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The Central African Republic, where armed rebels have taken control of the capital Bangui, has a long history of instability.
Following is a timetable of some of the important dates since the country gained independence from France in 1960:
Dec 31: President David Dacko is overthrown in a military coup led by Colonel Jean-Bedel Bokassa. The constitution is repealed and parliament dissolved.
Dec 4: A year after renaming the country the Central African Empire, Bokassa is crowned emperor in an extravagant ceremony.
Sept 20: Bokassa is overthrown while on an official visit to Libya. Dacko, who has been his advisor since 1976, is reinstated as president and the empire reverts to being a republic.
In his 14 years in power, rights groups say Bokassa has revealed himself as a "bloody dictator". He stands accused of vicious and lethal repression, of ordering the murder of politicians and army officers and of personally taking part in the massacre of schoolchildren in April 1979.
Sept 1: Dacko, who has narrowly won a keenly contested presidential election, is forced to hand over power to the military due to unrest. General Andre Kolingba, head of the armed forces, takes power.
April 22: General Kolingba, faced with political and social unrest, announces constitutional reform allowing a return to a multi-party system.
The first open general and presidential elections for 12 years see Ange-Felix Patasse, leader of the Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People (MLPC), elected president.
Three successive rebellions bring the country to its knees politically, economically and socially. A peacekeeping mission comprising an inter-African force (MISAB) of 750 men and a United Nations contingent (MINURCA) of 1,350 is deployed in the country.
Sept 19: Patasse is re-elected for a second six-year mandate after the first round of the presidential ballot.
May 28: Kolingba organises failed coup attempt against Patasse.
Nov 7: Army chief of staff Francois Bozize is accused of plotting a coup. He takes refuge in Chad.
Oct 25-30: Attempted coup by supporters of Bozize fails.
March 15: Bozize takes power in a coup, overthrowing Patasse.
Around 500 troops from Chad arrive to bolster a regional peacekeeping force and help crack down on a wave of looting.
May 8: Bozize is declared the winner of the first free election in the country since the coup.
October: Rebels seize the northeastern town of Birao. Backed by French fighter jets, government troops regain control of northeastern areas in the following months.
June 21: The government signs a "comprehensive peace agreement" in Libreville with two major rebel groups.
Since 2007 several peace accords have been signed by Bangui and rebel movements.
November 24: A rebel group which has not signed the peace deals takes control of Birao, killing a number of government troops. Government forces retake the key town, which is near the border with Chad and Sudan, two days later.
December: The rebel coalition known as Seleka seizes several towns before halting within striking distance of the capital Bangui.
Jan 11: Seleka rebels reach a fragile peace deal with the government and an agreement to form a power-sharing government.
March 24: The peace accord collapses after rebels say their demands have not been met. Seleka rebels seize control of the capital, with Bozize reportedly fleeing.