Bob Denard


Bob Denard

Infobox Person
name = Bob Denard


image_size = 126
caption = Bob Denard in Kandani, Comoro Islands (Reuters)
birth_date = birth date|1929|4|7
birth_place = Bordeaux, France
death_date = death date and age|2007|10|13|1929|4|7
death_place = Grayan-et-l'Hôpital, Gironde, France
occupation = Mercenary
spouse = (Seven)
parents =
children = (Eight)

"Colonel" Bob Denard (April 7, 1929 – October 13, 2007), born Gilbert Bourgeaud, was one of the most famous and influential mercenaries since World War II. He was known for having done various jobs in "Françafrique" (a term referring to France's sphere of influence in the former colonies and shady actions carried out there) for Jacques Foccart, in charge of French president Charles de Gaulle's policy in Africa. Having fought in Algeria during the Franco-Algerian War, he then took part in the Katanga secession in the 1960s and fought in many African countries including Congo, Angola, Zimbabwe and Gabon. Between 1975 and 1995, he participated in four coups in the Comoro Islands. It is widely believed that his adventures had the implicit support of the French state, even after the 1981 election of the French Socialist Party candidate, François Mitterrand, despite moderate changes in France's policy in Africa . He was the father of eight children and had been married seven times (polygamously), after converting to Islam. He is considered as the inspiration for Frederick Forsyth's novel The Dogs of War.

History

After having served with the French Navy in Indochina and in French Algeria, [http://www.lefigaro.fr/france/20071014.WWW000000028_l_ancien_mercenaire_bob_denard_est_mort.html L'ancien mercenaire Bob Denard est mort] , "Le Figaro", October 14, 2007. fr icon] Denard served as a colonial policeman in Morocco from 1952 to 1957. François Dominguez and Barbara Vignaux, [http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2003/08/DOMINGUEZ/10303 La nébuleuse des mercenaires français] , "Le Monde diplomatique", August 2003. fr icon (Arabic and Portuguese translations)] In 1954, he was convicted of an assassination plot against Prime Minister Pierre Mendès-France, a left-wing member of the Radical-Socialist Party who was negotiating the end of the Indochina War and withdrawal of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, and served 14 months in jail [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7044019.stm Obituary: Bob Denard] , BBC, 14 October 2007 en icon] . An adamant anti-Communist, Denard then took part in many anti-colonialist struggles, simultaneously on his own behalf and on the behalf of the French state [http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-3224,36-967276@51-966822,0.html "Bob Denard a toujours agi pour le compte de l'Etat français"] , interview with Xavier Renou in "Le Monde", 15 October 2007 fr icon] . After his liberation from jail, he worked for the French secret services during the war in Algeria.

After his discharge from the French navy, Bob Denard was briefly a policeman in Morocco anda demonstrator for washing machines in Paris.John Lichfield [http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/bob-denard-396988.html Bob Denard] The Independent, October 16, 2007] He began his mercenary career, which was to span three decades, in Katanga, probably in December 1961 when he and other foreign mercenaries were brought in by the leader of the mercenaries in Katanga, Roger Faulques. He became famous after rescuing white civilians encircled by rebels in Stanleyville Sophie Nicholson [http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2007/oct/16/guardianobituaries.france Bob Denard: French mercenary behind several post-colonial coups] The Guardian, October 16, 2007] (The 1978 film "The Wild Geese" is based on these events). Denard fought there until the secession of Moise Tshombe collapsed in January 1963. Denard and his men then fled to Portuguese Angola.

Denard is known to have participated in conflicts in Zimbabwe, Yemen, Iran, Nigeria, Benin, Gabon, Angola, Zaire and the Comoros, which has been subject to more than twenty coup d'états in the past decades. For most of his career Denard had the quiet backing of France and the French secret service which wished to maintain French influence over its ex-colonies.

In mid-1963 he made his way to North Yemen, which was then in the middle of a civil war between a Nasserist government and royalist tribesmen. The royalists were supported by the Western Europeans and Saudi Arabia. The French and British sponsored a number of mercenaries to train the royalist volunteers in military techniques, and Bob Denard was among those who joined the Imam al-Badr, leader of the royalists.

