/div>Country, central Africa. Area: 240,324 sq mi (622,436 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 4,511,000. Capital: Bangui
. The people form heterogeneous ethnic groups, with the Banda, Baya (Gbaya), Mandjia, and Ngbaka constituting more than two-thirds of the inhabitants. Languages: French, Sango (both official), several others. Religions: Christianity (mostly other Christians [largely unaffiliated and independent]; also Roman Catholic, Protestant), Islam, traditional beliefs. Currency: CFA franc. The country is landlocked country and consists of a large rolling plateau. The northern half is characterized by savanna and is drained by tributaries of the Chari River
. The southern half is densely forested. The country has a developing free-enterprise economy of mixed state and private structure, with agriculture as the main component. It is a multiparty republic with one legislative body; its head of state is the president and its head of government the prime minister. For several centuries before the arrival of Europeans, the territory was exploited by slave traders. The French explored and claimed central Africa and in 1889 established a post at Bangui. They subsequently partitioned the territory into several colonies, one of which was Ubangi-Shari (Oubangui-Chari), the future Central African Republic; it later became part of French Equatorial Africa
. Ubangi-Shari became a French overseas territory in 1946. It became an autonomous republic within the French Community
in 1958 and achieved independence in 1960. In 1965 the military overthrew a civilian government and installed Jean-Bédel Bokassa
, who in 1976 renamed the country the Central African Empire. He was overthrown in 1979 and the former name was restored, but the military again seized power in the 1980s. Elections in 1993 led to installation of a civilian government, which attempted to deal with continued political and economic instability that persisted into the 21st century. The government was overthrown in a 2003 coup, which led to the promulgation of a new constitution in 2004. A democratically elected government was installed in 2005.