Denis Sassou Nguesso

President of the Republic of the Congo (1997-present, 1979-1992)

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Denis Sassou Nguesso
Denis Sassou Nguesso 2014.jpg
Sassou Nguesso in 2014
President of the Republic of the Congo
Assumed office
25 October 1997
Prime MinisterIsidore Mvouba
Clément Mouamba
Anatole Collinet Makosso
Preceded byPascal Lissouba
In office
8 February 1979 – 31 August 1992
Prime MinisterLouis Sylvain Goma
Ange Édouard Poungui
Alphonse Poaty-Souchlaty
Pierre Moussa
Louis Sylvain Goma
André Milongo
Preceded byJean-Pierre Thystère Tchicaya (Acting)
Succeeded byPascal Lissouba
Personal details
Born (1943-11-23) November 23, 1943 (age 78)
Edou, French Equatorial Africa (now Congo-Brazzaville)
Political partyCongolese Party of Labour (1969–present)
(m. 1969)
Military service
AllegianceRepublic of the Congo
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Denis Sassou Nguesso (born 23 November 1943) is a Congolese politician and former military leader who has been president of the Republic of the Congo since 1997.[1] He served a previous term as president from 1979 to 1992. During his first period as president, he headed the Congolese Party of Labour (PCT) for 12 years. He introduced multiparty politics in 1990 and was then stripped of executive powers by the 1991 National Conference, remaining in office as a ceremonial head of state. He stood as a candidate in the 1992 presidential election but was defeated, placing third.

Sassou Nguesso was an opposition leader for five years before returning to power during the Second Republic of the Congo Civil War, in which his rebel forces ousted President Pascal Lissouba.[2][3] Following a transitional period, he won the 2002 presidential election,[4] which involved low opposition participation; he was re-elected in the 2009 presidential election.[5] The introduction of a new constitution, passed by referendum in 2015, amidst call for boycott then a dismissal of results by opposition leaders[6][7][8] enabled Sassou Nguesso to stand for another term. He was re-elected in the 2016 presidential election with a majority in the first round.[9]

Early life and military career

A member of the Mbochi tribe,[10] Sassou Nguesso was born in Edou in the Oyo district in northern Congo in 1943. His parents are Julien Nguesso and Émilienne Mouebara.[11] Nguesso was the youngest child in the family.[12] His father Julien was a notable hunter chief in Edou.[13] He received primary education in Fort Rousset, now Owando. He studied in Dolisie Normal College between 1956 and 1960.[14] He joined the army in 1960 just before the country was granted independence.[15] He received military training in Algeria. In 1962, he returned to Congo and was reassigned to active officers with the rank of second lieutenant. A year later, he joined the Application School for Infantry , at Saint-Maixent-l'École, France  whence he graduated with the rank of lieutenant,[14] before returning to join Congo's elite paratroop regiment.[16] He was one of the first officers of the Airborne Group, the first paratroop battalion of the Congolese Army, which was created by Marien Ngouabi in 1965.[14][17] He commanded the Airborne Group, the army and the Brazzaville Military Zone (ZAB), then headed the Intelligence department of the State Security Services. He became captain, then commander, and was promoted to colonel (1978) and later as army general (1989).[14]

Political career

1963–1979: Early positions

He was later part of the 1968 military coup that overthrew president Massemba Debat and brought Marien Ngouabi to power. He was a founding member of the National Revolution Counsil (Conseil National de la revolution) in december 1968[18][19]

In 1968, Sassou Nguessou took part in the military coup led by Commander Marien Ngouabi against President Massemaba Debat: He was a member of the Congolese National Revolution Counsil (Conseil National de la révolution)[20] which was established on august 5, 1968,[21] and which, under the lead of Marien Ngouabi, exerted a control on the president’s powers, before the latter finally resigns in September 3, 1968;[22] Ngouabi becoming officially Head of the state in January 1969[23]

In December 1969, Sassou Nguessou was elected as a member of the first central committee of the newly created Congolese labor Party (PCT: Parti Congolais du travail). A communist party with a Marxist-Leninist doctrine headed by Marien Ngouabi as  president of the central committee, president of the republic and head of the state.[24]

At the same time, a new constitution was issued on December 31, 1969 which designated the country as the People’s Republic of Congo.[25]

