Bokassa was a brutal dictator in Africa, accused of cannibalism and feeding his opponents to animals. However, after being sentenced to death, he was later granted a posthumous pardon by his country. Jean-Bédel Bokassa was the self-proclaimed Emperor of the Central African Republic (CAR) until 1979.
He had 62 children, and his coronation, modeled after Napoleon’s, cost his country’s entire GDP. François Bozizé, the president of the CAR, rehabilitated him. According to the BBC, the president stated that the man who declared himself “Emperor Bokassa I” had also taught humanity a valuable lesson and would have all his rights restored.
Jean-Bédel Bokassa, also known as Bokassa I of Central Africa or Salah Eddine Ahmed Bokassa, was a military officer and the head of state of the Central African Republic and its successor state, the Central African Empire, from his coup d’état on 1 January 1966 until his overthrow on 20 September 1979 in a subsequent coup (backed by France).
During this time, he was president for nearly eleven years (the last four as president for life), and he reigned as self-proclaimed Emperor of Central Africa for nearly three years, despite being a military dictator. His “Imperial” reign lasted from December 4, 1976 to September 20, 1979. Following his demise, the Central African Republic was reestablished under his predecessor, David Dacko.
Mr. Bokassa’s brutal 14-year rule ended in 1979, when French paratroopers overthrew his government while he was on an official trip to Libya. France justified its intervention in the Central African Republic by citing reports of Mr. Bokassa allegedly eating imprisoned schoolchildren. Mr. Bokassa, who was living in exile in the Ivory Coast at the time, returned home in 1986 to face murder and treason charges.
The allegations of cannibalism were never proven, but the one-time Emperor and President for Life was sentenced to death for assassinations, concealing corpses, and embezzling national resources. He was imprisoned for seven years before being pardoned by his successor, Andre Kolingba, in an effort to bring about national reconciliation.
French paratroopers deposed Bokassa and reinstalled Dacko as president on September 20, 1979. He then went into exile in France, where he purchased a château and other property with the money he had stolen. Central Africa reverted to its former name and status as the Central African Republic after his overthrow in 1979. He was tried and sentenced to death while he was away.
In 1986, he returned to the Central African Republic and was tried for treason and murder. He was acquitted of cannibalism charges in 1987, but convicted of murdering schoolchildren and other crimes. The death sentence was later commuted to life in solitary confinement, but he was released just six years later, in 1993. He lived a private life in his former capital, Bangui, and died in November 1996.