Dictator Dozen — Africa's Worst Despots
When Foreign Policy Magazine released its list of the world's most awful tyrants, the collection featured the usual suspects like Robert Mugabe and Muammar al-Gaddafi. However, some of Africa's greatest atrocities have come at the hands of lesser-known dictators, so here are 12 guys (plus one) that you never want to meet.
Of the twenty-three autocrats covered in the magazine's "Worst of the Worst" article, thirteen (a baker's dozen!) are from African nations. Although this group of bad apples is not entirely reflective of the continent's leadership, their moral ambiguity and reprehensible policies are part of what has become an all too common trend in Africa's history. That said, separating fact from fallacy can often be difficult with subjects like this. So as always it's best to read up, check out some independent research and get the knowledge yourself.
From Foreign Policy Magazine:
2. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe
A liberation "hero" in the struggle for independence who has since transformed himself into a murderous despot, Mugabe has arrested and tortured the opposition, squeezed his economy into astounding negative growth and billion-percent inflation, and funneled off a juicy cut for himself using currency manipulation and offshore accounts.
Years in power: 30
4. Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan
A megalomaniac zealot who has quashed all opposition, Bashir is responsible for the deaths of millions of Sudanese and has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. Bashir's Arab militias, thejanjaweed, may have halted their massacres in Darfur, but they continue to traffic black Sudanese as slaves (Bashir himself has been accused of having several at one point).
Years in power: 21
6. Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea
A crocodile liberator, Afwerki has turned his country into a national prison in which independent media are shut down, elections are categorically rejected, indefinite military service is mandatory and the government would rather support Somali militants than its own people.
Years in power: 17
9. Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia
Worse than the former Marxist dictator he ousted nearly two decades ago, Zenawi has clamped down on the opposition, stifled all dissent and rigged elections. Like a true Marxist revolutionary, Zenawi has stashed millions in foreign banks and acquired mansions in Maryland and London in his wife's name, according to the opposition - even as his barbaric regime collects a whopping $1 billion in foreign aid each year.
Years in power: 19
11. Muammar al-Qaddafi of Libya
An eccentric egoist infamous for his indecipherable flamboyant speeches and equally erratic politics, Qaddafi runs a police state based on his version of Mao's Red Book - the Green Book - which includes a solution to "the Problem of Democracy." Repressive at home, Qaddafi masquerades as Africa's king of kings abroad (the African Union had to politely insist that he step down as its rotating head).
Years in power: 41
13. Idriss Déby of Chad
Having led a rebel insurgency against a former dictator, Déby today faces a similar challenge - from one of his own former cabinet officials, among others. To repel would-be coup leaders, Déby has drained social spending accounts to equip the military, co-opted opposition-leader foes and is now building a moat around the capital, N'Djamena.
Years in power: 20
14. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea
Obiang and his family literally own the economy, having reportedly amassed a fortune exceeding $600 million while the country's people remain in desperate poverty. Equatorial Guinea's extraordinary oil wealth puts its GDP per capita on par with many European states - if only it were evenly shared. Instead, revenues remain a "state secret."
Years in power: 31
15. Hosni Mubarak of Egypt
A senile and paranoid autocrat whose sole preoccupation is self-perpetuation in office, Mubarak is suspicious of even his own shadow. He keeps a 30-year-old emergency law in place to squelch any opposition activity and has groomed his son, Gamal, to succeed him. (No wonder only 23 percent of Egyptians bothered to vote in the 2005 presidential election.)
Years in power: 29
16. Yahya Jammeh of Gambia
This eccentric militarist has vowed to rule for 40 years and claims to have discovered the cure for HIV/AIDS. (Jammeh also claims he has mystic powers and will turn Gambia into an oil-producing country, no luck yet.) A narcissist at heart, the dictator insists on being addressed as His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Azziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh.
Years in power: 16
18. Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso
A tin-pot despot with no vision and no agenda, save self-perpetuation in power by liquidating opponents and stifling dissent, Compaoré has lived up to the low standards of his own rise to power, where he murdered his predecessor Thomas Sankara in a 1987 coup.
Years in power: 23
19. Yoweri Museveni of Uganda
After leading a rebel insurgency that took over Uganda in 1986, Museveni declared: "No African head of state should be in power for more than 10 years." But 24 years later, he is still here, winning one "coconut election" after another in which other political parties are technically legal but a political rally of more than a handful of people is not.
Years in power: 24
20. Paul Kagame of Rwanda
A liberator who saved the Tutsis from complete extermination in 1994, Kagame now practices the same ethnic apartheid he sought to end. His Rwandan Patriotic Front dominates all levers of power: the security forces, the civil service, the judiciary, banks, universities, and state-owned corporations. Those who challenge the president are accused of being a hatemonger or divisionist and arrested.
Years in power: 10
23. Paul Biya of Cameroon
A suave bandit who has reportedly racked up a personal fortune of more than $200 million and the mansions to go with it, Biya has co-opted the opposition into complete submission. Not that he's worried about elections; he has rigged the term limit laws twice to make sure the party doesn't end anytime soon.
Years in power: 28