Jean-Bedel Bokassa

Central African Republic

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Jean-Bedel Bokassa was born February 22, 1921 in Bobangi, Moyen-Congo (present day Central African Republic) (Encyclopedia Britannica 1). His father was a village chief who died and left Bokassa as an Orphan at the age of twelve (Vassil 1). Bokassa was a soldier of the Free French Forces in the war in Indochina (Vassil 1).  By 1961 he achieved the rank of captain of the army (Encyclopedia Britannica 1).  He then joined the army of the Central African Republic and became the chief of staff of the armed forces to his cousin, David Dacko the president of the Central African Republic (Vassil 1). January 1, 1966, Bokassa overthrew his cousin Dacko  in a coup d’etat  and made himself president.  Bokassa was able to do this because the country was in economic turmoil (Vassil 1). 


On December 4th, 1976, Bokassa and the congress declared that the republic was a monarchy and one year later he crowned himself emperor with a crown that cost nearly five million dollars. He immediately filled the positions of government with his own staff members. He justified his actions by saying that this would make the country stand out and gain the world’s respect. Throughout his reign, Bokassa had France’s support. He created his own version of the “three strikes and your out”. The perpetrator would  have to cut off his ear for the first two strikes. For the third he would cut off a hand.  Bokassa was labeled a crazy tyrant by his actions. For example, when a group of school children protested against wearing a government-required uniform, Bokassa ordered for them to be arrested. Of these many kids, about one hundred were killed. (Vassil 1).  Many sources claim that Bokassa was a cannibal.  According to the Wikipedia Encyclopedia,  “It was claimed that Bokassa had participated in the killings and even that he had eaten some of the bodies”.


            Bokassa’s cousin and former president of the Central African Republic was able to regain the country after a successful coup d’etat.  Bokassa fled to the Ivory Coast and then lived in exile in France. Bokassa was arrested for treason, murder, cannibalism and embezzlement.  He was finally sentenced to death on June 12th 1987 but that changed to life imprisonment and them again to twenty years in jail. He finally died on November 3, 1996 of a heat attack. (Vassil 1)