Bangui (pronounced: bang-EE) is the capital of the Central African Republic. Bangui lies on the northern banks of the Ubangi River just below a series of rapids that limit major commercial shipping farther upriver, on the southern border. The navigable Ubangi River turns sharply south below Bangui and connects to the Congo River just south of the Equator near Brazzaville as its chief northern tributary. The river marks the border between the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Congolese town of Zongo sits opposite the river from Bangui.
The Central African Republic is situated just north of the Equator and consequently throughout the year daily high temperatures rarely fall below 30oC. The rainy season lasts from May until October. Bangui, being in the south of the country and thus closest to the Equator, is slightly hotter and wetter than the northern parts of the country.
Archaeological studies in and around Bangui have yielded at least 26 ancient Iron Age sites that contain many metallurgical tools and objects, illuminating the pre-European history of the city and surrounding area. The archaeological sites were added to the UNESCOWorld Heritage Tentative List on 11 April 2006 in the Cultural category. The site closest to Bangui is Pendere-Sengue, 800 metres (2,600 ft) from Independence Avenue, where archaeologists and conservation agencies have carried out studies. It is a paleo-metallurgical site where several thousand shards of ceramics, iron tools, pottery, and an iron spatula weighing 9 kilograms (20 lb) have been unearthed. Its dating, compared with similar sites in Nigeria and Sudan, could be close to the 9th century BC.
Bangui was founded by Albert Dolisie and Alfred Uzac on 26 June 1889, in what was then the upper reaches of the French Congo, the present-day Congo (Brazzaville). The original site was 6 miles (9.7 km) south of the Ubangi rapids. Its territory was organized first into the territory of the Upper Ubangi (Haut-Oubangui) and then as the separate colony of Ubangi-Shari. The initial capitals of these areas were at les Abiras and Fort de Possel further upstream, but the rapids at Bangui blocked them from direct communication along the river and caused the settlement there to grow in importance until, in 1906, it was chosen as the new headquarters for the French administration. Bangui retained its importance as a military and administrative centre when the colony was folded into French Equatorial Africa and under both Vichy and Free French control during World War II. The French operated a radio transmitter in Bangui, which was described in 1932 as "the most remote radio station in Africa".
The colony of Ubangi-Shari received its autonomy in 1958 as the Central African Republic and this became independent from France in 1960. In 1970, President Jean-Bédel Bokassa inaugurated the University of Bangui. He established the national airline Air Centrafrique the following year and ordered the construction of two new luxury hotels in Bangui. With tensions mounting between Bangui and Paris as a result of Bokassa's uncontrollable expenditures, western banks refused to lend him any more money. Relations with the French worsened still further in April 1974, when Brigette Miroux's body was discovered in a hotel room in Bangui. It was reported in the French media that she had been Bokassa's mistress and that he was responsible for her murder. As a result, Bokassa banned imports of French newspapers and assumed control of the Agence France-Presse office in Bangui. By 1975, Bangui had a population of 300,723.
In March 1981, widespread violence took place in Bangui following elections, after Operation Caban led the French to drop Bokassa (who had begun to call himself Emperor Bokassa I), and replaced him with David Dacko. Opponents of the President met in Bangui and were forced to flee the country. After returning voluntarily to Bangui in the autumn of 1986, Bokassa went on trial. Initially faced with the death penalty, in February 1988 he was instead sentenced to life imprisonment. His successor was General André Kolingba, army chief of staff of Decko’s army, who took over control from the local French military on 1 September 1981 under the pretext that the country was heading towards civil war. Although he attempted to combat corruption and control the national economy, he was unable to achieve his reforms. By the middle of the 1980s the country’s economic situation had deteriorated as 80% of the revenue went towards meeting the salaries of the staff. Under pressure from France and other western countries, Kolingba restored democracy in the country in 1991 with a multiparty government but elections could be held only three years later in August 1994. During the elections, Ange-Félix Patassé was elected to the post of president. Since he was from northern CAR, the southern group of Kolingba started a rebellion during 1996.
In May 1996, about 200 soldiers of the Central African Republic mutinied in Bangui, demanding salary increases and the abdication of Ange-Félix Patassé. In the aftermath, the renegades plundered and killed more than 50 people. Following this, the French troops stationed in the country suppressed the rebellion and restored the dictatorial power. After being elected, President Patassé announced a national unity government in early 1997. The Patassé government, the opposition parties, and religious groups signed the Bangui Agreements in January 1997 which were a series of measures designed to reconcile competing political factions, reform and strengthen the economy. The same year, the rebel troops refused a military base in Bangui and in June a new revolt broke out.
In view of frequent political unrest the city was named in 1996 as one of the most dangerous cities in the world. On 25 October 2002, several towns in the country and later Bangui itself were attacked by the forces of General François Bozizé, backed with international support. Bozizé refused to accept an arrest warrant and "defected with about a hundred troops, engaged in street battles in the northern neighborhoods of Bangui (traditionally supporting Patassé)" and went north. Bozizé went into exile in Chad but his troops returned to Bangui and fighting continued. Peace-keeping forces were ineffective, leaving Patassé isolated, and with support from Chad, Bozizé's troops were successful in removing Patassé's government. Patassé, who was returning from Niger after attending a conference, was not permitted to land in Bangui and he took asylum in Togo, and Bozizé seized power and suspended the constitution. An all-party National Transitional Government was set up which functioned as an interim legislative body. However, the “climate of distrust continued.”
