Archive for March 25th, 2008

1977: Alphonse Massamba-Débat, Congolese Communist

Add comment March 25th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1977, the former president of the Congo, Alphonse Massamba-Debat, was summarily shot after his successor was assassinated.

A teacher by training and a member of the country’s powerful namesake tribe, Massamba-Debat (the link is to his French wikipedia page, which has considerably more information than the English entry) was a government minister who took power in a 1963 military coup that overthrew the former French territory’s first post-colonial government.

In a revolutionary age, Massamba-Debat swung with a Marxist-Leninist ideology. He ran a one-party state — winning a post-coup 1963 election by the comfortable margin of 100-0 — and met with Che Guevara during the latter’s African mission, while also setting up the first stirrings of industrialization.

The mix of true belief and opportunism in that formula is anyone’s guess; the brutality of his militias steadily eroded his “unanimous” popular support, and in 1968 he was toppled by another leftist, Marien Ngouabi.

That marked the end of Massamba-Debat’s meaningful political career.

Oddly, he was tried immediately after his overthrow for some of his regime’s notable political murders, but was acquitted and allowed to retire to his village: the new government plainly didn’t consider him much of a threat.

But when Ngouabi was assassinated in his turn on March 18, 1977 — for causes that remain unclear but that may have had to do with French energy interests in the region — the army seized control and purged numerous officials for supposed participation in the plot. Massamba-Debat, notwithstanding a dearth of evidence actually implicating him, was by virtue of being an overthrown former ruler far enough under the shadow of official distrust to find his name on that deadly list.

Massamba-Debat was officially rehabilitated in 1991, and is now far enough clear from the taint of treachery against his still-popular successor to have a stadium named after him. (the link is in French)

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Congo (Brazzaville),Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Execution,Heads of State,History,Politicians,Posthumous Exonerations,Shot,Summary Executions,Treason

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