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Eric Bennett

Sani Abacha attended primary and secondary school in his home state of Kano and then joined the army in 1962. As a soldier he attended the Nigerian Military Training College in Kaduna State (1962–1963) and then went to England for further military schooling. Abacha achieved steady promotions as a soldier and by the mid-1980s had entered Nigeria's military elite. In 1983 he was among those who overthrew Shehu Shagari, leader of the Second Republic, in a coup that led to the military rule of Muhammadu Buhari. In 1985 Abacha participated in a second coup, which replaced Buhari with General Ibrahim Babangida, who appointed Abacha minister of defense in 1990. As head of state, Babangida announced that free elections would be held in the early 1990s. In 1993 however after Babangida nullified the results of these belated free elections Abacha staged a third coup and ...

Article

Congolese activist and prominent member of the Kwilu rebellion in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was born in Malungu on the banks of the Kwilu River in the Belgian Congo on 15 August 1945. In 1963 she joined the armed uprising led by Pierre Mulele, the leader of the rebellion and the former minister of education in Patrice Lumumba’s cabinet.

Her mother, Labon, died in childbirth, so Abo, whose name means “mourning” in Kimbundu, was raised by her adoptive parents, Awaka and Mabiungu. Despite the violent protestations of her grandmother Aney, Abo started attending primary school in the village of Lukamba in 1952. She transferred to a boarding school at the Totshi mission at the age of nine. There she was baptized and renamed Léonie Hortense. In 1957 Abo and thirteen other young girls made up the first class of assistant midwives and pediatric nurses at ...

Article

Jasper Ayelazuno

army officer and military head of state of Ghana, was born in Trabuom in the present-day Ashanti Region of southern Ghana and then part of Britain’s Gold Coast colony. He was the son of James Kwadwo Kutu Acheampong and Akua Manu. Raised as a Roman Catholic, he attended Trabuom Elementary School and St. Peter’s Catholic School in Kumasi, before receiving his secondary education at the Central College of Commerce at Swedru in the Central Region of Ghana. Having obtained his West Africa Secondary School General Certificate of Education at the ordinary level (popularly known as GCE O level) and a diploma in commerce, he worked in various places and positions. From 1945 to 1951, he was a stenographer/secretary at the Timber Sawmill in Kumasi, a teacher at Kumasi Commercial College, and the vice principal at Agona-Swedru College of Commerce.

Acheampong subsequently enlisted as a private soldier in the British ...

Article

Dominique Achille

was born to Marguerite Raymonne Ferdinand and Philéas Gustave Louis Achille on 31 August 1909 in Fort-de-France, Martinique, then a French colony. His father was the first man of color who passed “agrégation” (the highest teaching diploma in France) in the English language in 1905. Achille’s family history can be traced back to slaves who were freed in 1794. He spent his childhood and teenage years in Martinique, in an upper-middle-class family.

In 1926 he began studying English at Louis-le-Grand High School and at the Sorbonne in Paris, where Georges Pompidou and Léopold Sedar Senghor were among his peers. In the 1930s he contributed to La Revue du Monde Noir The Review of the Black World issued in Paris by his cousins Paulette and Jane Nardal This publication addressed cultural links between colored writers poets and thinkers through the world because at that time no specific review ...

Article

Stephanie Beswick

Sudanese military figure and song composer, was an Agar Dinka woman from the Nyang section born of an Yibel mother in Dinkaland in South Sudan. She is perhaps the most famous female military commander in Southern Sudanese history and also one of the most famous song composers. She became a role model for younger twentieth-century women as an example of new female leadership in a rapidly changing society.

In the early 1960s Ager Gum was living as most other Dinka women did However she experienced a series of personal misfortunes She was married three times but all her marriages failed in part because most of her children proved unable to survive the harsh health conditions of South Sudan where preventative vaccinations and medicines were rarely available The father of her sole surviving child a son named Chol demanded the return of the wedding cattle that comprised her bridewealth thus ...

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 ...

Article

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

Haggai Erlich

Ethiopian military leader, was born in the village of Tsazegga, some fifteen miles north of Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, an Italian colony at that time (1890–1941). Prior to the establishment of Asmara by Ethiopian general Ras Alula Engida in 1885, Tsazegga had for centuries been the headquarters of a local Christian family that succeeded in maintaining its autonomy. Educated in Khartoum, Aman returned to Ethiopia in 1941 with the British forces who defeated Mussolini’s African empire and restored Emperor Haile Selassie to the throne. He proceeded to distinguish himself in a brilliant military career, commanding Ethiopian UN contingents in Korea and Congo. In the Ogaden battles against the Somalis in the early 1960s, General Aman willfully ignored Haile Selassie’s orders by penetrating Somali territory. He was consequently “exiled” to the Senate in 1965 as was the practice with overly independent political figures Aman continued to ...

Article

Nelson Kasfir

military officer and President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979, was probably born in Koboko district near the Sudanese border in northwestern Uganda. Few facts about his parents, his birth date, or his upbringing can be confirmed. His mother, who was Lugbara and originally Christian, separated from his father—who was Kakwa, Muslim, and possibly a convert from Christianity—shortly after his birth and raised Amin in southern Uganda.

As a Muslim belonging to both the Kakwa and the Nubian ethnic communities, Amin received little formal education and had halting command of several languages, including Swahili and English. He practiced polygamy and married at least six women: Malyamu Kibedi and Kay Adroa (both Christians prior to marriage) in late 1966 and Nora (her full name cannot be confirmed), a Langi, in 1967. He divorced all three, according to a Radio Uganda announcement on 26 March 1974 He married Nalongo ...

