Sassou-Nguesso, Denis

▪ president of Republic of the Congo
born 1943, Edou, Rep. of the Congo

      Congolese politician who first became president in 1979 and seized power through a coup in 1997 after losing democratic elections.

      After graduating from college, Sassou-Nguesso briefly taught school before joining the army. It was during this time that he became involved in a youth movement that played a critical role in Republic of the Congo's independence from France (1960) and in subsequent Marxist-Leninist politics. In 1962 Sassou-Nguesso was appointed commander of Brazzaville and rose to the rank of colonel by the early 1970s. During this time Sassou-Nguesso took an active role in politics and became a protégé of Pres. Marien Ngouabi (1968–77), who appointed him minister of defense in 1975. In 1977 Sassou-Nguesso became vice president of the Parti Congolais du Travail (PCT, English: “Congolese Workers Party”). Sassou-Nguesso's rival, Joachim Yhombi-Opango, came to power after Ngouabi was assassinated in 1977, but was forced out of office in February 1979. The following month Sassou-Nguesso was appointed president of the republic.

      After winning historic elections in 1989, Sassou-Nguesso set out a series of economic reforms. In 1992 Pascal Lissouba was elected president after free elections were held. The PCT allied itself with the Union pour le Renouveau Démocratique (URD, English: “Union for Democratic Renewal”), forming an opposition body and initiating acts of civil disobedience. In 1993 militias supportive of Sassou-Nguesso clashed with security forces, and escalating violence continued into 1997, when Lissouba was forced into exile, and Sassou-Nguesso was once again declared leader. Although a cease-fire was declared in 1999, violence persisted, and as many as 50,000 people were displaced by the civil war. In response to political pressure and allegations of corruption within the government, Sassou-Nguesso implemented a series of economic and political reforms to rebuild the nation from bankruptcy and strengthen the democratic process.

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Universalium. 2010.

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