One of Africa's poorest states, the Central African Empire, is busy preparing for one of the most lavish events of its history.
One of Africa's poorest states, the Central African Empire, is busy preparing for one of the most lavish events of its history. A gilded state coach, a jewelled crown, sceptre and orb, and a vast bronze throne are just some of the items acquired for the forthcoming coronation of its self-proclaimed Emperor Bokassa 1. The coronation is to be on Sunday (4 December) in the capital of Bangui, and already the town has taken on a festive air.
SYNOPSIS: Many streets have been decorated with flags, and some have been given new French names because of the Emperor's admiration for France. He has French citizenship and has said he will always remain a Frenchman.
Preparations for Emperor Bokassa's coronation have been under way since he proclaimed the former republic an empire last year. But the people of Bangui are still busy putting finishing touches to renovations and repairs.
Asked recently about the cost of such luxuries for a poor underdeveloped country, Emperor Bokassa said one could not create great national history without some sacrifice. He is a fervent admirer of France's Napoleon 1, whom he calls 'the world's first socialist emperor, and is modelling his coronation ceremony on that of the French Emperor in 1802.
The workers of Bangui have been given a pay rise so they can afford hair-dos, shoe-repairs, and other items to spruce up themselves and their homes for Sunday.
In keeping with the Emperor's love of Napoleon, his private residence has been redecorated with furniture and furnishings of the Napoleonic era. His throne and crown jewels were also made in France, and he has reportedly ordered 130 horses from a French breeder to draw his coronation coach, and other carriages which will be included in the ceremony.
The horses may turn out to be more of a necessity than a luxury. For although more than 100 foreign cars have been imported to transport official guest, there have been reports that the country is about to run out of petrol. The reports have said that the Central African Empire hasn't paid its petrol bills and that wholesalers have consequently refused to supply more.
About 5,000 guests will attend the conference at this stadium, many of them from France, once a part of French Equatorial Africa, the central African State became independent in 1960. and Bokassa has ruled since 1966.