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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 ...

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Marian Aguiar

Mohamed Farah Aidid was born in Italian Somaliland and trained in the military in Rome and Moscow. After returning to independent Somalia, Aidid served in the army under General Mohamed Siad Barre. When Siad Barre assumed the presidency in 1969, he appointed Aidid chief of staff of the army. Later that year, however, he began to suspect Aidid's loyalties and imprisoned him without trial for seven years on charges of treasonous conspiracy.

In 1977 Siad Barre released Aidid and welcomed him back to the administration, no doubt seeking his help for the ongoing border war against Ethiopia. The loyalties of Aidid to his former jailer are unclear, but he served Siad Barre's military administration until the late 1980s. In 1989 Aidid broke with Siad Barre and joined the United Somali Congress USC an organization dominated by the Hawiye clan The USC was one of several groups ...

Article

Kathleen Sheldon

Somali politicomilitary leader who played a central role in the collapse of the state and the large-scale violence against civilians that accompanied it, was born in the Mudug region of Somalia, into the Habr Gidir clan. His name is also spelled Maxamed Faarax Caydiid. Little is known about his early life, other than that he served with the Italian colonial police force and in the 1950s received some training in Italy and in the Soviet Union. He served under Somalian president Mohamed Siyad Barre, rising to the rank of general. He was involved in the Ogaden War of 1977–1978, in which Somalia tried and failed to take over what is now Ethiopia’s Region Five and is largely populated by Somalis.

In the 1980s Aidid began to turn against Siyad Barre and when the president suspected him of plotting against him he imprisoned Aidid for six years As ...

Article

Carlos Dalmau

A passionate speaker and outspoken critic of United States imperialism and the 1898 invasion and occupation of Puerto Rico, Pedro Albizu Campos spent many years in prison for his role in the pro-independence nationalist movement, during the turbulent years of the 1930s through the 1950s. He opposed the annexation of Puerto Rico by the United States when the island was ceded by the Spanish after the Spanish-Cuban-American War (1895–1898). For Albizu, Puerto Ricans—ethnically mixed and culturally different—were not, and should not be, Americans. Independence was the only legitimate and anti-imperialist solution to the island's status.

From an early age Albizu stood out as an excellent student He grew up in the city of Ponce a municipality in southern Puerto Rico where he received a grant that gave him the opportunity to study chemical engineering at the University of Vermont He later graduated from the Harvard Law School where ...

Article

Michael J. Bustamante

was born on 27 February 1927 in Havana into a working-class family with twelve children. After completing the eighth grade and working as a bricklayer, Almeida was introduced to political activity in 1952 upon meeting Fidel Castro while employed at the beach club for students of the University of Havana. A veteran of the failed 1953 assault on Santiago de Cuba’s Moncada Barracks, and prisoner of the Fulgencio Batista government until May 1955, Almeida returned to Cuba in late November 1956 from exile in Mexico, along with other insurgents of the 26th of July Movement, aboard the yacht Granma. Together with Fidel Castro and his brother, Raúl, as well as Ché Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, Almeida was among the few rebels who survived initial clashes with Batista’s forces and arrived at the Sierra Maestra in eastern Cuba. In early 1958 he was promoted to Comandante Commander the ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

rebel leader, was born on 1 June 1972 in the central Algerian town of Ghardaïa. Information about his family life is not known. As the war between Afghan rebels and the Soviet Union raged in the 1980s, Belmokhtar became a passionate supporter of an Islamic alliance against Communism. He found inspiration in the words of Palestinian Muslim preacher Abdullah Azzam, a key figure in the rise of the al-Qaeda–armed Pan-Islamic revolutionary movement. When Azzam died in 1989, Belmokhtar decided to become a guerilla fighter in Afghanistan. He traveled to Pakistan in 1991, and received military training at a number of al-Qaeda camps. Information about his activity fighting against the Afghani government in 1991 and 1992 is difficult to verify. With his al-Qaeda connections and his training, Belmokhtar soon found new chances to make war in his homeland. He left Afghanistan in 1992 and returned to his ...

