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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

Mohammed Hassen Ali

last king of the kingdom of Jimma in Ethiopia, scholar, was born in Jiren, the political capital and commercial center of southwestern Ethiopia. As a young man Abba Jobir received the best Muslim education under several prominent Muslim scholars who settled in Jimma during the reign of his famous grandfather Abba Jifar II (r. 1878–1932).

His grandfather was the most famous, wealthiest, and most popular Oromo king throughout Ethiopia during the second half of the nineteenth century. He was a very foresighted politician who had an excellent grasp of the importance of firearms in warfare. He sent agents to the expanding kingdom of Shewa and realized that King Menilek had superiority in weapons; therefore, he peacefully submitted to Menilek. Although four other Oromo kings who resisted Menilek were destroyed, Abba Jifar II signed a peace treaty with the Christian king of Shewa in 1882 In exchange for local ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Algerian politician and public intellectual, was born on 24 October 1899 in the village of Chahna, located six miles south of the Algerian town of Taher. His parents belonged to a peasant family, and his father, Said Ahmed ben Abbas, was a local chief and cattle trader. Abbas had eleven siblings. His father was the state-appointed leader of Chahna from 1889 to 1928.

As a boy Abbas attended primary schools at Jijel and then entered secondary school at the lycée at Skikda in 1909. After Abbas passed his baccalaureate examinations, he entered the French army medical service for three years. Afterward, Abbas enrolled in the pharmacy school of the University of Algiers. In 1931 he set up his own pharmacy in Sétif after having graduated from university Abbas strongly supported the ideal of equal rights for Arab and Berber Muslims and European Christians in Algeria under French ...

Article

secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia El Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario Front) and president of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, was born on 17 August 1947 near Smara (he is also reported to have been born in Marrakech around 1948). His name is also spelled Mohamed Abdelaziz. He is a member of the Foqra faction within the tribal confederation of Rguibat.

In 1958 the French and Spanish colonial forces launched a military campaign against the southern liberation movement. His family was forced to resettle in Tan-Tan. In the early 1960s he did his primary and secondary schooling in Smara and Bou Izakarn. By the late 1960s he had moved to Casablanca and then Rabat, where he continued his university undergraduate education at Mohamed V University. In 1970 he became a member of the Rabat based Embryonic Movement for the Liberation of ...

Article

Ellis Goldberg

Egyptian jurist, government official, and author of one of the most important and controversial books of the twentieth century on Islam and politics, Islam and the Foundations of Governance. This short book, published in 1925, caused a storm of protest, and ʿAbd al-Raziq was arraigned before a jury of Egyptian religious leaders (including the grandfather of the late-twentieth-century al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri) and officially stripped of his status as a religious scholar (ʿalim).

Abd al-Raziq was born in the Upper Egyptian province of Minya to a well-known and relatively well-off family. He studied at Al-Azhar University. Although he was too young to have known the prominent Egyptian ʿalim Muhammad Abduh (d. 1905), his work appears to have been influenced by Abduh’s break with prevailing orthodoxy. Abduh was the highest jurisconsult (mufti) in Egypt at the time of his death. In 1915 ʿAbd al Raziq became a ...

Article

leader of the Mahdist movement in Sudan, was the posthumous son of Muhammad Ahmad ibn ʿAbdallah, the Mahdi, and of Maqbula bint Nurayn Muhammad al-Fadl, a princess of the Fur royal house. He spent much of his childhood at Omdurman, where he and his relatives were subordinated to the Khalifa Abdallahi. During the Anglo-Egyptian pacification of the country after the battle of Omdurman (1898), he was wounded in an affray that left two of his brothers dead.

Until World War I the family of the Mahdi suffered from the colonial regime’s policy of suppressing the Mahdist cult and guarding against religious heterodoxy in general. Alarmed, however, at the possible effects in Sudan of the Ottoman sultan’s alliance with the Central Powers in 1914 the Anglo Egyptian regime conciliated the major Sufi leaders and ʿAbd al Rahman the generally accepted successor to leadership of the Mahdist movement Proving ...

