Prefectures of the Central African Republic

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There is a new book out with a more comprehensive description of the historic territorial subdivisions of the Central African Republic than I can hope to cover here. It is Répertoire de l'Administration territoriale de la République Centrafricaine , by Juan Fandos-Rius and Jacques Serre (in French). M. Fandos-Rius also maintains a website  with much historical and geographical information about the C.A.R. I have used some of it to improve the change history.

Newsletter II-2, an update to the ISO 3166-2 standard, is dated 2010-06-30. It changes the status of Bangui from capital to commune, and the status of Nana-Grébizi and Sangha-Mbaéré from prefectures to economic prefectures.

FIPS Publication Change Notice No. 9, affecting FIPS PUB 10-4, was issued on 2004-10-01. It shows the changes to the prefecture names which are listed in the Change history section under ~1992.

Country overview: 

ISO codeCF
LanguagesFrench (fr), Sango
Time zone+1


In 1900, the territory of Ubangi-Shari, part of French Kongo, corresponded most closely to the present-day Central African Republic. On 1910-01-15, the Kongo became French Equatorial Africa. In 1911, France ceded part of this area to German-owned Kamerun, but during World War I (1916), the land was restored to its previous status. For part of the colonial period, Chad was administered jointly with Ubangi-Shari. In one week in August, 1960, all of the territories of French Equatorial Africa gained complete independence. The Central African Republic's turn came on 1960-08-13, and it took its name then. During the reign of Jean-Bedel Bokassa (1976-12-04 to 1979-09-21), the country was called the Central African Empire.

Other names of country: 

  1. Danish: Den Centralafrikanske Republik
  2. Dutch: Centrafrikaanse Republiek, Centraal-Afrikaanse Republiek (formal)
  3. English: Central African Empire (obsolete), Ubangi-Shari (obsolete)
  4. Finnish: Keski-Afrikan tasavalta
  5. French: République f centrafricaine, Oubangui-Chari (obsolete)
  6. German: Zentralafrikanische Republik f, Zentralafrika n
  7. Icelandic: Mið-Afríkulýðveldið, Mið-Afríka (informal)
  8. Italian: Centrafrica m, Repubblica f Centrafricana
  9. Norwegian: Den sentralafrikanske republikk (Bokmål), Den sentralafrikanske republikken (Nynorsk)
  10. Portuguese: República f Centro-Africana
  11. Russian: ЦАР (abbr), Центральноафриканская Республика
  12. Spanish: República f Centroafricana, Imperio Centroafricano (obsolete), Ubangui-Chari (obsolete)
  13. Swedish: Centralafrikanska republiken
  14. Turkish: Orta Afrika Cumhuriyeti

Origin of name: 


Primary subdivisions: 

Central African Republic is divided into fourteen préfectures, two préfectures économiques (economic prefectures), and one commune autonome (autonomous commune).

Bangui CF.BGBGFCT18531,7636726Bangui
Basse-Kotto CF.BKBKCT02BK203,88717,6046,797Mobaye
Haute-Kotto CF.HKHKCT03HK69,51486,65033,456Bria
Haut-Mbomou CF.HMHMCT05HM38,18455,53021,440Obo
Kémo CF.KGKGCT06KG98,88117,2046,643Sibut
Lobaye CF.LBLBCT07LB214,13719,2357,427Mbaïki
Mambéré-Kadéï CF.HSHSCT04HS289,68830,20311,661Berbérati
Mbomou CF.MBMBCT08MB132,74061,15023,610Bangassou
Nana-Grébizi CF.KBKBCT15KB87,34119,9967,720Kaga Bandoro
Nana-Mambéré CF.NMNMCT09NM184,59426,60010,270Bouar
Ombella-M'Poko CF.MPMPCT17MP304,02531,83512,292Bimbo
Ouaka CF.UKUKCT11UK224,07649,90019,266Bambari
Ouham CF.ACACCT12AC280,77250,25019,402Bossangoa
Ouham-Pendé CF.OPOPCT13OP325,56732,10012,394Bozoum
Sangha-Mbaéré CF.SESECT16SE89,87119,4127,495Nola
Vakaga CF.VKVKCT14VK37,59546,50017,954Birao
17 divisions3,151,072622,436240,324
  • Division: These divisions are préfectures, except for Bangui, which is a
    commune autonome (autonomous commune), and Nana-Grébizi and
    Sangha-Mbaéré, which are préfectures économiques (economic prefectures).
  • HASC: Hierarchical administrative subdivision codes.
  • ISO: Codes from ISO 3166-2. The code for Bangui is the same as the IATA airport code.
  • FIPS: Codes from FIPS PUB 10-4.
  • Lic: License plate prefix, according to source [2].
  • Population: 2003-12-08 census