In March 1970, following a failed coup attempted by Pierre Kinganga, a former lieutenant who was exiled in the neighboring Congo-Kinshasa,[26] an extraordinary session of the PCT’s congress was held, during which Denis Sassou N’guessou integrated the Political bureau of the PCT[27]

On May 18, 1973, Sassou Nguessou who has been promoted to the rank of corps commander of the airborne group, was made Director of the State’s Security.[28]

In 1975, amid an economic crisis, an extraordinary session of the PCT’s central committee was summoned . The political bureau formerly composed by 8 members resigned and was replaced by a restricted “Revolutionary Special General Staff” (Etat major spécial révolutionnaire) composed of 5 members and headed by Marien Ngouabi; Sassou Nguessou was a member of this staff.[27] At the end of the extraordinary session, Marien Ngouabi asked Sassou Nguessou and 5 other members to elaborate a synthetic paper on the economic and political situation of the country. The paper that was since then  known as the “declaration of 12 December 1975” recommended the “radicalization” of the revolution”.[29]

At the same period, he was appointed Minister of defense and security. He was 32 years old .[30]

On the 18th March 1977, president Marien Ngouabi was assassinated in yet unclear conditions=[31] Official media stated that the assassination was conducted by a commando led by Capt. Barthelemey Kikadidi,[32] while some think that the assassination was plotted by military officers within the close circle of power.[33][34]

A Military Committee of the Congolese Labor Party (Comité militaire du PCT) composed by 11 officers and led by General by Major Sassou Nguessou immediately took power and repealed the 1973 constitution. Sassou Nguessou acted as interim head of state from March 18 to April 6, 1977 then he conceded his position to general Joachim Yhombi-Opango who became president. Sassou Nguessou held the position of 1st vice president of the committee while keeping his current position of minister of defense.[35][36]

Few days after the assassination of Marien Ngouabi , former president Alphonse Massamba-Debat and his former prime minister Pascal Lissouba were both arrested and accused by a court martial of plotting the assassination. Massamba-Debat was executed on March 25, 1977[37][38] cited by led to the dismissal of the latter under allegations of corruption, during a meeting of the PCT Central Committee on February 5, 1979. Sassou-Nguesso was appointed provisional president on February 8, before being confirmed, during a special congress in March 31  1979 as Head of the central committee of the party, President of the republic, Head of the state and President of the president of the council of ministers, for five years.[36][39]

On July 8, 1979 general elections were held in the country and confirmed the unique ruling party PCT as the dominating political force: the Congolese Labor Party (Parti Congolais du Travail – PCT) won 115 out of 115 seats in the People’s National Assembly.[40][41]

At the same time a new constitution was adopted by referendum, it confirmed the socialist foundations of the political and economic orientations of the country.[42]

1979–1991: First three presidential terms

As the newly elected president, Sassou Nguesso negotiated loans from the International Monetary Fund and allowed foreign investors from France and the Americas to operate in the vital oil and mineral extraction operations. He also traveled to Moscow in 1981 to sign a twenty-year friendship pact with the Soviet Union.

Although he was considered by French diplomats as the representative of the radical wing of the PCT that controls power in Congo Brazaville and as the man of the soviet union and Cuba,[31] Sassou Nguessou developed and maintained strong relationships with France on which he relied to develop the staggering economy. The French oil company Elf Aquitaine which is notably renown  for its strong politico-economic networking in favor of the French government, played an important role  in the development and exploitation of congolese oil fields which led to the double of oil production and in supporting the Congolese government expenses via pre-financing loans.[43]

He visited France in October 1979 and in July 1981, to seek economic support. In October 1980, high ranking French political figures including former president Valery Giscard d’Estaing, and former prime ministers Jaques Chirac and Pierre Messmer, were guests to the celebration of the centenary of Brazzaville.[44]

In May 1980 Sassou Nguessou signed a 20 year friendship pact with the soviet union and in the same year sent two delegations to China while a Chinese minister visited Brazzaville. However, the economic impact of these relationships remained marginal: France provided up to 50% of the foreign aid while the soviet union’s contribution did not exceed 1,5%.

Denis Sassou Nguesso in 1986.

Sassou Nguesso was re-elected for a five-year term as President of the PCT Central Committee and President of the Republic at the party's Third Ordinary Congress on 27–31 July 1984;[45] he was sworn in for his new term on 10 November 1984, and on this occasion he announced the release of Yhombi-Opango.[46] He was Chairman of the Organization of African Unity from 1986 to 1987. In late 1987 he faced down a serious military revolt in the north of the country with French aid.

