The Central African Republic (République centrafricaine) was originally inhabited by tribes speaking Adamawa and Bantu languages. The region was largely free of European intrusion, but in the early 19th century Muslim traders began arriving. Initially amiable and peaceful, after 1850 the region began to see an influx of armed slave traders. Between 1860 and 1910 most of the eastern population was forcibly exported. During the Scramble for Africa, France won out over Belgium, Germany and Great Britain for control of the region, incorporating it into what was then called French Congo. Meanwhile the slave trade continued among Africans, with the more powerful tribes subjugating the weaker ones, although it gradually began to decline after 1920. On 1 December 1958 the region of Ubangi-Shari became an autonomous territory within the French Community and took the name Central African Republic; it was granted full independence on 30 August 1960.
The country has seen a number of regime changes since independence, the first merely two years after it was originally gained. A one-party state was established in 1962 by David Dacko, who was subsequently overthrown in 1965 by a military coup led by Colonel Jean-Bédel Bokassa. Bokassa declared himself President for Life in 1972, and later Emperor Bokassa I of the Central African Empire on 4 December 1976. Accusations of cannibalism and feeding political opponents to animals kept in his personal zoo prompted France to intervene militarily in 1979, re-establishing Dacko as president (once again under a Republic). Two years later, he was again overthrown by General André Kolingba, who suspended the constitution and ruled until 1990. Under intense international and local pressure Kolingba resisted the holding of free elections until 1993. A new constitution was approved in December 1994 following the election of president Ange-Félix Patassé. Nevertheless, protests, ethnic tension and vandalism marked the next few years until January 1997 when the Bangui Peace Accords were signed, providing for the deployment of an inter-African military mission. It would later be replaced by a UN peacekeeping force, the Mission des Nations Unies en RCA (MINURCA).
Ethnic and political violence again erupted in May 2001, sparked by a failed coup attempt in Bangui and leading to two years of violence in the capital that resulted in the destruction of many homes and thousands dead. A new president was again elected in 2005. On 12 June 2008, the Central African Republic became the fourth country to be placed on the agenda of the UN Peace building Commission, which was set up to help countries emerging from conflict avoid the slide back into war or chaos. The Forces Armées Centrafricaines (FACA) are the armed forces of the CAR, and consist of the Ground Forces, Air Forces, Gendarmerie Nationale, the Garde Républicaine (Republican Guard), and the National Police, with approximately 4500 active duty personnel.