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A. K. Bennison

Moroccan ruler, was one of the sons of Muhammad al-Shaykh of the Saʿdi or Saadian dynasty, which ruled a region roughly coterminous with modern Morocco from 1525 until c. 1610. He was born Abu Marwan Abd al-Malik to a woman called Sahaba al-Rahmaniyya who accompanied her son on his later travels through the Mediterranean. The Saʿdi dynasty came to power at an important historical juncture. During the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, Portugal had constructed numerous trading enclaves (feitorias along Morocco s Atlantic seaboard and imposed its control on much of the Gharb plain In the last decades of the fifteenth century Spain had finally conquered Muslim Granada and established a series of footholds on the Mediterranean coast of Africa At the same time both countries had established vast overseas empires At the other end of the Mediterranean the Ottomans acted as a Muslim counterbalance conquering the ...

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Haggai Erlich

North African political and military leader, was probably born in 1506 in the area between Harar and the Ogaden. Ahmad ibn Ibrahim married the daughter of Imam Mahfuz, the governor of Zeyla, who collaborated with Islamic scholars from Arabia against his master, the Sultan of Adal. Ahmad bin Ibrahim was similarly inspired by the renewed Islamic spirit and when he gained control of Harar in 1525, he refrained from adopting a political title and used only the religious designation of imam. His followers and his chronicler later called him Sahib al-fath (the lord of the conquest) or al-Ghazi (the holy warrior), for it was his conquest of Ethiopia, between 1529 and 1543, that made him so significant. In Ethiopian history, he is known as Ahmad Gragn, the left-handed.

The first half of the sixteenth century was marked by the weakening of the Solomonian dynasty s rule in Ethiopia ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Mohamed Farah Aidid was born in Italian Somaliland and trained in the military in Rome and Moscow. After returning to independent Somalia, Aidid served in the army under General Mohamed Siad Barre. When Siad Barre assumed the presidency in 1969, he appointed Aidid chief of staff of the army. Later that year, however, he began to suspect Aidid's loyalties and imprisoned him without trial for seven years on charges of treasonous conspiracy.

In 1977 Siad Barre released Aidid and welcomed him back to the administration, no doubt seeking his help for the ongoing border war against Ethiopia. The loyalties of Aidid to his former jailer are unclear, but he served Siad Barre's military administration until the late 1980s. In 1989 Aidid broke with Siad Barre and joined the United Somali Congress USC an organization dominated by the Hawiye clan The USC was one of several groups ...

Article

Kathleen Sheldon

Somali politicomilitary leader who played a central role in the collapse of the state and the large-scale violence against civilians that accompanied it, was born in the Mudug region of Somalia, into the Habr Gidir clan. His name is also spelled Maxamed Faarax Caydiid. Little is known about his early life, other than that he served with the Italian colonial police force and in the 1950s received some training in Italy and in the Soviet Union. He served under Somalian president Mohamed Siyad Barre, rising to the rank of general. He was involved in the Ogaden War of 1977–1978, in which Somalia tried and failed to take over what is now Ethiopia’s Region Five and is largely populated by Somalis.

In the 1980s Aidid began to turn against Siyad Barre and when the president suspected him of plotting against him he imprisoned Aidid for six years As ...

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Jeremy Rich

military leader and politician, was born on 21 March 1937 in the eastern Ghanaian town of Akropong. He attended secondary school at the well-known Presbyterian Boys’ Secondary School located in Odumase Krobo, Ghana. After finishing his secondary education in 1955, he joined the Ghanaian army. Eventually he entered the elite Royal Military Academy officers’ training school in Sandhurst, England, in 1958. Some of his fellow African cadets went on to organize the 1966 coup that overthrew the Nigerian First Republic. After graduating from Sandhurst in 1960 and receiving further military training in England in 1961 and 1967, Akuffo became the head officer of Ghana’s Airborne Training School at Tamale, in 1965 and 1966, and then became the commander of the Sixth Infantry Battalion in 1969. He supported the coup led by his fellow officer General Ignatius Acheampong in 1972 In the following year Akuffo ...