After about eighteen months Denard returned to the Congo to take employment under Moise Tshombe who was now the prime minister of the central government in Leopoldville. Denard served for two years in the Congo battling rebel supporters of the late Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba, who had been murdered in Katanga in 1961 after having been overthrown by rival politicians and severely tortured while in transit. The rebels were backed by the Chinese and Cubans, including Che Guevara while Lumumba's murderers were tacitly backed by the CIA and Belgium. Denard was in charge of his own unit of French mercenaries called "les affreux" (lit. : the uglies). Denard helped put down an attempted coup on behalf of Tshombe by Katangan separatists in July 1966. Tshombe had been overthrown while abroad by Colonel Mobutu Sese Seko, the leader of the army, in November 1965.

A year later Denard sided with Katangan separatists and Belgian mercenaries led by Jean Schramme in a revolt in eastern Congo. The rebels soon found themselves bottled up in Bukavu. Denard was wounded in the initial rising and flew out with a group of more seriously wounded men to Rhodesia. In January 1968 he invaded Katanga with a force of a hundred men on bicycles in an attempt to create a diversion for a breakout from Bukavu. The invasion was a farce.

Denard missed out on mercenary activity in Biafra during the Nigerian civil war during the late 1960s. From 1968 to 1978 he was employed supporting the government in Gabon and was available to carry out military actions on behalf of the French government in Africa. He may have been involved in a raid against Guinea in 1970. He was involved in a failed coup attempt in Benin ("Opération Crevette", or Operation Shrimp), against Mathieu Kérékou, the leader of the People's Revolutionary Party of Benin, in 1977 [http://www.humanite.fr/1999-05-04_International_Bob-Denard-chien-de-guerre Bob Denard, chien de guerre] , "L'Humanité", 4 May 1999 fr icon] . Although Jacques Foccard denied personal knowledge of the attempted coup after its failure, he did recognize that it had been backed-up by Gnassingbé Eyadéma (Togo), Houphouet-Boigny (Ivory Coast), Omar Bongo (Gabon) and Hassan II (Morocco), all allies of France .

The Comoros

His "favorite" targets were the Comoros. He overthrew the government of this small island group four times. On orders from Jacques Foccart, he ousted the first president, Ahmed Abdallah, who had just unilaterally proclaimed the Comoros' independence on July 6, 1975. Ahmed Abdallah was replaced by Ali Soilih.

He then failed at a coup in Benin in 1977 and carried out some operations in Rhodesia in 1977. He returned to the Comoros with 43 men, where he successfully carried out a coup against president Ali Soilih, who had turned toward socialist policies and was killed under mysterious circumstances on May 29, 1978. [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,919809,00.html A man and his dog] TIME Magazine, August 21, 1978] Helped by Denard, Ahmed Abdallah took the presidency back. For eleven years (1978-1989) Denard headed Abdallah's 500-strong presidential guard and had strong influence and business interests in the archipelago, marrying and converting to Islam and eventually becoming a citizen of the country. He adopted the Islamic name "Said Mustapha Mahdjoub" upon his conversion. The Comoros also served as his logistic base for military operations in Mozambique and Angola. He was then supported by Paris, as the Comoros provided France for a base to get around the embargo decreeded against the apartheid regime of South Africa . Denard created himself a little empire in the Comoros, composed of hotels, lands and his presidential guard . According to Xavier Renou, author of a book on private military contractors, Denard foreshadowed the transition between traditional mercenaries to contemporary private military contractors, creating a little army during his stay in the Comoros in the 1980s .

In 1989, fearing a probable coup d'état, president Ahmed Abdallah signed a decree ordering the Presidential Guard, led by Bob Denard, to disarm the armed forces. Shortly after the signing of the decree, a military officer allegedly entered president Abdallah's office and shot him, injuring Denard at the same time. A few days later, Bob Denard was evacuated to South Africa by French paratroopers.

1995 coup against Said Mohamed Djohar

On the night of September 27, 1995, Bob Denard landed on the Comoros with 30 men in Zodiac inflatable boats in an attempted coup against president Said Mohamed Djohar, Abdallah’s successor. On October 4, in accordance with an agreement between France and the Comoros, the French army put an end to the attempt. Bob Denard was brought back to France by the French DGSE intelligence agency for trial.

Trial concerning the 1989 coup against Ahmed Abdallah

Bob Denard then waited in the Médoc region, in France, for his trial for the murder of president Ahmed Abdallah in 1989. With his lieutenant Dominique Malacrino, he had to face charges in May 1999 for his role in the 1989 coup, in which, according to the French prosecution, president Ahmed Abdallah was killed on the orders of Denard because he was about to remove Denard as head of the presidential guard. The prosecution said Ahmed Abdallah was shot on orders from Denard during a faked attack on his palace on the night of November 26, 1989. But a few days before the trial, Abdallah's family dropped their suit, and finally Bob Denard and Dominique Malacrino were acquitted because of lack of evidence. The Comoros experienced its twentieth coup attempt since independence on the day that the trial began.

