Decline and fall of the men who tyrannised Africa

Grisly ex-dictator dies aged 75
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The Independent Online
Jean Bedel Bokassa, left, who in the 1970s did as much for Africa's image in the world as Hitler did for Germany's, has died of a heart attack, aged 75. Yesterday thousands of mourners gathered outside the main hospital in the Central African Republic capital of Bangui to pay their last respects to a man who not only slaughtered his opponents but ate them too.

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.

Obituary, page 16

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