The rise and fall and rise of Denis Sassou-Nguesso
Ex-dictator of Congo loses, regains power
October 16, 1997
Web posted at: 10:04 a.m. EDT (1404 GMT)
BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo (CNN) -- When his militia
overran the presidential palace in Brazzaville this week, it
marked a dramatic comeback for Denis Sassou-Nguesso.
For 13 years, from 1979 to 1992, Sassou-Nguesso was president
of the Republic of Congo and ran it as a single-party Marxist
state with the backing of the Soviet Union and Cuba.
But he was also a pragmatist, loosening controls on the
economy and opening up his oil-rich country to exploration
and production by western countries, including France and the
Sassou-Nguesso was an adept political player in the region.
He served as mediator and provided a negotiating site for
1988 talks that led to South Africa's withdrawal from Namibia
and the withdrawal of Cuban and South African troops from
But the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991 and the
end of the Cold War changed the dynamics of Africa.
International and internal pressure for change forced
Sassou-Nguesso to preside over Congo's transition to a
multi-party political system.
When he called for free elections in 1992, he was beaten
handily by his long-time rival, Pascal Lissouba. Since then,
Congo's political factions have developed private armed
militias with fierce-sounding names, including
Sassou-Nguesso's Cobras and Prime Minister Bernard Kolela's
The Cobras' victorious assaults of Pointe-Noire and
Brazzaville, apparently backed by Angolan troops, has set off
a number of concerns internationally.
This would be the first time an ex-president has retaken
power with the help of a private army. Diplomats warn it may
encourage military strongmen in other fragile states to try