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

Lahcen Ezzaher

Moroccan anticolonialist leader, was born in Rabat. Although he was raised in a family of modest income, he managed to attend a French elementary school for children of notable families at the age of nine. In 1938, he graduated from Moulay Youssef High School in Rabat. He attended Algiers University in Algeria, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1942. He returned to Morocco and taught mathematics at Gouraud High School and then joined the teaching faculty at the Royal College. In La mémoire d’un roi: Entretiens avec Eric Laurent, the late King Hassan II, who was one of Ben Barka’s students, described him as a man with “a vast knowledge, a charming personality, and a passionate nature” (p. 108).

The year 1935 marked the beginning of Ben Barka s involvement in the national movement for independence He was the youngest member of ...

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

Jeremy Rich

Algerian political leader, was born on 14 April 1929 in the town of Bouteldja located near the port city of Annaba. His father was a small landowner who was able to provide his son with a primary school education in Annaba. However, the family had relatives in Tunisia, and it appears Bendjedid grew up in a relatively cosmopolitan household.

Bendjedid joined the French military after World War II and served in Vietnam. He reached the rank of noncommissioned officer and was back in Algeria when the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN; National Liberation Front) anticolonial armed movement launched its armed struggle against French rule on 1 November 1954. By early 1955, Benjdedid joined the armed wing of the FLN, where he rose in the ranks. He was promoted to regional commander in 1956 and assistant commander in 1957. He suffered serious wounds in combat in 1957 ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Chadli Benjedid grew up in the Annaba region of colonial Algeria, then joined the military wing of the national liberation group, the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN). Moving quickly through the ranks, he became a rebel commander in 1960. After Algeria’s independence he helped oversee the withdrawal of French troops.

While in the rebel army, Benjedid earned the trust of chief of staff Houari Boumedienne, whom he later supported in the 1965 coup d’état against President Ahmed Ben Bella. Under President Boumedienne, Benjedid held high positions in the military and served on the ruling Revolutionary Council.

Within the FLN Benjedid gained a reputation as an evenhanded leader, and for this reason he was sought as the presidential candidate to heal divisions within the party after Boumedienne’s death. In 1979 Benjedid was elected and began a tenure that lasted through two reelections During his thirteen years ...

Article

Lahcen Ezzaher

Moroccan anticolonial leader, was born in a remote, small village in the region of Oujda, a major city on the border with Algeria. He was raised in a low-income family. He attended elementary school and high school in Oujda, where he met Abdelaziz Bouteflika, later the president of Algeria.

When Benjelloun graduated from high school in 1955, he moved to Rabat, the capital city of Morocco, to study at the Scientific Institute. In Rabat he met leading members of the national movement for independence such as Mohamed Elyazghi, who is currently a key figure in the USFP (Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires). At the end of his first year in college, which coincided with the year the country gained its independence from the French Protectorate (1956 Benjelloun who chose to follow a career in the postal service and communication seized an opportunity to get into a two ...

Article

Nicole L. Phillip-Dowe

was born on 29 May 1944 in Aruba to Alimenta (née La Grenade) and Rupert Bishop. The family returned to their native Grenada when Maurice was 7 years old. He attended the J. W. Fletcher Memorial primary school in St. George’s and won a scholarship to complete his secondary education at the Presentation Boys College. In 1963 he migrated to England where he studied law at Gray’s Inn, London. As a law student he was the cofounder of a legal aid clinic at Notting Hill. On completing his law degree in 1969 he took a job in the tax department of the British Civil Service. He returned to Grenada in 1970.

Racism and the economic disparity of rich and poor formed part of Bishop s experience in London The rise of black nationalism and black power made evident by the works of Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana Julius Nyerere of ...

Article

Matthew LeRiche

southern Sudanese rebel leader, was born in 1948 near Gorgrial in what was then the Bahr el Ghazal Province of Sudan. He was from the Dinka ethnic group. Just before Sudan was grantedn independence in 1955, Kerubino decided to cease his formal education to join with the growing armed resistance groups that were developing in a southern rebellion against the Khartoum government, eventually called Anyanya, under the command of Joseph Lagu. After the 1972 Addis Ababa Peace Agreement brought a conclusion to the Anyanya rebellion Kerubino was integrated into the Sudanese Armed Forces SAF He became a major in the SAF and was made the commander of the SAF detachment in Bor Southern Sudan While in Bor the home of John Garang the eventual leader of the Sudanese People s Liberation Army Movement SPLA M Kerubino became involved in a conspiracy of Southern SAF officers and soldiers in ...

