Jean-Bédel Bokassa

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Jean-Bédel Bokassa (1970)

Jean-Bédel Bokassa (born February 22, 1921 in Bobangi , French Equatorial Africa , † November 3, 1996 in Bangui , Central African Republic ) was a military, politician and dictator of the Central African Republic from 1966 to 1979 . Bokassa became the country's second president after a coup in 1966. From December 1976 until his fall on September 20, 1979, he was Bokassa I, Emperor of the Central African Empire .


Jean-Bédel Bokassa 1939

Bokassa was born in 1921 in Bobangi, a small town in the Ubangi-Shari area , part of what was then the colony of French Equatorial Africa. From 1927 to 1928 he attended the Joan of Arc Primary School in Mbaïki , then for two years the Saint Louis Mission School in Bangui . From 1929 to 1939 he was a student at the Père Compte School in Brazzaville , French Congo .


In May 1939 he volunteered in the French army and in 1940 was assigned to a battalion of the Tirailleurs sénégalais . In 1941 he was promoted to sergent in the Free French troops. As a sergent chef, he took part in the struggles for the liberation of France until the end of World War II .

Until 1948 he attended military schools in Saint-Louis (Senegal) and Châlons-sur-Marne (France). In 1949 Bokassa married the British Margret Green . In 1950 he was sent to the Indochina War with the rank of adjutant . In 1951 he was awarded the Croix de guerre and made a member of the Legion of Honor . In 1954 he was promoted to "Adjudant chef" and Bokassa married his third wife, the Vietnamese Martine Nguyen , with whom he lived in France. In 1956 he was transferred to the Algerian War with the rank of lieutenant . By 1961 he was promoted to Capitaine . He left the French army in 1962 and made a career as a commandant in the army of the former Ubangi-Shari, which became independent in 1960 under the name of Central African Republic , which was evident to him through his kinship with President David Dacko (he was his cousin and nephew of his predecessor Barthélemy Boganda ) was relieved. He quickly rose to colonel and in 1963 became chief of staff of the armed forces of Central Africa , which at the time were roughly one regimental strength.

In 1962 he married Astrid van Erpe from Belgium, then in 1964 Catherine Denguiadé from Central Africa.


On the night of January 1, 1966, Colonel Bokassa used an uproar in the country to launch a coup against the autocratic ruling President Dacko and took power as president and chairman of the country's only party, the Mouvement pour l'évolution sociale de l'Afrique noire (MESAN; German  movement for the social development of black Africa ). Three days later, Bokassa abolished the 1959 constitution , dissolved parliament , banned political parties and from then on ruled as chairman of a revolutionary council. On January 6, 1966, Bokassa broke off relations with the People's Republic of China . By autumn 1967, he also took over the offices of Minister of the Interior and Minister of Defense and gave himself the rank of Général de brigade .

France sided with the putschist; To secure his rule, Bokassa called French troops , including foreign legionnaires , into the country in November 1967 and had his opponents eliminated through imprisonment and murder. A failed coup attempt against him on April 12, 1969 by Health Minister Colonel Alexandre Banza gave Bokassa the opportunity to consolidate his power through reforms. Banza was executed on April 13 after being convicted by a military tribunal . In March 1972, Bokassa was proclaimed president for life . In May 1974 he assumed the rank of field marshal . In December 1974, another attempted coup against him failed. In 1975 Bokassa married the Romanian Gabriela Drâmbă in their 12th marriage. In February 1976 he survived an assassination attempt .

In the mid-1970s, Bokassa sought financial help from Libya ; after visiting the Libyan revolutionary leader Muammar al-Gaddafi , he converted to Islam and called himself Salah Eddine Ahmed Bokassa.


The standard of Emperor Bokassa I.

In September 1976 Bokassa dismissed the government and replaced it with the Conseil de la Révolution Centrafricaine (German Central African Revolutionary Council ). On December 4, 1976, at the MESAN party convention, he declared the republic a monarchy, the Central African Empire . He had himself proclaimed Emperor Bokassa I. Its official full title was: “Empereur de Centrafrique par la volonté du peuple centrafricain, uni au sein du parti politique national: le MESA” . translated: "His Imperial Majesty Bokassa the First, Emperor of Central Africa united by the will of the Central African people in the national political party, the MESAN". He issued an imperial constitution and converted to Catholicism . On December 4, 1977, he crowned himself emperor after Pope Paul VI in a ceremony that allegedly cost more than $ 20 million and was paid in part by the French government . had refused to perform the coronation . He also thought he was the 13th apostle of Jesus.