Article

Juan Angola Maconde

hero of the “Chaco War” (an armed conflict between Bolivia and Paraguay over the oil-rich Gran Chaco region, which lasted from 1932 to 1935), was born on 29 June 1906 in the hacienda (plantation) of Coscoma, Coripata Township, in the Nor Yungas Province of the department of La Paz, Bolivia. His parents were Tomás and Rosa Peralta Andavérez, and he had three siblings: Zenón, Valentina, and Alzira. The hacienda belonged to José Gamarra Zorrilla, a landowner nicknamed “the King of Coca.” In the early twentieth century, Coscoma had a significant Afro-descendant presence, but by the latter half of the twentieth century (and continuing into the early twenty-first century), Afro-descendants were a minority in relation to the Aymara indigenous population with whom they coexisted. In 1911 at the age of 5 Andavérez fled with his parents from the plantation where they worked motivated by the ill treatment they suffered ...

Article

Juan Angola Maconde

was born on 22 June 1965 in Chillamani, in the municipality of Coripata, in the Nor Yungas Province of the department of La Paz, Bolivia. He was the son of Petronila Landavery and Benigno Angola. Angola is a common surname among the Afro-descendant population of Bolivia, which is estimated to number about 18,000, out of a national population of 11 million; like Demetrio and his family, most Afro-Bolivians live in the Yungas region. Although the Afro-Bolivian population is one of the smallest in South America, it is also one of the oldest, originating in the late sixteenth century with Africans (many from the Angola region of Africa) brought as slave labor to work the silver mines in Bolivia’s mountains.

Demetrio Angola attended the Luis Rivero Sanchez School and then the Eduardo Abaroa School both in Coripata His sports teacher Felipe Torres coached Angola the year he represented his school at ...

Article

Charles Orson Cook

one of the most prolific white scholars of African American history in the twentieth century. Herbert Aptheker was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1915 and was educated at Columbia University in the 1930s, where he took an undergraduate degree in geology and an MA and a PhD in history. His first important publication, American Negro Slave Revolts (1943), was based on his doctoral dissertation and challenged the prevailing wisdom that slaves were largely passive victims of white masters. In part an outgrowth of Aptheker's master's thesis on Nat Turner, American Negro Slave Revolts immediately became a controversial work and has remained so since. He was befriended by the influential African American historian Carter G. Woodson and the legendary black intellectual W. E. B. Du Bois, both of whom encouraged his interest in Negro history. Aptheker's other writings include a seven-volume Documentary History of the Negro People ...

Article

Sterling Recker

Rwandan military officer, was born into a northern middle-class Hutu family in Gisenyi, Giciye Commune. He was the oldest of six children and the son of a teacher. He attended the Petit Séminaire (minor seminary) St. Pie X in the diocese of Nyundo for his primary education. Upon graduating from the minor seminary, Bagosora began his military training at the officers’ training school in Kigali in 1962. In 1981 Bagosora traveled to France to attend the Études Militaires Supérieures de l École de Guerre Française where he received further training at the elite school He was the first Rwandan to attend the foreign academy Upon his return to Rwanda he began his tenure as commander of the Kanombe military camp located outside of Kigali He married Isabelle Uzanyinzoga a Hutu from southern Rwanda which caused friction between Juvénal Habyarimana and other hard line northern Hutus in the government ...

Article

Crystal L. Keels

missile engineer, trailblazer, and advocate for social reform, was born in 1924 in Detroit, Michigan to parents Carrie and Chester Banfield. His grandfather Moses was born into slavery and managed to move his family up North. The family moved to Detroit from Dublin, Georgia during the Great Migration and settled in Black Bottom, near the Detroit River. Moses brought his wife, Odessa, who was half Blackfoot Indian, and their five sons and four daughters to live a better life outside of the South.

One of six siblings William Banfield s early interests included a love of learning As a child he was particularly inspired by the story of the black revolutionary Toussaint Louverture in Haiti that he read about in an adventure book Reading was an important part of his life and in grammar school he was chosen to represent his school for his work on ...

Article

Pedro L V Welch

was born to the Reverend Reginald Grant Barrow and his wife, Ruth Alberta Barrow (née O’Neal), in St. Lucy Parish, Barbados, on 21 January 1920. His family lineage provided some of the strong influences that would eventually lead him to local and Caribbean prominence. His father was certainly not averse to using the pulpit to challenge the prevailing racist social and economic order. Indeed, in 1922 he was deported from St. Croix for his radical comments in a local newspaper. He eventually migrated to the United States, leaving his children behind. There can be little doubt that Reverend Barrow’s radical stance played an important role in the later development of Errol Barrow’s political philosophy.

Errol Barrow s uncle Charles Duncan O Neal was another pivotal influence in the young Barrow s life O Neal a medical doctor who was trained at Edinburgh University in Scotland returned to the Caribbean ...

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

Jeremy Rich

military leader, was born in the village of Abumobazi in the Mobayi-Mongo in the northern Equateur Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. His parents belonged to Ngbandi-speaking clans, which later would be helpful as he aligned himself with Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. After attending primary school, Bobozo ended up volunteering for the colonial Force Publique army in the Equateur town of Lisala on 28 June 1933. He was transferred to Irebu later in 1933, followed by Thysville in 1934, and Kisangani in 1935. On 1 May 1938 Bobozo advanced to corporal, and during World War II was stationed initially in the remote northeastern town of Watsa. However, he left the Congo to join the Allied invasion of Italian-controlled Ethiopia in 1941 He then returned to his homeland After receiving a distinguished service medal for his war experience from the Belgian government Bobozo ...

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 ...