54034530 seychelles Seychelles profile

After an ominous, post-independence start which saw them lurch from a coup, through an invasion by mercenaries to an abortive army mutiny and several coup attempts, the Seychelles have attained stability and prosperity.

Citizens of the Indian Ocean archipelago enjoy a high per capita income, good health care and education.

But just a year after independence in 1976, the Seychelles appeared to be heading down the path of instability which has plagued many African states.

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At a glance

wpid 68480848 seychelles child g6 Seychelles profile

Politics: The Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF) has been the ruling party since 1977, when France Albert Rene came to power in a coup

Economy: Tourism and the fishing industry are the country's biggest foreign exchange earners

Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

The prime minister, France Albert Rene, overthrew the president, James Mancham, and embarked on a programme aimed at giving poorer people a greater share of the country's wealth.

Four years later, with the help of Tanzanian troops, Mr Rene thwarted an attempt by South African mercenaries to restore Mr Mancham.

An army mutiny in 1982, followed by several attempted coups, suffered a similar fate.

But in 1991, possibly in response to pressure from foreign creditors and aid donors, Mr Rene restored multi-party democracy.

The country's economy depends heavily on a fishing industry and upmarket tourism; the latter is vulnerable to downturns in the global travel market. Fine beaches and turquoise seas are among the main attractions.

The archipelago is home to an array of wildlife, including giant tortoises and sea turtles. Much of the land is given over to nature reserves.

wpid 68480846 seychelles beach g6 Seychelles profile Seychelles is a favoured destination among holiday makers seeking sunshine and beaches

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 54034530 seychelles Seychelles profile

After an ominous, post-independence start which saw them lurch from a coup, through an invasion by mercenaries to an abortive army mutiny and several coup attempts, the Seychelles have attained stability and prosperity.

Citizens of the Indian Ocean archipelago enjoy a high per capita income, good health care and education.

But just a year after independence in 1976, the Seychelles appeared to be heading down the path of instability which has plagued many African states.

Continue reading the main story

At a glance

wpid 68480848 seychelles child g5 Seychelles profile

Politics: The Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF) has been the ruling party since 1977, when France Albert Rene came to power in a coup

Economy: Tourism and the fishing industry are the country's biggest foreign exchange earners

Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

The prime minister, France Albert Rene, overthrew the president, James Mancham, and embarked on a programme aimed at giving poorer people a greater share of the country's wealth.

Four years later, with the help of Tanzanian troops, Mr Rene thwarted an attempt by South African mercenaries to restore Mr Mancham.

An army mutiny in 1982, followed by several attempted coups, suffered a similar fate.

But in 1991, possibly in response to pressure from foreign creditors and aid donors, Mr Rene restored multi-party democracy.

The country's economy depends heavily on a fishing industry and upmarket tourism; the latter is vulnerable to downturns in the global travel market. Fine beaches and turquoise seas are among the main attractions.

The archipelago is home to an array of wildlife, including giant tortoises and sea turtles. Much of the land is given over to nature reserves.

wpid 68480846 seychelles beach g5 Seychelles profile Seychelles is a favoured destination among holiday makers seeking sunshine and beaches

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 54199073 cape verde Cape Verde profile   Overview

Poor in natural resources, prone to drought and with little arable land, the Cape Verde islands have won a reputation for achieving political and economic stability.

The former Portuguese colony comprises 10 islands and five islets, all but three of which are mountainous. The archipelago lies around 500 kms off the west coast of Africa.

During the 20th century severe droughts caused the deaths of 200,000 people and prompted heavy emigration. Today, more people with origins in Cape Verde live outside the country than inside it. The money that they send home brings in much-needed foreign currency.

From the mid-1990s, droughts cut the islands' grain crop by 80%, and in 2002 the government appealed for international food aid after the harvest failed.

wpid 52277376 capeverde migrant2 afp3 Cape Verde profile   Overview Increasing numbers of Europe-bound migrants have been intercepted in Cape Verde's waters

Nonetheless, Cape Verde enjoys a per capita income that is higher than that of many continental African nations. It has sought closer economic ties with the US, EU and Portugal.

In 2008 Cape Verde became only the second country after Botswana to be promoted by the United Nations out of the ranks of the 50 least developed countries. In recent years it has seen economic growth averaging 6%, the construction of three international airports and hundreds of kilometres of roads.