Although formally a constitutional monarchy, Bokassa's rule remained autocratic. The brutal suppression of opposition forces continued, rampant torture and flogging , in which Bokassa himself is said to have participated at times, were the order of the day.

France remained an important pillar of the regime and supplied weapons against uranium for the French nuclear weapons program. Bokassa maintained particularly close contacts with the French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing , whom he invited on various hunting trips.

In January and April 1979, violent school and student unrest erupted, which were suppressed with the help of troops from Zaire . There were massacres of civilians; From April 17 to 19, 1979, numerous young people were arrested for protesting against wearing the expensive school uniforms ordered by the state. Over 100 children were tortured and murdered in the prisons. Bokassa is said to have personally lent a hand in actions of this kind several times.

At this point, France had already distanced itself from its former protégé. Former President David Dacko used a trip by Bokassa to Libya on September 21, 1979 to carry out a successful coup . French soldiers helped him on behalf of the French government, which called the operation Operation Barracuda . A command unit of the French intelligence service SDECE (today: DGSE ) proceeded together with special forces of the 1st Parachute Regiment of the Marine Infantry under the command of Colonel Brancion-Rouge. They landed on a Transall and took control of Bangui Airport . This enabled another 300 soldiers to be brought into the country. The empire was abolished and the republic restored. Bokassa fled via the Ivory Coast , where he lived for almost four years, and finally to France. There he was granted asylum because of his close ties to the French army .

Exile, imprisonment and after-labor

On December 26, 1980, Bokassa was sentenced to death in absentia for murder , torture , corruption and cannibalism . Bokassa was also charged with poisoning his two-year-old grandson and beating school children to death. In exile in France, he was housed in Hardricourt Castle, west of Paris, with ten of his children and a girlfriend (instead of his eighteen wives). He himself demanded French citizenship , which a French court had previously revoked from him. In exile as a former French captain, he received a pension of 5,998 francs (then about 2,600 DM ) from the French state after 23 years of service . In exile, he also planned to publish a book entitled “My Truth”, the distribution of which was banned by a Paris court in 1985 because of serious attacks on the person of former President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.

On October 23, 1986, Bokassa returned to his homeland, was imprisoned and was sentenced to death again on June 12, 1987. The sentence was commuted to life-long forced labor on February 29, 1988 and ultimately reduced to twenty years in prison. On September 1, 1993, Bokassa enjoyed a general amnesty announced by President André Kolingba on the occasion of the return to democracy.

Bokassa died of a heart attack on November 3, 1996 at the age of 75 in the Central African capital Bangui . On December 18, 1996, he was buried in his former imperial residence, Palais de Berengo near Bobangui . He left 17 women. How many children the dictator left behind is unclear. One assumes a number between 37 and 54 offspring. The best known are Jean-Bédel Bokassa the Younger (* 1973), Crown Prince of the Central African Empire, Jean-Serge Bokassa (* 1971), Minister in the Central African Republic until 2016, and Kiki Bokassa (* 1975), French artist.



Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e Martin Meredith: The State of Africa. A History of Fifty Years of Independence. Free Press, London et al. 2005, ISBN 0-7432-3221-6 .
  2. ^ Jean-Barthélémy Bokassa: Les diamants de la trahison. Pharos / Laffont, Paris 2006, ISBN 2-7569-0074-5 .
  3. ^ Harris M. Lentz: Heads of States and Governments. A Worldwide Encyclopedia of Over 2,300 Leaders, 1945 through 1992. McFarland, Jefferson NC et al. 1994, ISBN 0-89950-926-6 .
  4. Emperor or cannibal . November 27, 1987
  5. Emmanuel Germain: La Centrafrique et Bokassa: 1965-1979: force et déclin d'un pouvoir personnel , Paris, L'Harmattan, 2001, p. 285, ISBN 9782738499943 .
  6. Echoes from a Dark Realm (1990) in the Internet Movie Database (English)
  7. Lost film treasures S03E07 1977 The Coronation of Emperor Bokassa I in YouTube (banned in Germany).

Web links

Commons : Jean-Bedel Bokassa  - Collection of images, videos and audio files