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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

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

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

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

Ebenezer Ayesu

lawyer, chief judge, and president of Ghana, was born at Dodowa in the Greater Accra region of the Gold Cost (now Ghana) on 26 June 1906. His father was William Martin Addo-Danquah of Akropong, Akuapem. His mother was Theodora Amuafi, also from Akropong, Akuapem. After receiving his elementary education at the Presbyterian primary and middle schools at Dodowa, he enrolled in Achimota College in 1929, from where he was awarded scholarship to study mathematics, philosophy, and politics at Saint Peter’s College, Oxford University. Akuffo-Addo was one of the first students at Saint Peter’s College, matriculating in 1930, a year after the college was established. He went on to graduate with honors in philosophy and politics in 1933. He was later made an honorary fellow of the college, and in 1971 he was made a doctor of civil law at Oxford University.

In 1940 Akuffo Addo ...

Article

María de Lourdes Ghidoli

Alfonsín was born on 12 March 1927 in the city of Chascomús, Buenos Aires Province, with Spanish and German heritage on his father’s side and British on his mother’s. He was the eldest of Ana María Foulkes and Serafín Raúl Alfonsín’s six children. He married María Lorenza Barreneche on 4 February 1949, and they also had six children: Raúl Felipe, Ana María, Ricardo Luis, Marcela, María Inés, and Javier Ignacio. Only Ricardo followed in his father’s footsteps, though he entered politics in the 1990s, after his father’s presidency.

Alfonsín spent his childhood in Chascomús, where he attended primary school. As an adolescent, he entered the Liceo Militar General San Martín (General San Martín Military High School), located in Villa Ballester (Greater Buenos Aires). From there, he graduated in 1945 at the level of second lieutenant of the reserve Later he studied at the law school of the Universidad ...

Article

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

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

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

was born on 15 July 1953 in Port Salut, a small town in the Southern Department of Haiti, to Joseph Aristide and Marie Aristide (née Pierre-Louis), both smallholder farmers. Joseph Aristide passed away three months after Jean-Bertrand’s birth, leaving him to the care of his mother and extended family. Soon thereafter, Marie Aristide moved with the then 3-year-old Jean-Bertrand to Port-au-Prince.

He initially studied at a primary school run by the Salesians of Don Bosco, a French Catholic order. Aristide’s devotion to the poor and victimized crystallized in these urban settings, where the widespread conditions of poverty and frequent public acts of violence committed by the Tonton Macoutes, the paramilitary enforcers of the dictators Francois Duvalier and Jean-Claude Duvalier (1957–1986), marked him deeply.

Having completed his primary studies, Aristide elected to join the Catholic priesthood. He entered the Salesian seminary in Cap-Haïtien, rising to novitiate in 1974 ...

Article

Gregory Freeland

Jean-Bertrand Aristide turned from his original goal of becoming a priest to serve as a reform-minded leader of the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Driven from the Haitian presidency by a military coup in 1991, Aristide returned to power in 1994 to finish his term, then took office for a second time in 2001.

Aristide was born in Port-Salut, Haiti. Soon after he was born his father died, and with his mother and sister he moved to Port-au-Prince At the age of five he became a student in a Roman Catholic school run by the order of the Salesian Brothers He learned to speak French which Haitian authorities of the time preferred to the native language known as Haitian Creole He also learned Latin Greek English Spanish and Italian When Aristide was fourteen years old he began preparation for the priesthood at the Notre Dame seminary ...

Article

Abdiweli Ali

fifth president of Somalia, was born on 15 December 1934 in the town of Gaalkacyo in the north-central Mudug region of Somalia; his name is also spelled ʿAbdullaahi Yusuf Ahmed. He later joined the Somali army and was among the first cadet officials sent to Italy in 1954 where he stayed until 1957 for his military training. From 1963 to 1968 he attended the Staff & Command College in Moscow. As an army officer, Axmed participated in the Somali-Ethiopian wars of 1964 and 1977. He was decorated for bravery and received medals in both conflicts. He strongly disapproved of Siyaad Barre and his fellow officers, who overthrew the civilian government on 21 October 1969. Shortly after he came to power, Siyaad Barre arrested him and sent him to jail for six years. He was released from prison in 1975 and appointed manager of a state agency dealing ...

