Bokassa during his reign as Emperor of the Central African Empire
Jean-Bédel Bokassa ( 22 February 1921 3 November 1996, also known as Bokassa I of Central Africa and Salah Eddine Ahmed Bokassa) was the military ruler of the Central African Republic from 1 January 1966 and the Emperor of the Central African Empire from 4 December 1976 until he was overthrown on 20 September 1979.
In September 1976, Bokassa dissolved the government and replaced it with the Conseil de la Révolution Centrafricaine 'Central African Revolutionary Council'. On 4 December 1976, at the MESAN congress, Bokassa instituted a new constitution and declared the republic a monarchy, the Central African Empire. He issued an imperial constitution, announced his conversion back to Catholicism and had himself crowned "S.M.I. Bokassa 1er", with S.M.I. standing for Sa Majesté Impériale: "His Imperial Majesty", on 4 December 1977. Bokassa's full title was Empereur de Centrafrique par la volonté du peuple Centrafricain, uni au sein du parti politique national, le MESAN ("Emperor of Central Africa by the will of the Central African people, united within the national political party, the MESAN"). His regalia, lavish coronation ceremony and regime were largely inspired by Napoleon I, who had converted the French Revolutionary Republic of which he was First Consul into the First French Empire.
The coronation ceremony was estimated to cost his country roughly 20 million US dollars. Bokassa attempted to justify his actions by claiming that creating a monarchy would help Central Africa "stand out" from the rest of the continent, and earn the world's respect. The coronation consumed one third of the CAR's annual budget and all of France's aid that year, but despite generous invitations, no foreign leaders attended the event. Many thought Bokassa was insane, and compared his egotistical extravagance with that of Africa's other well-known eccentric dictator, Idi Amin
Africa: producing dictators for a long, long time.
His Imperial Highness, Emperor Bokassa of the Central African Republic was a ward of France. He passed a decree that school children had to wear uniforms, which were only available from a company run by his wife. The police rounded up some protesting school children and His Imperial Highness entered the cell where some were being held, picked up a child by his feet and smashed his head against the wall until dead. And then he repeated the deed, several more times.
But, at least he wasn’t a European imperialist.