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African Kingdoms

Central Africa

 

Central Africa

Central Africa was poorly defined as a region until the creation of the colonial-era territories.

The sultans ruled large conquered populations in the north and east of present day Central African Republic (CAR). The title of sultan was given by the Congo Free State agents to local rulers in Bangassou, Zémio and Rafaï in the early 1890s. They included the famous slave-trader al-Sanusi, (of Dar al-Kuti), and the sultans Labasso (of Bangassou), Zémio, and Hetman (of Rafaï), the heads of conquering dynasties.

The conquered populations of mostly Adamawa-Ubangi-speaking peoples such as the Banda and the Zande-Nzakara in eastern CAR had previously lived in stateless societies without hereditary or paramount chiefs. The Gbaya (including the Mandjia) in the centre and west and the riverine peoples along the Oubangui and Mbomou in the south had no hereditary chiefs either. They had leaders of different kinds, such as clan leaders, hamlet headmen, and temporary war chiefs to lead warriors in battle, but no titled rulers with hereditary authority. The sultanates were therefore the first states to be established among the Adamawa-Ubangi-speaking peoples of central Africa.

(All information on central Africa by Richard A Bradshaw and Juan Fandos-Rius.)

Sultanate of Dar al-Kuti / Dar el-Kouti

FeatureA short-lived Islamic kingdom in the Central African Republic, in the early 1800s Dar al-Kuti was the name given to a stretch of the Islamic frontier south-west of Wadai which faced a perilous and unsettled existence until it accepted a French protectorate in 1897.

(All information on central Africa by Richard A Bradshaw and Juan Fandos-Rius.)

c.1830 - ?

Djougoultoum / Omar / Ousman

Brother of Abd el-Kader, Sultan of Banguirmi.

1870 - 1890

Kobur

Governor of Dar al-Kuti. Former faqij trader. Died 1892.

1890 - 1911

Muhammad al-Sanusi

Nephew. Died in battle against the French on 12 Jan.

1897

The sultanate accepts the creation of a French Protectorate while maintaining direct rule.

Map of Dar al-Kuti
The sultanate of Dar al-Kuti was located to the north of the later Central African Republic, forming a small pocket of territory within one of the many modern CAR provinces (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1911 - 1912

Kamoun

Son.

Kangaya

Son.

Hadia

Sister. b c.1873. m Fadl el-Allah, eldest son of Rabih, c.1890.

1911

Kangaya, along with sixty loyalists, two hundred bazinguer warriors, and chiefs; Bakoungia, Dembao, Paoura, Asraga, Iatogo, and Bara, attack the Paoura factory on 27 December. Two agents of the Compagnie des Sultanats of Upper Oubangui, Bellard and Mallac, are murdered and the factory is damaged.

1911 - 1912

The sultanate comes under direct French administration as part of their Protectorate. The Circonscription de Dar el-Kouti is created.

? - 1974

Mohamed Tchaïdele es-Senoussi

Grandson of al-Sanusi. Sultan-mayor and head of the royal family.

1926 - 1974

Born on 25 November 1926 in N'Délé, es-Senoussi is a member of the Territorial Assembly, which becomes first the Legislative and then the National Assembly, from 1957 to 1966. He dies in 1974.

1974

Ibrahim

Son of Kamoun.

1974

Ibrahim returns to the capital, N'Délé, after the death of his cousin, Mohamed. He assumes the traditional office of sultan in August 1974. However, the CAR Government choose this occasion to reassert its direct authority in the N'Délé Subprefecture by declaring the office of mayor of N'Délé to be a civil post, as it had been during the colonial period. Despite discontent, the Government appoints a functionary to the position. In this manner the sultan is stripped of most legal and administrative powers.

Sultanate of Rafaï

Rafai was a Bandia-Zande kingdom located in present day Central African Republic. Kassanga (perhaps a warlord or an exile with a following) conquered the east of Zandé Country, around the Chinko river basin, and by circa 1800 he was the ruler of the Chinko river valley and founder of the later Rafai kingdom.

(All information on central Africa by Richard A Bradshaw and Juan Fandos-Rius.)

by c.1800

Kassanga

Founder of the Bandia Kingdom of the Chinko.