At the PCT's Fourth Ordinary Congress on 26–31 July 1989, Sassou Nguesso was re-elected as President of the PCT Central Committee and President of the Republic,[47] and the PCT won all of the 133 seats of the People’s National Assembly[48] with the collapse of the socialist states of Eastern Europe, with influence from the French, Sassou Nguesso began to prepare the process of bringing the country to capitalism.

In December 1989 he announced the end of government control of the economy and declared a partial amnesty for political prisoners. Into the following year he attempted to improve the failing economic situation and reduce the outrageous levels of corruption. Starting in September 1990 political parties other than the PCT were allowed and Sassou Nguesso made a symbolic state visit to the United States of America, laying the grounds for a new series of conditional IMF loans later that year.

He introduced multiparty politics in 1990 and was then stripped of executive powers by the 1991 National Conference,[49] remaining in office as a ceremonial head of state. He stood as a candidate in the 1992 presidential election but was defeated, placing third[50]

In February 1991, a national conference began; the opposition gained control of the conference, and the conference's declaration of its own sovereignty was not challenged by Sassou Nguesso. He was also subjected to serious criticism and allegations during the Conference, including a claim from some delegates that he was involved in Ngouabi's 1977 assassination.[51][52]

1992–1997: First Civil War and Election Campaigns

The first round of the elections took place on June 24, and the second on July 19. The Senate elections took place on July 26. In the parliamentary election of June–July 1992, the PCT won only 19 of 125 seats in the National Assembly; the Pan-African Union for Social Democracy (UPADS) led by Former prime minister Pascal Lissouba, was the largest party. But it could not obtain an absolute majority in the National Assembly, with the Congolese Movement for Democracy and Integral Development (MCDDI) led by former army General Bernard Kolelas another strong force came in second position.[53]

In the August 1992 presidential election, Sassou Nguesso was eliminated in the first round, in which he placed third with 17% of the vote. Although he performed strongly in the north, he fared poorly in the rest of the country. The second round was held between Pascal Lissouba (UPADS) and Bernard Kolelas (MCDDI); Sassou Nguesso backed Lissouba, who won in the second round with 61.32% of the vote[54]

Mr. Pascal Lissouba was invested with the functions of President of the Republic on August 31 and a new Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Stephane Bongho-Nouarra of UPADS, was formed on the 7th of the same month. In the meantime, a new alliance of seven parties, including the MCDDI and the Rally for Democracy and Social Progress (RDPS) was constituted. It was soon rallied by the PCT which was unhappy with the distribution of ministerial portfolios, thus ensuring a new parliamentary majority.

On October 31, the National Assembly voted a motion of no confidence against the. Prime Minister Bongho-Nouarra resigned from his government and, on November 17, President Lissouba decided to dissolve Parliament by announcing new elections to break the deadlock. In December, Mr. Claude Antoine Dacosta was appointed Prime Minister at the head of a transitional government responsible for leading the country until the next elections.[55]

The first round of the civil war started in November 1993, when the opposition parties (UDR and PCT) contested the results of the of parliamentary elections (October 1993) giving victory to of the coalition supporting President Lissouba (Tendance présidentielle).[56] Armed milicia supporting president Lissouba, (Cocoyes, Zoulous and Mambas) clashed with the Ninjas of Bernard Kolelas and the cobras of Denis Sassous Nguessou.[57] The conflict which was ended in December 1995 by a “Pact for Peace” left at least 2000 dead and more than 100 000 displaced persons.[58]

After this episode Sassou spent seven months in Paris in 1996, returning on 26 January 1997 to contest the presidential election scheduled for July.[59]

1997–2008: Second Civil War and Return to Presidency

The second round of the civil war erupted a few weeks before the presidential election which was to eventually renew Lissouba's term, and when Sassou Nguesso, again a candidate, seemed to have better chances than in 1992.[60]

In May 1997, a visit by Sassou Nguesso to Owando, Yhombi-Opango's political stronghold, led to the outbreak of violence between his supporters and those of Yhombi-Opango.[61] On 5 June 1997, government forces surrounded Sassou Nguesso's home in the Mpila section of Brazzaville, attempting to arrest two men, Pierre Aboya and Engobo Bonaventure, who had been implicated in the earlier violence. Fighting broke out between the government forces and Sassou Nguesso's fighters, called Cobras, and led to the outbreak of the second civil war.

