Central African Empire

  1. ^ De facto military dictatorship.

The Central African Empire (French: Empire centrafricain) was a short-lived one-party state ruled by an absolute monarch that replaced the Central African Republic and was, in turn, replaced by the restoration of the Republic. The empire was formed by and under the command of Jean-Bédel Bokassa, military dictator and President of the Central African Republic, who declared himself Bokassa I, Emperor of Central Africa, on 4 December 1976.

Bokassa spent the equivalent of over US$20 million, a third of the country's government annual income, on his coronation ceremony. The monarchy was abolished and the republic was restored on 21 September 1979, when Bokassa was ousted with French support. His palace was neglected.[1]

Central African Empire

Empire centrafricain
Motto: "Unité, Dignité, Travail"
Anthem: "La Renaissance"
Location of Central African Empire
and largest city
Official languageFrench
National language
Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Sunni Islam
GovernmentConstitutional monarchy[a]
• 1976–1979
Bokassa I
Prime Minister 
• 1976–1978
Ange-Félix Patassé
• 1978–1979
Henri Maïdou
4 December 1976
• Overthrow
21 September 1979
• Total
622,984 km2 (240,535 sq mi)
CurrencyCentral African CFA franc
Today part ofCentral African Republic



In September 1976, Bokassa dissolved the government and replaced it with the Central African Revolutionary Council. On 4 December 1976, at the MESAN congress, Bokassa instituted a new constitution, converted back to Roman Catholicism—he had briefly become a Muslim earlier in the year—and declared the republic to be a monarchy: the "Central African Empire". He had himself crowned and styled himself "His Imperial Majesty" on 4 December 1977.

Bokassa's full title was "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 régime were largely inspired by Napoléon I, who had converted the French First Republic, of which he was First Consul, into the First French Empire. The coronation ceremony was estimated to cost his country roughly US$20,000,000 – one-third of the country's budget and all of France's aid for that year.

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. Despite 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 – Field Marshal Idi Amin.

Although it was claimed that the new empire would be a constitutional monarchy, in practice the country remained a military dictatorship. Emperor Bokassa retained the dictatorial powers he had possessed as president, and MESAN remained the only legally permitted party. Suppression of dissenters remained widespread, and torture was said to be especially rampant. It was subsequently proven at trial that Bokassa himself occasionally participated in beatings.


By January 1979, French support for Bokassa had all but eroded after riots in Bangui led to a massacre of civilians.[2] Between 17 and 19 April, a number of high school students were arrested after they had protested against wearing the expensive, government-required school uniforms; an estimated 100 were killed.[3][4]

Bokassa allegedly participated in the massacre, beating some of the children to death with his cane. However, the initial reports received by Amnesty International indicated only that the school students suffocated or were beaten to death while being forced into a small cell following their arrest.

The massive press coverage which followed the deaths of the students opened the way for a successful coup which saw French troops in Operation Barracuda restore former president David Dacko to power while Bokassa was away in Libya meeting with Gaddafi on 20 September 1979.

Bokassa's overthrow by the French government was called "France's last colonial expedition" by veteran French diplomat Jacques Foccart. Operation Barracuda began the night of 20 September and ended early the next morning. An undercover commando squad from the French intelligence agency SDECE, joined by the 1st Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment led by Colonel Brancion-Rouge, landed by Transall C-160, and managed to secure Bangui M'Poko International Airport. Upon arrival of two more transport aircraft, a message was sent to Colonel Degenne to come in with eight Puma helicopters and Transall aircraft, which took off from N'Djaména military airport in neighbouring Chad.[5]

By 12:30 p.m. on 21 September 1979, the pro-French Dacko proclaimed the fall of the Central African Empire. David Dacko remained president until he was overthrown on 1 September 1981 by General André Kolingba.

Bokassa died on 3 November 1996 in the Central African Republic. In 2009, Jean-Serge Bokassa, who was seven years old when the Emperor was overthrown, stated his father's reign was "indefensible".[6]

See also


  1. ^ "Bokassa's ruined palace in CAR". BBC News. 8 February 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  2. ^ Meredith 1997, p. 230.
  3. ^ "AFRICA: Papa in the Dock". Time. 11 June 1979. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  4. ^ Greene, B. (12 March 2012). "5 Most Notorious African Warlords, Jean-Bédel Bokassa". U.S. News. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  5. ^ Bokassa 2006, p. 32.
  6. ^ Thomson, M. (2 January 2009). "'Good old days' under Bokassa?". BBC News. Retrieved 12 May 2019.


  • Bokassa, J. (2006). Les diamants de la trahison (in French). Paris: Pharos. ISBN 9782756900742.
  • Crabb, J. C. (1978). "The Coronation of Emperor Bokassa". Afr. Today. 25 (3): 25–44. JSTOR 4185788.
  • Meredith, M. (1997). The State of Africa. New York: Free Press. ISBN 9780743268424.

