28 Sep: King of the Coup

Gilbert Bourgeaud, better known by his nom de guerre “Bob Denard” was shot in the head at least twice, married seven times and had at least three religious conversions. And on September 28th, 1995, he launched his fourth and final attempt to take control of the Comoros islands with his own private army.

In fact, since gaining its independence from France in 1975, the Comoros islands have experienced more than 20 coups or attempted coups and several assassinations of their heads of state. And Denard was involved with a good proportion of them.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly look into Denard’s incredible CV, which ranges from selling kitchen appliances to overthrowing countries; explore how the mercenaries of yesterday turned into the military contractors of today; and consider how Denard’s obituaries show just how far we’ve come as a society considering how many of them described him as “colourful”.

Further Reading:

• ‘Comoros coup leader surrenders to France’ (The Independent, 1995): https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/comoros-coup-leader-surrenders-to-france-1576191.html 

• ‘Bob Denard obituary’ (The Guardian, 2007): https://www.theguardian.com/news/2007/oct/16/guardianobituaries.france 

• ‘Bob Denard: French Mercenary Who Caused Chaos in Africa’ (African Biographics, 2021):