At the beginning of the conflict, Bernard Kolelas who was Mayor of Brazaville, and his Ninjas militia remained neutral but on September 8, 1997, he joined the president’s camp and became prime minister.[62] On September 18, the Angolan troops and airforce entered in the battle, providing a significant support to Sassou-Nguessou) and by October 14 a final assault covered by Angolan Mig aircraft was launched on the Presidential Palace and neighborhoods in the south of Brazzaville,[61] then on the city of Pointe Noire, against president’s militias (Zoulou, Cocoys, Aubervillois and Mambas) and Bernard Kolelas’ Ninjas.[63]

By October, Sassou Nguesso, who was aided at the end of the war by Angolan troops, was in control of the country, while Lissouba as well as Bernard Kolelas and Yhombi Opango left the country. On October 25, 1997 Sassou Nguessou and he was sworn in as President on 25 October.[59]

He repealed the 1992 Constitution, and replaced it  with a “Fundamental Act” that concentrated power into the president’s hands.[64] General Sassou-Nguesso cumulated the functions of President of the Republic, Head of State with those of Head of Government, Minister of Defense and Supreme Chief of the Armies.[65]

A government was announced on November 2, 1997; it consists mainly of members and relatives of the FDU (Forces Démocratiques unifies, a coalition between the PCT and other parties supporting Sassou Nguessou)  as well as two members respectively of UPADS and MCDDI, who were not mandated by the presidents in exile of their parties.

He also called for a National reconciliation forum. However The idea was rejected by lissouba’s followers who continued to strike into the region between the country’s economic capital, Pointe Noire and Brazzaville, having cut the railway between the coast and Brazzaville for three months.In December 1997 heavy fighting resumed in the capital’s southern suburbs (the Pool area)  where the Ninja militia loyal to Bernard Kolélas clashed with Congolese and Angolan troops and Cobra militiamen. As many as 1 500 may have been killed in the fighting, and thousands more fled their homes to escape the violence.[66]

The Forum for Unity and National Reconciliation was held from 5 to 8 January 1998 with 1,420 delegates. It decided upon a transitional period of three years, to be followed by elections under a new Constitution.[67] It also decided the creation of a 75 member National Transitional Council (NTC) was formed to act as a legislative body. Members were elected by the forum by mid January .[68] However, violence was still did not come to end and By April 1998, militias opposed to Sassou-Nguesso were still operating throughout southern Congo, with clear indications that their operations were being co-ordinated.  In the beginning of 1999, the violence had again resumed in the Brazzaville.[69] It was only towards the end of 1999 when the peace agreements were signed on December 25 under the auspices of President Omar Bongo of Gabon[70] hat the civil war ended, leaving between 8000 and 10 000 dead , around 800 000 displaced persons and a devastated country .

Denis Sassou Nguesso and George W. Bush in the Oval Office in 2006.

Presidential elections were held on 10 March 2002. Initially 12 candidates entered the race but only seven remained till the end of the electoral process., Two candidates were disqualified by the Supreme Court on 10 February 2002 while two (Martin Mberi and General Anselme Makoumbou )pulled out of the race, on March 6, arguing a lack of transparency in the electoral process. Finally, on March 10, two days before the presidential elections, Andre Milongo who was seen as the main challenger to the incumbent President Sassou Nguessou withdrew in turn from the race, ,also citing lack of transparency and calling for boycott.[71]

In the event, the elections passed off peacefully and Sassou-Nguessou won the elections with 89.41% of the cast votes. However, several serious malfunctions and isolated acts of manipulation of the results in a few electoral commissions, were reported by the European Union Election Observation Mission who considered that these acts did not have an impact on the final result, and called for the sanction of the those responsible in order to prevent the situation from happening again in the next elections.[72]

Having already served as the Chairman of the Organisation of African Unity in 1986–1987, he was elected Chairman of the African Union, the OAU's successor body, in January 2006. His election was the result of a compromise reached to prevent the chairmanship from going to Omar al-Bashir, President of Sudan.[73]

2009–2016: Re-election and constitutional referendum

Sassou Nguesso was re-elected as President of the Central Committee of the PCT at the party's Fifth Extraordinary Congress in December 2006.[74]

Nguesso meeting John Kerry at the United States–Africa Leaders Summit in 2014.

