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The Central African Republic (CAR), is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It borders Chad in the north, Sudan in the northeast, South Sudan in the east, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo in the south, and Cameroon in the west. The CAR covers a land area of about 240,000 square miles (620,000 km2), and has an estimated population of about 4.4 million as of 2008. Bangui is the capital city.
Most of the CAR consists of Sudano-Guinean savannas but it also includes a Sahelo-Sudanian zone in the north and an equatorial forest zone in the south. Two thirds of the country lies in the basins of the Ubangi River, which flows south into the Congo River, while the remaining third lies in the basin of the Chari River, which flows north into Lake Chad.
Since most of the territory is located in the Ubangi and Shari river basins, France called the colony it carved out in this region Ubangi-Chari, or Oubangui-Chari in French. It became a semi-autonomous territory of the French Community in 1958 and then an independent nation on 13 August 1960. For over three decades after independence, the CAR was ruled by presidents who either were not freely elected or took power by force. Local discontent with this system was eventually reinforced by international pressure, following the end of the Cold War.
The first multi-party democratic elections were held in 1993 with resources provided by the country's donors and help from the UN Office for Electoral Affairs, and brought Ange-Félix Patassé to power. He lost popular support during his presidency and was overthrown in 2003 by French-backed General François Bozizé, who went on to win a democratic election in May 2005. Inability to pay workers in the public sector led to strikes in 2007, forcing the resignation of Bozizé in early 2008. A new Prime Minister, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, was named on 22 January 2008.
Despite its significant mineral resources (gold, uranium, diamonds, etc.) the Central African Republic remains one of the poorest countries in the world and among the ten poorest countries in Africa. The Human Development Index for the Central African Republic is 0.343, which gives the country a rank of 179 out of 187 countries with data.
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