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Article

Terence M. Mashingaidze

nationalist politician, first titular president of independent Zimbabwe, statesman, peace broker, clergyman, author, soccer administrator, academic, poet, and journalist, was born on 5 March 1936 at Esiphezini, in Essexvale (now Esigodini) District near Bulawayo in Southern Rhodesia. The versatile Banana’s father, Aaron, was a migrant laborer from Malawi while his mother, Jese, was a Zimbabwean Ndebele woman. Banana married Janet Mbuyazwe in 1961; the marriage produced three sons and a daughter. Banana attended Mzinyati primary school and Tegwani High School. He trained as a teacher at Tegwani Training Institute and then attended Epworth Theological Seminary, resulting in his ordination as a Methodist preacher in 1962 Subsequently he worked as a Methodist schools manager principal chairperson of the Bulawayo Council of Churches and member of the Rhodesian Christian Council and World Council of Churches In the 1970s Banana attained a BA with honors in theology through distance learning from ...

Article

Ndeh Martin Sango

president of Cameroon, was born Paul Barthélemy Biya’a bi Mvondo on 13 February 1933, in the village of Mvomekaʾa (Meyomessala), in French Cameroon. Biya was from a peasant background; his parents, Etienne Mvondo Assam and Anastasie Eyenya Elle Mvondo, had little money. However, through hard work, determination, perseverance, and dedication to education, the younger Biya was able to forge his way to the top. His rise from a humble background indicates the importance of education in promoting upward mobility in post-World War II Cameroon.

Biya a Christian began his education at the age of seven at a Catholic mission school in Ndem some thirty miles from his home village At school his hardworking and devoted nature won the admiration of his tutor a French national who recommended him for admission into the prestigious Akono Junior Seminary There is no record of his life at the seminary but he eventually left for the ...

Article

Eric Young

Paul Biya was born to poor parents of the Bulu ethnic group in southern French Cameroon. After his primary education, Biya briefly entered the seminary, but ultimately attended a French secondary school in Yaoundé. Later he studied in France at the Sorbonne, the Institut des études politiques, and the Institut des Hautes études d’Outre Mer. Returning to Cameroon in 1962, he began serving in administrative positions in the office of the presidency. Biya held a variety of administrative and cabinet posts until President Ahmadou Ahidjo appointed him minister of state in 1970. Five years later, Ahidjo named him prime minister.

In November 1982 Ahidjo resigned and Biya became the second president of Cameroon. Ahidjo, however, retained his position of head of the sole legal party. Conflict ensued as Biya moved away from the autocratic style of his predecessor, but in 1983 Biya prevailed He later ...

Article

Matthew LeRiche and John Young

Sudanese journalist, politician, and government official, is the son of a Dinka chief from Twic Mayardit County in the province of northern Bahr El Ghazal, in southern Sudan. Bona has pursued careers in journalism, academia, and most prominently, politics. After the 2010 national election, he was named advisor to President ʿUmar al-Bashir, of the National Congress Party (NCP).

An accomplished student and athlete, Bona went to the US on scholarship. While there, he earned an MA in journalism and communications before returning to Sudan, where he became a leading southern Sudanese nationalist. Building on his academic training, Bona became the editor-in-chief of The Advocate, an early publication defending the human rights of southerners and calling for devolution of power to the south. He was a cofounder of the Southern Front and served as its first secretary-general. He was then elected to the national assembly in 1968 only to ...

Article

David Killingray

Cricketer, politician, and broadcaster born into a middle‐class family in Trinidad. When he left school, he became a clerk in a local company, a post he held for the next ten years until 1927, the year he married Norma Cox. His father was a good cricketer and Constantine also became an excellent fielder. He played for his school and as a member of the Trinidad team in inter‐colonial matches; he was selected for the West Indies team to tour England in 1923, and again in 1928. During that tour Constantine's distinguishing moment came in the match against Middlesex in June 1928 when his skills as bowler, fielder, and scorer enabled the West Indies to defeat their opponents by three wickets. C. L. R. James wrote of him he took 100 wickets made 1 000 runs and laid claim to being the finest fieldsman ever ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

Cheddi Jagan was born in 1918 on a Sugar plantation in the English colony of British Guiana. The son of indentured servants from India, Jagan became one of the most popular politicians in this predominantly working-class Indian nation. Although poor, Jagan's parents managed to send him to secondary school in the capital of Georgetown and from there to Howard University in Washington, D.C. Jagan enrolled at the predominantly African American Howard University as a premedical student, and he supplemented his income by working part-time during the summers as an elevator operator and patent-medicine salesman in the Harlem area of New York City.

