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Africa News of Monday, 17 May 2021


These African presidents served in the military

These three were among the leaders in Africa who were military rulers These three were among the leaders in Africa who were military rulers

• Statistics have shown that West Africa has seen over 40 coups in the last 60 years due to the reign of military leaders

• Several presidents from West African countries have served in the military one way or the other.

• This article highlights African presidents that have served with military backgrounds.

In the history of African leaders, particularly presidents, there has been a rotating trend of persons who have risen to the high office, coming onto the scene from having served in the military.

From Ghana’s Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, Nigeria’s General Sani Abacha, Burkina Faso’s Captain Thomas Sankara, even to Libya’s Lieutenant-Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi, there is no denying the fact that the continent has had the privilege of military leaders more than any of other professions.

But the begging question is why Africa has had so many military leaders? And could that explain why the continent has been littered with so many military takeovers (mostly West Africa), with the most recent one being that of Mali, which happened only in 2020?

The statistics show that in the last 60 years, West Africa has seen more than 40 coups and while it remains a complicated matter, most scholars are reluctant to draw broad conclusions about the region's instability issues.

“We must be careful of making sweeping generalizations, each coup is a product of a particular circumstance and it is risky to generalize,” John Campbell, an African specialist at the Council of Foreign Relations said.

While the confusion persists and the trend remains, here is a list of all Heads of States from Africa who have or were once in the military, made available by Wikipedia.

1. Houari Boumediene (Colonel) (in office 1965–1976)
2. Khaled Nezzar (Major General) (in office 1992–1994)

1. Christophe Soglo (Colonel) (in office 1963–1964, 1965–1967)
2. Alphonse Alley (Lieutenant Colonel) (in office 1967–1968)
3. Maurice Kouandété (Lieutenant Colonel) (in office 1967–1968)
4. Paul-Émile de Souza (Colonel) (in office 1969–1970)
5. Mathieu Kérékou (Major→General) (in office 1972–1991)

Burkina Faso
1. Sangoulé Lamizana (Major General) (in office 1966–1980)
2. Saye Zerbo (Colonel) (in office 1980–1982)
3. Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo (Major) (in office 1982–1983)
4. Thomas Sankara (Captain) (in office 1983–1987)
5. Blaise Compaoré (Captain) (in office 1987–2014)
6. Gilbert Diendéré (Brigadier General) (in office 2015)

Thomas Sankara

1. Michel Micombero (Colonel→Lieutenant General) (in office 1966–1976)
2. Jean-Baptiste Bagaza (Colonel) (in office 1976–1987)
3. Pierre Buyoya (Major) (in office 1987–1993)

Central African Republic
1. Jean-Bédel Bokassa (Colonel→Marshal) (in office 1966–1979)
2. André Kolingba (Major General→General) (in office 1981–1993)
3. François Bozizé (General) (in office 2003–2005)

1. Félix Malloum (Brigadier General) (in office 1975–1979)
2. Idriss Déby (Marshal) (in office 1976–2021)

Idriss Déby

1. Combo Ayouba (Colonel) (in office 1995)
2. Azali Assoumani (Colonel) (in office 1999–2002)

Republic of the Congo
1. Marien Ngouabi (Major) (in office 1969–1977)
2. Joachim Yhombi-Opango (Brigadier General) (in office 1977–1979)
3. Denis Sassou-Nguesso (Colonel→General) (in office 1979–1992)

1. Mostafa Fahmy Pasha (Lieutenant General) (in office 1891–1893)
2. Muhammad Naguib (Major General) (in office 1953–1954)
3. Gamal Abdel Nasser (Colonel) (in office 1954–1970)
4. Anwar El Sadat (Colonel) (in office 1970–1981)
5. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi (Field Marshal) (in office 1977–2014)
6. Hosni Mubarak (Air Chief Marshal) (in office 1981–2011)
7. Mohamed Hussein Tantawi (Field Marshal) (in office 2011–2012)

Hosni Mubarak

Equatorial Guinea
1. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (Brigadier General) (in office 1979–present)

1. Aman Andom (Lieutenant General) (in office 1974)
2. Tafari Benti (Brigadier General) (in office 1974–1977)
3. Mengistu Haile Mariam (Lieutenant Colonel) (in office 1977–1991)

The Gambia
1. Yahya Jammeh (Colonel) (in office 1994–1996)

1. Joseph Arthur Ankrah (Lieutenant General) (in office 1966–1969)
2. Akwasi Afrifa (Brigadier) (in office 1969–1970)
3. Ignatius Kutu Acheampong (Colonel→General) (in office 1972–1978)
4. Fred Akuffo (Lieutenant General) (in office 1978–1979)
5. Jerry Rawlings (Flight Lieutenant) (in office June–September 1979, 1981–1992)

