Monday 6 February 2012

Modern day tyrants (Part 1)

Tyrants have been with Mankind for many, many centuries. Caligula, a Roman emperor comes to mind. The people hated him so much; his own soldiers slashed him to death. Nero was also hated. He committed suicide rather than be whipped to death by his own people. Hitler committed suicide rather than end up being put on display by the Soviets. It is unfortunate that even in this modern age, a number of countries have or had tyrants running them. Their motives? Staying in power. This article is going to describe a number of the tyrants in the Twentieth and Twenty-First centuries who ruled some of the countries.

Saparmurat Niyazov, Turkmenistan

He was a Turkmen politician who served as President (later President for Life) of Turkmenistan from the 2nd of November 1990 until his death in 2006. American media criticized him as one of the world's most totalitarian and repressive dictators, highlighting his reputation of imposing his personal eccentricities upon the country, which extended to renaming months, which had been borrowed Russian words after members of his family

In May 2000, the government revoked all Internet licenses except for the state-owned Turkmen Telecom and in June 2001 shut down all Internet cafés.

In February 2005 all hospitals outside Aşgabat were ordered shut, with the reasoning that the sick should come to the capital for treatment. According to the paper Neitralniy Turkmenistan physicians were ordered to swear an oath to the President, replacing the Hippocratic Oath.

All libraries outside of the capital were also closed, as Niyazov believed that the only books that most Turkmen needed to read were the Koran and his Ruhnama.

Niyazov banned the use of lip syncing at public concerts in 2005 as well as sound recordings at musical performances on state holidays, in broadcasts by Turkem television channels, at all cultural events organized by the state in places of mass assembly and at weddings and celebrations organized by the public, by citing that it had a negative effect on the development of musical arts incurred by the use of recorded music.

Niyazov banished dogs from the capital Ashgabat because of their unappealing odor.

According to the Ashgabat correspondent of right-hand-drive imported cars converted to left-hand-drive were banned due to a perceived increased risk in accidents.

Niyazov requested that a palace of ice, or indoor ice skating rink, be built near the capital, so that those living in the desert country could learn to skate. The palace was built in 2008 and located near the new Turkmen State Medical University.

He outlawed opera, ballet, and the circus in 2001 for being decidedly unturkmen-like.

In February 2004 he decreed that men should no longer wear long hair or beards.

He banned news reporters and anchors from wearing make-up on television, apparently because he believed Turkmen women were already beautiful enough without make-up.

Gold teeth were outlawed in Turkmenistan after Niyazov suggested that the populace chew on bones to strengthen their teeth and lessen the rate at which they fall out.

After an alleged assassination attempt on November 25, 2002, the Turkmen government arrested thousands of suspected conspirators and members of their families.

On December 21, 2006, Turkmen state television announced that President Niyazov had died of a sudden heart attack. Niyazov had been taking medication for an unidentified cardiac condition. He also suffered from diabetes, ischemic heart disease and kidney failure. It is strange indeed. Having spirited away billions of dollars into his own coffers, he didn’t use some of it to better his health.

Jean Bedel Bokassa, Central African Republic

This crackpot ruled one of the poorest countries in the world until his death in 1996. He took for himself the title of Emperor in 1976. The ceremony inspired by Napoleon I, cost as much as $20 million which was one third of the state’s yearly budget. Despite the generous invitations to attend his inauguration, no foreign leaders witnessed the inauguration. He placed his crown on his own head—Napoleon Bonaparte-style

When he took power of the Central African Republic, he formed a new government called the Revolutionary Council, invalidated the constitution and dissolved the National Assembly. He called it “a lifeless organ no longer representing the people.”

There were five things that he did for his country that was good. He banned polygamy, dowries and female circumcision. Further, Bokassa opened a public transport system in Bangui and subsidized the creation of two national orchestras, but other than that, he was a cruel dictator.

Two versions concerning the end circumstances of the death of one of his ministers differ on one minor detail. Did Bokassa tie him to a pillar before personally carving him with a knife that he had previously used for stirring his coffee in the gold-and-midnight blue Sèvres coffee set, or was the murder committed on the cabinet table with the help of other persons? Late that afternoon, soldiers dragged a still identifiable corpse, with the spinal column smashed, from barrack to barrack to serve as an example

By January 1979, French support for Bokassa had all but eroded after food riots in Bangui led to a massacre of civilians. But the final straw came when between the 17th of April and the 19th of April, a large number of elementary school students in Bangui and elsewhere in the country were arrested after they had protested against paying for and wearing the expensive, government-required school uniforms with Bokassa's image on them. His wife owned the company that manufactured them. Around 100 children were killed. Amnesty International indicated that the 100 or more school students who died actually suffocated or were beaten to death while being forced into a small jail cell following their arrest.

