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André Kolingba: Wikis


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André-Dieudonné Kolingba (1935-) was the fourth president of the Central African Republic (CAR), from 1 September 1981 until 1 October 1993. He took power from President David Dacko in a bloodless coup d'état in 1981 and lost power to Ange-Félix Patassé in a democratic election held in 1993. Kolingba retained the strong support of France until the fall of the Berlin Wall, after which both internal and external pressure forced him to hold presidential elections which he lost.

His twelve-year term in office saw the growing influence of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in decisions by donor-nations regarding financial support and management of the Central African state. Many members of Kolingba's ethnic group, the Yakoma, obtained lucrative posts in the public, private and parastatal sectors of the CAR's economy during his era. This gave rise to growing tension between so-called "southerners" (including the riverine Yakoma) and "northerners" (including the savanna Gbaya) in the CAR which led to violence confrontations between these groups during the Patassé era (1993-2003).


Early life and education

André-Dieudonné Kolingba was born on 12 August 1935 in Bangui, the capital of the French colony of Oubangui-Chari in French Equatorial Africa. A member of the riverine Yakoma ethnic group, Kolingba (meaning "Male Buffalo") joined the French military and was transferred to the Central African army at independence in 1960. He became a sub-lieutenant on 1 October 1964, a colonel, and then a Brigadier General on 3 April 1973. As a battalion commander, he was named Technical Adviser to the Minister of National Defense, Veterans and War Victims on 1 March 1977 as well as Aide de Camp of His Imperial Majesty Bokassa I. Then he served briefly as the CAR's ambassador to Canada — replacing Sylvestre Bangui — and the Federal Republic of Germany before being named Minister of in March 1979. When Emperor Bokassa was overthrown in 1979 and David Dacko was restored to power by the French, General Kolingba gained Dacko's favor and was made Army Chief of Staff in July 1981.

Overthrow of David Dacko

In September 1981, General Kolingba carried out a bloodless coup and took the place of David Dacko as head of state. He then served as President of the Military Committee for National Reconstruction from 1 September 1981 to 21 September 1985, and as President of the Republic and Head of State from 21 September 1985 until 22 October 1993. There has been considerable speculation about who supported Kolingba's seizure of power. It has been suggested that local French military advisers helped him carry out the coup without the authorization or knowledge of Socialist President François Mitterrand and his entourage (Delayan 1985; Kalck 2004). The exact details of the plot may remain a mystery, but a French colonel named Jean-Claude Mantion served as the head of Kolingba's presidential guard for many years thereafter and was so powerful that he was often referred to in the CAR as "the president's president." The French supported Kolingba until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the democratization movement in Africa during the late 1980s and early 1990s led to local, French and international pressure to hold presidential elections.

Ruling years

After overthrowing Dacko in 1981, Kolingba established a Military Committee for National Reconstruction to rule the country, but in fact he ruled as a military dictator more corrupt than brutal until 1986, when he submitted a Constitution to a national referendum. The Constitution was approved and an election was staged which resulted in Kolingba being named president for a period of six years, 1986-1992. In May 1986 Kolingba announced the establishment of a new party, the Central African Democratic Party (Rassemblement Démocratique Centrafricain) or (RDC).

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, internal and external pressures eventually forced Kolingba to adopt a more democratic approach. In March 1991 he agreed to share power with Edouard Frank, who he named prime minister. He also established a commission to revise the constitution in order to promote pluralism. When he was finally forced by the donor community, notably a very vocal US ambassador, to hold fair elections, assisted by the UN Electoral Assistance Unit and monitored by international observers in 1992, he only won 10% of the vote and so he declared the elections invalid and had the Constitutional Council cancel the election. His presidential mandate was due to expire on 28 November 1992 and so he carried out a "constitutional coup d'état" and extended his presidential term for another 90 days.

Election of Patassé

On 3 February 1993 Kolingba established an interim organ, the National Provisional Political Council of the Republic (Conseil National Politique Provisoire de la République). On 28 February 1993, Abel Goumba, leader of the opposition Democratic Forces for Dialogue (Concertation des Forces Démocratiques), announced President Kolingba was no longer President. Unwilling to give in, Kolingba remained in his post but the group of local donor representatives (GIBAFOR) notably the USA and France forced him to hold proper elections and the same team that the UN Electoral Assistance unit had provided for the earlier election, which Kolingba's government caused to fail, was brought in to give its support. Angé Patassé won the presidency on 19 September 1993, but was no less corrupt and somewhat more arbitrary and brutal than his predecessor.

Attempted coup

On 28 May 2001 a coup d'état was attempted against President Patassé but it failed. Patassé accused Kolingba and his partisans of attempting to destabilize his regime and wanted to put him on trial and so Kolingba took refuge in Uganda. After the overthrow of Patassé, self-proclaimed President François Bozizé declared an amnesty for all those involved in the attempted coup d'état of 2001. Kolingba finally returned to Bangui on 5 October 2003 during the last days of a National Conference (Dialogue National) which Bozize sponsored to promote reconciliation and reconstruction of the country. On 7 October 2003 Kolingba attended the conference and spoke to the delegates, publicly asking for forgiveness for the excesses committed during his rule. He then left for Paris on 2 November 2003 for a prostate operation.

Awards and family

Kolingba was named officier de l’Ordre de l’Opération Bokassa (Officer of the Order of the Operation Bokassa) on 1 December 1971, officier de l’Ordre de la Médaille de la Reconnaissance Centrafricaine (Officer of the Order of the Medal of Central African Gratitude) on 1 January 1972, chevalier de l’Ordre du Merite Postal (Knight of the Order of Postal Merit) on 1 December 1972, commandeur (Commander) (1 January 1975) and dignité de Grand-Croix (Grand Cross) (1 December 1981) de l’Ordre du Mérite Centrafricain (Central African Order of Merit).


  • Kalck, Pierre. Historical Dictionary of the Central African Republic. 3rd ed. Trans. Thomas O'Toole. Metuchen, N.J. & London: The Scarecrow Press, 2004.
  • Delayen, Julie Anne. “Origins and Causes of Military Rule in the Central African Republic.” M.A. thesis, University of Florida, 1985.
  • Webb, Raymond Porter. “State Politics in the Central African Republic” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan?, Wisconsin?, 1996.
  • Titley, Brian. Dark Age: The Political Odyssey of Emperor Bokassa. London & Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1997.
  • Saulnier, Pierre. Le Centrafrique: Entre mythe et réalité. Paris: L’Harmattan, 1998.
Preceded by
David Dacko
President of Central African Republic
1981 – 1993
Succeeded by
Ange-Félix Patassé


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