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David Dacko

An important figure in Central African politics for more than fifty years. He was the president of the Republic during two terms of office: 1960-1966 and 1979-1981.

The first president of the Central African Republic, he was born on 24 March 1930 in Bouchia, near Mbaiki in the region of Lobaye, which at the time formed part of the Middle Congo territory of French Equatorial Africa. He trained to be a professor, taught in Bangui, and was named the director of the Kouanga School.

In 1955, he became a supporter of the independence leader Barthélémy Boganda, who was from the same ethnic group as Dacko. In March 1957, he was elected to the Regional Assembly. Boganda appointed him Minister of Agriculture, and later Minister of Interior and of Administrative Affairs.

After Boganda´s death, Dacko was elected president of the government, with France´s approval. He soon enforced an authoritarian nature to his regime: he eliminated the multi-party system, abolished the constitution, and established a presidential system in which a president of the Republic was elected for a period of seven years. He was unable to finish his term of office because in 1966 he was removed by a coup d'état.

He was detained in Bangui and was ultimately sentenced to death, but the new man in power, Colonel Jean-Bédel Bokassa, pardoned his life but confined him to his native region.

Bokassa proclaimed himself as president of the Republic, and soon afterwards as president of the government. He secured his power much more than his predecessor, and in 1972 made himself be named lifelong president of the Republic. He also proclaimed himself as emperor under the name of Bokassa I on 4 December 1976, and changed the State´s name to the Central African Empire.

David Dacko returned to power on 20 September 1979, by the hand of France, which abolished the monarchical regime of Bokassa I and restored the Central African Republic. In this second stage, he proved to not have learned democratic ways and was criticised by all the political and social sectors. In order to quiet critics, he allowed free political activity and subjected a democratic constitution to referendum, which was overwhelmingly approved.

In 01 September 1981, Dacko was removed from office in a new coup d'état carried out by General André Kolingba. Dacko emerged unharmed, and years later even returned to politics to lead a party in opposition to General Kolingba. Dacko participated in the 1993 presidential elections and obtained 20.10% of votes, remaining in third position.

Dacko actively maintained his ties to politics and in 2003 participated in the National Dialogue, a debate about the nation´s social, economic and political reality, but a few days after it was inaugurated, an asthma attack forced him to withdraw from the national conference.

Dacko passed away on 20 November 2003 at Yaoundé General Hospital. The Central African government decreed a month of national mourning in honour of the deceased former president. He was buried on December 13th in Mokinda, his place of residence.