The Corner

The Emperor Who Would Not Resign

In my (long) post below, I talk about democracy and power and impeachment. The South Korean president was impeached and then left office, without much of a fuss. “That is something rare under the sun, and in history,” I write. “Nixon flying off to San Clemente is not normal. It’s wonderful, though.”

On the subject of Nixon and San Clemente, I had a memory of the Central African Empire. Yes, the CAE, with its (self-crowned) emperor, Jean-Bédel Bokassa. I cover him and his family in my book Children of Monsters. The Bokassa family — blood-curdling.

In researching that chapter, I talked with Goodwin Cooke, who was once our ambassador to Bokassa’s realm. One day, Cooke had the responsibility of telling Bokassa that the United States was going to cut off aid to him. Bokassa became incensed. He threatened the ambassador with his cane, or scepter, or walking stick.

Don’t laugh: Bokassa killed people with that thing, an instrument made of ebony.

Eventually, Bokassa calmed down, and he grew reflective. “I could resign,” he said. “Yes, you could,” said Ambassador Cooke. “Nixon resigned, didn’t he?” said Bokassa. “Yes, he did,” said Cooke. “And he’s doing all right in California?” asked Bokassa. “Yes, he’s doing all right,” replied Cooke.

Bokassa thought for a moment — then said that his own resignation was out of the question. It was simply un-African.

In due course, the French military overthrew him. A lot more happened after that, but … I’ve already written that book, and this is merely a Corner dollop.

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