Article

E. J. Alagoa

Nigerian student leader, teacher, policeman, and revolutionary, was born in the Niger Delta Region community of in Oloibiri, on 10 September 1938. He was the son of Jasper Pepple Boro, a schoolmaster at Kaiama in the Kolokuma-Opokuma district of Bayelsa State in present-day Nigeria. He took the name Adaka, meaning “lion,” when he began his revolutionary campaign to create an independent Niger Delta Republic and secede from Nigeria in 1966. The movement was crushed by the Nigerian armed forces in only twelve days.

Born in Oloibiri, the community near which oil was first discovered and exploited in the Niger Delta, Boro became more and more agitated by the neglect that his Ijaw people (also known as Izon or Ijo) suffered from the federal government of Nigeria after the country gained independence from Britain in 1960 The Izon were possibly the most vociferous group expressing fear of ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Algerian politician and anticolonial military leader, was born Mohammed Ben Brahim Boukharouba in the Algerian town of Aïn Hesseinia, near Guelma, on 23 August 1932. Although Boumedienne was fluent in French through his primary school studies at a public school, he also chose to attend Islamic schools where the language of instruction was Arabic. Unlike some other future Algerian leaders who lacked a firm command of classical Arabic, Boumedienne thus could express himself in both French and Arabic as a result of his education.

The brutal crackdown of Algerian nationalists by European settlers and the French military on 8 May 1945 dramatically shaped Boumedienne s life Rather than accept eventually being forced to join the French military as a conscript he moved to Tunisia where he attended classes at the Zitouna University known for its advanced courses in Islamic law and theology After some time Boumedienne attended the ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Houari Boumedienne was born in Clauzel, Algeria. In 1955 he joined the National Liberation Front, known as Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), to fight for Algerian independence from French Colonial rule. He rose rapidly as guerrilla commander, becoming the youngest colonel in the FLN two years after he enlisted. In exile by 1960, Boumedienne led the external Algerian armies in Tunisia and Morocco.

After Algeria became independent in 1962, Boumedienne backed exiled leader Ahmed Ben Bella during the conflict between internal and exiled leaders of the FLN over leadership of the new nation. He accompanied Ben Bella to Algeria, fighting battles with former allies to secure Ben Bella’s position as Algeria’s first prime minister and president, as well as his own position as vice president and defense minister. In June 1965 Boumedienne engineered a bloodless coup that deposed Ben Bella and secured his own power ...

Article

Miriam Elizabeth Villanueva

was born on 21 April 1937 in Colón, Panama, the son of Colombian Leland Britton, a mariner, and Nicaraguan Nelly Morrison, a day laborer. Both of his parents were descendants of West Indian families who immigrated to Nicaragua and Colombia in the early twentieth century. Britton senior and Morrison met each other while working in Panama. Britton’s parents raised him and his brother Federico in the neighborhood of Río Bajo, known for its influx of black West Indian families. The neighborhood housed recently arrived or seasoned immigrants from the West Indies who traveled to construct the Panama Canal between 1904 and 1914. It fostered a community that embraced West Indian traditions and the English language. Britton championed and recognized his hybrid ethnicity as a West Indian and Panamanian.

Britton spent his youth in Colón and attended the local elementary school until he transferred to Colombia for three years Britton ...

Article

Quito Swan

was born in Pembroke (Middletown), Bermuda, to Joel and Henrietta Browne on 28 November 1932. His major political activities included coordinating the First International Black Power Conference (Bermuda, 1969), and a key role in organizing the Congress of African Peoples (Atlanta, 1970) and Sixth Pan-African Congress (Tanzania, 1974). He was also intensely involved in Bermuda’s suffrage movement, the push for Bermuda’s decolonization through the United Nations, and the island’s black power movement, and served as a parliamentarian for Bermuda’s Progressive Labour Party (PLP). During that time, he changed his name to Pauulu Kamarakafego.

An engineer by trade he fused his political worldviews with his technical work across the Americas Africa Europe Asia and Australasia He obtained a Ph D in ecological engineering from the California Institute of Technology Pioneering the modern sustainable development movement he became an internationally renowned ecological engineer UNESCO consultant on rural development ...

Article

In 1986, Ronnie Brunswijk, a former presidential bodyguard, created the Surinamese Liberation Army (SLA) in response to policies adopted by military ruler Desi Bouterse that threatened the autonomy of Bush Negro communities in Suriname Bush Negroes a term used by outsiders to refer to six maroon communities descendants ...