External links

Coat of arms of the Central African Republic

The coat of arms of the Central African Republic consists of a shield in the center, with two flags on its edges, and with a sun rising over the shield. Below and above the shield are banners, and there is the badge of the Order of Central African Merit located below the shield as well.

Constitution of the Central African Republic

The Constitution of the Central African Republic was approved by referendum on December 15, 2015 and formally adopted on March 27, 2016. Since its independence in 1960, the Central African Republic has used many constitutions, showing a great political instability with coups.

The constitutions used by the Central African Republic are:

Constitution of November 26, 1964 (First Republic) ;

Constitutional Act of January 8, 1966 ;

Imperial Constitution of December 4, 1976 (Central African Empire);

Constitutional Act of September 21, 1979 (Republic restored);

Constitution of February 5, 1981 (Second Republic);

Constitutional Act of September 1, 1981 ;

Constitutional Act of 1985 ;

Constitution of November 28, 1986 (Third Republic) ;

Constitution of January 14, 1995 (Fourth Republic) ;

Constitutional Act of March 15, 2003 ;

Constitution of December 27, 2004 (Fifth Republic) ;

Constitutional Charter of January 18, 2013 (transition) ;

Crown (heraldry)

A crown is often an emblem of a sovereign state, usually a monarchy (see The Crown), but also used by some republics.

A specific type of crown (or coronet for the British peerage) is employed in heraldry under strict rules. Indeed, some monarchies never had a physical crown, just a heraldic representation, as in the constitutional kingdom of Belgium.

Crowns are also often used as symbols of religious status or veneration, by divinities (or their representation such as a statue) or by their representatives, e.g. the Black Crown of the Karmapa Lama, sometimes used a model for wider use by devotees.

A crown can be a charge in a coat of arms, or set atop the shield to signify the status of its owner, as with the coat of arms of Norway.

Emperor of Central Africa

The Emperor of Central Africa (French: Empereur de Centrafrique) was the monarch of the Central African Empire from 1976 to 1979.

Flag of the Central African Republic

The national flag of the Central African Republic was officially adopted in 1958. It has been retained since that time with the same design, four horizontal stripes of blue, white, green and yellow, and a single vertical band of red, with a yellow five-pointed star in the upper left corner.

Henri Maïdou

Henri Maïdou (born 14 February 1936) is a retired Central African politician who served as Prime Minister of the Central African Empire (Central African Republic) from 14 July 1978 to 26 September 1979, and Vice President of the CAR in the cabinet of David Dacko from September 1979 to August 1980.

House of Bokassa

The House of Bokassa is a self-proclaimed African royal and imperial house. Its founder, Jean-Bédel Bokassa, ruled as self-crowned emperor over the territories of the Central African Empire from December 4, 1976 until September 21, 1979, when he was overthrown. His claim to an imperial title had little recognition in the international community.

Imperial coat of arms of the Central African Empire

The imperial coat of arms of the Central African Empire consists of a shield in the centre, with two flags on its edges, and with a sun rising over the shield, with an imperial eagle in the centre. With the imperial crown of Bokassa I above, below and above the shield are banners, and there is a medal located below the shield as well.

Jean-Bédel Bokassa

Jean-Bédel Bokassa ([ʒɑ̃ bedɛl bɔkasa]; 22 February 1921 – 3 November 1996), also known as Bokassa I, was a Central African political and military leader who served as the 2nd President of the Central African Republic and as the emperor of its successor state, the Central African Empire, from his Saint-Sylvestre coup d'état on 1 January 1966 until overthrown in a subsequent coup in 1979.

Of this period, he served about eleven years as president and three years as self-proclaimed Emperor of Central Africa, though the country was still a de facto military dictatorship. His imperial regime lasted from 4 December 1976 to 21 September 1979. Following his overthrow, the CAR was restored under his predecessor, David Dacko. Bokassa's imperial title did not achieve international diplomatic recognition.

In his trial in absentia, he was tried and sentenced to death. He returned to the Central African Republic in 1986 and was put on trial for treason and murder. In 1987, he was cleared of charges of cannibalism, but found guilty of the murder of schoolchildren and other crimes. The death sentence was later commuted to life in solitary confinement, but just six years later, in 1993, he was freed. He lived a private life in his former capital, Bangui, and died in November 1996.

Jean-Bédel Bokassa Jr.

Crown Prince Jean-Bédel Bokassa, Jr., or Prince Jean-Bédel Bokassa II (born 2 November 1973) is a son of Jean-Bédel Bokassa, the former dictator of the Central African Republic and its successor state, the Central African Empire, by his sixth wife, Catherine Denguiadé, who became Empress on Bokassa's assumption of the throne. Following his father's decision to become Emperor of Central Africa, Jean-Bédel was named, at the age of 4, as heir apparent with the title of Crown Prince (prince héritier de Centrafrique). He was chosen despite having several older brothers and half-brothers. Bokassa I's eldest son by another wife, Georges, was a cabinet minister but Bokassa considered him weak.Crown Prince Jean-Bédel was included in Bokassa I's lavish coronation of 4 December 1977, which Pope Paul VI refused to attend.

