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Jean-Bédel Bokassa

(1921—1996) African statesman and military leader

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President of the Central African Republic (1966–76); emperor of the Central African Empire (1976–79). After a distinguished career in the French Army, Bokassa became commander-in-chief of the forces of his newly independent country in 1964 and seized power in a coup two years later. Bokassa's rule became increasingly arbitrary and authoritarian and he was implicated in the massacre of civilians. He proclaimed himself President for life in 1972 and was named Emperor in a lavish investiture ceremony in 1976. In one of the poorest countries of Africa, he spent huge sums on maintaining a luxurious lifestyle modelled on that of Napoleon I. He was deposed, with French support, in 1979. After spending seven years in exile, Bokassa was condemned to death on his return, but this sentence was commuted to one of life imprisonment. He was given amnesty and freed in 1993.

Subjects: Social sciences

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