After graduating from Howard, Jagan attended the Northwestern University Dental School in Chicago, Illinois. While earning his degree Jagan met his wife, a white American nurse named Janet Rosenberg; they married in 1943. Together, the couple began studying the principles of Socialism ...

Article

Luis Gonçalves

Angolan doctor, writer, and first president of independent Angola from 1975 to 1979, was born António Agostinho Neto in Kaxicane, in the county of Icolo e Bengo, near Luanda. His father was a pastor of an American mission, and his mother was a teacher. He went to school in Luanda, where he finished high school in 1944. He then went to Portugal, where he studied medicine at the prestigious University of Coimbra. It is there that he started his anticolonial activities. In 1947 he was a founding member of the movement of young Angolan intellectuals, “Let’s Discover Angola.” In the following year he received a study grant from the American Methodists, and he transferred to the University of Lisbon.

In 1950 Neto was arrested in Lisbon by the Portuguese political police PIDE Polícia de Intervenção e Defesa do Estado while he was collecting signatures for the World ...

Article

Eric Young

The son of a Methodist minister, António Agostinho Neto received his high school education in Luanda. In 1947, after spending three years in the government health service, Neto traveled to Portugal to attend medical school on a Methodist church scholarship. While there he met his Portuguese wife, Maria Eugénia da Silva, and other students from Portuguese Africa, including future nationalist leaders Amílcar Cabral of Guinea-Bissau and Eduardo Mondlane of Mozambique. He also became involved in the youth organization of the Portuguese opposition movement. Between 1952 and 1962, during various stays in prison for his political activity, Neto began writing poetry. The publication of his nationalist poetry and his subsequent detention delayed his graduation from medical school until 1958.

By mid 1957 he had joined the recently formed opposition group the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola MPLA He fit in well with the MPLA s educated ...

Article

Roy Doron

Nigerian general, military ruler, and president, was born Olusegun Mathew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo in Abeokuta in southeastern Nigeria. His parentage has been the source of some controversy and speculation. After attending Abeokuta Baptist High School and the Mons Officers Cadet School in England, Obasanjo enlisted in the Nigerian army in 1958 and served in the British Cameroons, where he was commissioned a second lieutenant and was sent with the United Nations (UN) force to the Congo in 1959. After independence, Obasanjo remained in the military and was sent for further training at the Indian Defence Staff College and the Indian Army School of Engineering and was subsequently given command of the only Nigerian engineering unit and promoted to captain in 1963.

In January 1966 a group of Igbo officers overthrew the civilian government in a bloody coup that virtually eliminated the entire political elite of the Northern ...

Article

Eric Bennett

Olusegun Obasanjo was born in Abeokuta, in Ogun State, Nigeria, to a Christian Yoruba family that lacked the means to send him to college. He excelled at the provincial Abeokuta Baptist High School, however, and when he enlisted in the army in 1958, it was partly with an eye toward further schooling. During his tenure as a soldier, he studied in both India and England.

Obasanjo specialized as an engineer and rose through the ranks of Nigeria’s Engineering Corps. Later, while serving as head of state, he credited this training for the systematic clarity of his thought. Between 1959 and 1976 Obasanjo advanced from second lieutenant to chief of staff, supreme headquarters. During this time he led Nigerian forces in the country’s civil war (1969–1970), and he accepted the surrender of the Biafran troops in 1970.

Obasanjo was devoted to military service but appeared to have ...

