Path: ICPP > ICPP 1980 > List of Countries --> Central African Republic
Kenneth Janda
Political Parties: A Cross-National Survey
New York: The Free Press, 1980: pp. 959-960
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: The Party System in 1950-1956 and 1957-19621
(Text as published in 1980 citation above)

Formerly known as Ubangi-Shari, the Central African Republic was one of the territories of French Equatorial Africa. Its name, which accurately reflects its inland location in Africa, was changed upon becoming an autonomous republic within the French Community in December 1958. It became fully independent in August 1960. However, indigenous political forces obtained political influence before either autonomy or independence was attained.

In 1950, the Mouvement d'Evolution Sociale de l'Afrique Noire (MESAN) was active in the pursuit of an end to French administration. Led by former priest Barthelemy Boganda, its founder, MESAN won representation in the legislative council and Boganda himself became a deputy in the French National Assembly. With the enactment of the loi cadre in 1956, the territory obtained an increased measure of self-government, on which MESAN stood ready to capitalize.

In the elections of 1957, MESAN captured all the assembly seats and therefore obtained all the posts in the new cabinet. In 1958, Boganda became the first prime minister of the Central African Republic. His government enacted electoral laws designed to ensure MESAN control, and opposition parties found their lists disqualified in advance of the April 1959 elections. In March of that year, Boganda was killed in an airplane crash. Despite the loss of its leader, MESAN lost only two seats to independents in the elections, and Boganda's cousin, David Dacko, became prime minister. Dissension soon occurred in MESAN, resulting in a split in 1959 and the founding of a new party, the Mouvement pour l'Evolution Démocratique de l'Afrique Centrale (MEDAC), led by Abel Goumba. MEDAC won 11 of 50 seats in the 1960 elections, but the party was banned soon afterward. In December 1962, a constitutional amendment established the Central African Republic as a single-party state, with MESAN the sole party.

Continuity and Change since 1962

Since 1962, the Central African Republic (known as the Central African Empire from 1976 to 1979) has had a single-party system, but the party has not played the same role throughout the period. Our original party still exists; no new parties have been formed.

Original Party, Continuing

911 Movement for the Social Evolution of Black Africa. MESAN's role as the single party in a one-party state was altered with the military coup at the beginning of 1966 that ousted Dacko as president. Colonel Jean-Bedel Bokassa proclaimed himself the new president, dissolved the National Assembly, yet kept MESAN as the sole party. Even after he declared the transformation of the republic into an empire and was crowned emperor in 1977, Bokassa retained MESAN as a base of political support. In fact, membership in the party was made compulsory for those over 30 years of age (Africa South of the Sahara; 1978-1979, p. 252).


The 1976 constitution provided for a type of constitutional monarchy with a national assembly, but the assembly appears not to have been created before Bokassa was overthrown in September 1979 by Dacko. Bokassa sought political asylum in the Ivory Coast and Dacko reclaimed the presidency. It was unclear what role, if any, MESAN would play in the restored republic.

1. Our study of party politics in the Central African Republic is based on a file of 122 pages from 15 documents, 2 of which are in French, the rest in English. The only party included in our study is MESAN (code 911), which is discussed on 92 pages, or 75 percent of the total tile. The bibliographic search and indexing of material for the file was done by Susan Lauffer. Mary Welfling used the file to code MESAN on the variables in the ICPP conceptual framework. Victor T. Levine kindly reviewed this section and offered advice on our coding.