Last Updated: Friday, 11 July 2014, 13:14 GMT

2009 Report on International Religious Freedom - Central African Republic

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Publication Date 26 October 2009
Cite as United States Department of State, 2009 Report on International Religious Freedom - Central African Republic, 26 October 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ae861512.html [accessed 14 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

[Covers the period from July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009]

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, although it prohibits what the Government considers to be religious fundamentalism or intolerance. Witchcraft is a criminal offense under the penal code.

The Government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the reporting period.

Private actors continued to abuse and discriminate against those accused of witchcraft; however, these accusations generally arose from personal disputes, not from specific religious or cultural practices.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has an area of 242,000 square miles and a population of 4.3 million. According to the 2005 census, Protestants make up 51 percent of the population, Catholics 29 percent, and Muslims 10 percent. The remainder practices indigenous beliefs (animism), although many indigenous beliefs are also incorporated into Christian and Islamic practice throughout the country.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally permitted adherents of all religious groups to worship without interference. The Constitution prohibits what the Government considers to be religious fundamentalism or intolerance. The constitutional provision prohibiting religious fundamentalism is widely perceived as targeting Muslims; however, it is not supported by any additional legislation.

Religious groups (except for indigenous religious groups) are required by law to register with the Ministry of Interior. Registration is free and confers official recognition and certain limited benefits, such as customs duty exemption for the importation of vehicles or equipment. The administrative police of the Ministry of Interior monitored groups that failed to register; however, the police did not attempt to impose any penalty on such groups.

The Government maintained strict legal requirements that restricted registration of new religious groups. The Ministry of Interior requires religious groups to prove they have a minimum of 1,000 members and leaders who graduated from what the Government considers high caliber religious schools. However, these requirements did not appear to be enforced during the reporting period.

The Ministry of Interior may decline to register any religious group it deems offensive to public morale or likely to disturb social peace. Registered religious groups later characterized as subversive may face suspension of their operations.

The Ministry of Interior may also intervene in religious organizations to resolve internal conflicts about property, finances, or leadership.

Witchcraft or sorcery is a criminal offense punishable by execution under the penal code, although most sentences are from one to five years in prison or a fine of up to $1,760 (830,000 Communauté Financière Africaine francs). No one accused of witchcraft received the death penalty during the reporting period, but numerous individuals were arrested for these practices, often in conjunction with some other offense, such as murder. Accusations of witchcraft appear unrelated to religious practice and are often associated with personal disputes. The Government reinforces societal attitudes about the efficacy of sorcery by arresting and detaining persons accused of witchcraft, often under the guise of protecting the accused from harm by people within their communities.

Although authorities freed most people imprisoned for witchcraft or sorcery for lack of evidence, delays in court hearings often prolonged detentions. As of the end of the reporting period, the Government had detained 23 women accused of witchcraft in Bimbo prison, including three serving sentences of up to two years and 20 pretrial detainees.

The Government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Easter Monday, Ascension Day, the Monday after Pentecost, All Saints' Day, and Christmas. The Government does not observe Islamic holy days; however, Muslims are allowed to take these days off from work.

Students are not compelled to participate in religious education, but they are free to attend any religious program of their choosing. Although the Government does not explicitly prohibit religious instruction in public schools, such instruction is not part of the public school curriculum, nor is it common.

The Government grants religious groups one day of their choosing each week to make free broadcasts on the official radio station. Outside this regular time, religious groups pay fees for broadcast time, just like nonreligious organizations.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The Government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the reporting period.

The Government continued its September 2007 ban on the Eglise Jehova Sabaot church, primarily due to allegations of its pastor's involvement in various criminal operations. Although Eglise Jehova Sabaot was officially closed, its congregants continued to meet at private residences and were building a new, larger church.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees in the country

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States or who had not been allowed to be returned to the United States.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Private actors continued to abuse and discriminate against people accused of witchcraft. Witchcraft is widely understood to encompass attempts to harm others by magic and established means, such as poisons. Although many indigenous religious groups accommodate belief in the efficacy of sorcery, accusations of witchcraft generally arose from personal disputes, not from specific religious or cultural practices.

On August 1, 2008, villagers in Pissa killed three persons accused of sorcery following the death of a young woman. Acting on the advice of a religious fortune teller, the villagers invaded a detention facility, wrested the accused from gendarmes, and killed them. Five persons were arrested and continued to be detained at Mbaiki Prison, awaiting trial. According to the Mbaiki County Court President, the case was delayed because the lawyers for two detainees were not available.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

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