Tossi

c.1810 - ?

Sangou

? - c.1875

Baingui / Bayangui

c.1875 - 1900

Rafai

Died 15 June.

1886

Rafai leaves his domains between the Chinko and the Moï rivers because of the Mahdist advance and makes his way south. He conquers most of the Djabir kingdom, establishing his court not far from that of the former Djabir rulers.

1888

War flares up between Rafai and the Djabir kingdoms, causing Rafai to move by the autumn of 1889 from south of the River Mbomou to the north bank of the river, establishing his court in what would later be known as Rafai city.

1900 - 1939

Hetman

Last sultan.

1909

On 31 March, Governor Merwart signs a new French protectorate treaty with Sultan Hetman.

1939

Upon the death of the last sultan, the sultanate is suppressed by the French.

1939? - ?

Auguste Fatrane

Mayor of Rafaï. b c.1907 in Rafaï. Natl Assembly member 1964-66.

Sultanate of Bangassou

Bangassou was a Bandia-Nzakara kingdom in the Central African Republic. It was founded by Ndounga at the beginning of the nineteenth century, when he created the kingdom of Nzakara after the defeat of the Voukpata, the clan which ruled over the Nzakara people.

(All information on central Africa by Richard A Bradshaw and Juan Fandos-Rius.)

c.1780 - 1800

Ndounga

Founder of the Bandia Kingdom of Nzakara.

c.1800 - 1830

Mbilinga

c.1830 -1860

Gbandi / Boendi

Killed by the Bougbou.

c.1860 - 1878/90

Mbali

Died in a war against the Bougbou.

c.1878/90 - 1907

Bangassou

Died 8 June.

1902 - 1904

Mbali / Mbari / Bali

Son and heir. Died 1904.

1890

On 14 June, Sultan Bangassou appears at Yakoma, a post belonging to Belgian king Leopold II's empire, and signs a treaty with Captain Alphonse Vangèle which places his kingdom under the protection of the Congo Free State. Bangassou facilitates the expansion of Leopold's empire and delivers enormous quantities of ivory to his company agents. He is therefore able to acquire 1500 guns and reinforce his army. After 1894 Bangassou becomes subject to French control.

1900 - 1907

With the arrival of concessionary societies in 1900, Bangassou rapidly loses power. Injured during an elephant hunt, he passes away in the presence of the French Captain Jules Jacquier, the real ruler of the region. With his designated heir, Mbali, already dead, the Council of “Chiefs” designate Labasso, a half-blind leper, as Bangassou's successor.

1907 - 1917

Labasso

Reigned until 18 February.

1909

On 23 February, Governor Merwart signs a new protectorate treaty with Sultan Labasso. In the summer of 1909 Governor Merwart fixes a definitive frontier between the Bangassou and Rafai sultanates

1917

Upon the death of its last ruler, the sultanate is suppressed by the French. The title is still claimed by the royal family and it retains a very limited, informal degree of authority.

1917 - 1932

Kelenga

Died with no heir.

1932 - 1936

Antoine Gounga

Jailed and deposed by the French.

1936

Fadama

Elected sultan in a restoration project which was abandoned.

1936 - 1966

Amiel Sayo

Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur. Territorial Councillor 1952-1957.

1966

The various sections of the Central African Republic fall under the control of a military ruler.

Sultanate of Zémio

This was a Voungara-Zande kingdom in the Central African Republic. It was founded by Nounga, a member of a Zande clan belonging to the Angoura branch of the Anounga. His domains stretched north (into the modern Mbomou Prefecture), and south of the River Mbomou (in the modern Congo Democratic Republic. Nounga was a Zande member of the Voungara clan.

Originally the Royal Court was established on the north bank of the Mbomou. On 11 December 1894 Zemio and the Congo Independent State's resident to Zemio's Court signed a 'contract' stating that Zemio was to move his court to the south bank of the Mbomou (Article 6) and that Zemio was to give up to his rights to the territories on the north bank of the Mbomou (Article 1).

(All information on central Africa by Richard A Bradshaw and Juan Fandos-Rius.)

