Tragedy Strikes: African Presidents Lost in Plane Crashes


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The tragic crash of a helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, and other officials, in northwestern Iran on Sunday has resulted in a devastating loss for the country.

The tragic helicopter crash adds another sad chapter to the long history of aviation accidents claiming the lives of presidents and world leaders.

Such incidents often leave an indelible mark on countries worldwide, casting a dark shadow over their governance and trajectory, as in the case of Rwanda in Africa.

Below is a list of African Presidents who lost their lives in plane crashes:

Samora Machel

Mozambique’s first president, Samora Machel, passed away on October 19, 1986, following a tragic incident where his plane, a Soviet Tupolev 134, crashed into a hillside at Mbuzini, situated just inside South Africa’s borders.

The Margo Commission, established by the South African government, but which included high-level international representation, probed the incident. It determined that the crash resulted from pilot error.

Plane crash site

Despite the acceptance of its findings by the International Civil Aviation Organization, the report was rejected by the Mozambican and Soviet governments.

The latter submitted a minority report suggesting that the aircraft was intentionally lured off course by a decoy radio navigation beacon set up specifically for this purpose by the South Africans. Speculation about the accident has continued to the present day, particularly in Mozambique.

Portrait du président rwandais Juvenal Habyarimana, pris le 23 avril 1991 lors de son voyage officiel à Paris.

On April 6, 1994, the President of Rwanda, Juvénal Habyarimana, died in a plane crash near the capital city of Kigali. The incident, which also claimed the life of Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira and several others, occurred when the aircraft, a Dassault Falcon 50, was struck by surface-to-air missiles as it prepared to land at Kigali International Airport.

The tragic event catalyzed the Rwandan Genocide, a mass slaughter of Tutsi and moderate Hutu individuals by extremist Hutu militias. Habyarimana’s death remains a subject of controversy, with various parties accused of orchestrating the plane crash as a means to spark the genocide.

Juvénal Habyarimana

Cyprien Ntaryamira, the President of Burundi, tragically lost his life in a plane crash on April 6, 1994, along with Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana.

The incident occurred as they were returning from a regional summit in Dar es Salaam.

Unlike in Rwanda, where the shootdown sparked a genocide, the situation in Burundi remained peaceful following the news of its president’s death.

4. President Mohammed Morsi (Egypt)

Not a president, but the former President of Egypt died in June 2019 in a courtroom during his trial.

Mohamed Mohamed Morsi Eissa al-Ayyat was an Egyptian politician, engineer, and professor who served as the fifth president of Egypt, from 2012 to 2013, when General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi removed him from office in a coup d’état after protests in June

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