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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

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

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 ...

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

physician and president of Malawi from 1964 to 1994, was born in about 1896 at Mphonongo, approximately 18 miles (29 kilometers) east of the headquarters of the present-day Kasungu district. Given the name, Kamunkhwala, denoting the medicine that his mother took to enable conception, Banda attended two local junior elementary schools of the Livingstonia Mission of the Church of Scotland. In 1908, he went to the more established school at Chilanga Mission where, in that year, Dr. George Prentice baptized him as Akim Kamunkhwala Mtunthama Banda. He was to drop all three names and replace them with Hastings Walter (after a Scottish missionary, John Hastings), before finally settling on Hastings Kamuzu Banda, substituting kamuzu (root) for Kamunkhwala.

In 1914 Banda passed three standard exams a mandatory step to continue to the full primary school level the satisfactory completion of which was the highest qualification one could attain ...

Article

Known as the “Lion of Malawi,” Ngwazi Hastings Kamuzu Banda was also known as the dictator who showed so little appreciation for his country’s people and culture that he was sometimes suspected of being an American impostor. Kamuzu Banda was born to Chewa peasants in a village near Kasunugu, Nyasaland (present-day Malawi). No birth records were kept at the time; while his official year of birth is 1906, other sources cite 1898. As a child Banda left the household of his maternal grandmother and entered a newly established school built by Church of Scotland missionaries. Influenced by his uncle, Hanock Phiri, Banda converted to Christianity and adopted the surname of missionary John Hastings.

Shortly after completing primary school, Banda traveled with his uncle to South Africa (supposedly walking the 1667 km [1000 mi]), where they initially worked in a coal mine in Dundee, Natal. Upon reaching Johannesburg ...

Article

Andy DeRoche

president of Zambia, was born 19 February 1937 at Gwanda in Zimbabwe (then known as Southern Rhodesia), where his Zambian parents had moved for work. Banda spent his early years in Zimbabwe but was sent to Zambia (then known as Northern Rhodesia) for his education. He attended primary school at Katete in Eastern Province, the region from which his family originated. He completed his secondary school education at the elite Munali School in Lusaka. After studying at the University of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, he transferred to Lund University in Sweden and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economic history in 1964.

While at university in Lund he served as the representative for northern Europe for the United National Independence Party (UNIP). As one of few individuals with a college degree at the time Zambia neared independence from Britain in 1964 Banda attracted the positive attention of Kenneth ...

Article

Judith Morrison

Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar was the controversial Cuban leader who dominated much of the country's politics for three decades. Born in 1901 to a rural farming family in the Oriente Province, Batista was orphaned at age thirteen and left school to become a tailor's apprentice. He joined the military at the age of twenty.

On September 4, 1933, Batista led the Sergeants' Rebellion, which culminated in the appointment of President Ramón Grau San Martín and the ousting of President Manuel de Céspedes. Grau's revolutionary policies incurred the disfavor of the United States, which refused to recognize the government. In 1934, with U.S. support, Batista forced Grau's resignation. Batista ruled through a series of puppet presidents and was himself elected in 1940, defeating his rival Grau. As president from 1940to1944 Batista passed a number of reforms governing the areas of health welfare and labor ...

Article

Cyril Daddieh

former diplomat, cabinet minister, president of the National Assembly, second president of Ivory Coast, and first president to be deposed by the Ivorian armed forces, was born in Dadiékro, in central Ivory Coast. A member of the Baulé ethnic group that dominated the Ivorian political economy since the early 1940s, Bédié was a favored protégé of President Félix Houphouët-Boigny.

He studied law and economics in France at the University of Poitiers, after which he joined the Ivorian civil service in the waning years of French colonial rule in 1960 and was sent to study at the French Foreign Ministry. Two months later, he was named councillor at the French Embassy in Washington. Only twenty-seven years old at independence in August 1960 Bédié became Ivory Coast s chargé d affaires and shortly thereafter ambassador to the United States He also established the Ivorian mission to the United Nations in New York ...

Article

Henri-Konan Bédié was born in Dadiékro, in central Côte d’Ivoire. A member of the Baule ethnic group, which has dominated the nation’s politics and cocoa interests since independence, he attended schools in Côte d’Ivoire and France before completing a doctoral degree in economics from the University of Poitiers in France. He entered the Côte d’Ivoire civil service in 1960 during the Côte d’Ivoire’s final months as a French colony, serving as diplomatic counselor at the French Embassy in the United States. From 1961 to 1966 he was Côte d’Ivoire’s first ambassador to the United States. In January 1966 he returned home to accept appointment as minister delegate for financial affairs He was soon promoted to minister of economy and finance At the same time he acted as a governor of the International Monetary Fund and administrator for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development also known as the ...

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 ...