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Article

Ndeh Martin Sango

politician and first president of the Republic of Cameroon, was born in August 1924 in Garoua, an inland river port on the Benue River in the northern Sahel region of Cameroon. The son of a Fulani chief, he had a humble upbringing. He started his secondary education in Garoua and later switched to Yaounde, the national capital. After his secondary education, he served as a career civil servant until 1946, when he started taking an interest in politics. As a civil service worker, Ahidjo worked as a radio operator for the post office until 1946, when he ventured into territorial politics.

With his ever-growing interest in politics, Ahidjo was elected as the representative of the Benue region of northern Cameroon to the colony’s first Representative Assembly, which was gradually transformed into the broad-based Territorial Assembly. Reelected in 1952 his growing popularity and powerful ambitions in Cameroon politics ...

Article

Eric Young

Born and raised as a Muslim in the northern administrative center of Garoua, Ahmadou Ahidjo attended secondary school and college in Yaoundé. After working for several years as a radio operator, Ahidjo turned to politics. His 1949 election to the Cameroon representative assembly was followed by election in the 1950s to the territorial and union assemblies. He built a strong power base among the northern elite, composed of Fulbé notables and Hausa merchants. As head of the northern Union Camerounaise (UC), Ahidjo became vice prime minister in the pre-independence coalition government with the Union of the Population of Cameroun (UPC). When the coalition collapsed in 1958, Ahidjo formed a new government, calling for immediate independence while reassuring France that close ties would be maintained.

On the first day of 1960, Cameroon became independent with Ahidjo as president He ruled Cameroon for the next twenty two years Realizing ...

Article

Walter Clarke

Somali Issa Abgal Mamassan, president of the Republic of Djibouti (1977–1999), was born on 15 October 1919 in the village of Garissa in present-day Somaliland. His parents were nomads from the Loyada area, which is located at the frontier with the former British Somaliland. According to his official biography, he left the nomadic life as a young man, and “on his own,” he was admitted to a Roman Catholic mission school in Djibouti, where he graduated from the primary school. As a young man, he earned his living doing odd jobs in the port and later taught in a primary school.

However, Hassan Gouled’s true love was politics. In 1946 he joined the Club de la Jeunesse Somali et Dankali a political group founded by Mahamoud Harbi His philosophical differences with Harbi quickly became evident He was elected representative in the Territorial Council in which he served ...

Article

Gloria Chuku

journalist and president of Nigeria, was born into the family of Obededan Chukwuemeka Azikiwe, a clerk with the Nigerian Regiment of the West African Frontier Force in the northern Nigerian Hausa town of Zungeru. Later known affectionately as Zik, as a child, Nnamdi learned Hausa before his parents sent him to Onitsha, their Igbo hometown, for his primary education in 1912. In 1918, he graduated from Christ Church School, Onitsha, and he briefly taught there as a pupil teacher (1918–1920).

His education also took him to the Efik town of Calabar where he enrolled in the prestigious Hope Waddell Training Institute Following his father s transfer to Lagos Nnamdi moved with the family and enrolled at the Wesleyan Boys High School Lagos a predominant Yoruba town By the time he graduated from high school Nnamdi had acquired three major Nigerian languages Hausa Igbo and Yoruba and ...

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Gloria Chuku

A renowned Nigerian nationalist, a powerful orator and philosopher, a frontline politician, and a first-class journalist, Nnamdi Azikiwe was born in 1904 into the family of Obededan Chukwuemeka Azikiwe, a clerk with the Nigerian Regiment of the West African Frontier Force in Zungeru town of northern Nigeria. Nnamdi started his primary education in 1912. His education took him to Onitsha (his hometown), Calabar, and Lagos. After his secondary education, he joined the Treasury Department in Lagos as a clerk in 1921. Armed with a sense of dignity and self-worth his father instilled in him, and strong encouragement from the Rev. James Kwegyr Aggrey, a distinguished black minister and activist, Azikiwe left Nigeria in 1925 for further studies in the United States. By 1934 Azikiwe had earned an Associate Degree a Bachelor s two Master s and ABD degrees from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania Howard University in Washington ...

Article

Alexandre Hatungimana

president of Burundi (1976–1987), was born in Rutovu (province of Bururi), to a Tutsi-Hima family of the Bashingo clan. After primary and secondary studies in the Catholic schools of the capital, Bujumbura, he undertook a military career that led him to the École Royale des Cadets in Belgium from 1966 to 1971. Returning to his country the same year, he was named adjunct chief of staff for the Burundian army in 1972. On 1 November 1976, he overthrew General Michel Micombero, a Tutsi officer also from the commune of Rutovu, who had abolished the monarchy and installed the First Republic ten years earlier.

