• Short Summary

    Jean Bedel Bokassa, the self styled emperor of the Central African Empire, has been overthrown in a bloodless coup led by former head of state, David Dacko.

  • Description

    Jean Bedel Bokassa, the self styled emperor of the Central African Empire, has been overthrown in a bloodless coup led by former head of state, David Dacko. Hours after the coup, which took place on Friday (September 21) French troops were rushed into the capital, Bangui, to preserve order at the new government's request. President Dacko has proclaimed the country a republic.

    SYNOPSIS: The landlocked country of some three million people, one of Africa's poorest, was ruled for 13 years by Bokassa the First...a dictator with a love of imperial extravagance, who styled himself on Napoleon Bonaparte.

    In 1969, three years after his takeover, the then President Bokassa paid an official visit to France to meet President de Gaulle...a man he described as his 'adopted father'. Throughout Bokassa's rule, Paris remained his country's main source of aid.

    Bokassa's rule came under severe criticism for the brutal punishment of thieves-- sentences varied from one ear cut off for one theft, to execution for four thefts. Coupled with his imperial aspirations the harsh treatment of his subjects earned him a reputation as a comic but dangerous figure.

    In 1972, President Amin invited him to Uganda, and asked him to open a street in Kampala which was renamed in his honour.

    President Amin was himself overthrown earlier this year. Emperor Bokassa, along with President Amin and Francisco Macias Nguema of Equitorial Guinea, has become the third leader of oppressive administrations in Africa to be deposed this year.

    In December 1977 came the coronation of Bokassa and his wife--an event which attracted world publicity. The cost, an estimated 14 million pounds--a quarter of the country's annual export earnings. The crown, made by a French jeweller, was studded with more than 2,000 diamonds, including one of 38 carats.

    The coach was drawn by matched grey horses specially imported from France. Earlier, the name of the country had been changed by decree to the Central African Empire...along with an order that all government ministers and diplomats should bow when coming within 6 feet (2 metres) of Bokassa. The one time captain in the French colonial army, was now self-proclaimed emperor.

    A year ago, Bokassa visited France, meeting with President D'Estaing. The requested airlift of French troops is said to have filled a power vacuum in the country, facing bankruptcy because of recent curtailment of aid by Paris.

    Earlier this year, at the Franco-African Summit in Rwanda, Emperor Bokassa denied his personal involvement in the reported massacre of 150 schoolchildren, who apparently refused to wear uniforms designed by him. It was this that finally led to his downfall--a radio broadcast from the country after his overthrow said he was unworthy to carry out head of state duties because of his participation in the killings Last month a five nation African commission found that the 58 year old emperor had ordered and almost certainly taken part in the massacre.

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