Who was the strangest dictator in human history?

Jean Bedel Bokasa of Central African Republic (CAR). When we learn about African dictators, the names which appear in our mind are either Muammar Gaddafi, or Idi Amin or Joseph Kony.

One dictator from the CAR, however, is lesser known.

Bokasa’s strangeness is rather an extremely depressing story of stockholm-syndrome.

Bokasa was one of the 12 children of a village chief, Mingodon Bokasa. Those days, CAR was a territory of the French. On 13 November 1927, Mingodon was beaten to death by French policemen in the town square just outside the prefecture office. A week later, Bokasa’s mother, unable to bear the grief of losing her husband, committed suicide.[1]

Bokasa was awed by the French powers, rather than being sad about it.

He became a French soldier in CAR under the colonial rule. He earned a number of medals which he later proudly presented before the people of his nation when he became the president.[2]

Not just that, he did a whole lot of things when he turned the president of CAR.

He created a gold plated throne designed by 30 top notch artisans from France for 2.5 million dollars at that time, his clothes designed by Pierre Cardin, famous Italian-French designer. This was accompanied with white horses he had ordered from Normandy (a town in France) and the overall expenditure, which totalled 30 million dollars, one fourth of his nation’s GDP at that time. He also fixed his coronation date on 4th December 1977, the same date when Napoleon was coronated.[3] Pyrotechnics were brought from Paris.[4]

His full title was “Emperor of Central Africa by the will of the Central African people, united within the national political party, the MESAN.”[5]

The whole coronation ceremony of his was a discomfort since it was based on Napoleon’s coronation and people over there were also clad in French suits. What was the discomfort? The tropical heat. Bokasa replicated the entire French culture without taking into consideration that CAR was close to the equator.

Since the air conditioning at the stadium did not work, the extremely high temperature—more than 35 °C (95 °F)—gradually made itself felt, which created discomfort for those present who were dressed in suits and evening dresses. Some, in order not to sweat, fanned the ceremony programs, which were given out to each guest. Only at about 10:10, the imperial motorcade, which had traveled several kilometers in length from the Renaissance Palace itself, arrived at the stadium. Along the motorcade route, a change occurred: unable to withstand the heat of riding in a closed carriage, Bokasa and Empress Catherine (Bokasa’s wife) moved into one of the Mercedes equipped with air conditioning, and several hundred meters before reaching the end point of the route they moved back to the carriage again.[6]

He was also so in love with France that when the former premier French leader Charles de Gaulle died, he said the following:

“I lost my biological father as a child, and now I turned towards my true father, General de Gaulle”[7]

However, he was considered a global caricature. Bokassa invited the entire world for his coronation which no one attended.

Not even France.


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