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Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa

Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa

Introduction

About

Jean-Bédel Bokassa (22 February 1921 – 3 November 1996)

Jean-Bédel Bokassa, also known as Bokassa I, was a prominent Central African political and military figure who left a controversial legacy. Born on February 22, 1921, in Bobangui, French Equatorial Africa, he endured a tumultuous childhood marked by tragedy. His father, Mindogon Mufasa, was killed by colonial authorities, and shortly after, his mother committed suicide, leaving Bokassa orphaned at the tender age of six.

Despite these early hardships, Bokassa displayed resilience and determination. He received a French-language education at the École Sainte-Jeanne d'Arc in Mbaïki, where he earned the nickname "Jean-Bédel" from his attachment to a French grammar book. Later, he pursued studies in Bangui and Brazzaville, eventually joining the French colonial troops in 1939, marking the beginning of his military career.

Bokassa's military prowess shone during World War II, where he earned honors for his bravery and leadership. Upon returning to Africa, he continued to serve, eventually rising through the ranks in the Central African Armed Forces. His familial ties to President David Dacko and his growing influence within the military set the stage for his eventual ascent to power.

In December 1965, Bokassa orchestrated a successful coup against President Dacko, seizing control of Bangui and declaring himself president. His rule, initially promising equality and justice, soon descended into authoritarianism and extravagance. Bokassa's attempts to solidify his power through self-promotion, suppression of dissent, and international alliances, notably with France and Libya, garnered both support and condemnation.

Bokassa's reign reached its zenith in 1976 when he proclaimed himself Emperor of the Central African Empire (CAE), modeling his coronation after Napoleon's. However, his eccentricities and brutal tactics, including allegations of cannibalism, sparked domestic unrest and international scrutiny.

The tipping point came in 1979 when French support waned after civilian massacres during food riots in Bangui. Bokassa's attempt to enforce school uniforms led to violent clashes and mass arrests, further isolating him on the world stage.

Operation Caban and Operation Barracuda, led by French forces, marked the end of Bokassa's regime, restoring the Central African Republic under President Dacko. Bokassa fled into exile, facing trial in absentia for multiple charges, including murder and cannibalism.

In 1986, Bokassa returned to the Central African Republic, where he faced trial for his crimes. Despite his vehement denials, he was found guilty of multiple murders in 1987, receiving a death sentence later commuted to life imprisonment. Released in 1993 under a general amnesty, he spent his final years in Bangui, claiming religious experiences and meeting with Pope John Paul II.

Jean-Bédel Bokassa died of a heart attack on November 3, 1996, leaving behind a complex and contentious legacy. In 2010, President François Bozizé posthumously rehabilitated Bokassa, sparking debate over his role in Central African history. Despite his crimes and extravagances, some praise him for periods of stability and patriotism.


Reference:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-B%C3%A9del_Bokassa

TIME OF BIRTH:

PLACE OF BIRTH: Bobangui, La Lobaye Central African Republic

LONG: 18.1135° E

LAT: 4.0422° N

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DATE OF BIRTH: 22nd February, 1921

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