Jacques Joaquim Yhombi-Opango, former president of the Republic of the Congo, has died after contracting coronavirus, his family said. Yhombi-Opango died in a Paris hospital on Monday. He was 81. Yhombi-Opango was ill before he contracted the virus, his son told AFP news agency.
He led Congo-Brazzaville from 1977 until he was toppled in 1979, being ousted by the country’s current leader, Denis Sassou Nguesso. Born in 1939 in the country’s northern Cuvette region, Yhombi-Opango was an army officer who rose to power after the assassination of president Marien Ngouabi.
The troubled oil-rich former French colony was aligned with the Soviet Union during Ngouabi’s 1968-1977 rule. Accused of taking part in a coup plot against Sassou Nguesso, Yhombi-Opango was jailed from 1987 to 1990. He was released a few months before a 1991 national conference that introduced multi-party politics in the central African country.
He founded the Rally for Democracy and Development party but lost in a 1992 presidential election. Yhombi-Opango later allied with elected president Pascal Lissouba, becoming his prime minister between 1994 and 1996.
When civil war broke out in Congo in 1997, Yhombi-Opango fled into exile in France. He was finally able to return home in 2007, but then divided his time between France and Congo because of his health problems.
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