Tourism is on the rise, but there are concerns that it poses a threat to the Cape Verde's rich marine life. It is an important nesting site for loggerhead turtles and humpback whales feed in the islands' waters.

Cape Verde became independent in 1975, a year after its sister colony, Guinea-Bissau, won freedom from Portugal. The two countries planned to unite, but the plan was ditched after a coup in Guinea-Bissau in 1980 strained relations.

In 1991 Cape Verde held its first free presidential elections, which were won by Antonio Mascarenhas Monteiro, who replaced the islands' first president, Aristides Pereira.

wpid 61771385 cape verde citadel g3 Cape Verde profile   Overview The 15th century town of Cidade Velha – listed as a World Heritage Site – was the first European settlement in the tropics

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 52111919 botswana Botswana profile

Botswana, one of Africa's most stable countries, is the continent's longest continuous multi-party democracy. It is relatively free of corruption and has a good human rights record.

It is also the world's largest producer of diamonds and the trade has transformed it into a middle-income nation.

Botswana protects some of Africa's largest areas of wilderness. It is sparsely populated, because it is so dry. The Kalahari desert, home to a dwindling band of bushman hunter-gatherers, makes up much of the territory and most areas are too arid to sustain any agriculture other than cattle.

wpid 77210559 botswana diamonds g3 Botswana profile Botswana is the world's biggest diamond producer

International campaign groups say the authorities are forcing the bushmen off their ancestral lands in order to make way for diamond mining – the mainstay of Botswana's economy. The government denies this, saying it is trying to settle the nomads in order to offer them better services.

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At a glance

Politics: The ruling party has won all 10 elections since independence in 1966. Controversy surrounds the forced relocation of bushmen from their traditional hunting grounds.

Economy: Recent economic growth has been high by African standards. The government sees diversification out of diamonds as a priority

International: Botswana plays an active role in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) economic grouping and has supplied troops for intervention in other parts of Africa

Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

Botswana is trying to reduce its economic dependence on diamonds, moving to boost local business and employment by encouraging more value to be added to diamonds locally.

Botswana's origins as a state go back to the the late 1800s, when colonial power Britain formed the protectorate of Bechuanaland to halt Boer encroachment from the neighbouring Transvaal or German expansion from South West Africa. In 1966 Bechuanaland became independent as Botswana.

The country was a haven for refugees and anti-apartheid activists from South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s, but had to tread carefully because of its economic dependence on the white-ruled neighbour, and because of South Africa's military might.

More recently, the country has seen an influx of illegal immigrants seeking respite from the economic crisis in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

Botswana, which once had the world's highest rate of HIV-Aids infection, has one of Africa's most-advanced treatment programmes. Anti-retroviral drugs are readily available.

However, the UN says more than one in three adults in Botswana are infected with HIV or have developed Aids. The disease has orphaned many thousands of children and has dramatically cut life expectancy.

Safari-based tourism – tightly-controlled and often upmarket – is another important source of income.

wpid 77210561 okavango swamps g3 Botswana profile The Okavango swamps form the world's largest inland delta

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 54292139 car c Central African Republic profile

The Central African Republic (CAR) has been unstable since its independence from France in 1960 and is one of the least-developed countries in the world.

It has endured several coups and a notorious period under a self-declared emperor, Jean-Bedel Bokassa, who headed a brutal regime.

The Bokassa era ended in 1979, when he was overthrown in a coup led by David Dacko and backed by French commandos based in the country.

After just two years in office Mr Dacko was toppled by Andre Kolingba, who eventually allowed multi-party presidential elections and was duly rejected in the first round.

wpid 76467877 car french2 g4 Central African Republic profile The UN has authorised the deployment of foreign troops to try stabilize the country. They have not always been welcomed

Mr Kolingba's successor, Ange-Felix Patasse, had to contend with serious unrest which culminated in riots and looting in 1997 by unpaid soldiers.

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At a glance

Politics: Country described as a failed state in permanent crisis. UN has warned that risk of genocide is high and has described ethnic-religious cleansing targeting Muslims as a big concern

Economy: Decades of instability have undermined the economy. Diamonds are an important source of income – and rivalry

International: Suffers spill-over of violence from neighbours; assisted by French military; UN has peacekeeping force

Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

When in that year the French pulled out, there were fears of a power vacuum, so Paris financed a group of French-speaking African countries to create a peacekeeping force.

