Raised by French missionaries after his father was murdered and his mother committed suicide, the cannibal emperor was something of a Francophile. He joined the French army at 18, was decorated for bravery, and chose Napoleon Bonaparte as a role model.
He seized power in 1966. In the 1970s Bokassa embarrassed the then French president, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, by saying he had given him diamonds. Giscard said he sold the gems and gave the proceeds to charity but the affair tainted his image at home and possibly contributed to his defeat in the presidential election of 1981.
Bokassa lived in exile in France and Ivory Coast after his overthrow but returned home in 1986 and was sentenced to death, though the sentence was commuted and he was released in September 1993.
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