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Congo's Milongo held purse strings without prejudice

By unknown | Jul 27, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

LIBREVILLE - Andre Milongo, the 72-year-old former Congolese prime minister and a key opposition figure, died on Sunday night in a Paris hospital, an official said on Monday.

LIBREVILLE - Andre Milongo, the 72-year-old former Congolese prime minister and a key opposition figure, died on Sunday night in a Paris hospital, an official said on Monday.

"Milongo was ill. He died in the hospital where he was admitted a few days ago," vice president of Congo's national assembly Gabriel Oba Apounou said without giving further details.

Born in 1935, Milongo worked as national treasurer in the early 1960s and sat on the boards of both the African Development Bank and the World Bank before returning to Congo in 1991 to help push through the country's transition to multiparty democracy.

After being elected prime minster for the transition period between 1991 and 1992, the founder of the opposition Union for Democracy and Republic Party came in fourth in the 1992 elections that ushered Pascal Lissouba into the presidency.

He became president of the national assembly, a post he held until the 1997 start of the civil war, and became a member of the National Transition Council after the hostilities ended in 1999.

Milongo was the main opposition candidate in the 2002 elections, won by current President Denis Sassou Nguesso, but opted out 48 hours before the vote over lacking transparency and poll-rigging.

He was the first Congolese leader of the "democratic" era and is often credited for organising the first democratic presidential elections of Congo.

The youngest son in a family of nine children, Milongo was born in October 1935 in Mankondi, a village in Boko district southwest of the capital Brazzaville.

He was the father of seven children and six grandchildren, who reside in Congo, France, the US and Canada.

Milongo was known for his anti-ethnic discrimination stance within the country, praising unity and love. His mentor was the late Felix Houphouet-Boigny.

Milongo earned a Master's degree in law at the University of Nancy, after which he studied at the Ecole Nationale d'Administration (ENA) in Paris, graduating in 1964. He was among the only four Congolese citizens to have graduated from ENA.

Milongo began his professional career in 1964 as the first Congolese national treasurer in the newly independent Republic of the Congo, a position he held for five years.

He built his reputation on the platform of his rigorous management of the country's cash assets and investments, often tightening the purse strings to the dismay of major government officials.

He was elected to the board of governors at the African Development Bank in the Ivory Coast in 1976, and placed in charge of eight African countries.

He held that position for seven years, before being elected to the board of governors at the World Bank in Washington, DC.

In the early 1990s, the Republic of the Congo was on the verge of bankruptcy because of the loss of support from the Soviet Union after the collapse of communism.

This led to the emergence of a new generation of African leaders such as Nicephore Soglo in Benin, Alassane Ouattara in the Ivory Coast and Andre Milongo.

He became the republic's first and only democratically elected prime minister, charged with moving the country from a socialist-Marxist-Leninist economy to a more capitalist-oriented developing economy.

The country, under Milongo, found stability and held democratic elections, enabling Pascal Lissouba to become the president. In these elections, Milongo ran as a presidential candidate, but lost.

During the short civil war of 1993, Milongo was chairman and speaker of the house at the Congolese parliament, where he requested and obtained a cease-fire from both parties involved in the conflict, Bernard Kolelas and Pascal Lissouba.

After the second civil war in 1997, which burnt the trust between political parties, Milongo was the only former official not to flee the country.

He said he had nothing to fear from the leadership of Denis Sassou Nguesso.

He asserted that the country belonged to all Congolese nationals. - Sapa-AFP, additional information from Wikimedia


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