In 1999 Mr Patasse beat nine other candidates to become president again, but there were allegations of electoral fraud. He was overthrown in a coup in 2003 and went into exile in Togo.

Illegal weapons proliferate across the CAR, the legacy of years of unrest. The unrest has displaced tens of thousands of Central Africans; many of them have crossed the border into Chad.

Some progress towards stabilising the country was made between 2008 and 2012, before the new Seleka rebel alliance marched south and captured the capital in March 2013, ousting President Francois Bozize.

The country descended into ethnic and sectarian violence, with thousands of people fleeing their homes and the UN warning that there was a high risk of genocide.

French troops returned, and the UN took over and expanded the African peacekeeping mission September 2014. Aid and human rights organisations warn that these measures may be unequal to the task of restoring order.

The CAR possesses considerable agricultural, water and mineral resources. But corruption is rife and undermines the timber and diamond industries.

The country is endowed with virgin rainforests and has some of the highest densities of lowland gorillas and forest elephants in Africa.

wpid 76467875 car riverside g4 Central African Republic profile The Central African Republic has great agricultural potential as well as plentiful mineral resources, including diamonds

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 54199065 algeria Algeria profile

Algeria, a gateway between Africa and Europe, has been battered by violence over the past half-century.

More than a million Algerians were killed in the fight for independence from France in 1962, and the country has recently emerged from a brutal internal conflict that followed scrapped elections in 1992.

The Sahara desert covers more than four-fifths of the land. Oil and gas reserves were discovered there in the 1950s, but most Algerians live along the northern coast. The country supplies large amounts of natural gas to Europe and energy exports are the backbone of the economy.

wpid 65339521 algeria tamanrasset g5 Algeria profile Algeria includes large areas of the Sahara desert

Algeria was originally inhabited by Berbers until the Arabs conquered North Africa in the 7th century. Based mainly in the mountainous regions, the Berbers resisted the spread of Arab influence, managing to preserve much of their language and culture. They make up some 30% of the population.

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At a glance

Politics: President Bouteflika led his country out of the civil war that broke out when Islamists were denied an election victory; the Islamist insurgency continues in a new form

Economy: Algeria is a key oil and gas supplier

International: Tension persists between Algeria and Morocco over the Western Sahara, where nomadic Saharans are seeking self-determination

Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

Part of the Turkish Ottoman empire from the 16th century, Algeria was conquered by the French in 1830 and was given the status of a “departement”. The struggle for independence began in 1954 headed by the National Liberation Front, which came to power on independence in 1962.

In the 1990s Algerian politics was dominated by the struggle involving the military and Islamist militants. In 1992 a general election won by an Islamist party was annulled, heralding a bloody civil war in which more than 150,000 people died.

An amnesty in 1999 led many rebels to lay down their arms.

Although political violence in Algeria has declined since the 1990s, the country has been shaken by by a campaign of bombings carried out by a group calling itself al-Qaeda in the Land of Islamic Maghreb (AQLIM).

Economy improves

The group was formerly known as the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, and has its roots in an Islamist militia involved in the civil war in the 1990s.

Although experts doubt whether AQLIM has direct operational links with al-Qaeda elsewhere, its methods – which include suicide bombings – and its choice of targets, such as foreign workers and the UN headquarters in Algiers, follow the al-Qaeda method. Islamist groups throughout the Sahara region are linking up under the umbrella of the new movement, reinforced by arms obtained during the Libyan civil war.

After years of political upheaval and violence, Algeria's economy has been given a lift by frequent oil and gas finds. It has estimated oil reserves of nearly 12 billion barrels, attracting strong interest from foreign oil firms.

However, poverty remains widespread and unemployment high, particularly among Algeria's youth. Endemic government corruption and poor standards in public services are also chronic sources of popular dissatisfaction.

Major protests broke out in January 2011 over food prices and unemployment, with two people being killed in clashes with security forces. The government responded by ordering cuts to the price of basic foodstuffs, and repealed the 1992 state of emergency law.

