Extensive strikes among teachers and other public servants caused Prime Minister Élie Doté to resign in January in the face of a threatening declaration of confidence in Parliament. The dissatisfaction was great among the government employees who did not receive a salary for six months. Faustin Archange Touadéra, Professor of Mathematics and Rector of the University of Bangui, was appointed as new Prime Minister.
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A newspaper editor sentenced to six months in prison for writing about corruption among ministers was pardoned by the president. On the other hand, it was three years in prison for two civil servants who falsified the president’s signature on a document ordering the education authorities to approve 44 student bachelor’s degrees. Both men must have been paid by the students’ parents to produce approved grades.
According to Countryaah reports, the population of Central African Republic in 2008 was 4,386,657, ranking number 121 in the world. The population growth rate was 1.670% yearly, and the population density was 7.0416 people per km2.
Estimates conducted by international bodies attributed to the country almost 3, 5 million residents in 1998. The distribution of the population has accentuated its character of irregularity: the greatest demographic concentrations are located in the western part of the country, while the eastern regions are, in fact, depopulated. The annual growth rate is very high: it is around 22% and has remained substantially stable for twenty years now. In 1996 the capital, Bangui, had 524. 000 residents.
The country is in a serious situation of economic backwardness and the possibilities of mitigating it are severely compromised by the marked imbalance between the growth rates of the population and those of the economy. The main vulnerability factors are linked to the strong dependence on the primary sector, the poor industrialization based on small-sized, technologically backward plants, and, as already mentioned, the very high demographic pressure.
Attempts to expand production potential have so far given very limited results: during the early 1990s the decline in international prices of coffee and cotton (the main items of Central African exports), together with the sharp increase in diamond smuggling, State finances were severely tested, to the point that the government was forced to suspend the payment of emoluments to public employees and the military. During this period there were also strong symptoms of political instability due to the unrest that emerged among the components of the armed forces. In an attempt to make the Central African Republic overcome the economic emergency, during 1996 France came to the aid of the Central African government; at the same time the government authorities have launched a series of measures, agreed with the International Monetary Fund, to restart development programs.
Coffee and cotton represent the main agricultural resources, but their profitability is conditioned both by the trend of prices on international markets and by the climatic disturbances that cyclically affect the whole region. Other sources of income are growing tobacco and commercial exploitation of the equatorial forest (which covers 35, 8 million hectares and in 1996 provided 3.9 million m³ of wood).
Diamonds are the main resource of the subsoil (486,800 carats in 1986); the extraction areas are located in the western regions, in large alluvial deposits. Other resources include gold and, above all, uranium. Deposits of this mineral have been discovered in Bakouma, 500 km E of Bangui; reserves, valued at around 20. 000t, are characterized by a high metal content. International prices are low, that is to say, at levels that make the extraction uneconomical, and therefore the exploitation of this resource has been delayed, waiting, among other things, for the discovery areas to be served by roads, which are indispensable. for the export of the mineral (one is planned that will cross the whole southern part of the Central African Republic, reaching Cameroon). Transport infrastructures are very poor throughout the country and this represents a serious handicap for the development prospects. It is estimated that about 25. 000 km of road network only 2 % is asphalted and therefore practicable all year round.
Industrial activities are scarce: the manufacturing sector contributes only 8.6% to GDP and is mostly oriented to the processing of agricultural products. In an attempt to support the economy, a new development plan has been launched: considerable resources have been allocated to support agriculture in order to reduce its degree of dependence on foreign countries, at least for food products. Among the major problems that the country has to face are: the very heavy indebtedness with foreign countries, the need to implement a taxation system, control over state spending and the initiation of measures to stimulate the private sector. The devaluation of the CFA franc has aggravated the cost of imports (especially for oil for energy purposes) without significantly benefiting exports.