Article

Benedicte Boisseron

Cameroonian novelist and statesman, was born on 14 September 1929 in N’Goulémakong, a small village near Ebolowa in southern Cameroon. His mother, Mvodo Belinga Agnès, a pious Catholic woman, separated from Ferdinand’s father, Etoa Jean Oyono, when the latter, though baptized, opted for a polygamous lifestyle. The young Ferdinand and his sister, Mfoumou Elisabeth, were raised by their mother who, after the separation, supported the family as a seamstress in Ebolowa. To help his mother, at the age of ten, Oyono joined the Catholic Mission as a choirboy and a houseboy at the service of missionaries. His early intimate experience with Catholic missionaries fueled his revolutionary imagination as an anticolonial writer well known for his satirical portrait of priests and colonial officials.

When Oyono earned his primary school certificate his father an educated city official learned of his son s success in the newspaper which published such educational results and ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Rwandan politician, was born in 1963 to a Tutsi family in Rwanda In Kinyarwanda; his name means “chief shepherd.” His parents were both Seventh-Day Adventists. Sebarenzi’s father was a successful farmer with three wives, and Sebarenzi had a large number of siblings. Both his father and mother became fearful for their son’s life after the Rwandan government promoted widespread attacks on Tutsi families in 1973 and the systematic discrimination made against placing young Tutsi people in middle and high schools led Sebarenzi s parents to send their son to a school on Idjwi Island in Lake Kivu which was a part the Democratic Republic of the Congo He spent his remaining years in middle and high school on Idjwi Island and the large city of Goma Sebarenzi eventually received his undergraduate degree in sociology from a Congolese university He met a fellow Rwandan exile Liberata and the couple married ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Chadian writer and politician, was born in 1927 in Abéché, the capital of the eastern Chadian sultanate of Wadai. Little is known about his early life, but he grew up listening to stories about powerful sultans of Wadai from times past, such as the early nineteenth-century ruler Sabun. By the late 1930s he was living in the southern Chadian town of Sarh (Fort-Archambault). There, he attended classes at the local Catholic mission with a French priest, Father de Belinay, in 1938 and 1939. Under de Belinay’s tutelage, Seid decided to switch from the Islamic faith of his family to Roman Catholicism. Seid’s parents brought the priest salted bread and oil on the day of Seid’s baptism.

Seid then attended secondary school and became involved in politics. He helped to establish the small Mutuelle Amicale Tchadienne political party in 1945 with Mahamat Yakouma Mustapha Batran Abdoulaye Toure Souleymane Naye ...

Article

Janet Vaillant

Senegalese poet, philosopher, politician, and first president of Senegal (1960–1980), was born in Joal, a small coastal town south of Dakar in what was then the French West African Federation, now Senegal. His father came from the Serer people and was successful in the peanut export trade. His mother, one of several wives, came from a small country village, where Senghor spent his early childhood. His father sent him away for education when he was seven, and at eight he entered a Catholic mission boarding school. A pious and academically gifted child, he excelled in his studies, gaining support from the missionaries to continue his education in Dakar. He also acquired a deep Catholic faith, from which came his conviction that peaceful solutions exist for the most difficult of problems and from which he drew sustenance throughout his life. In 1928 he went to Paris to continue his education ...

Article

David P. Johnson

Demonstrating a rare combination of intellectual, artistic, and political skill, Léopold Sédar Senghor towered over modern Senegal, unlike any other figure in that country’s history. Senghor’s quest to find an artistic and political synthesis between African and European ways of life inspired his lifelong record of creative achievement. Although as a youth he immersed himself in French culture, his ultimate inability to become “a black-skinned Frenchman” led him to cultivate his “Africanness.” He helped to define two of the key political and intellectual movements of twentieth-century Africa: African Socialism and Négritude.

Born in Ndjitor, Senegal, to a Serer father and a Fulani mother, Senghor strove to represent all of Senegal’s peoples in his writing and politics. He attended Roman Catholic mission schools in what was then French West Africa, and in 1922 entered the Collège Libermann a seminary in Dakar where he intended to study for the priesthood He ...

