4. The Central African Emperor’s Mad and Murderous Rule
Bokassa’s rule created a reign of terror. During his reign, he personally oversaw the judicial beating of suspects. He also ordered that thieves lose an ear for the first two offenses, and a hand for the third. Bokassa also tortured suspected political opponents, then fed their corpses to lions and crocodiles kept in his private zoo. He also practiced cannibalism. In Paris-Match magazine, an expose that ran photos of a deep freezer in Bokassa’s palace, containing the bodies of children. The best known of Bokassa’s atrocities includes the arrest of hundreds of schoolchildren in 1979. The reason? Refusing to buy school uniforms from a company owned by one of his wives. Bokassa personally oversaw the murder of more than 100 of the kids by his imperial guard. That caused an uproar, and soon thereafter, French paratroopers deposed Emperor Bokassa I.
A Lavish Exile
However, he spent his exile comfortably in France, financed by millions of dollars embezzled from his impoverished country. Which, of course, he stashed in Swiss bank accounts. But his comfort did not last for long. Within a few years, Bokassa managed to waste his fortune; reduced to poverty. Things got so bad that he made a brief reappearance in international news in the 1980s. One of his hungry children was arrested for shoplifting food. Bokassa returned to Central Africa in 1986, where he was tried and convicted of murder and treason, and sentenced to death. However, the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, and he was released in 1993. He lived another three years, before dying in 1996.