Article

Yoshiko Kurita

Sudanese political leader and ex-army officer, was born in 1896 (or 1892 or 1894) in Wadi Halfa, a border town between Egypt and Sudan. Both his father, ʿAbd al-Latif Ahmad (who is said to have been from the Nuba Mountains) and his mother, Sabr (who was of Dinka origin, the largest ethnic group in the South Sudan), were people from the marginalized areas in Sudan, who, as a result of the slave raids in the nineteenth century, had been uprooted from their original homes. Both had stayed for a while in al-Khandaq, a town in north Sudan, but in the course of social upheaval caused by the Mahdist movement (1881–1898 found their way to Egypt At the time of ʿAli s birth his father was serving in the Egyptian army which at that time included many Sudanese soldiers of ex slave origin On the occasion of the conquest ...

Article

Charlton W. Yingling

military and political figure on the island of Hispaniola in the early nineteenth century, identified himself as being from northern French Saint-Domingue. Despite his importance, little is known about his life, especially his early years. Because of his surname, scholars have conjectured that he was originally Muslim. He was likely enslaved in the northern part of the French colony of Saint-Domingue on the western part of the island until the outbreak of the 1791 slave insurrection that began the Haitian Revolution, after which he rebelled and joined other black troops fighting for Spain against the French Republic. Further complicating the issue are court documents in which he identified himself as ‘Paul’ and claimed he was from Saint Domingue not brought there in captivity from West Africa Regardless of his origins it is known that he accelerated through the ranks becoming a captain under Georges Biassou a leading black general ...

Article

Eric Paul Roorda

one of the principal political and military figures in the Dominican Republic for more than thirty years, was born in 1872, but the precise date is unknown and the location has been subject to debate (near Puerto Plata or in the province of Montecristi). His parents, Tomás Arias and María Eugenia Álvarez Arocha, are both said to have been the children of immigrants from Spain. They moved to the city of Montecristi, a port in the northwest corner of the country, where Arias and his father both found employment at the trading firm owned by Juan Isidro Jimenes, an entrepreneur and political leader with a large number of followers called jimenistas.

An archetypal caudillo, the tall and grandly mustachioed Arias played prominent roles in a series of watershed moments in the nation’s history. The first of these took place on 26 July 1899 when Arias conspired with ...

Article

Richard A. Bradshaw and Juan Fandos-Rius

military officer and government minister in the Central African Republic (CAR), born on 10 October 1923 at Carnot in what was then the Middle Congo but became part of Ubangi-Shari and eventually the CAR. His parents were Gbaya, the ethnic identity of most inhabitants of the Upper Sangha region where he was raised. After primary school in Upper Sangha, he studied at École préparatoire militaire Général Leclerc (Leclerc military academy) in 1946 at Brazzaville, Middle Congo, then trained to become a tank mechanic. He also qualified as a howitzer operator and, in 1950, as an assistant physical education and sports instructor. From 1951 to 1956, Banza served in the 1st Battalion of Gabon-Congo Riflemen, then as a noncommissioned officer in Morocco and Tunisia before attending the École de formation des officiers ressortisants des territoires d’outre-mer (school for training officers for service overseas) in Fréjus and Fontainebleau, France.

By ...

Article

Geoffrey Roper

Egyptian poet, diplomat, military commander, and politician, was born in Cairo on 6 October 1839. His family claimed descent from a medieval Mamluk royal line, but his surname (nisba) refers to the district of Ityay al-Barud in Lower Egypt, of which his ancestors had once been tax farmers (multazims). His father, an artillery officer under Muhammad Ali, died in Sudan when al-Barudi was only seven years old. After primary education, al-Barudi entered the Military Training School in Cairo, in 1851, and graduated from it in 1855 with the rank of bash-jawish (sergeant-major). During the reign of the viceroy Saʿid (r. 1854–1863), he served in Istanbul as a diplomat and during this time acquired a lifelong enthusiasm for literature.

