"Ködörösêse tî Bêafrîka"
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On today's edition of #56DaysofAfrica, we will be highlighting the Central African Republic.
The Central African Republic (C.A.R.) was previously called Ubangi-Shari (Oubangui-Chari), one of the four territories of French Equatorial Africa, named after the two rivers that dominated its landbound by the Ubangi River to the south and the Shari to the north.
After the Berlin Conference, Ubangi-Shari was ruled by France. The road to independence was led by Barthélemy Boganda. When the country was under autonomous status he served as the first prime minister in December 1958 and was a member of the French National Assembly, where he rallied against racism against the Oubanguians by the French by forming Mouvement pour l’Évolution Sociale de l’Afrique Noire (MESAN).
In 1958, Boganda announced his plan to unite the French territories of Chad, Gabon, Congo, and Ubangi-Shari to form a single nation under the name "the United States of Latin Africa". When his plans to unite the continent failed, he renamed the newly independent Ubangi-Shari as "Central African Republic," as a way of convincing his neighbours to join the republic.
Boganda died mysteriously in 1959 and the Central African Republic was granted independence on August 13, 1960. Leaving David Dacko, a government member who claimed a family relationship to Boganda, to become the first president of C.A.R. Dacko permitted the French to provide the newly independent country with assistance. In December 1965—amid impending bankruptcy and a threatened nationwide strike—the commander of the army, Jean-Bédel Bokassa, replaced Dacko in a staged coup.
Bokassa abolished the newly adopted constitution, dissolved the legislature, and turned over administrative duties to his appointed cabinet; he allowed no opposition. Bokassa declared himself president for life in 1972. Four years later he proclaimed himself emperor of the Central African Empire and was crowned the following year as Emperor Bokassa I with lavish ceremonies financed largely by France. He was later overthrown and Dacko was once again appointed president of C.A.R. with the support of France.
For the Culture
The capital of C.A.R. is Bangui which was also known as La Coquette (the beautiful city). Right across the river one can see the Democratic Republic of Congo. Due to Bangui being located near the equator the climate is hot and humid throughout much of the year and heavy rains that lead to flooding are common.
The people of the C.A.R. are composed of several groups, mainly the Bwaka, Madjia, Baya, and Banda. The official langauges are French and Sango are the official languages, with sango being the lingua franca spoken by nearly nine-tenths of the population. It remains primarily a spoken language in government and education, while French is used in written communications.
Central African Cuisine
Central African Cuisine is a wonderful fusion of East and Western African cuisines. Cassava is the staple food in C.A.R. it is soaked for two-three days dried in the sun and then grounded into a flour. Goza is a paste made from cassava flour and water. Most meals are served with either goza or ‘foutou’ (mashed plantain and cassava). It is served with a sauce made from meat, fish or vegetables. Ngunga is a dish made from the dark green leaves of the cassava plant. Most sauces are thickened with peanut butter for added protein.
C.A.R. has several specialties such as palm butter soup, chicken and cumin stew, spinach stew, shrimps with sweet potatoes and boiled yams, and muamba de galinha, which is chicken served with okra and palm oil. Egusi, or melon seed, is particularly popular in C.A.R. similarly to the Nigerian dish, egusi soup. Another common dish, is kanda, which are meatballs made by pounding toasted pumpkin seeds into a powder and combining with ground meat, onion, and garlic. They are then simmered in a tomato onion sauce. It is a great way to spread out the amount of meat needed to serve more people, plus each bite includes a bit of toasted pumpkin seed flavor. Another variation, Kanda ti Nyma, is made with okra and peanuts.
A popular specialty in C.A.R., is yabanda, which is made from caterpillars, stewed in finely diced vine leaves (called koko in Sangho, gnetum in French), onions, and a scotch bonnet pepper. If you are looking to experience entomophagy, C.A.R. is a good place to try it out!
C.AR. has many landmarks within its boundaries that reflect its rich history and culture. For example, Bangui hosts the Boganda Museum, Bangui Zoo, and the Presidential Palace, formerly the Bokassa Palace. Notre-Dame Cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bangui.
In other parts of the country lives the Boali Falls and the Manovo-Gounda St Floris National Park. Boali Falls is a magical and impressive place where the M’Bari river empties from 50m high and 250m wide. There are built hydroelectric power plants upstream and downstream from the falls. These plants supply the capital of the country – Bangui – with electric power.
Manovo-Gounda St Floris National Park is one of the richest reserves of the continent by its fauna and flora. It includes numerous and varied species of mammals. It is located at a major biogeographic crossroads of central Africa. Three waterways blend here, the Monovo the Koumbala and the Gounda.
Disclaimer: Ködörösêse tî Bêafrîka (C.A.R.) has experienced civil war and armed conflict, causing displacement and humanitarian concerns for over eight years and it is important for us to not disregard the atrocities that are happening in certain parts of the country. Our intention of the #56daysofAfrica campaign is to shed positive light on our African nations, as most news sources only cover the negative events in our countries. During the course of the week, we hope to continue to share more information about the Central African Republic via our social media platforms.