The Political Odyssey Of Emperor Bokassa
Dark Age: The Political Odyssey of Emperor Bokassa. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1997.
A gripping political biography of one of Africa’s most controversial leaders.
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. Brian Titley examines the myths and legends surrounding the man, probes their origins and veracity, and attempts to provide a more balanced perspective on this controversial and misunderstood figure.
Titley interprets Bokassa’s authoritarian and self-aggrandizing style as an attempt to legitimize his regime in a context devoid of indigenous political structures and explores the troubled relations between France and its former colonies. Combining techniques of historical inquiry and investigative journalism, he has produced a fascinating account of a pivotal chapter in contemporary African history.
“This lively and entertaining book can certainly make the reader feel strangely guilty. A quiet smile of even outright laughter may follow the reading of many of the surreal passages in this extraordinary story. For example, when Bokassa was in exile in the Cote d’Ivoire after his overthrow by the French, he was given an identity card by Houphouet-Boigny with his occupation listed as ‘ex-emperor’ (p.162). Then before the smile or laughter subsides some dreadful account of torture and cruelty during Bokassa’s 14 years’ rule of the Central African Republic (1966-1979) is told. Should one be allowed to laugh at all during such a story? . . . This book is certainly of great value to any student of dictatorial regimes in Africa, to those examining the often dubious activities of France in Africa and anyone looking at the history and politics of the Central African Republic/Empire.” Igor Cusack, Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 17, 2, 1999: 299-302.
“The book certainly makes for an engaging read. Titley has drawn from a wide variety of sources, including news accounts, videotapes and a francophone literature on Bokassa and the Central African Republic’s contemporary history. He also conducted a series of interviews among some Central African elites and French military advisers, lawyers and associates of Bokassa. In doing so, he makes available to readers in English a valuable narrative of Bokassa’s career and of France’s post-colonial relationship with one of its former colonies, fragments of which have previously been only in French.” Tamara Giles-Vernick, Journal of African History, Vol. 40, 1999: 505-507.