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 ...

Article

A member of the Igbo people of western Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikiwe was educated at mission schools in the city of Lagos. He worked briefly as a clerk for the national treasury at Lagos, but in 1925 he left Nigeria in 1925, a stowaway on a ship bound for the United States. There, he studied history and political science while supporting himself as a coal miner, casual laborer, dishwasher, and boxer. As a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, Azikiwe became familiar with black activist Marcus Garvey and the Back to Africa movement.

In 1934 Azikiwe moved to Ghana, became editor of the Africa Morning Post, and published Liberia in World Affairs, a book about another West African nation. He published Renascent Africa in 1937 That same year he returned to Nigeria where he joined the executive committee of the Nigerian Youth ...

Article

Nigerian general, military ruler, and businessman was born on 17 August 1941 in Minna, Nigeria, to Muhamadu, a teacher, and his wife, Aishatu. After a childhood in Minna, Babangida joined the Nigerian military in 1962 and graduated from the Military Forces Training College in Kaduna in 1963. He was then sent to the Indian Military Academy in 1964 and to the British Royal Armoured Center in 1966 before returning to Nigeria in 1968, where he served as a battalion captain and was wounded in 1969 at Uzuakoli.

After the end of the Biafran civil war in 1970, Babangida was promoted to major and taught at the Nigerian Defence Academy. In 1972, he was sent to the US Army Armor School at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and upon his return was made a regimental commander in 1973. In 1975 General Murtala Muhammed led a coup against ...

Article

Ibrahim Gbadamosi Babangida, born to Muslim parents in northern Nigeria, received an education that eventually placed him among the country’s military elite. After primary school Babangida studied at the government college in Bida (1957–1962) and the Nigerian Military Training College in Kaduna (1962–1963). He traveled abroad to study with the Indian Military Academy (1964), the Royal Armoured Center in Great Britain (1966–1967), and the U.S. Army (1972). Back in Nigeria, his military studies continued at the Command and Staff College in Jaji (1977) and the Nigerian Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru (1979–1980). Long before his education was complete, however, Babangida began active military duty.

Babangida was a lieutenant by 1966. During Nigeria’s Biafran War (1967–1970) he commanded the Forty-fourth Infantry Battalion, called “The Rangers,” and won recognition as a capable leader. In 1974 the army promoted him ...

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

Eric Young

Jean-Baptiste Bagaza held power in the Central African nation of Burundi during years when conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups erupted in mass violence. Bagaza was born into a family of the ethnic Tutsi-Hima people in southern Urundi, now Burundi. After attending a local Roman Catholic school, he entered the army. Following Burundi’s independence in 1962, Bagaza went to an officer school and military school in Belgium. He returned to Burundi in 1971 to become assistant to the army chief of staff. Bagaza was related to President Michel Micombero—a connection that gave him access to high positions in government and the military. In 1972 Bagaza was placed in charge of logistics as the Tutsi dominated army carried out genocide throughout the country killing between 100 000 and 200 000 Hutu His particular role in the genocide is unclear but when it ended he was promoted ...

Article

Joaquín Balaguer was born in Villa Bisono in the Dominican Republic, on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. After studying law in the capital city of Santo Domingo, he earned a doctorate at the University of Paris. In 1930 he became involved in a conspiracy that resulted in Rafael Leónidas Trujillo seizing the presidency. During Trujillo's long and dictatorial regime, Balaguer served in various ambassadorial posts abroad and also served as the Dominican Republic's minister of education and vice president. After Trujillo's oppressive rule officially ended, the country was led by a series of puppet leaders, with Trujillo pulling their strings. Balaguer began his presidency in 1960 as one such puppet. Trujillo, however, was assassinated in 1961. Balaguer remained president but faced massive popular protests for a return to democratic rule. In 1962 a general strike forced Balaguer from power He spent the next three years ...