As head of the Supreme Revolutionary Council Bagaza relied on the army dominated by officers originating from the south of the country He restructured the only political party Union pour le Progrès national UPRONA Union for National Progress for which he organized ...

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

Owen J. M. Kalinga

Malawi's first female president, and the second female head of state in postcolonial Africa, was born Joyce Mtila on 12 April 1950 in Ntogolo Village Traditional Authority Malemia Zomba District Ntogolo the site of the Domasi Church of Scotland Mission and from the early 1930s the home of the Jeanes Training College was one of the centers of education in colonial Malawi Her father Gray Mtila was in the colonial police service serving for a long time in Zomba town and her mother Edith was a homemaker and later a retail assistant in one of the Peoples Trading Center establishments Joyce Mtila attended primary schools in Zomba district and after completing high school at Providence Secondary School she trained in office management and worked for some years during which time she married Roy Kachale The union produced three children For part of the 1970s the Kachales lived in Nairobi ...

Article

Peter Woodward

president of Sudan, was born near the town of Shendi, north of the capital, Khartoum, into a modest family. After school, he decided to join the army, which was then in power and offered good opportunities for a man with his background. During his army career, Bashir studied in military colleges in Sudan and Egypt, and in 1973 he fought with the Egyptian army in the October War with Israel. He also became a paratrooper and served in southern Sudan during the civil wars there.

During the 1980s Sudan was moving toward becoming an Islamic state. In 1983 the then president, Jaʾafar al-Nimeiry, introduced sharia, Islamic law. In the army there were sympathizers with this move, and Bashir became a follower of the leading Muslim ideologist of the time, Dr. Hasan al-Turabi. With the war in the south going badly, it seemed early in 1989 that the government ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Ahmed Ben Bella was born in Maghnia, Algeria. After fighting for the French during World War II, Ben Bella returned home to witness the colonial administration’s crackdown on the Algerian population. During the crackdown, the French bombed Islamic villages and killed thousands of Muslims in response to the 1945 anticolonial riots in the Sétif region. Inspired to join the growing Algerian independence movement, Ben Bella worked with several illegal revolutionary groups until he was arrested and imprisoned by the French in 1950.

After escaping from prison in 1952, Ben Bella joined other exiled anticolonial leaders, including Mohamed Boudiaf and Hocine Aït Ahmed, in Cairo, Egypt. Together they helped found the main revolutionary party, the Algerian National Liberation Front (Front de Libération Nationale, or FLN). Ben Bella was an arms procurer for the FLN in 1956 when he was captured aboard a plane ...

Article

Kenneth J. Perkins

president of the Republic of Tunisia (1987–2011), was born on 3 September 1936 in Hammam Sousse. As a militant student and youth organizer for the Neo-Dustur nationalist party, he was arrested by the French. Following Tunisian independence in 1956, the party rewarded his services by sending him to France for a military education. Upon returning to Tunisia, he embarked on a career in the national army, attaining the rank of general and director general of national security from 1977 until 1980. Following a posting as ambassador to Poland, he returned to the national security field in 1984. Ministerial level appointments followed, including National Security in 1985 and the Interior in 1986. His designation by President Habib Bourguiba as prime minister in October 1987 placed him first in line for the presidential succession When a medical team declared Bourguiba incapable of fulfilling his duties ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Algerian anticolonial leader and politician, was born on 25 December 1916 in the town of Maghnia in western Algeria. His family was relatively affluent, and he was the youngest child of five boys and several girls.

Although Ben Bella’s father was a practicing Muslim, Ben Bella himself never managed to master Arabic. He attended primary schools in Maghnia and graduated in 1930. Ben Bella was a phenomenal football (soccer) player at school, and he seriously considered becoming a professional athlete. However, he ended up joining the French army and served in numerous campaigns during World War II. His bravery and skill made him a legend in his own unit, and he eventually reached the rank of Sergeant Major. At the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy, he carried his wounded company commander 1500 yards to safety and then took charge of the company Charles De Gaulle his future ...

Article

Owen J. M. Kalinga

president of the Republic of Malawi, was born Brightson Webster Ryson Thom in February 1934 in the Thyolo district of the Shire Highlands, Malawi. Later, he changed his name to Bingu wa Mutharika to reflect his Lomwe origins and his nationalist sentiments. Bingu, as he is popularly known, attended local schools and, after his secondary education, he went to the University of Delhi, India, on a scholarship, and received a bachelor’s degree in commerce and a master’s degree in commerce and economics. Upon his return to Malawi, he became a civil servant, but after a few years he left for Zambia, where he also worked for the government. In the early 1970s, he joined the World Bank in Washington, working mainly in its loans section and, in 1978 he moved to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Addis Ababa Ethiopia In the 1980s he was one of the ...

