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Ahmadou Ahidjo


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(b. Garoua, Cameroon, Aug. 1924; d. Dakar, Senegal, 30 Nov. 1989)

Cameroonian; Prime Minister 1958–60, President 1960–82 A Fula Muslim from the north of the country, Ahidjo received a secondary education and became a radio operator in the post office before his election to the Representative Assembly in 1947. In 1953 he was elected to the Assembly of the French Union in Paris. He rose to be Vice-Prime Minister in 1957 and Prime Minister in 1958, becoming President at independence on 1 January 1960. He remained in office until his voluntary retirement in 1982.

As leader of the moderate Union Camerounaise, Ahidjo was aided in his quest for power by French support against the more radical UPC, and retained close links with France. He was a strong supporter of unification with the former British Cameroons, the southern part of which voted for union with former French Cameroon in 1961. Opposition parties were subsequently banned, and the federal system was replaced by a unitary state in 1972. His style of rule became highly personal and paternalistic, but the country, aided by oil revenues, was relatively prosperous and stable.

Ahidjo's sudden retirement in 1982 was widely ascribed to a belief that he was terminally ill. Once his chosen successor, Paul Biya, started to assert his authority, Ahidjo went into exile and was associated with attempted coups in 1983 and 1984. He died in exile in Senegal.

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