Jean-Serge Bokassa

H.I.H. The Prince Jean-Serge Bokassa (born 25 February 1971) is a Central African politician who has served in the government of the Central African Republic as Minister of the Interior since 2016. Previously he was Minister of Youth, Sports, Arts, and Culture from 2011 to 2013. He is a son of Bokassa I, who ruled the Central African Empire from 1966 to 1979.

Law enforcement in the Central African Republic

Law enforcement in the Central African Republic is primarily vested in the country's National Police (also known as the Sûreté Nationale), a uniformed civilian branch oriented almost solely towards law enforcement in urban districts, and the paramilitary Central African Gendarmerie. A third department, the Police judiciaire, is the criminal investigation division of the National Police but has become increasingly independent and is widely considered a separate branch in its own right.The size of the National Police has generally remained consistent at between 1,000 and 2,000 personnel for several decades since the collapse of the Central African Empire. In 2009 there were 1,350 police officers in the country.

List of ambassadors of the United States to the Central African Republic

The United States Ambassador to the Central African Republic is the ambassador of the United States to the Central African Republic.

Alan W. Lukens (resident at Brazzaville) presented credentials as chargé d'affaires ad interim on August 13, 1960. During Blancke's tenure as non-resident Ambassador to the Central African Republic, the United States Embassy in Bangui was established on February 10, 1961, with Lukens as resident chargé d'affaires ad interim. Ambassador Cooke was commissioned to the Central African Empire.

List of heads of government of the Central African Republic

There have been twenty-three heads of government of Central African Republic and the Central African Empire. The office of Prime Minister, the head of government, was created when the Central African Republic became an autonomous territory of France in December 1958. It was originally the highest post of the Central African Republic, though France did maintain a governor in the territory. After the Central African Republic declared its independence and became a republic on 13 August 1960, David Dacko held both the Prime Minister and newly created President of the Central African Republic posts briefly before eliminating the Prime Minister position and placing all executive power in the office of the President.

President Jean-Bédel Bokassa restored the office of Prime Minister to assist him in governing the country in 1975, shortly before he declared himself Emperor. He selected Elisabeth Domitien to become Africa's first female head of government. After Domitien was removed from office, Bokassa named Ange-Félix Patassé to become his next Prime Minister. Patassé continued serving as Prime Minister after Bokassa declared the establishment of the Central African Empire in December 1976. Henri Maïdou succeeded Patassé and continued serving as Prime Minister after Bokassa was overthrown from power. During the following two years of Dacko's presidency, three more politicians served as Prime Minister. The post was abolished when Dacko was overthrown from the presidency by Andre Kolingba on 1 September 1981. The position, as it exists today, was recreated in 1991, when President Kolingba was forced to relinquish some of the executive power. The President has the authority to name the Prime Minister and can remove them from office at any time. The Prime Minister is the head of the government; within days of being appointed, they must select individuals for their Cabinet, who they will work with to coordinate the government.

According to a ceasefire agreement signed between the government and the Séléka rebel coalition on 11 January 2013, President François Bozizé was required to appoint a new Prime Minister from the political opposition after the National Assembly of the Central African Republic is dissolved and legislative elections are held. According to the agreement, this will happen on 11 January 2014 at the latest. Nicolas Tiangaye, who was selected as Prime Minister by the opposition and rebels, was appointed as Prime Minister on 17 January 2013.The current Prime Minister of the Central African Republic is Firmin Ngrébada (fr), since 27 February 2019.

List of heads of state of the Central African Republic

The following is a complete list of heads of state of the Central African Republic and the Central African Empire. There have been seven heads of state in the history of the Central African Republic and the Central African Empire since independence was obtained from the French on 13 August 1960. This list includes not only those persons who were sworn into office as President of the Central African Republic but also those who served as de facto heads of state.

Jean-Bédel Bokassa served as a de facto head of state (and also reigned as Emperor from 1976–1979), while David Dacko (who served as de facto head of state from 1979–1981), André Kolingba, Ange-Félix Patassé, and François Bozizé were elected into office at some point during their tenure. To date, Kolingba is the only former head of state of the Central African Republic to voluntarily step down from the office through a democratic process, following the 1993 general election.

The current President of the Central African Republic is Faustin-Archange Touadéra, since 30 March 2016.

Operation Caban

Operation Caban was a military operation without any blood shedding that was launched in September 1979 by the French to install the exiled David Dacko by overthrowing Jean-Bédel Bokassa who had resorted to dictatorial rule in the Central African Empire from January 1979.

Postage stamps and postal history of the Central African Republic

The Central African Republic has been issuing stamps since 1959. Before this, it was called Ubangi-Shari.Ubangi-Shari became an autonomous state within the French Community and was renamed the Central African Republic on 1 December 1958. The Republic became fully independent on 13 August 1960.

From December 4, 1976 to 1979, the country was renamed the Central African Empire when President Bokassa crowned himself emperor. It issued stamps labelled Empire Centrafricaine in 1977.In 1979 the name of the country was restored to the Central African Republic.


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