? - c.1835

Nounga

Zangabirou / Zangabérou

Died 1858. Had 51 children.

bef 1855 - c.1872

Tikima

Son.

c.1872 - 1912

Zémio / Zémio-Ikpiro

Son. Died on 12 October.

1894

Zemio agrees to move his royal court to the south bank of the Mbomou on 11 December.

1909

On 12 April 1909, Governor Merwart signs a new protectorate treaty with Sultan Zemio. In December of the same year Zemio realises that his rule south of the Mbomou is in fact no rule, due to Congo Free State rule in the region. Zemio moves to the north bank of the Mbomou, which was formerly the northern part of his domain, but which is now under French control. He establishes his court in what is now the city of Zemio.

1912 - 1921

Zémio-Mbomou

1921 - 1923

Momi

1923

The sultanate is suppressed by the French.

Empire of Central Africa
AD 1976 - 1979

The Central African empire was founded by Jean Bedel Bokassa (1921-1996) who had the Central African Republic declared an empire. He was himself proclaimed Emperor Bokassa I by an Extraordinary Congress of the only political party, MESAN, in Bangui on 4 December 1976. About a year later, on 4 December 1977, he crowned himself emperor and his favourite wife, Catherine (born 1949), empress. On that same date he had his young son, Jean Bedel Bokassa (born 1973), appointed as crown prince and heir. Thanks to French military intervention the Central African empire fell. Bokassa was ousted and the Central African Republic restored on 20 September 1979.

(All information on central Africa by Richard A Bradshaw and Juan Fandos-Rius.)

1910 - 1958

The French form a federation of colonial possessions in central Africa which comprises Gabon (previously occupied by several Bantu groups), Middle Congo (now the Republic of the Congo), and Chad, although the latter is not organised as a separate entity until 1920. Also added are Oubangui-Chari (or Ubangi-Shari), Dar al-Kuti, and the sultanate of Rafaï (all now the Central African Republic).

1958 - 1960

The federation is dissolved as the republics become autonomous, with full independence being achieved in 1960.

1966 - 1976

Jean Bedel Bokassa is the military ruler of the Central African Republic. In 1972 he declares himself president for life. In 1976 he proclaims himself emperor, with tacit French approval.

1974

The CAR Government chooses to reassert its direct authority in the N'Délé Subprefecture in Dar al-Kuti by declaring the office of mayor to be a civil post, as it had been during the colonial period.

1976 - 1979

Bokassa I

Crowned emperor on 4 Dec 1977.

1921 - 1996

Bokassa is born on 22 February 1921 in Bobangui (now within CAR), Middle-Congo. He dies on 3 November 1996 in Bangui.

1977 - 1979

Jean Bedel Bokassa

Heir from 4 Dec 1977. Born on 2 November 1973 in Bangui.

1979

French military intervention causes the empire to fall. Bokassa is ousted and the Central African Republic is restored on 20 September. Bokassa flees to the Ivory Coast where he remains for four years before being granted asylum by France due to his previous service in the French armed forces.

Modern Central African Republic
AD 1979 - Present

The modern Central African Republic is rich in diamonds, gold, oil, and uranium but has one of the world's poorest populations thanks to continued instability since it achieved independence. The state is neighboured to the north by Chad, to the east by Sudan, to the south-east by Zaire, to the south-west by Congo, and to the west by Cameroon.

Tribal for millennia with no established state of its own, much of modern Central African Republic was formed out of various minor modern-era sultanates, such as those of Bangassou, Dar al-Kuti, Rafaï, and Zémio. Central Africa was poorly defined as a cohesive region until the creation of the colonial-era territories. That era came when the sultanates were suppressed by the French, one by one, mostly in the early years of the twentieth century. A centralised republic was formed by the name of the Federation of French Equatorial Africa.

In 1946 the territory gained its own assembly and had a native representative elected into the French parliament. It gained self-governance in 1958 and full independence in 1960, but quickly descended into little more than a dictatorship under David Dacko. He was soon removed by Bokassa who declared himself emperor and the republic was now the Empire of Central Africa. When Bokassa was similarly removed, the republic was reborn (its name often abbreviated to CAR in news and official correspondence). Its troubles though, would continue. Such is the country's continued instability that its former French colonial masters have never truly been able to leave, with a military presence seemingly permanent.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Richard A Bradshaw and Juan Fandos-Rius, from Culture and Customs of the Central African Republic, Jacqueline Woodfrok (Greenwood Press, 2006), and from External Link: BBC Country Profiles.)