In late 2012, the Séléka coalition rebelled against his autocratic rule and entered the city. After capturing Bria, Sibut, and other important towns, they were on the verge of capturing Damara, the last strategic town before Bangui. France and the US refused to support the president and neighbouring countries reinforced the Central African Multinational Force (Fomac).
In January 2013, the rebels terminated their operations, hoping for a negotiated settlement. Following a ceasefire and a power-sharing agreement, Séléka and Bozizé agreed to honour the rebel's demands for the release of rebel prisoners and the expulsion of foreign troops from the country. The agreement allowed Bozizé to complete his term in office and to include members of Séléka in a new government. It was also agreed that fresh elections would be held in 2016. The agreement was not honoured and the rebels captured Bangui on 23 March 2013, forcing Bozizé to flee the capital.
As of early January 2014, "around 500,000 have fled their homes" in Bangui, "almost half the city's population."
The Central African Republic is situated just north of the Equator with daily temperatures normally reaching at least 30 degrees Celsius. Bangui, close to the Equator in the south of the country is slightly hotter and wetter than the northern regions. It has a tropical savanna climate (Köppen: Aw) with dry winters. While the warm season is from 23 January to 18 March, the cold season lasts from 20 June to 27 August, when rainfall is frequently accompanied by thunderstorms. The city is bordered by thick tropical rainforests along the river banks. Several of its neighbourhoods are in low-lying areas prone to recurrent flooding. Severe rains in June and July 2009 left 11,000 people homeless.
|Climate data for Bangui (381 m), Central African Republic|
|Record high °C (°F)||37.2|
|Average high °C (°F)||32.9|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||26.0|
|Average low °C (°F)||19.5|
|Record low °C (°F)||13.0|
|Source #1: Deutscher Wetterdienst|
|Source #2: Danish Meteorological Institute|
Bangui, close to the country's southern border, lies on the northern banks of the Ubangi River just below a series of rapids that limit major commercial shipping upriver. The only major city located on the river, it covers an area of 67 square kilometres (26 sq mi). The navigable Ubangi River, with the backdrop of lush green hills, turns sharply south below Bangui and connects to the Congo River just south of the equator near Brazzaville as its chief northern tributary. The Ubangi river marks the border between the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Congolese town of Zongo is situated across the river from Bangui. The river flows to the east of downtown Bangui. During the rainy season the discharge in the river is three times higher than during the rest of the year. The city was also known as La Coquette (the beautiful city) in the 1970s.
Close to the river, the city centre features a large arch dedicated to Bokassa as well as the presidential palace and the central market. Lying 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) further north, the heart of the residential area has the largest market and most of the nightlife. Many of those in the suburbs live in houses known as Kodros, built of mud bricks with a thatched roof.
The Bangui Magnetic Anomaly, one of the earth’s largest crustal anomalies and the largest in Africa, has its centre in Bangui." It takes the form of a huge ellipse of 700 kilometres (430 mi) x 1,000 kilometres (620 mi), with its central point at 6 degrees north and 18 degrees east. It consists of three parts or segments, which comprise the northern, the southern and the central anomalies. The magnetic equator passes through the feature's centre. Although it is well documented, the feature's origins are not fully understood.
Bangui serves as an administrative, trade, and commercial centre. During the Second World War the country became wealthier as exports of rubber, cotton, coffee, uranium and diamonds increased. After the war, the employment of local people in mainstream administration led to the development of the country's infrastructure, which increased trade while slowing the national movement for independence.
During David Dacko's presidency from 1960 to 1966, there was a significant increase in the production of diamonds. This occurred when the monopoly of the French concessionary companies was ended with a law allowing local citizens to dig for diamonds. After Dacko set up a diamond cutting factory at Bangui, diamonds became the country's leading export. But by the end of his five year's tenure, rampant corruption and financial indiscipline had resulted in workers being left unpaid and civil unrest ensued. Bokassa then seized power in a military coup in 1966. Concurrently, Bangui also became the key centre for social and cultural activity in the region, when new institutions were established in the city. However, political turmoil in the country, rampant corruption, and the dictatorial rule of President Bokassa centred in the city, brought in economic recession in the 1970s exacerbated by a fall in international prices for its major exports. This caused impoverishment of the people and severe conflict, further compounded by refugees migrating from troubled neighbouring countries.
Bangui received its first bank in 1946 when a branch of the Bank of West Africa was established there. Arab sellers dominated the city, and it was historically an important centre for ivory trading. Bangui manufactures include textiles, food products, beer, shoes, and soap. The main exports are cotton, rubber, timber, coffee, and sisal. Because of the ongoing strife, unemployment hovered near 23% in the city as of 2001. Ngaragba Central Prison, the national prison for men is located in Bangui. As of 2007, it had 476 inmates; prison conditions are reported to be poor.
Four GSM-900 mobile telecommunications companies, Telecel CAR, Nationlink Telecom RCA, Orange CAR and MOOV CAR operate out of Bangui. State-owned Socatel is the principal telecom in CAR and Bangui, and is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the communications infrastructure.
Internet cafes in town allow users to access the internet, also using own laptop computers. Download speeds are acceptable and prices reasonable. MOOV provides GPRS/EDGE internet access with USB sticks for reasonable prices in whole Bangui and in major cities of CAR as well.
Le Grande Cafe in the city center has open free wi/fi and serves coffee and food.
MOOV and Orange phones can access GPRS/Edge networks if properly configured. Configuration is provided free at the telecommunication offices at PKZero. Speeds are generally EDGE, but may fade to G. GPRS is available in Bangui center, but fades out by PK12.