Further subdivisions:

See the Sub-prefectures of the Central African Republic page.

The prefectures are subdivided into sous-préfectures (sub-prefectures). There were 36 sub-prefectures in 1965, 51 in 1984, and 71 in 2000. (A report updated to March 2004 says there were 66 sub-prefectures; I have yet to investigate this assertion.) At a still lower level, there are about 175 communes.

Territorial extent: 

The UN LOCODE page  for Central African Republic lists locations in the country, some of them with their latitudes and longitudes, some with their ISO 3166-2 codes for their subdivisions. This information can be put together to approximate the territorial extent of subdivisions.

Origins of names: 

  1. The prefectures are named for the major rivers of the area: Ubangui, Nana, Mambéré, Kadeï, Lobaye, M'Poko, Ombella, Sangha, Kémo, Ouaka, Kotto, and M'Bomou all flow into the Congo; Pendé, Ouham, Gribingui, Bamingui, Bangoran, and Vakaga all flow into the Chari, and thus to Lake Chad. Basse (Lower) means downstream, and Haut or Haute (Upper) means upstream.
  2. Bangui: in the Bobangui language, it means "the rapids." Bangui is located at the first great rapid of the Ubangi River.

Change history: 

  1. 1946-10-16: Ubangi-Shari organized as a territory, divided into regions of Haute-Sangha (capital Berbérati), Kémo-Gribingui (Fort-Sibut), Lobaye (M'Baïki), M'Bomou (Bangassou), Ombella-M'Poko (Bangui), Ouaka-Kotto (Bambari), Ouham (Bossangoa), and Ouham-Pendé (Bozoum), and autonomous districts of Birao (Birao) and N'Délé (N'Délé).
  2. 1957: Name of Obo district changed to Zandé and its status changed to autonomous district.
  3. 1960-12-12: Name of Zandé autonomous district changed to Obo-Zémio.
  4. 1961-01-23: Status of regions changed to prefectures. At this time, the Central African Republic was divided into the prefectures of Basse-Kotto (capital Mobaye), Bouar-Baboua (Bouar), Haute-Kotto (Bria), Haute-Sangha (Berbérati), Kémo-Gribingui (Fort-Sibut), Lobaye (M'Baïki), M'Bomou (Bangassou), Obo-Zémio (Obo), Ombella-M'Poko (Bangui), Ouaka (Bambari), Ouham (Bossangoa), and Ouham-Pendé (Bozoum), and the autonomous sub-prefectures of Birao (Birao) and N'Délé (N'Délé).
  5. 1961-12-22: The names of two prefecture capitals were changed from Fort-Crampel to Crampel and from Fort-Sibut to Sibut by Law No. 61/285.
  6. 1964-01-03: Bangui split from Ombella-M'Poko and became an autonomous city, a status on par with a prefecture, by Law No 63.445.
  7. 1964-11-20: Capital of Ombella-M'Poko moved from Bangui to Bimbo. Status of Birao and N'Délé changed from sous-préfectures autonomes (autonomous sub-prefectures) to prefectures. Name of N'Délé changed to Bamingui-Bangoran. Name of Obo-Zemio changed to Haut-Mbomou. Name of Bouar-Baboua changed to Nana-Mambéré. Name of Birao prefecture changed to Vakaga.
  8. 1967-05-12: Capital of Ombella-M'Poko moved from Bimbo to Boali by Decree No. 67/172.
