Dark Age: The Political Odyssey of Emperor Bokassa

Dark Age: The Political Odyssey of Emperor Bokassa

Dark Age: The Political Odyssey of Emperor Bokassa

Dark Age: The Political Odyssey of Emperor Bokassa

Synopsis

Dark Age recounts the turbulent political career of recently deceased Jean-Bedel Bokassa, the flamboyant president-for-life and later emperor of the Central African Republic/Empire.

Excerpt

Dee-Jay: Now you know where we're at. If you're still uncertain, let me tell you that your deejay isn't feeling all that cockshure himself. But there is to be a Coronation. An imperial coronation, first in Africa -- at least in the last few decades or so. Emperor Boky, Boky the Cocky, no less -- and if you think that's mere boasting, ask him how many daughters presented their credentials when he advertised for his long-lost daughter from Indochina. He confirmed the claims of one and married the others. Man, he's wa-a-a-ay -- Out. Also known as Folksy Boksy on account of he likes to meet with the folks. You dig? The common folks, like vagrants, felons and -- dig this -- school children. Actually rubs feet with them -- well, on them sort of -- he's gone beyond shaking hands -- wow, he's ahead man. Soyinka, Opera Wonyosi

Jean-Bedel Bokassa's appearance as the archetypical African dictator in Wole Soyinka Opera Wonyosi should come as no great surprise. Discovered by the Western media early in his political career, he has been in the headlines ever since. The image is always the same. He is le roi nègre -- cruel, self-indulgent, extravagant, and sexually obsessed, or he is "The Emperor who ate his People," as one essay about him put it. Werner Herzog's documentary film Echos d'un sombre empire is all too typical. Dwelling on the macabre, it shows footage of the imperial walk-in freezer and of lions that allegedly dined on His Majesty's enemies.

In dealing with this controversial figure academics have hardly shown better judgment. Samuel Decalo writes of "documented instances of ritual cannibalism" on Bokassa's part and of his personally bludgeoning schoolchildren to death. The Central African ruler is invariably described as "a brutal and ludicrous tyrant" or something similar. He is in a special category of disdain, along with . . .

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