1979 - 1981

David Dacko

Returned to power, democratically this time. Deposed again.

1981

Fresh from removing one dictator - Jean-Bedel Bokassa - and now with a degree of French backing thanks to Bokassa's atrocities, Dacko is ousted again. This time the coup is lead by the army commander, Andre Kolingba.

1981 - 1993

Andre Kolingba

Military dictator. Lost elections.

1992 - 1993

October 1992 sees multiparty presidential and parliamentary elections held in which Kolingba comes last - clearly not having learned how to rig an election as dictator. The results are soon annulled by the supreme court on the grounds of widespread irregularities. A re-run of the elections in 1993 sees Ange-Felix Patasse beat both Kolingba and Dacko to become president, ending twelve years of military rule. Kolingba releases several thousand political prisoners, including Bokassa, before standing down as president. French forces remain in the country until 1997 to ensure that democracy sticks this time.

David Dacko, Central African Republic
The newly-independent Central African Republic's first democratically-elected president was David Dacko, here shown on the cover of a French-language special edition seven inch vinyl record

2001

In May at least fifty-nine are killed in an abortive coup attempt by former president Andre Kolingba. President Patasse suppresses the attempt with help of Libyan and Chadian troops and Congolese rebels. November witnesses clashes as troops try to arrest sacked army chief-of-staff General Francois Bozize, who has been accused of involvement in May's coup attempt. Thousands flee fighting between government troops and Bozize's forces.

2002 - 2003

October 2002 sees Libyan-backed forces helping to subdue an attempt by forces loyal to General Bozize to overthrow President Patasse. Still unsafe, Patasse is ousted in March 2003. Bozize seizes Bangui, declares himself president, and dissolves parliament. Patasse is out of the country at the time. Within weeks a transitional government is set up.

2003 - 2005

Francois Bozize

Military general. Led a coup, but soon set up transitional rule.

2005 - 2007

With a new constitution having been agree in the previous December, May 2005 witnesses Bozize narrowly winning elections after a run-off vote. In October 2006 rebels seize Birao, a town in the north-east of the country, and French fighter jets are forced to take part in attacks on rebel positions as France attempts to support the democratically-elected government during the Central African Republic Bush War. The rebels sign a peace accord which ends the fighting in 2007.

2012 - 2013

A new Seleka rebel coalition rapidly overruns the north and centre of the country by November 2012, sparking a fresh round of civil war. In March 2013 the rebels overrun the capital and seize power. President Bozize flees while rebel leader Michel Djotodia suspends the constitution and dissolves parliament in a coup that is internationally condemned.

2013 - 2014

Michel Djotodia

Rebel who seized power. Interim president. Resigned.

2012 - 2013

Djotodia is sworn in as interim president while the outside world is warning that CAR poses a risk to regional stability. UN chief Ban Ki-moon says CAR has suffered a 'total breakdown of law and order'. Djotodia dissolves the Seleka coalition in November 2013 after being criticised for failing to control his fighters. Also from late in 2013, neighbouring Chad begins to play host to tens of thousands of refugees who have been fleeing the fighting in CAR.

Soldiers in Central African Republic
Warfare in Central African Republic has become endemic, with millions fleeing the violence and UN troops seemingly a permanent fixture as they attempt to keep the various factions apart

2014

Catherine Samba-Panza

Interim president.

2014 - 2016

Mahamat Kamoun

Leader of a transitional government.

2016 - 2017

After a false start in 2015 with an election that had been cancelled due to perceived irregularities, Faustin-Archange Touadera, a well-respected peacemaker and former mathematics professor, now wins a fresh election in the run-offs. However, kidnappings by Lords Resistance Army reportedly increase across 2016. By 2017 CAR's continuing violence results in the highest level of displacement since the start of the crisis in 2013. More than one million people have left their homes.