National Geographic : 2017 May
Burning heart of africa 65 get off. After an hour’s delay the pilot ordered the police to remove the woman. He announced that because of the delay we would have to lay over that night in Cameroon. “ We cannot land in Bangui at night,” he explained, “because the air- port lights do not work.” The officer leaned over and said, “It is also because it is not safe to travel the road from the airport to the city at night.” He grinned ruefully. “ This is how things work in the Central African Republic.” on one of my first days in Bangui, a local guide drove me to a small plaza with six gold- painted statues. An exuberant man in a brightly colored dashiki, he explained that the plaza illus- trated all the history I needed to know. The plaza honors the six men who led the country from its independence movement to the start of the Cri- sis. The statues were chipped, and goats nibbled weeds growing in cracks in the pavement nearby. “ This is Barthélémy Boganda,” he began at the first statue, as if he were a professor holding class. “He is to Central Africans what George Washing- ton and Martin Luther King, Jr., are to Americans.” From my reading I knew the story of Bogan- da, the self-described son of a cannibal, who famously negotiated with Charles de Gaulle for the country’s independence. But I didn’t MANOVO-GOUNDA- SAINT FLORIS NATIONAL PARK BAMINGUI- BANGORAN NATIONAL PARK ZEMONGO FAUNAL RESERVE DZANGA-NDOKI NATIONAL PARK DZANGA-SANGHA SPECIAL RESERVE ANTI-BALAKA AREA OF INFLUENCE SELEKA AREA OF INFLUENCE Mobaye Mbaïki Bozoum Batangafo Bocaranga Bossangoa Kaga Bandoro Zemio Djéma Nola Bayanga Ouadda Birao Bangassou Rafaï Bria Yalinga Bouar Paoua Bambari Kouango Ndélé Obo Bangui Sibut Damara Berbérati Carnot CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC SOUTH SUDAN SUDAN DEM. REP. OF THE CONGO CHAD CAMEROON CONGO 274,090 Central African refugees 70,310 29,304 103,717 Kadeï Bahr Aou k Sangha River ChariUbangiKottoChinkoBoungouOubanguiLobayeOuhamBaminguiNanaMambéréZamzaMbomouMASSIFDESBONGO Mont Ngaoui 4,626 ft 1,410 m Uncontrolled area Uranium mine Petroleum exploration site 0mi 100 0km 100 1 2–5 6–15 16–74 1–1,000 1,001–14,000 14,001–35,000 1 2–5 Diamond mines Gold mines Internally displaced persons (September 2015) Central African refugees (as of late 2016) Paved road Unpaved road Wooded savanna, grassland Forest $48.5 (67%) Central African exports, 2014 in millions of U.S. dollars Wood $23.0 (31.8%) Other $0.842 (1.2%) Gold and diamonds CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC ASIA EUROPE AFRICA SELEKA Predominantly Muslim rebel groups joined to form the Seleka in 2012 and began fighting their way to Bangui. Under international pressure the coalition officially disbanded in 2013. The rebels withdrew to their strongholds and still control parts of the central and northern regions. FLEEING THE CONFLICT Nearly one-fifth of Central Africans have left their homes. More than 450,000 have sought refuge in other nations. By late 2015 about 430,000 others were sheltered in temporary camps inside the country. BOUNTY OF RESOURCES The Central African Republic exports diamonds, gold, and timber. It also has uranium and possibly oil deposits. In 2005 diamonds and gold made up more than half of its exports. Now they account for a small fraction due to the conflict and illegal smuggling.