Ignatius Kutu Acheampong

1. Lansana Conté (Colonel→General) (in office 1984–1991)
2. Moussa Dadis Camara (Captain) (in office 2008–2009)
3. Sékouba Konaté (Brigadier General) (in office 2009–2010)

Lansana Conté

Guinea Bissau
1. João Bernardo Vieira (General) (in office 1980–1994)
2. Ansumane Mané (Brigadier General) ((in office May 1999)
3. Veríssimo Correia Seabra (General) (in office 2003–2004)
4. Mamadu Ture Kuruma (Major General) (in office April–May 2012)

Ivory Coast
1. Robert Guéï (Brigadier General) (in office 1999–2000)

1. Justin Lekhanya (Major General) (in office 1986–1991)
2. Elias Phisoana Ramaema (Major General) (in office 1991–1993)

1. Samuel Doe (Master Sergeant→Field Marshal) (in office 1980–1990)

1. Muammar al-Gaddafi (Lieutenant→Colonel) (in office 1969–1979, de facto leader 1979–2011)

Muammar al-Gaddafi

1. Gabriel Ramanantsoa (Major General) (in office 1972–1975)
2. Gilles Andriamahazo (Major General) (in office February–June 1975)
3. Didier Ratsiraka (Rear Admiral→Vice Admiral) (in office 1975–1993)
4. Charles Rabemananjara (General) (in office 2007–2009)
5. Albert Camille Vital (Brigadier General) (in office 2009–2011)

1. Moussa Traoré (Lieutenant→General) (in office 1968–1991)
2. Amadou Toumani Touré (Lieutenant Colonel→Brigadier General) (in office 1991–1992)
3. Amadou Sanogo (Captain→General) (in office 2012–2013)

1. Mustafa Ould Salek (Colonel) (in office 1978–1979)
2. Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Louly (Lieutenant Colonel) (in office 1979–1980)
3. Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla (Colonel) (in office 1979–1984)
4. Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya (Colonel) (in office 1981–1992)
5. Ely Ould Mohamed Vall (Colonel) (in office 2005–2007)
6. Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz (Brigadier General) (in office 2008–2009)

1. Seyni Kountché (Lieutenant Colonel→Major General) (in office 1974–1987)
2. Ali Saibou (Brigadier General) (in office 1987–1993)
3. Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara (Colonel) (in office 1996)
4. Daouda Malam Wanké (Major) (in office April–December 1999)
5. Salou Djibo (Colonel→Lieutenant General) (in office 2010–2011)

1. Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi (Major General) (in office January–July 1966)
2. Yakubu Gowon (Lieutenant Colonel→General) (in office 1966–1975)
3. Murtala Mohammed (Brigadier→General) (in office 1975–1976)
4. Olusegun Obasanjo (Lieutenant General→General) (in office 1976–1979)
5. Muhammadu Buhari (Major General) (in office 1983–1985)
6. Ibrahim Babangida (Major General→General) (in office 1985–1993)
7. Sani Abacha (General) (in office 1993–1998)
8. Abdulsalami Abubakar (General) (in office 1998–1999)

Sani Abacha

1. Juvénal Habyarimana (Major General) (in office 1973–1992)
2. Paul Kagame (Major→Major General) (de facto 1994–2003)

Paul Kagame

São Tomé and Príncipe
1. Manuel Quintas de Almeida (Lieutenant) (in office August 1995)
2. Fernando Pereira (Major) (in office July 2003)

Sierra Leone
1. Andrew Juxon-Smith (Brigadier) (in office 1967–1968)
2. John Amadu Bangura (Brigadier) (in office 1968)
3. Valentine Strasser (Captain) (in office 1992–1996) Solomon Musa (Lieutenant) (in office 1992–1993) Julius Maada Bio (Brigadier) (in office 1993–1995, January–March 1996)
4. Johnny Paul Koroma (Major) (in office 1997–1998)

Valentine Strasser

1. Siad Barre (Major General) (in office 1969–1991)
2. Mohammad Ali Samatar (Major General→Lieutenant General) (in office 1987-1990)

1. Ibrahim Abboud (General) (in office 1958–1964)
2. Gaafar Nimeiry (Colonel→Major General) (in office 1969–1985)
3. Abdel Rahman Swar al-Dahab (General→Field Marshal) (in office 1985–1986)
4. Omar al-Bashir (Brigadier→Field Marshal) (in office 1989–2019)

1. Kléber Dadjo (Colonel) (in office January–April 1967)
2. Gnassingbé Eyadéma (Colonel→General) (in office 1967–2005)

Gnassingbé Eyadéma

1. Idi Amin (Major General→Field Marshal) (in office 1971–1979)
2. Bazilio Olara-Okello (Brigadier) (in office 1985)
3. Tito Okello (Lieutenant General→General) (in office 1985–1986)
4. Yoweri Museveni (Lieutenant General→General) (in office 1986–2004)

Idi Amin

1. Mobutu Sese Seko (Lieutenant General→Field Marshal) (in office 1965–1997)