2. The Delusional Napoleon Fanboy Who Appointed Himself Emperor of the Central African Republic
Jean-Bedel Bokassa (1921 – 1996) of the Central African Republic was a captain in the French colonial army when the country gained its independence. The new country’s president, a distant cousin, appointed Bokassa to head its armed forces. Bokassa showed his gratitude by staging a coup in 1966, and ousting his cousin from power. He appointed himself president, and ruled as dictator until 1979. Bokassa was a huge fan of Napoleon Bonaparte. Erratic and prone to delusions of grandeur, he emulated his idol by declaring his small landlocked country an empire, and anointed himself Bokassa I, Emperor of the Central African Empire.
He then bankrupted his impoverished country with a lavish coronation that cost about 80 million dollars, and featured a diamond-encrusted crown worth 20 million. Bokassa’s rule was marked by a terrible reign of terror, during which he personally oversaw judicial beatings of criminal suspects. He also decreed that thieves were to lose an ear for the first two offenses, and a hand for the third. Additionally, Bokassa supervised the torture of suspected political opponents, then fed their corpses to lions and crocodiles kept in a private menagerie. He was also into cannibalism, as shown in a Paris-Match magazine expose, which ran photos of a deep freezer in Bokassa’s palace that contained the bodies of children.