Not that other parts of the world have not had their own unfair share of power-hungry despots over millennia, but Africa has acquired (and maintained) quite a reputation for breeding callous ‘leaders’ who insensitively cling to power for as long as they can, terrorising their own people into submission with sundry acts in violation of human rights and amassing insane amounts of wealth while their countries bleed. Here are five of the very worst cold-hearted men to have headed African governments.
1. General Idi Amin
Idi Amin easily takes home the crown in this category. It is said that Idi Amin ate human flesh, killed hundreds with his bare hands and raped countless girls. When the United Kingdom broke off diplomatic relations with his regime in 1977, the “Butcher of Uganda”, as he was known, declared he had defeated the British and conferred on himself this full title: “His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.”
Amin was erratic, unpredictable and, I must add, delusional.
2. General Sani Abacha
Though Abacha retained power in Nigeria for a scant five years, he committed a lifetime's worth of crimes during this period. He banned political activity of any kind, fired a large portion of the military and controlled the press. While he sent troops to restore democracy in Liberia and Sierra Leone, Abacha brutally supressed dissent in Nigeria. He charged Moshood Abiola, Olusegun Obasanjo and Wole Soyinka with treason. Abiola and Obasanjo were imprisoned while Soyinka left the country. The execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni activists, however, is considered by many his worst crime against humanity. Abacha embezzled and stored away billions of the country’s funds in numerous foreign accounts, some of which are still being recovered by the government today. Abacha suddenly died in June 1998. His death is still celebrated by many Nigerians.
3. Muammar Gaddafi
Calling it their independence day, Libyans took to the street on the 20th of October 2011 to celebrate Gaddafi’s death. Gaddafi had ruled Libya for fourty turbulent years. Although he refused a real political title and preferred to be known as “The Brother Leader,”Gaddafi and his family embezzled and amassed wealth through Libya’s oil reserve (the ninth largest in the world). Libyan rebels started a revolution in February 2011. In August of the same year, the rebels claimed the capital city, Tripoli, formally ending Gaddafi’s regime.
4. Charles Taylor
Charles McArthur Ghankay Taylor was the 22nd president of Liberia, the oldest Black African republic and the one with the longest history of corruption, exploitation and brutal repression. Taylor ruled between 1997-2003. Taylor was sentenced to fifty years in prison by The Hague in 2012 for conscripting children under the age of 15 years into armed forces, violence to life/health/physical/mental wellbeing of persons and other crimes against humanity.
5. Obiang Mbasogo
Mbasogo murdered a third of Equatorial Guinea’s population earning his country the nickname “The Dachau of Africa.” He outlawed the use of the word “intellectual”, declared fishing forbidden and destroyed all boats, reduced the country’s educational system to pupils chanting his name for eight hours a day. In 2003, Obiang said in a speech that he “felt compelled to take full control of the national treasury in order to prevent civil servants from being tempted to engage in corrupt practices.” And deposited half a billion dollars in private family accounts in the US. Obiang was in office from August 1979 to January 2012.
Dishonourable mention (and definitely contesting for king in the delusional department):
He sentenced two British citizens because in their intercepted letter to friends in England they stated that the government wasn’t “up to much.” He has also threatened to cut off the head of homosexuals that have not fled Gambia. When not ridding his nation of homosexuals, Jammeh spends much of his time “finding” the cure to AIDS and high blood pressure in herbs.