Friday, February 3, 2012

Denis Sassou Nguesso

Denis Sassou Nguesso (born November 23, 1943) is a Congolese politician who has been the President of Congo-Brazzaville since 1997; he was previously President from 1979 to 1992. During his first period as President, he headed the single-party regime of the Congolese Labour Party (PCT) for 12 years. Under heavy pressure, 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 at the conclusion of the June–October 1997 civil war, in which his rebel forces ousted President Pascal Lissouba. Following a transitional period, he won the 2002 presidential election, which lacked meaningful opposition participation; he was again re-elected under controversial circumstances in the 2009 presidential election.

Sassou Nguesso is backed by a variety of political parties, the most important of which is the PCT. He is the President of the PCT Central Committee.

A member of the Mbochi tribe, Sassou Nguesso was born in Edou in the Oyo district to the north of the country.

He joined the army in 1960 just before the country was granted independence. He was marked for prominence and received military training in Algeria and at Saint Maixent, France before returning to join the elite paratroop regiment.

He had socialist leanings and supported the opposition to Fulbert Youlou in Les Trois Glorieuses of August 1963. He was later part of the 1968 military coup that brought Marien Ngouabi to power and was a founding member of the Congolese Labour Party (Parti Congolais du Travail, PCT) in December 1969.

In 1970 Sassou Nguesso was made Director of Security and a minister in the new presidential council. When Ngouabi was assassinated in March 1977, Nguesso played a key role in maintaining control, briefly heading the Military Committee of the Party (CMP, Comité Militaire du Parti) that controlled the state before the succession of Colonel Joachim Yhombi-Opango. Sassou Nguesso was rewarded with a promotion to colonel and the post of vice-president of the CMP. He remained there until February 5, 1979 when Yhombi-Opango was forced from power in a technical coup accused of corruption and political deviancy. On February 8, the CMP chose Nguesso as the new President, and at the Third Extraordinary Congress of the PCT his position was unanimously approved on March 27, 1979.

Personal Spending
When Sassou Nguesso attended the United Nations General Assembly meeting in September 2006, almost £14,000 of room service at the Waldorf Astoria was added to his bill during another five-night stay. His entourage, including several members of his family, occupied 44 rooms which together ran up a bill of £130,000. The bills on September 19 included two bottles of Cristal champagne charged at £400. This 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."

As of June 2007, Sassou Nguesso, along with President Omar Bongo of Gabon, is being investigated by the French police due to claims that he has used millions of pounds of embezzled public funds to acquire lavish properties in France. He has been cited in recent years during French criminal inquiries into hundreds of millions of euros of illicit payments by Elf, the former French state-owned oil group.

In July 2007, 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 is 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. Attempts were made by Schillings Solicitors to suppress this information but the application failed.

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