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Jean-Bédel Bokassa

Jean-Bédel Bokassa

Introduction

About

JEAN-BEDEL BOKASSA

Jean-Bédel Bokassa was a Central African leader born on February 22, 1921, in Bobangui, Central African Republic (then French Equatorial Africa). His early life was marked by tragedy, as both his parents died when he was young. His father, a village chief, was beaten to death by the French company Forestière in 1927, and his mother committed suicide a week later. This left Bokassa an orphan at the age of six.

Bokassa's extended family arranged for him to attend a French-language Christian mission school, where he was given the name "Jean-Bédel" by his teachers. He later continued his studies in Bangui and Brazzaville, developing skills as a cook. After finishing his education, he joined the French colonial troops as a tirailleur on May 19, 1939. He served with distinction in World War II, advancing through the ranks and later fighting in France and Germany.

Following the war, Bokassa gained experience in radio transmissions and attended officer training school in Senegal. He served in the First Indochina War and married a Vietnamese woman. Bokassa eventually returned to Africa and joined the Central African Armed Forces, rising quickly through the ranks to become the commander-in-chief and first colonel of the army.

His close relationship with President David Dacko and experience in the French military facilitated his rapid ascent in the Central African Republic (CAR). However, political and economic challenges in Dacko's government led to tensions between the two men. Bokassa's ambitions and discontent with the government led him to stage a coup on December 31, 1965, with Captain Alexandre Banza. They overthrew Dacko and Bokassa took control of the government, establishing a new regime.

Bokassa's time in power was marked by eccentric policies, including his self-crowning as emperor in a lavish ceremony on December 4, 1977. His regime was known for brutality, rumors of cannibalism, and human rights abuses. In 1979, the French government intervened due to mounting concerns over Bokassa's rule, resulting in his overthrow during Operation Barracuda.

Bokassa fled the country, initially seeking refuge in Libya before settling in France. His memoirs were banned by a French court due to allegations against French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. Bokassa's presence in France proved embarrassing for many officials who had supported him during his rule.

In 1986, Bokassa returned to the CAR and was immediately arrested. He faced a trial for various charges, including murder, cannibalism, and treason. In 1987, he was found guilty and sentenced to death, although the sentence was later commuted to life in prison and eventually reduced to 20 years. Bokassa was released in 1993 and lived out his final years in the CAR. He proclaimed himself the Thirteenth Apostle and claimed to have secret meetings with Pope John Paul II. Bokassa died on November 3, 1996, at the age of 75.


Reference:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Bedel Bokassa

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