The most notable assassinations of African leaders.

Some of the leaders listed below were democratically elected. Others rose to power through coups only to perish in subsequent coups. There have been presidential assassinations in dozens of countries around the world. The African continent is no exception.

The following are some African leaders who were assassinated while in power:

  1. Sylvanus Olympia

The President of Togo aged 60 was assassinated on January 13, 1963. Olympia became the first Prime Minister of Togo and his power was further cemented when Togo achieved independence and won the 1961 election making him the first president of Togo.

French treated Olympia with significant hostility during the transition to independence and became concerned that Olympia was largely aligned to the British and American interests. He was assassinated by the military and his body was discovered by the US ambassador 3 feet from the door to the embassy. Olympia is remembered as the first president to be assassinated during a military coup in Africa.

  • Laurent Kabila

Laurent Kabila took power in the DRC in 1997 after overthrowing Mobutu Sese Seko and served for four years before being shot in January 2001 by one of his bodyguards. According to some DRC officials, the assassination was masterminded by Rwanda, though 11 Lebanese nationals were executed shortly after the event. Kabila’s party managed to retain power, and Laurent’s son, Joseph Kabila, succeeded his father eight days later.

  • Juvenile Abraham

President of Rwanda (57) was assassinated on April 6, 1994. After ruling his nation for 17 years his official plane was trying to land in the Kigali International Airport when the president and his then friend the president of Burundi were blasted into nothingness by unidentified assassins.

Habyarimana’s death escalated already heated up Hutu/Tutsi ethnic tensions in a country where tribal identity and allegiance meant everything and could solely determine one’s chances of survival. This sparked off the Rwandan genocide of 1994 which saw almost a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus massacred to death within a space of four months.

Habyarimana’s death is still a subject of controversy in Rwanda. One version-the official version-has it that the plane was taken down by Hutu extremists desperate for an excuse to wipe out Tutsis, another version holds Tutsi fighters (allegedly led or ordered by Paul Kagame-current President) responsible.

Habyarimana, a Hutu, served from 1973 to 1994.

  • Muhammad Anwar al-Sadaat

President of Egypt (62) was assassinated on 6th October 1981. Sadat was a man of oratory charm and style and swagger with a knack for risk-taking even when possibilities of potential political costs were high.

Sadat was assassinated at a military parade in 1981 by a group of officers who were discontent about the peace deal he had just made with Israel. This treaty was extremely unpopular in most of the Arab world and the wider Muslim world.

  • Cyprien Ntaryamira

The president of Burundi (39). He was assassinated on April 6, 1994. He had just been chosen to become the president to ease tension in Burundi at the time when tribal tensions were high but only six months after assuming office the president was dead. He was with his friend, the President of neighboring Rwanda when their plane was shot out of the sky while landing in Kigali International Airport.

  • Samuel Doe

The president of Liberia (39) was assassinated on 9th September 1990. Liberia had been politically dominated by Americo-Liberian over the century until Samuel Doe took power through a military coup though opened Liberia to Canadian, Soviet, Chinese, and European investment.

This brought in considerable foreign investment from foreign firms and liberty a reputation of being a tax haven.  In the late 1980s, the US government became disenchanted with those governments and began cutting critical foreign aid. This places him in a very precarious position, Charles Taylor, a former ally broke out of jail in the US, and soon President Doe was captured, tortured, and executed.

  • Marien Ngouabi

The president of the Republic of Congo (38) was assassinated on March 18, 1977. The president had changed the country’s name from Congo to the People’s Republic of Congo declaring it the first African Marxist learning state. It is claimed that the president was under French pressure to annex the then oil-rich Gabina a part of Portuguese Angola and his refusal to act cost him French support.

Soon after losing French support, the president was assassinated, those accused of taking part in the assassinations were quickly tried and executed.

  • Muammar Gaddafi

The president of Libya (69) was assassinated on the 20th of October 2011. Like several African leaders in the 1960s, Gaddafi took power in a coup from the Monarchy of King Idris. In 2011 Anti-Gaddafi uprising broke out resulting in a civil war eventually the US and the year-to-back rebels brought down Gaddafi’s government through the help of the United State and the International Telecommunication Union, Muammar Gaddafi was captured and killed.

  • Patrice Lumumba

The prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo (34) was assassinated on the 17th of January 1961. Patrice Lumumba was announced Prime Minister in June 1960. He endured a tumultuous tenure plagued by the Congo Crisis, which comprised of mutiny in the Army, secession of important mineral-rich regions-Katanga and South Kasai-with Belgian support, rebellion in some parts of the country, and inter-ethnic fights.

After failing to get the support of the US and the UN in fighting the secession, Lumumba turned to the Soviets-a cardinal sin in the era of the cold war. This led to division within his own government and his subsequent deposition by Army Chief, Joseph Mobutu (a.k.a Mobutu Sese Seko).

Patrice Emery Lumumba was executed by firing squad on January 17 1961. According to Wikipedia, his body was dug up and ‘dissolved in sulfuric acid while the bones were ground and scattered’.

  1. Thomas Sankara

The president of Burkina Faso (37) was assassinated on the 15th of October of 1987. Thomas Sankara became the president of Upper Volta and changed it to now Burkina Faso. He developed into a symbol of economic revolution and an icon in many Africans eyes. After only four years in power, another coup by his former colleague, Les Comperes thought to have been planned by France brought an end to his reign.  

Source:2nacheki Africa


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