In 1863 the new viceroy, Ismaʿil (r. 1863–1879 visited Istanbul and recruited al Barudi as commander of his Viceregal Guard in Cairo with the ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

political, military, and religious leader and first Caliph of the Sokoto Caliphate, was born in the town of Morona, now located in Niger, in 1780 or 1781. His father was the revolutionary Islamic cleric and leader Uthman Dan Fodio (1754–1817), and his mother was Hawwa bint Adam ibn Muhammad Agh. Bello received an advanced education in Islamic theology and law thanks to his father, and supported his father’s call for a strict adherence to orthodox Sunni interpretations of Islamic practices. Bello praised his father as a loving parent: “His face was relaxed and his manner gentle. He never tired of explaining and never became impatient if anyone failed to understand” (Boyd, 1989).

When Uthman Dan Fodio launched a series of holy wars against the nominally Islamic sultans of Hausa cities such as Kano in northern Nigeria and southern Niger Bello became an active lieutenant of his father ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

Muhammad Bello was born in Gobir, in what is now Niger. He helped his father, Usuman dan Fodio, overthrow the Hausa states and build the powerful Sokoto Caliphate, which ruled over the northern half of present-day Nigeria. In the early nineteenth century Bello’s father, a Fulani Muslim religious leader, called on the rulers of the Hausa states to abandon their corrupt ways. He organized a popular movement among the Fulani and among Hausa peasants and merchants, advocating a purer form of Islam and the application of the Shari’a, or Islamic law. Usuman first tried peaceful means, but his peaceful movement only provoked repression from the Hausa rulers. In 1804 Usuman and his followers called for a jihad, or holy war, to overthrow resistant rulers. Among those who led the military campaign was Usuman’s 23-year-old son, Muhammad Bello A capable military leader and administrator Bello was crucial ...

Article

Sterling Recker

Rwandan Hutu politician and military leader, was born in Byumba Prefecture, Gizungu Commune, Rwanda. He is considered by many to be one of the key actors in the planning and implementation of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and is one of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda’s (ICTR) most wanted perpetrators of the genocide. He has been accused of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, crimes against humanity including murder, extermination, rape, persecution, and “serious violations of Common Article 3 and Additional Protocol II (killing, outrages upon personal dignity)” (The Hague).

Between 1990 and 1994 Bizimana was allegedly involved in the planning of the genocide, including the preparation of lists which contained the names of Tutsi and moderate Hutu. Bizimana initiated his plans for Rwanda when he was appointed Defense Minister in July 1993 As Defense Minister Bizimana had ...

Article

Richard A. Bradshaw

military officer, president, and emperor of the Central African Republic/Empire, was born on 22 February 1921 at Bobangui, Lobaye region, then in the French Equatorial African territory of the Middle Congo (now part of the Central African Republic) He was the son of headman Mindogon Mgboundoulou, who was murdered at the regional colonial headquarters in the Lobaye, and Marie Yokowo, who died a week after her husband. Bokassa belonged to the same Mbaka (Ngbaka) ethnic group as Central African Republic (CAR) leaders Barthélemy Boganda and David Dacko. His grandfather MʿBalanga took care of Bokassa until 1921, when he entered the Catholic missionary école Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc at MʿBaiki. Bokassa then attended Bangui’s École de St. Louis (1928–1929), which was run by Father Charles Grüner, and an école missionnaire at Brazzaville (1929–1939). Enlisting in the French army on 19 May 1939, Bokassa became a corporal (1940 ...

Article

Eric Young

A career soldier who had endured a tragic childhood, Jean-Bédel Bokassa ruled the impoverished Central African Republic with brutal repression, used its revenues for his personal enrichment, and crowned himself emperor. He committed barbarities that caused an international outcry and led to his removal from power.

When Bokassa was six years old, his father, a village chief of the Mbaka people, was murdered. Bokassa became an orphan a week later, when his mother committed suicide. Missionaries raised him until age eighteen when, at the outbreak of World War II, Bokassa joined the French Colonial Army. He participated in the 1944 landings in Provence and later served in Indochina and Algeria, attaining the rank of captain and earning the Legion d’Honneur and the Croix de Guerre. In 1960, after Oubangui-Chari became the independent Central African Republic, Bokassa helped create its army and, in 1964 was given the rank of ...

