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Richard A. Bradshaw

military officer, president, and emperor of the Central African Republic/Empire, was born on 22 February 1921 at Bobangui, Lobaye region, then in the French Equatorial African territory of the Middle Congo (now part of the Central African Republic) He was the son of headman Mindogon Mgboundoulou, who was murdered at the regional colonial headquarters in the Lobaye, and Marie Yokowo, who died a week after her husband. Bokassa belonged to the same Mbaka (Ngbaka) ethnic group as Central African Republic (CAR) leaders Barthélemy Boganda and David Dacko. His grandfather MʿBalanga took care of Bokassa until 1921, when he entered the Catholic missionary école Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc at MʿBaiki. Bokassa then attended Bangui’s École de St. Louis (1928–1929), which was run by Father Charles Grüner, and an école missionnaire at Brazzaville (1929–1939). Enlisting in the French army on 19 May 1939, Bokassa became a corporal (1940 ...

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Eric Young

A career soldier who had endured a tragic childhood, Jean-Bédel Bokassa ruled the impoverished Central African Republic with brutal repression, used its revenues for his personal enrichment, and crowned himself emperor. He committed barbarities that caused an international outcry and led to his removal from power.

When Bokassa was six years old, his father, a village chief of the Mbaka people, was murdered. Bokassa became an orphan a week later, when his mother committed suicide. Missionaries raised him until age eighteen when, at the outbreak of World War II, Bokassa joined the French Colonial Army. He participated in the 1944 landings in Provence and later served in Indochina and Algeria, attaining the rank of captain and earning the Legion d’Honneur and the Croix de Guerre. In 1960, after Oubangui-Chari became the independent Central African Republic, Bokassa helped create its army and, in 1964 was given the rank of ...