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Lansana Gberie

Sierra Leone’s third elected President and the first Muslim to become leader of the West African state, was born in Pendembu, Kailahun District, in eastern Sierra Leone, on 16 February 1932. His father, Abu Bakr Sidique Kabbah, was an ethnic Mandingo businessman who had migrated to the predominantly Mende and Kissi town from Kambia District, in northern Sierra Leone. His mother was from a prominent Mende ruling family, the Coomber family of the Mandu chiefdom, Kailahun District. The family later relocated to Freetown, allowing Kabbah, a member of a devout Muslim family, to attend the Catholic St. Edward’s Secondary School in Freetown. Cosmopolitanism and religious tolerance came naturally: Kabbah later married Patricia Tucker, a Catholic who was of the Sherbro/Mende ethnic group.

On completion of secondary school, Kabbah’s father sent him to the University of Wales, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1959 He joined ...


Eric Young

The son of a Lari merchant, Fulbert Youlou, whose surname means “Heaven” in Lari, was born in Madibou, Moyen-Congo (now the Republic of the Congo). He was baptized at age nine and entered the seminary three years later. While attending mission schools in Gabon and Cameroon, he befriended Barthélemy Boganda, the future president-emperor of the Central African Republic. Youlou later taught in mission schools in what was then French Moyen-Congo, and was ordained in 1946. When Youlou began campaigning for public office, however, he was defrocked. Ignoring the censure, he insisted on wearing his ecclesiastical robes. He also claimed the mantle of Andre Matsou, the dead leader of an anti-French, quasi-religious Lari self-help organization. In 1956 Youlou was elected mayor of Brazzaville and founded the Lari dominated Democratic Union for the Defense of African Interests UDDIA a party supporting close ties with France A year later he ...