Article

Dario A. Euraque

was born in the Department of Olancho, in eastern Honduras, in the municipality of Juticalpa. His parents were Jorge Bonilla and Dominga Chirinos. He received a rudimentary primary education in the 1850s, and enjoyed no formal high school, much less a university education. We know almost nothing of his infancy and youth, and his black and mulatto ethno-racial background are only discreetly mentioned by his major biographers. However, there is no doubt that General Bonilla was phenotypically black or mulatto, in addition to having been born in a town whose ethno-racial background was the same.

According to Jose Sarmiento, the most important historian of Olancho and Juticalpa, Bonilla’s city of birth, in 1810 in the parish registries we find that nearly all the population is registered as mulatto One of General Bonilla s lesser known biographers also affirms as much Moreover his most important biographer characterizes him as dark ...

Article

Bill Nasson

farmer, general, and first prime minister of the Union of South Africa, was born on 27 September 1862 near Greytown in the British colony of Natal. His paternal grandfather, Philip Rudolph Boot (or Both), was of German settler descent and had participated in the 1830s Boer Great Trek into the interior. The son of migrant trekkers Louis Botha and Salomina van Rooyen, Louis was the ninth of thirteen children. In 1869, the Botha family left Natal and settled on a farm near Vrede in the Orange Free State, where Louis lived until the age of twenty-two. Earlier, he had been schooled at a local German mission where he received only a very basic education.

Botha’s minimal formal learning proved to be no handicap to the development of his exceptional aptitude for fieldcraft and understanding of the working of the highveld terrain. In 1886 he settled on his ...

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James W. Riddlesperger

disability advocate and cabinet secretary, was born in Detroit, Michigan, but grew up in Chicago. He attended Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and Roosevelt College in Chicago. He graduated from Chicago City College and subsequently enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1963, serving in the Vietnam War. There he was seriously wounded when an enemy bullet shattered his right arm while he was on patrol in Da Nang, leaving him partially paralyzed. In a real sense, that injury defined the rest of Brown's career.

Upon leaving the Marine Corps in 1966 Brown joined the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), an advocacy group supporting the cause of veterans injured while in military service. The organization had been founded in 1920 and given a congressional charter in 1932 and was the official voice of America s service connected disabled veterans representing all of America s disabled veterans their families and ...

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Jonathan P. Roth

Roman military leader and politician, was born in Tusculum, a town southwest of Rome, to a wealthy landowning family. Some of his ancestors had distinguished themselves in military service, but none had ever held office in Rome or been members of the Senate. Cato’s father died when he was still a child, and he grew up on a farm he had inherited. One of his neighbors, Lucius Valerius Flaccus, belonged to a powerful Senatorial clan; he and Cato shared the idea that Rome’s traditional values were being undermined by the more sophisticated Hellenistic culture. Although both were about the same age, Flaccus became Cato’s patron, supporting him financially and politically.

Cato was seventeen when Hannibal invaded Italy in 218 BCE and like virtually every Roman male of his age he went to war Given his social class Cato probably served either in the legionary cavalry or as the commander of ...

Article

VictorHugo Acuña

was born in Cartago, Costa Rica, on 19 November 1805, and died in Granada, Nicaragua, executed by order of the filibuster William Walker, in November 1855. Corral was the son of María Gregoria Acosta, a mulatto woman and domestic slave emancipated by her master, Costa Rica’s colonial governor, Tomás de Acosta (1797–1810). His father was José Corral, a mulatto and a free pardo who was also a servant in this governor’s house. After Tomás de Acosta died, Corral’s parents continued working as his widow’s servants, who inherited them. Corral spent his childhood and youth in Cartago. There he attended elementary school and worked as a schoolteacher. The doors of social and political promotion were open for him most likely because he was able to read and write. In 1826 a Masonic lodge was founded in that city and he became one of its members Apparently ...