In 2001 the government agreed to a series of demands by the minority Berbers, including official recognition of their language, after months of unrest.

wpid 61951295 algeria ketchaoua g5 Algeria profile Algeria has been influenced by a variety of cultures over the centuries

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 54291785 chad  Chad profile

A largely semi-desert country, Chad is rich in gold and uranium and stands to benefit from its recently-acquired status as an oil-exporting state.

However, Africa's fifth-largest nation suffers from inadequate infrastructure, and internal conflict. Poverty is rife, and health and social conditions compare unfavourably with those elsewhere in the region.

Chad's post-independence history has been marked by instability and violence, stemming mostly from tension between the mainly Arab-Muslim north and the predominantly Christian and animist south.

In 1969, Muslim dissatisfaction with the first president, Ngarta Tombalbaye – a Christian southerner – developed into guerrilla war. This, combined with a severe drought, undermined his rule and in 1975 President Tombalbaye was killed in a coup led by another southerner, Felix Malloum.

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At a glance

wpid 61579157 chad refugees g3 Chad profile

Politics: President Deby, in power since 1990, has overcome rebellion and incursions from neighbouring Sudan.

Humanitarian issues: 140,000 people are internally displaced; 200,000 refugees are from Sudan and tens of thousands from CAR

Economy: Chad is enjoying an oil boom. Changes to rules governing how revenues can be spent have been controversial. Chad ranks among the world's most corrupt states

International: Chad keeps troops in the chaotic CAR, and has pledged armed support for Cameroon over the Boko Haram insurgency

Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

Mr Malloum failed to end the war, and in 1979 he was replaced by a Libyan-backed northerner, Goukouki Oueddei. But the fighting continued, this time with a former defence minister, Hissen Habre, on the opposite side.

In 1982, with French help, Mr Habre captured the capital, N'Djamena, and Mr Oueddei escaped to the north, where he formed a rival government. The standoff ended in 1990, when Mr Habre was toppled by the Libyan-backed Idriss Deby.

By the mid-1990s the situation had stabilised, and in 1996 Mr Deby was confirmed president in Chad's first election.

In 1998 an armed insurgency began in the north, led by President Deby's former defence chief, Youssouf Togoimi. A Libyan-brokered peace deal in 2002 failed to put an end to the fighting.

From 2003 unrest in neighbouring Sudan's Darfur region spilled across the border, along with hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees.

Chad and Sudan accused one another of backing and harbouring rebels, and the dispute led to a four-year break in relations in 2006-2010.

Since late 2013 Chad has played host to tens of thousands of refugees who have fled the fighting in the neighbouring Central African Republic, and in 2015 the country pledged military support to Cameroon in repelling the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency. Boko Haram responded by attacking the Chadian shore of Lake Chad, raising fears that the insurgency might spread east.

Chad became an oil-producing nation in 2003, with the completion of a $4bn pipeline linking its oilfields to terminals on the Atlantic coast. The government has moved to relax a law controlling the use of oil money, which the World Bank had made a condition of its $39m loan.

wpid 61531706 chad lake g3 Chad profile Lake Chad is an important source of water for millions of people in the four countries surrounding it

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 52274525 cameroon Cameroon country profile

The modern state of Cameroon was created in 1961 by the unification of two former colonies, one British and one French.

Since then it has struggled from one-party rule to a multi-party system in which the freedom of expression is severely limited.

Cameroon began its independence with a bloody insurrection which was suppressed only with the help of French forces.

There followed 20 years of repressive government under President Ahmadou Ahidjo. Nonetheless, Cameroon saw investment in agriculture, education, health care and transport.

In 1982 Mr Ahidjo was succeeded by his prime minister, Paul Biya. Faced with popular discontent, Mr Biya allowed multi-party presidential elections in 1992, which he won.

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wpid 61678785 cameroon fashion2 g2 Cameroon country profile

Fashion designers from Cameroon are making an impression abroad

In pictures: Cameroon's new fashion wave

He went on to win further presidential elections in 1997, 2004 and – after a clause in the constitution limiting the number of presidential terms was removed – 2011.

In 1994 and 1996 Cameroon and Nigeria fought over the disputed, oil-rich Bakassi peninsula. Nigeria withdrew its troops from the area in 2006 in line with an international court ruling which awarded sovereignty to Cameroon.

In November 2007 the Nigerian senate passed a motion declaring illegal the Nigeria-Cameroon agreement for the Bakassi Peninsula to be handed over to Cameroon.

