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Ari Nave

Self-titled “His Excellency President for Life Field Marshal Al Hadji Dr. Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular,” Idi Amin also made a name for himself as one of modern Africa's most tyrannical and brutal rulers. A member of the Kakwa ethnic group, Idi Amin was born to Muslim parents near Koboko in northern Uganda when that part of Africa was under British control. After receiving a missionary school education, Amin joined the King's African Rifles (KAR), the African unit of the British Armed Forces, in 1946. He served in Somalia, Uganda, and Kenya while British authorities there suppressed an African uprising called the Mau Mau rebellion earning a reputation as a skilled and eager soldier But early in his career ...

Article

Judith Morrison

Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar was the controversial Cuban leader who dominated much of the country's politics for three decades. Born in 1901 to a rural farming family in the Oriente Province, Batista was orphaned at age thirteen and left school to become a tailor's apprentice. He joined the military at the age of twenty.

On September 4, 1933, Batista led the Sergeants' Rebellion, which culminated in the appointment of President Ramón Grau San Martín and the ousting of President Manuel de Céspedes. Grau's revolutionary policies incurred the disfavor of the United States, which refused to recognize the government. In 1934, with U.S. support, Batista forced Grau's resignation. Batista ruled through a series of puppet presidents and was himself elected in 1940, defeating his rival Grau. As president from 1940to1944 Batista passed a number of reforms governing the areas of health welfare and labor ...

Article

Richard Watts

Born into a lower-middle class Haitian family in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, François Duvalier attended local primary schools and, later, the Lycée Pétion, where he was taught by his political mentor, Dumarsais Estimé. Duvalier subsequently attended medical school at the national university, earning a degree in 1934. He then turned to civil service, working for the Haitian government for the next ten years. During this time Duvalier became part of a collective known as the Griots, a group of intellectuals, inspired by the Négritude movement, who sought to glorify Haiti's African heritage.

In Le problème des classes à travers l'histoire d'Haïti (1946), Duvalier and Lorimer Denis rejected a Marxist analysis of class and claimed that the historical supremacy of the mulatto (of African and European descent) elite in Haiti was an ethnic rather than an economic phenomenon Many historians deem this work a vulgarization of the ...

Article

Mark O'Malley

General Gnassingbé Eyadéma remained in power for decades as president of the West African nation of Togo. He owes his long tenure as president to two factors—a system of patronage that brought the support of important segments of Togolese society, and personal control over the country’s military, which has consistently and often violently repressed political opposition.

According to official sources, Eyadéma was born on December 27 1936, as Étienne Gnassingbé, to Kabiyé peasants in Pya, Togo. He completed six years of school before, like other poor young Kabiyé, enlisting in the French army. He enlisted in 1953 and served in French Dahomey (now Benin), Southeast Asia, Algeria, and Niger. Upon his discharge in 1962, he returned to Togo, as did more than 600 mostly Kabiyé French veterans.

Togo s president Sylvanus Olympio refused to enlarge Togo s 150 man army to include these experienced ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Mohamed Siad Barre was born in the city of Ganane into a family of nomadic herders in what was then Italian Somaliland. He belonged to the Marehan, a subgroup of the large Somali Daarood clan. In 1941, after part of Somalia fell under British control, Siad Barre joined the police force. In 1950 he attended a military academy in Italy, returning home when Somalia achieved independence in 1960.

Siad Barre rose quickly through the ranks of the Somali National Army, reaching the position of major general and commander in chief by 1966. After the assassination of President Abdel-Rashid Ali Shermarke and a military coup d’état in October 1969, Siad Barre took power as head of the Supreme Revolutionary Council.

Barre s promise to end tribalism and forge a modern socialist state won him early support from urban intellectuals and professionals as well as the military Although ...

Article

James Davis

Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina was born in the town of San Cristóbal, located some eighteen miles from the capital, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on October 24, 1891. The period from 1930 to 1961 has been called the Era of Trujillo. During this time, Trujillo exercised power as an absolute dictator, though he occupied the presidency only from 1930 to 1938 and from 1942 to 1952. In the intervening years, he ruled through puppet presidents and maintained his position as commander of the armed forces. From 1953 until his death in 1961, he occupied the position of foreign minister.

In 1918, during the U.S. occupation of the Dominican Republic (1916–1924), Trujillo joined the National Guard established by the United States and quickly rose in its ranks. In 1927 after the Guard was renamed the National Army he became commander in chief and ...