While Bokassa was visiting Libya, France mounted Operation Barracuda and sent paratroopers to the Central African Republic in order to restore the former president, David Dacko to the presidency. Bokassa immediately flew to France where, despite his legitimate claim to French nationality, he was prevented from landing. Finally, after living four years in the nation of Ivory Coast, he was allowed to settle in his house at Haudricourt, west of Paris.

In 1986, although condemned to death in absentia, Bokassa decided to return home. After a seven-month trial, he was again sentenced to death but President Andre Kolingba commuted the sentence to 20 years in prison. Released from jail, Bokassa retired to a villa in the capital, Bangui.

Idi Amin, Uganda

Now here was a real crackpot. He reigned only for eight years, from 1971 to 1979, but it was enough to become on of the craziest dictators ever known. Amin thought he was the right man for everything, so he adopted the title “His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.” It probably explains how mad he was. Just to make it clear, that “Doctor” means that he possessed all the PhD titles that existed. He thought that he beat the British in order for Uganda to gain independency, so he gave himself the title Conqueror of the British Empire. Also, in 1976, he claimed himself to be the uncrowned King of Scotland; despite the title’s real name is King of Scots.

Idi Amin seized power in a coup in January 1971. Amin had himself declared president and chief of the armed forces. Almost immediately he initiated mass executions of officers and troops he believed were still loyal to Obote who was Uganda’s former president. Thirty-two army officers died when dynamite blew up the cell in which they are being held at the Makindye Prison in Kampala. Overall, as many as two-thirds of the army's 9,000 soldiers were executed during Amin's first year in power.

Now determined to make Uganda ‘a black man's country’, in 1972, Amin expelled the country's 40,000-80,000 Indians and Pakistanis in the closing months of the year, reportedly after receiving a message from God during a dream. The Asians, most of who are third-generation descendants of workers brought to Uganda by the British colonial administration, were given 90 days to leave the country and were only allowed to take what they could carry. Amin warned, “If they do not leave they will find themselves sitting on the fire.” The businesses, homes and possessions they left behind were distributed without compensation to Amin's military cronies.

To secure his regime Amin launched a campaign of persecution against rival tribes and Obote supporters, murdering between 100,000 and 300,000. Among those to die were ordinary citizens, former and serving Cabinet ministers, the chief justice, Supreme Court judges, diplomats, academics, educators, prominent Roman Catholic and Anglican clergy, senior bureaucrats, medical practitioners, bankers, tribal leaders, business executives, journalists and a number of foreigners. In some cases, entire villages are wiped out. So many corpses were thrown into the Nile, that workers at one location have to continuously fish them out to stop the intake ducts at a nearby dam from becoming clogged.

As terror reigned, Uganda's economy began to collapse, partially through mismanagement and partially as a result of the expulsion of the Indians and Pakistanis, who had formed the country's economic backbone.

In 1975, Amin promoted himself to field marshal and awarded himself the Victoria Cross. The following year he declared himself president for life. During that same year, he staged a publicity stunt for the world media, forcing white residents of Kampala to carry him on a throne then kneel before him and recite an oath of loyalty.
In January 1977, Amin accused the Anglican archbishop of Uganda of conspiring in an invasion plot. The next day the archbishop and two Cabinet ministers were found murdered.

By most accounts, this dictator was an illiterate and gluttonous buffoon. Amin had become the subject of many bizarre rumours and myths. There are stories of cannibalism, of feeding the corpses of his victims to crocodiles, of keeping severed heads in a freezer at his home and bringing them out on occasions for ‘talks’—most or all of which are unsubstantiated, but not necessarily untrue. He is known to have admired the German dictator Adolf Hitler and is quoted as saying that “Hitler was right to burn six million Jews. It is also said that he planned to have a statue of Hitler constructed in Kampala.

In an attempt to divert attention from the country's internal problems in 1978, Amin launched an attack on Tanzania, a neighbouring country to the south, at the end of October. Tanzanian troops, assisted by armed Ugandan exiles, quickly put Amin's army to flight.

Beating back the Ugandan's heavy resistance, the invading Tanzanian forces take Kampala on 11 April 1979. Amin flew to Libya, taking his four wives, several of his 30 mistresses and about 20 of his children.

