The coronation of Bokassa I as Emperor of the Central African Empire on 4th December 1977

The coronation of Bokassa I as Emperor of the Central African Empire on 4th December 1977:

 

The accompanying image, courtesy of Richard Melloul/Sygma/Getty Images, is the coronation on 4th December 1977 in the Central African Republic/Central African Empire of Jean-Bedel Bokassa as Emperor Bokassa I. A brief background to Jean-Bedel Bokassa and his installation/coronation as Emperor of the Central African Republic/Central African Empire is as below, courtesy of citations at Wikipedia:

 

Col. Jean-Bedel Bokassa/President Jean-Bedel Bokassa/Emperor Bokassa I (22nd February 1921 to 3rd November 1996), was a Central African political and military leader who served as the second president of the Central African Republic and as the Emperor of its successor State, the Central African Empire, from time he staged a military coup on 1st January 1966, until his overthrow in a military coup on 21st September 1979.

 

Col. Jean-Bedel Bokassa/President Jean-Bedel Bokassa/Emperor Bokassa I was the second President of the Central African Republic from 1st January 1966 to 4th December 1976, and Emperor of the Central African Empire from 4th December 1976 to 21st September 1979.

 

The Central African Empire reverted back to being the Central African Republic upon the removal from power of Emperor Bokassa I on 21st September 1979 by way of a military coup.

 

The coronation of Bokassa I as Emperor of the Central African Empire took place on 4th December 1977 at a sports stadium in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Empire.

 

It was the only coronation in the history of the Empire - a short-lived one-party state and self-proclaimed monarchy - which was established in 1976 by Jean-Bédel Bokassa, military dictator and President for life of the Central African Republic.

 

The coronation - which was almost an exact copy of the coronation of Napoleon I as Emperor of France in 1804 - and related events, were marked by luxury and pomp.

 

Despite substantial material support from France, expenses amounted to over US $ 20 million (US $ 80 million today) and caused serious damage to the Central African Empire, leading to a huge outcry in Africa and around the world.

 

After the coronation, Emperor Bokassa I stayed in power for less than two years.

 

On 21st September 1979, Operation Caban took place in the absence of Emperor Bokassa I. Operation Caban was a bloodless military operation/military coup that was launched by France to reinstate the exiled first President of the Central African Republic, David Dacko, and restore the Central African Empire to the Central African Republic by deposing Emperor Bokassa I.

 

Emperor Bokassa I, who was visiting Libya on a State visit when he was overthrown on 21st September 1979, fled to Cote d'Ivoire where he spent four years living in Abidjan. He then moved to France where he was allowed to settle in his Chateau d'Hardricourt Palace in the suburb of Paris. France gave him political asylum because of his service in the French military.

 

During Bokassa's seven years in exile, he wrote his memoirs after complaining that his French military pension was insufficient. The French courts however ordered that all 8,000 copies of the book be confiscated and destroyed after his publisher claimed that Bokassa said that he shared women with then French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, who had been a frequent guest in the Central African Republic.

 

Bokassa's presence in France proved embarrassing to many Government Ministers who had supported him during his rule.

 

Bokassa owned the Château du Grand Chavanon, a historic Castle in Neuvy-sur-Barangeon, France from the 1970s to 1995. He rented it to the Cercle national des combattants, a non-profit organisation run by National Front politician Roger Holeindre from 1986 to 1995, when the Cercle purchased it from Bokassa.

 

Bokassa had been tried and sentenced to death, in absentia, in the Central African Republic, in December 1980, for the murder of numerous political rivals. He returned from exile in France on 24th October 1986.

 

Bokassa was immediately arrested by the Central African Republic authorities as soon as he stepped off the plane and was tried for 14 different charges, including treason, murder, cannibalism, illegal use of property, assault and battery, and embezzlement.

 

Bokassa's trial began on 15th December 1986, taking place in the Palais de Justice in Bangui. Bokassa hired two French lawyers, Francois Gilbault and Francis Szpiner.

 

On 12 June 1987, Bokassa was acquitted on charges of cannibalism, but found guilty on all of the other charges. Bokassa was said to have wept silently as Judge Franck sentenced him to death. His lawyers, Francois Gilbault and Francis Szpiner, appealed the verdict for a retrial on the grounds that the Central African Republic's constitution allowed a former Head of State to be charged only with treason. The Supreme Court of the Central African Republic rejected the appeal.

 

On 29th February 1988, the then President of the Central African Republic, Andre Kolingba, demonstrated his opposition to Capital Punishment by nullifying the death penalty against Bokassa and reduced his sentence to life in prison in solitary confinement.

 

The following year President Andre Kolingba reduced the sentence to 20 years.

 

With the return of democracy to the Central African Republic in 1993, President Andre Kolingba declared a general amnesty for all prisoners as one of his final acts as President, and Bokassa was released on 1st August 1993.

 

Bokassa remained in the Central African Republic for the rest of his life.

 

In 1996, as his health declined, he proclaimed himself the 13th disciple of Jesus and claimed to have secret meetings with the Pope.

 

Bokassa died of a heart attack on 3rd November 1996 at his home in Bangui at the age of 75. He had 17 wives and a reported 50 children;

 

Enjoyed this article? Stay informed by joining our newsletter!

Comments
About me

I’d variously describe myself as a freelance writer, a sports administrator, a shares’ registrar assistant, a freelance model and a freelance photographer! Quite a mouthful, huh? Reminds one of the proverbial “Jack of all trades and master of none”, doesn’t it?! I most certainly hope that I’m not a “Jack of all trades”, though! I particularly have extensive experience with regard to the first three fields mentioned in the first sentence of this paragraph, however. I was born in Nairobi, Kenya on 16th February 1969 and am Kenyan-educated in addition to being Kenyan-born.