Afterward, president Mohamed Taki Abdulkarim declared that he refused Bob Denard's return to the Comoros. On November 6, 1998, Abdulkarim died under suspicious circumstances. His family suspected a poisoning and asked for an autopsy. The post-mortem examination was refused and Abdulkarim was said to have died of natural causes.

Trial concerning the 1995 coup against Said Djohar

Denard was arrested in 1995 when he launched a fourth coup, "Operation Kaskari", against Saïd Djohar, in the Comoros. The French government sent an expeditionary force to capture Denard and his 33 mercenaries. Despite having over 300 armed Comorians ready to fight and having machine gun posts set up, Denard surrendered without a shot being fired and spent ten months in a Paris jail. At his trial a number of former Gaullist politicians, including Charles Pasqua, spoke on his behalf.

In 2001, Guido Papalia, Italian attorney of Verona, prosecuted Denard for having tried to recruit mercenaries in the far-right Italian movement (through Franco Nerozzi) in order to make a coup against Colonel Azali Assoumani, the current president, also opposed to his return to the Comoros.

On March 9, 2006, attorney Olivier Bray asked for five years of prison for the 1995 coup d'État against Said Mohamed Djohar under the code-name "Eskazi", and sentences between one and four years for his 26 accomplices. During the three-week-long trial, Bob Denard and his accomplices tried to convince the court that they had acted with implicit support of French authorities. Dominique Malacrino talked about the "numerous phone calls of Jacques Foccart, then responsible for the African office at the Elysée palace" to Bob Denard. Emmanuel Pochet, another suspect, declared that Denard had "support from senior officers of the special forces of the DGSE", the French external intelligence agency. Olivier Feneteau, another suspect, declared that he had belonged in the past to the "action service" of the DGSE. On March 9, Denard's lawyer presented declarations by former president Djohar, who had stated, during an interview to Comorian newspaper "Kashkazi" at the end of October 2005, that his security chief, Captain Rubis, a French officer that the French authorities had recommended to him, "was aware of the coup". [ fr icon cite news | title=Putsch aux Comores : cinq ans de prison requis contre Bob Denard | work=Le Monde | date=March 9, 2006 | url=http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-3212,36-749053,0.html ]

In June 2006 Denard, who by then was suffering from Alzheimer's, was found guilty of "belonging to a gang who conspired to commit a crime", and was given a five-year suspended jail term. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/5097618.stm French 'dog of war' spared jail] , "BBC News Online", June 20, 2006.] During the trial, the role of the French secret services in the 1995 coup against Saïd Djohar was recognized, but not deemed sufficient to discharge the mercenaries of their guilt. [http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-3224,36-786252@51-966822,0.html Bob Denard est condamné à cinq ans de prison avec sursis] , "Le Monde" (originally published on 21 June 2006, actualized on 14 October 2007). fr icon] However, the knowledge of the French authorities of the attempted coup was one of the reasons given by the Court to abstain from ordering a firm prison sentence. During his trial in 2006 before the Court of Appeal, a former head of the foreign intelligence service explicitly stated that "When special services are unable to undertake certain kinds of undercover operation, they use parallel structures. This was the case of Bob Denard." In July 2007, he was sentenced by the Court of Appeal to four years of prison (one firm, three suspended). "Décès de l'ancien mercenaire Bob Denard", Agence France-Presse, October 14, 2007 [http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5i3aTDvxB7xFr_uHDa-VPlUiO996g on-line] .] However, he never served his sentence for health reasons.

His death was announced by his sister on October 14, 2007. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7043827.stm French mercenary Bob Denard dies] , BBC News, October 14, 2007.]

References

Bibliography

Samantha Weinberg: "Last of the pirates ; in search of Bob Denard". London, 1994. ISBN 0224033077

See also

*History of Comoros

External links

* [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article2665787.ece Obituary in "The Times", 16 October 2007]
* [http://www.specwarnet.com/miscinfo/azalee.htm More on the 1995 Azalee Operation]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/334719.stm More on the 1989 coup] (BBC)
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/348077.stm The outcome of the trial the Denard process of 1995] (BBC)
* [http://www.gyaszhir.hu/book.php?id=21094 Condolence book of Bob Denard (Hungarian)]


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