On the first day of December each year, Central African Republic citizens look forward to the traditional dugout canoe racing. However, the event was in the past years halted because of civil unrest in the country. But on the flip side, the traditional event is gradually making its way back as the country witnessed a decrease in the fighting’s ferocity.
Canoe racing has not been allowed in the country since the onset of civil war in 2012 when Seleka fighters (an armed and primarily Muslim group) launched an offensive against the CAR government. The attack led to a coup and subsequent capture of Bangui’s capital city, where the contest is usually held.
Despite a sloppy start for President Faustin Archange Touadera, who was elected in the spring of 2016, the country’s canoe contest started coming back to life in 2017 under his era.
The tradition held in Oubangu River, Ngaragba District, Bangui attracts many people who battle it out in a tight race across the water in their canoes.
The race has two categories distinguished by the canoes. In the first category, people stand in the canoes, while in the second, the contesters row the canoe while seated.
Each team, provided you are in the race, receives 50,000 CAR francs. This acts as an incentive by the government to encourage more participants in the annual event.
The winning team bags home a cool 1 million CAR francs, an amount that is 50 times an average monthly wage.
This year’s race
Among the district of Ngaragba who participate includes the Mbaka, Modjombo, Sango, and Yakoma. The four have been contesting for the titles for decades.
According to the Ngaragba neighborhood head, Mesmin Kombay, the Mbaka always take the day during the race. He added that this year’s contest would see the young-determined people battle it out in a total of 30 canoes.