Canoe racing is the highlight of the December 1 celebrations in the Central African Republic. But indigenes have been deprived of it for several years since their country, was torn apart by a civil war. This tradition, has been a victim of the fierce fighting that has ravaged the Central African nation since the overthrew of President François Bozizé in 2013.
Things seem to be changing for the good of the sport. The race is held in the district of Ngaragba. Its leader Mesmin Kombay said his young people are enthusiastic about the race.
‘’There are many people in the neighborhood who want to race, but every year it is the Mbaka who wins. But today the young people are determined, for our district of Ngaragba. There are thirty of us in the canoe and we are determined", said Mesmin Kombaya, head of Ngaragba neighborhood.
For the past four years, the government has put the race back on the agenda. Fighting has fallen significantly, allowing for a slight resumption of this popular annual event in the capital. Mbaka, Sango, Modjombo and Yakoma are amongst inhabitants on the banks of the Oubangui River, who have been competing for the title for decades.
"With the events that have taken place in the Central African Republic, everything has been stopped. We started again in 2017. In the Central African Republic, canoe racing is very important. There are two kinds of canoes. The one where you stand and the one where you sit", Yvon Akelelo, a canoe manager said.
The government awards a prize of 50,000 francs or 80 euros to all the teams. The winners of the contest share 1 million francs or 1,500 euros.