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Patassé was born in Paoua . He graduated from the Superior Academy of Tropical Agriculture in Nogent-sur-Marne, France, in 1959, a year before independence. In December 1965, President David Dacko appointed him director of Agriculture and Minister of Development.
In 1966, Jean-Bédel Bokassa took power. Patassé gained favor with him and became minister in many offices throughout the years. On December 8, 1976, Bokassa named him prime minister. A year later, Patassé joined an extravagant ceremony in which Bokassa was crowned emperor. However, he fell in disgrace. He was stripped of all his offices and fled to Paris.
When Bokassa was deposed in a French-backed coup, Dacko, who had been restored, ordered Patassé into house arrest. Patassé attempted to escape to Chad, but was arrested again. He was later freed for health reasons.
He was a candidate in the elections of 1981 and won 38% of the vote, but was still defeated by Dacko. André Kolingba deposed Dacko in a military coup six months later, however; political parties were made illegal, and Patassé fled to France. He participated in a failed coup in 1982, but was defeated and fled to Togo and then France.
He participated in the 1993 elections, as the leader of the Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People (MPLC), and defeated Kolingba and Abel Goumba, taking office on October 22 of that year. In May 1996, there was a violent anti-French revolt, which was suppressed with the help of François Bozizé. Another revolt occurred in early 1997, which was crushed thanks to Bozizé and troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Gabon, Mali, Senegal, and Togo.
In the presidential election of September 1999, Patassé won and defeated Kolingba, winning in the first round with about 51.6% of the vote. Opposition leaders accused the elections of being rigged. François Bozizé himself led frequent rebellions.
Patassé left the country for a conference in Niger in 2003, and in his absence Bozizé seized Bangui on March 15. Although the coup was internationally condemned, no attempt was made to depose the new leader. Patassé is now living in exile in Togo.
Although nominated as his party's presidential candidate in November 2004, on December 30 Patassé was barred from running in the election due to what the constitutional court considered problems with his birth certificate and land title. He was one of seven candidates barred, while five, including Bozizé, were permitted to stand. After an agreement signed in Libreville, Gabon on January 22, 2005, all barred presidential candidates were permitted to stand in the March 13 election except for Patassé, on the grounds that he is the subject of judicial proceedings. He is accused of stealing 70 billion CFA francs from the country's treasury, although he has denied this and in an interview with Agence France-Presse on December 21, 2004, he said that he had no idea where he could have found so much money to steal in a country with a budget of only 90 to 100 billion CFA francs. He is also accused of war crimes for the violence that followed a failed 2002 coup attempt, in which rebels from the northern Democratic Republic of the Congo came to Patassé's assistance, but were accused of atrocities in the process. Patassé rejected the agreement signed in Libreville, and his party backed Patassé's last prime minister, Martin Ziguélé, for president instead.
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