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

Jeremy Rich

Tunisian politician and anticolonial activist, was born on 3 August 1903 in the Tunisian town of Monastir, located roughly 100 kilometers south of the capital of Tunis. His family was relatively poor, but several of his seven siblings raised enough money to send Bourguiba to French-run schools in Tunis.

Bourguiba attended the College Sadiki middle school and the Lycée Carnot secondary school. After Bourguiba passed his baccalaureate examinations in 1924, he moved to Paris to study law and political science. Bourguiba spent three years studying before he received his law degree. During that time, he met a Frenchwoman named Mathilde Lorain, and they married in 1927. On 9 April 1927 Mathilde gave birth to their first child and only son Habib Bourguiba Jr He then returned with his new family to Tunis Since the decade before World War I Western educated Tunisians had protested discriminatory policies on ...

Article

Owen J. M. Kalinga

politician and two-time vice president of Malawi, was born on 23 April 1939 in Karonga, Nyasaland (now Malawi), the home district of his mother, NyauSowoya. He completed his primary school at Mhuju in Rumphi, where his brother, Clement Chihana, taught and saw him through school, their father having died when Chakufwa was young. Although a Presbyterian, the dominant denomination in the area, Chihana went to Mtendere Secondary School, where he completed the junior certificate of education (JC).

He started work while still very young, joining the colonial civil service, and later, the private sector. In 1958 Chihana became publicity secretary of the General Workers Union and also edited its magazine A year later the union appointed him as its secretary general in which capacity he organized workers in establishments such as the Imperial Tobacco Group ITG and Malawi Railways both of which were major employers In the 1950s ...

Article

Kathleen Sheldon

anticolonial activist, president of Mozambique, and United Nations envoy, was born on 22 October 1939 to a Shangaan family in the rural Gaza province of southern Mozambique. One of his earliest political accomplishments occurred when he registered as the first and at that time only black student at the Liceu Salazar in Lourenço Marques (present-day Maputo). Chissano became a member and leader of the Núcleo dos Estudantes Africanos Secundários de Moçambique (NESAM; Nucleus of Mozambican Secondary Students), where he first met Eduardo Mondlane, later the leader of the Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO; Liberation Front of Mozambique). In 1960 Chissano went to study medicine in Lisbon, Portugal, where he was involved in anticolonial activism and in 1961 was forced to flee Portugal for France and then Tanzania. During his time in Europe he worked with western nations to gain support for the nascent anticolonial struggle in Mozambique.

Chissano was ...

Article

Sten Hagberg

president of Burkina Faso, was born on 3 February 1951 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (then called Upper Volta). Compaoré is of Mossi origin from Ziniaré, a town some 37 miles (60 kilometers) north of Ouagadougou. Compaoré married Chantal Terrasson de Fougères of Ivorian origin in 1985; they have one daughter.

He received his baccalaureate in 1972. In the 1970s he received military training in Yaoundé, Cameroon, followed by special training in France and Morocco, during which he met Thomas Sankara. Both men participated in the 1982 coup d’état of the Conseil de Salut de Peuple, which was a prelude to the 1983 revolution in Burkina Faso (called Upper Volta until 1984) that brought Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo to power. When Prime Minister Sankara was arrested by President Ouédraogo in May 1983, the resistance was led by Compaoré.

Compaoré was a key figure in the Conseil National de ...

Article

Chris Saunders

the last state president of apartheid South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was born in Johannesburg on 18 March 1936, the son of a leading National Party (NP) politician. Widely known, from his initials, as F. W., the younger de Klerk practiced law before entering politics. After being elected as a member of Parliament for the Vereeniging constituency in 1972, he rose rapidly through the ranks of the NP until he became leader of the party in early 1989 and state president in September that year. He held that position until May 1994, when Nelson Mandela succeeded him. He then became one of two deputy-presidents under Mandela until mid-1996, when he left the government of national unity and became leader of the opposition in Parliament. He retired as leader of the NP and from politics in September 1997.

De Klerk was a key figure in ...

Article

José Eduardo Santos rose to political power in the Central African nation of Angola through the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola Party (MPLA). At the age of thirty-seven he became the second president of Angola. Born in Luanda, Santos joined the Marxist MPLA’s youth organization as a boy and enlisted in its guerrilla army at the age of nineteen. An MPLA scholarship sent him to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR, now Russia and a number of other independent republics) to study from 1963 to 1970. After graduating with degrees in petroleum engineering and radar telecommunications, Santos served as MPLA representative in Yugoslavia and the People’s Republic of the Congo (later known as Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) before advancing to the party’s central committee in 1974. After Angola achieved independence from Portugal in 1975 Santos held important ministerial posts ...