Pascal Lissouba (born November 15, 1931) was the first democratically elected President of the Republic of the Congo from August 31, 1992 to October 15, 1997. He was overthrown by the current President Denis Sassou Nguesso in the 1997 civil war.
He was born in Tsinguidi, south-west Congo, a Banzabi. He gained his education at the Lycee Felix Faure in Nice (1948–52), the École Supérieure 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-Débat. When Massamba-Débat was overthrown in 1968 Lissouba remained in government under Marien Ngouabi and although he was suspended from political activity from 1969 to 1971 he was on the Central Committee of the Congolese Workers Party in 1973. In 1977 he was implicated for involvement in the assassination of Ngouabi and arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1977. 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 Nguesso was forced to move 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 Pan-African Union for Social Democracy (Union panafricaine pour la démocratie sociale, UPADS). In the run-off with second placed Bernard Kolelas, Lissouba got 61% of the votes.
Unrest and civil war
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.
Fighting broke out again in June 1997 when Lissouba engaged militias loyal to former President Col. Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Congolese Labor Party (PCT) in Brazzaville, accusing the former president of an attempted coup. Sassou Nguesso, however, was able to escape and stage a counter attack. Thus began a 4-month civil war that destroyed or damaged much of the capital. In early October 1997, Angolan troops invaded Congo on the side of Sassou. Most of Brazzaville fell to rebel and Angolan forces on October 14, 1997, and Lissouba fled; within two days the capital was under the control of forces loyal to Sassou Nguesso and Pointe-Noire fell with little resistance. Sassou Nguesso proclaimed himself President on October 25, 1997, but Militia forces loyal to Lissouba continued a guerrilla war, the vital Congo-Ocean Railway from the coastal city of Pointe-Noire was cut, and Brazzaville was heavily damaged before a cease-fire was agreed in December 1999.
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