SEATTLE — The Central African Republic (CAR) is the poorest nation in the world. It has dealt with corruption, violence, human rights violations and poverty since its inception. Dictatorship and government corruption have been a major catalyst for these issues, inspiring rebellions.
Why is the Central African Republic poor? The CAR’s military was kept very weak by the former dictator, François Bozizé, for fear of being overthrown and simply due to a lack of funding. As a result, the CAR is unable to protect itself from internal rebel militia groups, called Séléka, as well as militia from other African countries. This takes the biggest toll on Central Africans living in more remote regions of the nation, driving many out of the country and increasing poverty in the CAR. Meanwhile, Central African government leaders have made their living from bribes.
The central reason for the violence in the CAR is due in part to broken peace treaties between Bozizé and the many rebellions that have accumulated over the past decade. Many CAR rebels stated that they had not been taken care of by their government and had even been attacked by government officials. These members were often those who suffered from poverty in the Central African Republic.
In 2009, the Disarmament, Demobilization and Integration Steering Committee was formed and headed by a variety of leaders, including U.N. members. No progress came of the committee’s many meetings, although the committee members profited financially from participating.
Eventually, in March 2013, one of the rebel militia leaders, Michel Djotodia, took over the government of the CAR. Unfortunately, he was not much of an improvement from Bozizé, and was forced out shortly after gaining power, allowing chaos to continue.
Why is the Central African Republic poor? The violence and destruction in the CAR have largely affected the income of many Central Africans. According to Freedom House, “private businesses and homes are regularly looted and destroyed by militants on both sides of the conflict.” Additionally, “77 percent of livestock [is]destroyed and food reserves [are]down by 40 percent.” Although this would be devastating for any country, it has especially harmed the CAR. Approximately 75 percent of the population of the nation earns a living via farming and agriculture.
The diamond industry has also been hindered, having been seized by Séléka forces. Diamonds make up around half of the export revenue for the CAR.
Severe poverty in the Central African Republic affects over three-quarters of the population. Slightly more than half of the hospitals in the CAR are running, and only a quarter of those have a source of energy. The World Bank reports that there are currently 467,000 Central African refugees in surrounding countries, and 384,000 are displaced.
These factors can begin to answer the question “Why is the Central African Republic poor?” Although conditions remain grim in the CAR, a ceasefire was implemented in July 2014, and Faustin Archange Touadera, the first ever democratically-elected president in the CAR, was announced as the victor in the March 2016 election. Since then, export products have increased, and the GDP of the CAR has slowly grown and is expected to continue to grow.
With support, there is hope for poverty in the Central African Republic.
– Emma Tennyson