Bokassa, Jean-Bédel (zhäN-bĕdĕlˈ bōkäsˈsä) [key], 1921–96, president of Central African Republic (1966–79). He served (1939–61) in the French army, then organized his country's army, becoming commander in chief in 1963. In 1966 he led an army coup against President David Dacko, becoming president and prime minister of the republic. Declared president for life in 1972, he crowned himself "emperor" of the so-called Central African Empire in 1977. Erratic and violent, he was overthrown by a French-supported coup (1979) that reinstated Dacko as president. Bokassa lived in exile in France and Côte d'Ivoire, returning to the Central African Republic in 1987. He was arrested and charged with torture, murder, and cannibalism. Convicted of murdering several political opponents, Bokassa was sentenced to death, but that was later commuted to life in prison. He was released in 1993.
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