Bokassa, Jean-Bedel (Central African Republic)
Jean-Bedel Bokassa was head of state of the Central African Republic (CAR) from 1966 until 1979. He enjoyed close relations with the French government, particularly President Giscard d’Estaing, although his increasingly eccentric and brutal behaviour became a major embarrassment. Having crowned himself Emperor of the Central African Empire in 1977, his authorization of a massacre of protesting schoolchildren in 1979 prompted a French-backed coup d’état. After a period in exile, Bokassa was later convicted of murder.
Jean-Bedel Bokassa was born on 22 Feb. 1921 in Bobangui in what was then the French colonial province of Oubangui-Chari. At the age of six his father was murdered by a colonial administrator and his mother committed suicide. He was educated at missionary schools and joined the French colonial army in 1939, serving in World War II and later in Indochina and Algeria.
David Dacko became president of the newly independent CAR in 1960, and Bokassa, an...