|Emperor Bokassa Coronation|
History largely remembers Jean Bedel Bokassa, cum Emperor Bokassa I not only for his flamboyance and career as a soldier but also for his excesses as an autocratic ruler of the Central African Republic form 1966-1979. Born in Bobangui in 1921, Bokassa was an orphan by the age of six, his mother having committed suicide a week after his father was murdered, leaving him to be brought up by missionaries.
By the age of only 18, he had already joined the French army, then the colonial power of his country. On January 1 1996, with the Central African Republic in economic turmoil, Bokassa overthrew the equally autocratic President David Dacko in a swift coup d’etat. After this, he became as ruthless as Mobutu Sese Seko, the former Congo president who called himself "the all powerful warrior who goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake,” and more flamboyant than Idi Amin, the naïve and likable, shrewd and ruthless, hulking and egomaniacal, intimidating and outrageous Ugandan dictatorial ruler. Bokassa's egotistic and rapacious self culminated in 1977 when he named himself emperor and orchestrated a coronation in the style of Napoleon's. Wearing costumes styled on Napoleon, he rode in a carriage flanked by soldiers dressed as 19th Century French cavalrymen. Bokassa's Coronation lasted over 6 hours. Over $20 million was spent on the event, consuming one quarter of his nations annual revenue. Despite generous invitations, no foreign leaders attended the event. Bokassa's authoritarian and self-aggrandising style finally ground to a halt when he was overthrown by French paratroopers in 1979 and went into exile, but returned to his homeland in 1986 to face trial. He had been sentenced to death in absentia and was tried for treason, murder, cannibalism and embezzlement. He died of a heart attack on 3 November 1996 in Bangui, aged 75. He had 17 wives and a reported 50 children.