Article

Cajetan N. Iheka

Nigerian entrepreneur, philanthropist, politician, and publisher, was born on 24 August 1937 in the southwestern town of Egba, Abeokuta, in the present-day Ogun State, to Alhaji Salawu Adelekan Akanni Abiola and Zeliat Wuraola Ayinke Abiola (née Kassim). Although Abiola was the twenty-third child of his parents, he was their first surviving child as his older siblings had died at infancy or were stillborn. Because of several deaths that had plagued the family, Abiola was named “Kashimawo,” meaning “Let us wait and see.” It was not until his fifteenth birthday that his parents gave him a regular name, Moshood, having been convinced that the young Abiola had come to stay.

Although he was born and raised in a poor family the young Abiola exhibited some entrepreneurial tendencies when he started gathering and selling firewood at the tender age of nine With the proceeds from his business he was able to support ...

Article

On June 12 1993, the popular businessman Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola won a long-awaited presidential election in Nigeria, only to have the country's military leader, Ibrahim Babangida, annul the election results. When Abiola declared himself the country's legitimate leader a year later, Babangida's successor, General Sani Abacha, jailed him for treason. As a political prisoner, Abiola became the rallying symbol for Nigerians’ democratic aspirations.

Abiola was born into a poor, polygamous household of Yoruba-speaking Muslims in the ancient town of Abeokuta None of his parents first twenty two children had survived past infancy so Abiola the twenty third was given the middle name Kashimawo meaning Let s see if he will survive He began his education at the Islamic Nawar Ud Deen School and then transferred to the Christian run African Central School As an indigent student at the Baptist Boys High School Abiola ...

Article

Mussie Tesfagiorgis

Eritrean intellectual, businessman, and politician, was born in the village of Ma’ereba, southeast of Asmara. Abreha Tesemma is the son of one of the famous Eritrean chiefs and statesmen, Raesi Tesemma Asmerom Untura. As a young man, Abreha Tesemma attended both local church and Western school, which enabled him to become one of the most accomplished Eritrean scholars and politicians of his time, as well as a renowned agriculturalist and artist. He mastered a number of languages including Italian, Geez, and Amharic; his paintings fused Eritrean and Western themes and styles. For the greatest part of his life, he was engaged in agricultural activities, business, politics, and painting.

Abreha Tesemma s father Raesi Tesemma Asmerom served as principal chief of at least two districts in the province of Akkele Guzay Hadegti and Egella Hames Based on oral sources Raesi Tesemma was highly respected for his strategies of local conflict resolution ...

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

Richard A. Bradshaw and Juan Fandos-Rius

politician in the Central African Republic (CAR), was born 3 December 1928 in Zémio in the southeastern part of the French colony of Ubangi-Shari to Ngbaka Manza parents from Damara in central Ubangi-Shari. He attended the École des cadres supérieurs (school for upper-level cadres) in Brazzaville, then the École normale d’instituteurs (teacher training college) at Mouyondzi in the Middle Congo. These were schools that provided training for promising students from all over French Equatorial Africa (FEA), and so young Adama-Tamboux came to know many future leaders of the independent states which would later emerge in this region during the process of decolonization.

In 1950 Adama Tamboux attended a professional training course for one year at the École normale de Saint Cloud Saint Cloud teacher training school in Paris He then returned to Ubangi Shari where he was appointed head of the school district in Ouham province a primarily Gbaya ...

Article

Marika Sherwood

politician, was born in the Akyem Abuakwa in the eastern section of the British colony of the Gold Coast. His father was a farmer and trader. He attended the Presbyterian Primary School in the village and then the Presbyterian senior school in Labadie, Accra, where he passed the Cambridge University Entrance Examination. In 1936 he was employed as a clerk in the Colonial Secretary's office, but left in 1939 for the US in pursuit of higher education at Lincoln University.

There were eight Nigerian students there then, as well as two other Gold Coasters: Kwame Nkrumah and K.A.B. Jones-Quartey. Most were politically active and on their return home joined struggles for independence. Adjei graduated in 1942 and then enrolled at Columbia University to study journalism.

In 1942 he became one of the founders of the African Students Association of America and Canada ASA and served as its director ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Congolese politician, was born on 13 September 1921 in Kinshasa, then part of the Belgian Congo and subsequently the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo. His father was a dockworker from the Bangala ethnic community from the northwestern Équateur Province. Adoula attended a Catholic missionary primary school and then graduated from the Saint Joseph Institute in Kinshasa. He then worked from 1941 to 1952 as a clerk in a series of different commercial firms. The Central Bank of Congo hired Adoula to a senior position in 1952, which marked the first time any African had held an important post with this firm. He joined the Conseil pour le Travail et la Prévoyance in 1948, a group of well-educated Congolese calling for limited social services from the government.

