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Pascal Lissouba

Professor Pascal Lissouba (November 15, 1931 - ) was President of the Republic of the Congo from August 31, 1992 to October 15, 1997.

He was born in Tsinguidi, south-west Congo, a Banzabi. He gained his education at the Lycee Felix Faure in Nice (1948-52), the Ecole Superieure d'Agriculture in Tunis and the University of Paris (1958-61).

Initially he was a civil servant, working in the Department of Agriculture (1961-63). But his abilities brought him to become Minister of Agriculture (1963-66) and then Prime Minister (1963-66) under President Alphonse Massamba-Debat. When Massamba-Debat was overthrown in 1968 Lissouba remained in government under Marien Ngouabi and although he was suspended from political activity from 1969-71 he was on the Central Committee of the Congolese Workers Party in 1973. He was arrested and acquitted of involvement in a failed coup in 1973, but was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment for involvement in assassination of Ngouabi in 1977, avoiding the death penalty meted out to Massamba-Debat. He was released in 1979 but had to live in exile in France from 1979 to 1990. In France he was a professor at the University of Paris and then worked for UNESCO in Paris and Nairobi. When President Denis Sassou-Nguessou was forced to moved the Congo towards democracy in 1991 Lissouba returned and was elected President in the August 1992 elections. He secured 36% of the vote as head of the left-wing UDAPS (Union panafricaine pour la démocratie sociale, Pan-African Union for Social Democracy). In the run-off with second placed Bernard Kolelas, Lissouba got 61% of the votes. Kolelas was appointed mayor of Brazzaville to placate his supporters.

However conflict soon broke out in 1993 when a coalition of opposition groups and their militias accused Lissouba of rigging the elections. Widespread civil war was averted when Gabon and the Organisation of African Unity intervened, but sporadic fighting continued until January 1995. However there was still strong armed support for Sassou-Nguesso. Fighting broke out again in June 1997 when Lissouba tried to disarm militias loyal to Sassou-Nguesso. After a nineteen week struggle, aided by the supported by the Angola Army Forces, Sassou-Nguesso could proclaim himself President on October 25 1997 and Lissouba was driven out. Militia forces loyal to Lissouba continued a guerilla war, the vital Brazzaville-Pointe Noire railway was cut and Brazzaville was heavily damaged before a cease-fire was agreed in December 1999.

Lissouba was intending to return to the Congo for the 2002 elections but in December 2001 Lissouba was put on trial in Brazzaville, in absentia, charged with high treason and embezzlement. Lissouba is currently in London.