10 Mad Dictators From 20th and 21st Century

1. Saparmurat Niyazov, Turkmenistan

Saparmurat Niyazov ruled with Turkemnistan for sixteen years, from 1990 to his death in 2006. He gave himself the title Turkmenbashi, which means Leader of Turkmens. Niyazov was President for life, but that’s not the weirdest things this politician did. In 2002 he renamed the months after Turkmen national symbols. The New Year begins, of course, with Turkmenbashi, the biggest national symbol of the country, May was renamed after country’s greatest poet, while September was named after one of his book that he considered as Turkmen spiritual guide. Despite that, he built an icy palace near the capital despite Turkmenistan being a desert country, he banned long hair or beard for men, outlawed gold teeth, and, believe it or not, banned the make up of Turkmen female reporters “because they were already beautiful enough without make up”.

2. Jean Bedel Bokassa, Central African Republic

“His Imperial Majesty Bokassa the First, Emperor of Central Africa by the will of the Central African people, united within the national political party, the Movement for the Social Evolution of Black Africa,” as his official title is, ruled with one of the poorest countries in the world until his death in 1996. Hi took for himself the title Emperor in 1976, on a ceremony inspired by Napoleon I, which was $20 million worth, one third of the state’s yearly budget. Despite the generous invitations no foreign leaders witnessed the inauguration.

3. Idi Amin, Uganda

Idi Amin 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 British in order to Uganda gain independency, so the title Conqueror of the British Empire is explained. But it’s unclear if he was strong like Chuck Norris in order to be Lord of all the beasts and fish. Also, in 1976, he claimed himself to be the uncrowned King of Scotland; despite the title’s real name is King of Scots.

4. Ne Win, Burma/Myanmar

Ne Win was head of state of Burma (today Myanmar) from 1962 to 1981. He was just a usual socialistic leader until his mad move to change the country banknotes to 15, 35, 45, 75 and 90. The reason was simple – those were his lucky numbers. Some people just play lottery with their lucky numbers, but it wasn’t enough for him, or he wanted to improve country’s economy with his own luck. Allegedly, he chose number 90 because his numerologist told him that if he does that he would live until 90 years. However, he changed his mind only two years later.

5. Ferdinand Marcos, Philippines

Ferdinand was another “socialistic” dictator, who managed to make cult of his own personality. He ruled with Philippines for 21 years, from 1965 to 1986. He deserved place on this list not because of silly moves like the African dictators, but because of what he did to public funds. He and his wife managed to move $35 billion to other countries such as United States and Switzerland during his reign, but also he had flown to Hawaii with 24 suitcases with golden bars. Obviously he has stolen a lot of money from the public budget, that’s the only way to understand how his wife had bought 2700 pairs of shoes. Philippines still struggle with huge public debt.

6. Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, Haiti

We still listen how the country that was struck by catastrophic earthquake struggles with people who kill other people according to the voodoo religion rules. The man who is “guilty” for that is Papa Doc Duvalier. The guy revived the voodoo and even went mad with that belief system. He believed that his main political opponent had turned into a black dog, so he decided to take drastic steps to confront with rivals who use such dishonest political fight measures. He ordered all the black dogs in the country to be killed and after that he could peacefully lead his people to better times. The better times never came.

7. Enver Hoxha, Albania

Not all the mad dictators are from Africa, Asia and Oceania. Here’s one from Europe. Enver Hoxha was Albanian leader during the country’s darkest years, when military was spending most of the money, despite the fact that after the World War II Albania hasn’t entered in any war. It’s an amazing fact that Hoxha during his reign built 750.000 of concrete bunkers just in case of foreign attack. He would seem as a good President, unless you know the fact that in Albania live only three million people.

8. 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,” “Savior of the People,” and “Supreme Combatant.” Finally, he prohibited mentioning any other person on TV despite him.

9. Gnassingbe Eyadema, Togo

The last African dictator on this list considered himself to be a superhero, so in Togo was published a comic book that depicted him as invulnerable hero with super strength. Related with that, the day of his failed assassination was found as “the Feast of Victory over Forces of Evil.” Superhero like him certainly must be surrounded with beautiful women, so there were over 1000 of them who sang praises to him every day. Despite that, he built his own bronze statue, his portraits could be seen in every store in Togo and there were also $20 wristwatches with his portrait, which disappeared and re-appeared every fifteen seconds. These are just few of his whims.

10. Kim Jong-il, North Korea

Here comes the short North Korean President who is waited to die sooner or later, but he is still thorn in the eyes of the Western super powers. However, the guy is mad. He’s terrorizing his own compatriots with a number of undemocratic rules, but he also use to spend a lot of budget’s money on cognac – 750,000 dollars a year. It’s questionable if some rock stars drink so much money. Despite that, there’s a cult of his personality. His birthday is one of the biggest national holidays, when military parades always take place. Some North Koreans even believe that he has magical power to control the weather by his mood. Just weird!

Mugabe Bob!

The following article is an opinion from a Ugandan who lives in Canada and has written several times about the situation in Zimbabwe. When my article was published in The New Vision, there was one from him on the same subject.While I don’t agree with the continued demonising of one person for the woes of this country, I agree with him that there are many factors that dovetail into what is now happening in Zimbabwe [and the West is part of the problem as well as the solution]. Ironically, some of the statements made by H.E. Robert Mugabe have been also been made in our country. I don’t remember Mr. Oloya raising the red flag!