  9. 1972-09-29: "Code Officiel Géographique" created by decree no. 72/322. This was a four-level hierarchical code for the administrative subdivisions of the Central African Republic. The first digit represented a "province économique". According to the decree, "the Central African Republic may be divided into six economic provinces". My interpretation is that these provinces were not part of the administrative structure, but just convenient groupings. The first two digits represented a prefecture; the first three, a sub-prefecture; and a five-digit code represented a commune. The decree speaks of "assimilating Bangui to a prefecture", meaning that it is really a commune but is administratively on a par with the prefectures. The table below shows the prefectures with their official geographic codes as of this date.
15 prefectures2,256,000622,577
  • CG: Code Officiel Géographique. First digit
    represents province: 1 = Bangui, 2 = Sud,
    3 = Ouest, 4 = Centre, 5 = Nord, 6 = Est
  • Population: 1968 estimate.
  • Source for population and area: Encyclopædia
    Britannica, 1984 edition. Figures for Bangui
    included in Ombella-M'Poko.
  1. 1974-08-06: Kémo-Gribingui prefecture split into Kémo and Gribingui-Économique (the economic prefecture of Gribingui). Name of the capital of Gribingui-Économique changed from Crampel to Kaga Bandoro.
  2. ~1974: Sangha-Économique (the economic prefecture of Sangha) formed by taking about 14,150 km.² of Haute-Sangha, plus 5,250 km.² of Lobaye.
  3. ~1982: Capital of Ombella-M'Poko moved from Boali back to Bimbo.
  4. ~1982: Name of Sangha[-Économique] changed to Sangha-Mbaéré.
  5. ~1992: Name of Gribingui[-Économique] changed to Nana-Grébizi. Name of Haute-Sangha changed to Mambéré-Kadéï. Name of Kémo-Gribingui changed to Kémo.

Other names of subdivisions: 

  1. Bamingui-Bangoran: N'Délé, Ndélé (obsolete)
  2. Haut-Mbomou: Haut-M'bomou (variant); Obo-Zemio (obsolete)
  3. Kémo: Kémo-Gribingui, Kémo-Ibingui (obsolete)
  4. Mambéré-Kadéï: Haute-Sangha (obsolete); Mambéré Kadéi (variant)
  5. Mbomou: M'Bomou (variant)
  6. Nana-Grébizi: Gribingui, Gribingui-Économique, Ibingui (obsolete); Nana Gribizi (variant)
  7. Nana-Mambéré: Bouar-Baboua, Buar-Baboua (obsolete); Nana Nambéré (variant)
  8. Ombella-M'Poko: Ombella-Mpoko, Ombelle Mpoko (variant)
  9. Sangha-Mbaéré: Sangha, Sangha-Économique (obsolete); Sangha M'baéré (variant)
  10. Vakaga: Birao (obsolete)

Population history:



1960 data are from an "enquête démographique" (demographic investigation).


  1. [1] Répartition de la population par sexe, selon la préfecture en 1988 et en 2003 . Division des Statistiques, des Études Économiques et Sociales of the Central African Republic (retrieved 2005-11-10).
  2. [2] Where's that vehicle come from?  (retrieved 2003-11-12).
  3. [3] Decree of 2004-10-01, defining electoral districts (, dead link, retrieved 2006-08-12).
  4. [4] Africa Data Dissemination Service: map of administrative boundaries (, dead link, retrieved 2004-04-20).
  5. [5] "Atlas de la République Centrafricaine", Pierre Vennetier et al., Les Éditions Jeune Afrique, Paris, 1984.
  6. [6] "Provinces and Provincial Capitals of the World, 2nd Ed.", Morris Fisher. Scarecrow Press, Metuchen, N.J., 1985.
  7. [7] Fifth United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names. Vol. II. New York: United Nations, 1991.
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