André-Dieudonné Kolingba (12 August 1936 – 7 February 2010) was a Central African politician who served as the fourth President of the Central African Republic (CAR) from 1 September 1981 to 1 October 1993. He came to power through a bloodless coup d'état, ousting President David Dacko in 1981, and his presidency ended with his defeat in a democratic election.
Kolingba was born on 12 August 1936 in Bangui, the capital of the French colony of Oubangui-Chari in French Equatorial Africa. He belonged to the Yakoma ethnic group, which resided in the riverine region of the country. Kolingba joined the French military in 1954 and later became a member of the Central African army after the country gained independence in 1960. Rising through the ranks, he held various positions, including colonel, brigadier general, and battalion commander. He also served as a technical adviser to the minister of national defense and as the CAR's ambassador to Canada and Germany. Kolingba gained favor with President David Dacko and was appointed army chief of staff in July 1981.
In September 1981, Kolingba orchestrated a coup d'état against President Dacko, overthrowing his government. The details of the support he received for the coup remain unclear, with some speculating that local French military advisers assisted him without the knowledge or authorization of French President François Mitterrand. France initially supported Kolingba's regime until the end of the Cold War in 1992, after which pressure mounted both internally and externally for democratic reforms and presidential elections.
During his rule, which began as a military dictatorship, Kolingba established a military committee for national reconstruction but ruled as a corrupt dictator until 1986. He later introduced a constitution through a national referendum, which granted him a six-year term as president and established the Central African Democratic Rally (Rassemblement Démocratique Centrafricain, RDC) as the country's only legal party. Parliamentary elections held in 1987 were effectively controlled by Kolingba, further consolidating his political power.
The end of the Cold War weakened the support for anti-communist dictatorships, leading to increased pressure on Kolingba to open up the regime. In 1991, he agreed to share power with Edouard Frank, who was appointed prime minister. Kolingba also initiated constitutional reforms to make the government more democratic and pluralistic. Under mounting pressure from the international community, including the United States, Kolingba eventually held free elections in 1992. However, he finished last with only 10 percent of the vote. Disregarding the election results, he extended his presidential term through a "constitutional coup d'état" for another 90 days.
In February 1993, Kolingba faced further challenges to his rule when opposition leader Angé Patassé declared him no longer president. International pressure, including from the United Nations, compelled Kolingba to hold proper elections, which took place later that year. Kolingba secured only 12 percent of the vote, failing to qualify for the runoff, and Patassé was elected as the new president. In a rare display of peaceful transition, Kolingba peacefully handed over power to Patassé in October 1993.
In 2001, there was an attempted coup against President Patassé, in which Kolingba was accused of involvement. Fearing prosecution, he sought refuge in Uganda. However, Patassé was later overthrown in the 2003 Central African Republic coup d'état by François Bozizé, who declared amnesty for all involved in the 2001 coup attempt. Kolingba returned to the CAR during a national conference on reconciliation and reconstruction sponsored by Bozizé. He publicly asked for forgiveness for the excesses committed during his rule and later traveled to Paris for medical treatment. André-Dieudonné Kolingba passed away in Paris on 7 February 2010.
Throughout his career, Kolingba received various honors and awards, including the Officer of the Order of the Operation Bokassa, Officer of the Order of the Medal of Central African Gratitude, Knight of the Order of Postal Merit, Commander of the Central African Order of Merit, and the Grand Cross of the Central African Order of Merit.
Date of Birth: 12thAugust, 1935
Time of Birth:
Place of Birth: Bangui