Re-elected in the July 2009 presidential election with 78.61% of the vote amidst an opposition boycott, Sassou Nguesso was sworn in for another seven-year term at a ceremony in Brazzaville on 14 August 2009. He said that his re-election meant continued "peace, stability and security", and he called for an end to "thinking like ... freeloaders" in reference to international aid received by the country. Sassou Nguesso also made an important announcement at his inauguration, saying that he would set in motion an amnesty bill to pardon Pascal Lissouba, who had gone into exile after his 1997 ouster and was convicted of crimes in absentia. Sassou Nguesso said that he wanted the amnesty bill to be presented to Parliament by the end of 2009.[75] As Congo-Brazzaville prepared to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its independence from France in 2010, Sassou Nguesso noted that the country had far to go in fully realizing the dream of independence: "Our country will not be totally independent until our people are free of the yoke of poverty." He presided over a large parade in Brazzaville, featuring thousands of soldiers and civilians, to celebrate the anniversary on 15 August 2010.[76]

On 27 March 2015 Sassou Nguesso announced that his government would hold a referendum to change the 2002 constitution, which would allow him to run for a third consecutive term in office.[77] The proposal to change the constitution was overwhelmingly approved by voters, with 92.96% in favor. Turnout was officially placed at 72.44%.[78] However the opposition argued that due to low turnout the results should be annulled.[79]

On March 20, 2016, Sassou Nguesso, ran for a third consecutive term of 5 years and was reelected in the first round with 60% of the vote as announced by the minister of the interior.[80]

Opposition leader Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas finished second with 15 percent of the vote while Retired general Jean-Marie Mokoko, a former security adviser to Sassou Nguesso, came third with 14 percent.

For the first time in the history of elections in the Republic, these elections were supervised by an independent commission (CNEI: Commission Nationale Electorale Indépendante). The opposition rejected the outcome, alleging fraud and calling for civil disobedience.[80]

2021 : Re-election

During the 2021 elections that took place on March 21, 2021 Sassou Nguessou, who faced six challengers for the presidency, came first once again, garnering 88.57% of the votes. His main challenger, Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas, finished second with 7.84%, while the rest of the remaining candidates shared 3.59% of the votes.

African Union and the Libyan crisis

As the Chairman of the African Union High Level Committee on Libya, Sassou Nguesso is regularly consulting key men in the Libyan affair, and has met on June 2021, Cheikh Farhat Jaâbiri, one of the references of the Ibadi community, sending a signal that he wishes to reactivate the management of the crisis, "The settlement of the Libyan crisis appears, more than ever, as an absolute urgency", affirmed Denis Sassou N'Guesso, especially because of the possible negative impact of the terrorist groups in the south of Libya on neighboring states.

He has declared that “this crisis remains, before any other consideration, an African problem.” [81][82][83][84]


In September 2006, during the United Nations General Assembly meeting, Sassou Nguesso's entourage, including several members of his family, occupied 44 rooms which together cost £130,000. Almost £14,000 of room service at the Waldorf Astoria was added to Sassou Nguesso's bill during a five-night stay, including two bottles of Cristal champagne charged at £400. The total was pointed out by the British newspaper The Sunday Times to be "comfortably more than the £106,000 that Britain gave the Republic of Congo in humanitarian aid in 2006." In November 2020, under pressure from Chinese authorities, President Nguesso and four cabinet minister issued a decree terminating a contract with Australian miner Sundance Resources to develop the huge Mbalam-Nabeba iron-ore deposit, subsequently awarding three new permits to a relatively unknown Chinese-backed company, Sichuan Hanlong Group.[85]

In July 2007, the British NGO Global Witness published documents on its website that appear to show that the President's son, Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso, may have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of money that may derive from the country's oil sales on shopping sprees in Paris and Dubai. The documents show that in August 2006 alone, Denis Christel, who was the head of Cotrade – the marketing branch of Congo's state oil firm SNPC – spent $35,000 on purchases from designers such as Louis Vuitton and Roberto Cavalli.[86] Reputation management company Schillings Solicitors attempted to suppress this information, but the application failed.[87]

See also


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External links

Political offices
Preceded by President of the Congo-Brazzaville
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of the Congo-Brazzaville
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by Chairperson of the Organisation of African Unity
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairperson of the African Union
Succeeded by
Original content from Wikipedia, shared with licence Creative Commons By-Sa - Denis Sassou Nguesso