I don’t think we should call Mugabe mad without basing on a psychiatric assessment, what all of us should do is to engage him and ZANU-PF as well as all the other players to make life better for the ordinary suffering people. My argument is always that MDC is not the magic bullet, the panacea, as it has always been bundied around by many including Mr. Opiyo. Do we ever stop to think that ZANU-PF equally has a large following, that is why in the first case, MDC was not able to win outright. And let us not say that it was electoral rigging because those Zim elections in March were more transparent than many held in other African countries, which have been lauded by observers as “largely free and fair”.

No more doubt about Mugabe’s mental health!

ZIMBABWE’S President Robert Mugabe has gone stark raving mad! If there was any doubt about the sanity of the former freedom-fighter-turned-dictator, all that changed last week. At the funeral of a former freedom fighter, Mugabe made it clear that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) will never rule Zimbabwe—even if it wins a landslide victory.

Mugabe vowing never to allow Zimbabwe to be ruled by what he termed as “lackeys”, promised to personally return to the bush to wage war on a new MDC government. He is reported to have said, “We are prepared to fight for our country and to go to war if we lose it the same way our ancestors lost it.”

Then on Monday, just in case his captive audience missed the point, Mugabe went further to explain why he would not be relinquishing power soon. He is reported byThe Zimbabwe Herald to have said, “We shed a lot of blood for this country. We are not going to give up our country for a mere ‘X’ on a ballot. How can a ballpoint pen fight with a gun?” Okay, at least we now know what is in store for poor Zimbabweans.

But Mugabe conveniently forgot to mention the fact that the MDC is popular because ordinary Zimbabweans are clamouring for change. Moreover, democratic change was precisely why the costly liberation war was fought in the first place against Ian Smith’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence. In his deluded self, Mugabe cannot see that he has run the once vibrant country to the ground through the corrupt practices of his appointed lackeys such that the voices of ordinary citizens no longer count. Mind you, the same citizens he claims to represent!

But, hey, why blame Mugabe when there are enough blames to go around? Several factors have colluded to allow Mugabe to luxuriate in the hallucination of being king of all Zimbabwe. Foremost, ineffectual neighbours have wrung their hands while Zimbabwe burns. To date, only tiny Botswana has lodged a formal protest over the ongoing actions of the Zimbabwean authorities against members of the opposition MDC. It is like a mosquito telling an elephant to behave.

The rest of the member states of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) have kept their collective heads in the sand in case they are gruffly asked, “What are you staring at?” South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki mildly referred to the political turmoil in Zimbabwe as “an internal affair for Zimbabwe to resolve”.

It should be remembered that Mbeki stood up for Mugabe in 2005 when the US described Zimbabwe as “an outpost of tyranny” and designated it alongside Cuba and North Korea. Mbeki dismissed that label as “an exaggeration”.

Secondly, timid leaders elsewhere on the continent are afraid of pointing the speck in Mugabe’s eyes while ignoring the log in their own eyes.
Tyranny, as it turns out, is something best left out of polite conversations. ‘MYOB’—mind your own business is the mantra adopted by all. And so Zimbabwe convulses while everyone assumes the role of onlooker at a roadside car-wreck, shaking head at the big mess and breathlessly waiting to see if there are survivors.
Thirdly, the lackadaisical attitude of developed nations has also contributed to Zimbabwe’s torturous journey under Mugabe.

There was a time when western nations seemed determined to change the status quo, to shake Mugabe out of the tree. But by talking about Mugabe while doing nothing about him, allowed Mugabe to grow stronger, even more powerful. Along the way, the world became preoccupied with other urgent matters.

The western economy was tanking in major world arenas, and the perennial war on terror seemed to go from bad to worse. Somehow, an African dictator squeezing the last blood from his people did not register on the Richter scale of world political problems that needed urgent action.
Uselessly half-hearted plans of actions were hatched (mostly by Britain) but never went anywhere. Mugabe continued to hold his nose at the world, and do whatever he felt like doing. It did not help that Mugabe could justifiably point to the catastrophic US election that ushered George Bush into power in 2000, and the more recent Russia’s mafia-like coronation of new president Dmitri Medvedev as examples of failures of western democracies.
If a superpower like the US can screw up big time while electing its president, what about Zimbabwe, a neophyte to the game?

Fourthly, the biggest boost to Mugabe’s power madness was the Zimbabweans themselves. Like many African cousins across the big beautiful continent, Zimbabweans once considered their leader as god-sent, spending more time worshipping him than asking whether he really was doing anything for the people.

Whereas Europeans and Americans tend to give their leaders short honeymoons before asking the tough questions, Africans linger a while, worshipping their leaders ad nauseam. 

Whatever the leader does, however petty or inconsequential, is treated as big news. And, over time, that kind of adulation transforms into chronic addiction as leaders crave quick fixes like addicts demanding shots in the arm. It becomes normal for the leader to stay afloat, buoyed by a false sense of popularity even as citizens applaud (and curse) him for staying there.

So, now we have Robert Mugabe, a former freedom fighter who is amok like a runaway train, a Frankenstein monster that is part created by his former colonial masters, and part by his people. And nobody knows how to stop him. Short of his heart-string giving out on him (as happened with Nigeria’s Sani Abacha) he is slated to stay there a while—madness, stolen elections and all.


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