In 1954 Adoula joined the Belgian socialist party He then joined the Fédération Générale de Travailleurs Belge FGTB ...

Article

David P. Johnson

As a leader of the largest rebel force in Eritrea's independence struggle, Isaias Afwerki strove to unify peoples of diverse cultures and religious beliefs. Since assuming office, he has been widely praised for his pragmatism and modesty and for maintaining a regime free of corruption. Like Rwanda's Paul Kagame, Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, and Ethiopia's Meles Zenawi, Afwerki belongs to what has been called Africa's “new generation” of leaders, all of whom are known for their military backgrounds and for their tactical rather than ideological approach to leadership.

Isaias Afwerki was born in Asmara, Eritrea, at a time when the fate of the former Italian colony was in limbo. By the time he graduated from the elite Prince Makonnen Secondary School in Asmara in 1965, Ethiopia had annexed Eritrea, and Eritrean opponents to the despotic rule of Emperor Haile Selassie were preparing for all out warfare ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

human rights activist and politician, was born in the southern Togolese town of Kouvé on 31 December 1943. His father, Soklou Agboyibo, and his mother, Doafio, were both Catholics from the Mina ethnic community. After completing his primary and secondary studies in Togo, Agboyibo traveled abroad for his graduate education. He received degrees from institutions of higher learning in France, the Ivory Coast, and Senegal. He was a lawyer by training and chose to remain in Togo under the brutal dictatorship of Étienne Gnassingbé Eyadéma in the 1980s. Eyadéma’s regime nevertheless allowed Agboyibo to run for a seat in the Togolese parliament in 1985 as an independent, even though Togo was a one-party state at the time. Two years later, Agboyibo formed the Commission Nationale des Droits de l’Homme (CNDH), a human rights organization that condemned many of the human rights violations of the Eyadéma regime.

Agboyibo received international ...

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

nationalist leader and first prime minister of independent Djibouti, was born in the Mabla mountain area north of Obock, Afar. Ahmed Dini Ahmed was fired by an intense sense of social justice and fairness and worked at one time or another with all of Djibouti’s early preindependence leaders with the objective of facilitating an independent government in which all ethnic groups would work together for the betterment of all citizens. The failure of his close friendship with Hassan Gouled Aptidon immediately after independence was a personal blow to both of them, but was probably inevitable in two such committed but divergent individuals. Ahmed Dini had a political career roughly parallel to that of Hassan Gouled. He completed his primary school in Djibouti and then worked as a nurse’s aide. He became interested in politics at a young age. In 1959 after Gouled had been elected to the French National ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Beninese political leader and historian, was born sometime in the late nineteenth century into a powerful Wegbaja family. His family claimed descent from Glele, the powerful ruler of the Dahomey Kingdom in the late nineteenth century.

Despite his important role in colonial politics and anthropological research in Benin from the 1930s until the 1950s, little published work sheds light on his early background. Aho served in the French military as a young man and spoke and wrote fluently in French. He probably received his primary and secondary education in Benin. Aho’s entrance into politics came during the turbulent 1920s and early 1930s. Benin, known under French rule as the colony of Dahomey, became home to a small but very vocal movement of Western-educated African urban elites who called for improved legal and political rights for coastal Beninese elites. From the turn of the twentieth century to 1945 ...

Article

Beninese politician, was born on 16 January 1917 in Abomey, the former capital of the kingdom of Dahomey, which was then part of French West Africa. He claimed to be a member of the large Dahoman royal family through his mother. During his political career, he would highlight this connection to obtain support from members of his own Fon ethnic community. Ahomadégbé came from a relatively affluent family. He attended primary school in Abomey and then was admitted into the prestigious École William Ponty secondary school in Dakar, Senegal. École William Ponty was widely regarded as the best secondary school in French West Africa during the colonial period. After passing his baccalaureate examinations, he went to dentistry school at the School of Medicine in Dakar. With the advent of World War II in 1939 Ahomadégbé served in the French army and attained the rank of sergeant before France s ...