Article

Eric Young

Throughout his life, Ian Smith has been a conservative rebel. For years he was one of the most ardent proponents of white settler society in southern Africa, and he has since become one of the most vociferous critics of independent rule in Zimbabwe.

Born and raised in colonial Southern Rhodesia, Smith joined the British Royal Air Force in 1939. After serving as a combat pilot in World War II, Smith attended Rhodes University in South Africa and after graduation returned to Southern Rhodesia to work on his large cattle ranch. Smith was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the British colony as a member of the Liberal Party in 1948, only to switch five years later to the more conservative United (Federal) Party. He later became chief whip but left the party in 1961 to help form the Rhodesian Front a party opposed to making concessions ...

Article

Blake Whitaker

Southern Rhodesian politician and prime minister of Rhodesia from 11 November 1965 until 1 June 1979, was born in Southern Rhodesia on 19 April 1919. His father was the prominent farmer and rancher John Douglas Smith, MBE. His mother, Agnes Smith, MBE, was the daughter of Rhodesian miner Tom Hodgson. While seldom involved in politics, the family was heavily involved in civic and agricultural activities. As a young man, Smith was educated at the Chaplin School in Gwelo. While he enjoyed math and the sciences, he excelled in rugby and cricket. In 1938 he began studying for a bachelor’s degree in commerce at Rhodes University in South Africa. His studies were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II; from 1941 until 1945 he served in Royal Air Force as a fighter pilot During his service in North Africa a mechanical malfunction caused his Hawker Hurricane to ...

Article

Cyril Daddieh

Ivorian student activist, rebel leader, author, and prime minister of the Ivory Coast, is a Senoufou born on 8 May 1972 in the village of Kofiplé, located in the Diawala county of the Ferkessédougou district in the north, just a few kilometers from the Malian border. His late parents were Muslim, although Soro is a practicing Catholic, having attended a Catholic seminary in Katiola and then the Lycée Classique in Bouaké.

A graduate of the University of Abidjan-Cocody with a degree in English, he was actively engaged in campus politics as a member of the radical student movement, Fédération Estudiantine et Scolaire de Côte d’Ivoire (FESCI), rising to become the secretary-general of the movement from 1994 to December 1998 He was replaced by Charles Blé Goudé his current nemesis and the leader of the Jeunes Patriotes Young Patriots the militantly partisan supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo who have been ...

Article

Congolese (Brazzaville) politician and poet, was born on 15 December 1938 in the town of Ngoyo near the port of Pointe-Noire in present-day Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville). He completed his primary school education there. His father died in 1939, so Jean-Baptiste and his four sisters were raised in a rural community near the Atlantic Ocean by their mother and her family. Tati-Loutard recalled how his life in the countryside had deeply influenced his poetry. He later moved to Brazzaville, then the capital of the colonial federation of French Equatorial Africa. There he attended a mission high school run by Marian Catholic missionaries, and he passed his baccalaureate examinations there. In 1961, he moved to France, where he studied at the University of Bordeaux. He received from this school an undergraduate degree in literature in 1963, another undergraduate degree in Italian in 1964 and still another ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Congolese (Brazzaville) politician, was born on 12 January 1915 in the town of N’Gaya-Binda in the Kouilou coastal region of Congo-Brazzaville near Pointe-Noire to a Vili-speaking family. Like many other Vili boys of his generation, he attended the Catholic mission of Loango. At fifteen, he found work on the newly created Congo-Océan Railway that connected the Congolese port of Point-Noire to the federation capital of Brazzaville. From 1930 to 1936, Tchitchelle continued to work on the railway. In 1936 he became the stationmaster of Pointe Noire despite being only twenty one years of age By World War II Tchitchelle found work as a clerk for the large Compagnie Française de l Afrique Occidentale He became drawn to the embryonic trade union movement in Congo Brazzaville as well as the cause of reform promoted by his older Vili political mentor Jean Félix Tchicaya His brilliant oratory and espousal of ...