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Bokassa, Jean-Bédel(zhäN-bĕdĕl` bōkäs`sä), 1921–96, president of Central African Republic (1966–79). He served (1939–61) in the French army, then organized his country's army, becoming commander in chief in 1963. In 1966 he led an army coup against President David DackoDacko, David
, 1930–2003, president of the Central African Republic (1960–66, 1979–81). A leader in the independence movement in French Equatorial Africa, he became the first president of the newly independent Central African Republic.
..... Click the link for more information. , becoming president and prime minister of the republic. Declared president for life in 1972, he crowned himself "emperor" of the so-called Central African Empire in 1977. Erratic and violent, he was overthrown by a French-supported coup (1979) that reinstated Dacko as president. Bokassa lived in exile in France and Côte d'Ivoire, returning to the Central African Republic in 1987. He was arrested and charged with torture, murder, and cannibalism. Convicted of murdering several political opponents, Bokassa was sentenced to death, but that was later commuted to life in prison. He was released in 1993.
Born Feb. 22, 1921, in Bobangi. Statesman of the Central African Republic; brigadier general (since December 1967).
From 1939 to 1962, Bokassa served in the French Army. In 1960 he was appointed chief of the military cabinet in the office of the president of the Central African Republic. Since 1964 he has been chief of the armed forces general staff. Since Jan. 1, 1966, he has been president of the republic and head of government. He simultaneously holds (1970) the positions of minister of national defense, minister of information, and chief of the armed forces general staff and is head of the party Movement for Social Evolution in Black Africa. In July 1970 he made an official visit to the USSR.