Bokassa - The Central African Napoleon 

In the Central African Republic, Jean-Bedel Bokassa's regime did not stand out in terms of brutality; acts such as mobilising his imperial guard against schoolchildren were not extraordinary in post-colonial Africa, but it's grandiose terms are particularly fascinating.  

Soon after seizing power in 1966, he promoted himself to the rank of general, and ruled Central Africa autocratically.  He described himself as an 'absolute monarch' and forbade mention of the words democracy and election.  

Bokassa became obsessed with the career of Napoleon, calling him his 'guide and inspiration', in 1976, in an attempt to emulate Napoleon, he declared the Central African Republic an empire, with himself as its sovereign.  He made elaborate arrangements for his coronation, mirroring the ceremony Napoleon used to crown himself as empower of France in 1804.  No expense was spared; Bokassa ordered from France: a crown of diamonds, rubies and emeralds; an imperial throne; carriages and thoroughbred horses. He crowned himself emperor of this small Empire State in 1977.

Bokassa ordered relished watching criminals being beaten with chains and hammers, and even fed to his personal lions and crocodiles.  Bokassa was also a cannibal, keeping human flesh in his kitchen which he served to unsuspecting guests, even the French Ministers at his coronation ceremony.  Despite these abhorrences, the French government called Bokassa 'a friend and family member'.  Bokassa exploited this association for weapons and foreign aid.  The French President, d'Estaing even visited Central Africa on a hunting trip with Bokassa.  This friendship kept Bokassa in power for 13 years.  However, after personally assisting in beating 100 schoolchildren to death, for refusing to wear government issued uniforms, France withdrew support and toppled Bokassa in 1979 in a military coup.

Bokassa is a representation of the true extent of the greed and brutality that shrouded Africa during its independence era, following withdrawal of Colonial powers -  Bokassa's 'foile de grandeur' took place in a country with sparse government services, high infant mortality, widespread illiteracy and only 260 miles of paved roads. It also shows the disregard of European powers for African lives, the French government financed much of Bokassa's intricate coronation ceremony, and supported his bloody regime, who crushed all opposition beneath an iron boot.

Bokassa's coronation ceremony


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