After being asked to leave Libya, he lived for a time in Iraq before finally settling in the port city of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, where he was allowed to stay provided he kept out of politics. The Saudis provided him with a monthly stipend of about US$1,400, domestic servants, cooks, drivers and cars. He led a comfortable life with his four wives in a modest house.

In July 2003, Amin was reported to be in a coma and on life support in the intensive care unit of the King Faisal specialist hospital in Jeddah, where he had been receiving treatment for hypertension and general fatigue for three months. He had been admitted to the hospital with high blood pressure on the 18th of July. It was also reported that he was suffering from kidney failure but had refused treatment for the condition. Amin died in hospital of complications due to multiple organ failure at 8:20 a.m. on the 16th of August 2003. He was buried in Jeddah's Ruwais cemetery after a small funeral ceremony just hours after his death.

Besides a huge death toll, Amin had left Uganda with an annual inflation rate of 200%, a national debt of US$320 million, an agricultural sector in tatters along with closed factories and ruined businesses.

Mobutu Sese Seko, Zaire / Democratic Republic of Congo

To be dictator means that you can do anything. Mobutu Sese Seko knew that very well and took his chance to do whatever he wants. He never built good roads in DR Congo (Zaire during his reign), but he bought a fleet of Mercedes-Benz. When there was nothing interesting in Congo, he was going to Paris to shop with personal Concorde. However, his dictatorship peak was when the national TV news was showing him descending through clouds from the heavens, calling him “Father of the Nation,” and the “Savior of the People,” and also “Supreme Combatant.” Finally, he prohibited mentioning any other person on TV other than him.

While in office, he formed an authoritarian regime, amassed vast personal wealth, and attempted to purge the country of all colonial cultural influence. For five years, beginning in 1965, there would be no more political party activity in the country. Under the auspices of a regime d'exception (the equivalent of a state of emergency), Mobutu assumed sweeping, almost absolute, powers. Parliament was reduced to a rubber-stamp, before being abolished altogether though it was later revived.

Mobutu consolidated power by publicly executing political rivals, secessionists, coup plotters, and others who were threats to his rule. To set an example, in 1966, many were tried before a military tribunal and hanged before large audiences, including former Prime Minister Evariste Kimba, who, with three cabinet members —Jérôme Anany (Defense Minister), Emmanuel Bamba (Finance Minister), and Alexandre Mahamba (Minister of Mines and Energy). They were hanged in May 30th 1966 and sent to the gallows before an audience of 50,000 spectators. The men were executed because of being convicted of being in contact with Colonel Alphonse Bangala and Major Pierre Efomi, for the purpose of planning a coup.

In 1968, Pierre Mulele, Lumumba's Minister of Education and later a rebel leader during the 1964 Simba rebellion, was lured out of exile in Brazzaville on the promise that he would be amnestied, but instead he was tortured and killed by Mobutu's forces. While Mulele was still alive, his eyes were gouged out, his genitals were ripped off, and his limbs were amputated one by one—all of this was none with Seko’s approval.

Mobutu was known to charter a Concorde from Air France for personal use, including shopping trips to Paris for himself and his family. He had an airport constructed in his hometown of Gbadolite with a runway long enough to accommodate the Concorde's extended take off and landing requirements.

Mobutu's rule earned a reputation as one of the world's foremost examples of kleptocracy and nepotism. Close relatives and fellow members of the Ngbandi tribe were awarded with high positions in the military and government, and he groomed his eldest son, Nyiwa, to one day succeed him as President; however, this was thwarted by Nyiwa's death from AIDS in 1994.

Mobutu was overthrown in the First Congo War by Laurent-Désiré Kabila, who was supported by the governments of Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. Ailing with cancer, Mobutu was unable to coordinate the resistance, which crumbled in front of the march, the army being more used to suppressing civilians than defending a large country.

Mobutu went into temporary exile in Togo but lived mostly in Morocco. He died on the 7th of September 1997, in Rabat, Morocco, from prostate cancer. He is buried in Rabat, in the Christian cemetery known as Pax.

Mobutu embezzled over $5 billion USD from his country, ranking him as the third-most corrupt leader in the past two decades and the most corrupt African leader during the same period. He is a constantly recurring theme in Advance fee fraud scams in emails sent to anybody worldwide A victim of the scam could claim to be Mobutu's wife, son, or daughter and be promised a percentage of his wealth to the email recipient if the recipient does a few things first, including pay huge advance fees. I am sure that my readers have received such scams sent to then in their emails. Another cause of his unscrupulous legacy abroad is his record on human rights as well as mismanagement of the economy and the institutionalization of corruption.

In the near future, I will present to my readers some more tyrants.

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