Internally, there are tensions over the two mainly English-speaking southern provinces. A secessionist movement, the Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC), emerged in the 1990s and has been banned.

More recently, the mainly-Muslim far north has been drawn into the regional Islamist insurgency of Boko Haram.

Cameroon has one of the highest literacy rates in Africa. However, the country's progress is hampered by persistent problems with corruption.

wpid 61678783 cameroon timber g2 Cameroon country profile Parts of Cameroon have extensive timber reserves

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 54199220 comoros Comoros country profile

Potentially a holiday paradise with picture-postcard beaches, the Comoros islands are trying to consolidate political stability amid tensions between semi-autonomous islands and the central government.

A history of political violence has left the Comoros desperately poor. At times, the country has teetered on the brink of disintegration.

The three Indian Ocean islands have experienced more than 20 coups or attempted coups, beginning just weeks after independence from France in 1975 when President Ahmed Abdallah was toppled in a coup assisted by French mercenary Colonel Bob Denard. Colonel Denard featured in several power struggles over the years.

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At a glance

wpid 52390855 comoros voters2 afp 1066097463 Comoros country profile

Politics: After coups and secession bids, the Comoros gained some stability under a 2001 constitution granting the islands of Grande Comore, Anjouan, Moheli greater autonomy within a federation.

Economy: Comoros is heavily reliant on aid and remittances from the diaspora

International: The African Union and South Africa have been involved in helping to stabilise the Comoros politically

Profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

To add to the country's troubles, the islands of Anjouan and Moheli declared unilateral independence in a violent conflict in 1997.

In an effort to bring the breakaway islands back into the fold, Moheli, Anjouan and the largest island, Grande Comore, were granted greater autonomy under a 2001 constitution.

The Union of the Comoros retained control of security and financial matters.

The people of the Comoros are among the poorest in Africa and are heavily dependent on foreign aid.

Natural resources are in short supply and the islands' chief exports – vanilla, cloves and perfume essence – are prone to price fluctuations. Money sent home by Comorans living abroad is an important source of income.

The descendants of Arab traders, Malay immigrants and African peoples contribute to the islands' complex ethnic mix.

wpid 61794022 comoros kids g3 Comoros country profile The Comoros islands have experienced several coups since gaining indendence from France

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 52110984 benin Benin country profile

Benin, formerly known as Dahomey, is one of Africa's most stable democracies.

It boasts a proliferation of political parties and a strong civil society.

On the economic side, however, the picture is less bright – Benin is severely underdeveloped, and corruption is rife.

Benin's shore includes what used to be known as the Slave Coast, from where captives were shipped across the Atlantic. Elements of the culture and religion brought by slaves from the area are still present in the Americas, including voodoo.

Once banned in Benin, the religion is celebrated at the country's annual Voodoo Day, which draws thousands of celebrants.

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At a glance

wpid 61652523 benin bikes g2 Benin country profile

Politics: President Yayi won elections in 2006, replacing Mathieu Kerekou, who was in office for most of the time since he seized power in 1972

Economy: Benin to benefit from G8 commitment to write off debt. It is pressing Western cotton producing countries to compete more fairly by cutting subsidies to their farmers

International: Thousands of Togolese refugees have yet to return home

Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

Before being colonised by France towards the end of the 1800s, the area comprised several independent states, including the Kingdom of Dahomey, which had a well-trained standing army and was geared towards the export of slaves and later palm oil.

Instability marked the first years after full independence from France in 1960 and the early part of Mr Kerekou's rule featured Marxism-Leninism as the official ideology.

However, during the 1980s Mr Kerekou resigned from the army to become a civilian head of state and liberalised the economy.

While Benin has seen economic growth over the past few years and is one of Africa's largest cotton producers, it ranks among the world's poorest countries. The economy relies heavily on trade with its eastern neighbour, Nigeria.

To the north, there have been sporadic clashes along Benin's border with Burkina Faso. The trouble has been blamed on land disputes between rival communities on either side of the border.

Thousands of Togolese refugees fled to Benin in 2005 following political unrest in their homeland. Benin called for international aid to help it shelter and feed the exiles.

wpid 61652525 benin boat2 g2 Benin country profile A child navigates through Ganvie, a stilted fishing village on Lake Nokoue which is also known as the Venice of Africa

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