Jacques Joachim Yhombi Opango is dead. The former president of Congo died in France after contracting the novel Coronavirus.
At the age of 81, Yhombi Opango died after suffering complications from the infection. He, however, had other long-running health problems. He died while receiving treatment in a hospital in France.
Yhombi Opango has now joined the list of other high profile individuals that COVID-19 has killed.
This includes the first vice president of the parliament of Burkina Faso, Ms. Rose Marie Compaore. She succumbed to the virus becoming the first Coronavirus related death in the country.
The former president of the Republic of Congo was living in France by the time of his death. He had fled to France following a civil war in his country.
Army Chief of Staff
Yhombi Opango was the president of Congo Brazzaville from 1977 to 1979. He came into power Congo’s third president, Marien Ngouabi, was assassinated.
Previously, Yhombi Opango had been a high profile individual in Ngouabi’s government. He started as an Army Chief of Staff with the title Major. He was also a right-wing member of the ruling party in Congo at that time, the Congolese Labor Party (PCT).
In 1972, leftist elements in the PCT hatched a plan to overthrow the government. In their plan, they placed blame on Yhombi Opango as a traitor. They also accused him of trying to grab power through a rightist group after having all leftists arrested.
The coup was, however, thwarted and the real culprits identified.
Following this, Yhombi Opango was promoted to the rank of Colonel before further being promoted to head the Defence.
Yhombi Opango, however, served as president for only two years. In 1979, he was forced to resign after being accused of sponsoring a rightist faction in the ruling party. He was consequently expelled from the PCT and had his properties confiscated.
Following his resignation, his vice president, Denis Sassou Nguesso became president. He also put him in detention and later under house arrest.
In 1987, about 20 army officers were arrested in connection to plotting a coup. Yhombi Opango was connected to this leading to his re-arrest. He was, however, released in 1990 alongside other prisoners as the country celebrated its 30th independence anniversary.
In 1992, he unsuccessfully ran for the presidency. As a result, he allied with Pascal Lissouba who had won the election. In return, Pascal appointed him as the Prime Minister of the Republic of Congo.
In 1997, war broke out between the supporters of Yhombi Opango and Sassou Nguesso. The latter won forcing Opango to flee to exile. Lissouba was also ousted as president and Sassou Nguesso, once again became the president. He has held that position to date.
While in Exile, Yhombi Opango was sentenced to 20 years in jail. His charges were embezzlement of public resources. This was in connection to a 1993 oil deal where he, together with other government leaders, conspired to steal at least $150 million.
In 2007, he was granted amnesty and thus allowed to return. He made his return to the welcome of thousands of supporters. He would immediately begin politicking promising to re-organize his party to bring it to a national status again.
However, his health began to deteriorate making him occasionally jet into France for medical check-ups. It was during these check-ups that he contracted COVID-19 and met his death.