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An Open Letter to Kim Jong-Un

Dear President Kim Jong-Un

Supreme Leader of North Korea

We write this letter to you to raise a number of points that would demonstrate the depth of international concern about your country. In so doing, our wish is to help you improve your country’s image, strengthen your leadership and help the people of North Korea.

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2013 can be a time of opportunity for you to open a door that has long been shut without regard to the shifts in the world around. You can start off by reworking some policies and practices perpetuated since your father’s time—for the wellbeing of your own people.

More than 200,000 men, women and children are still being held in prisons and gulag camps in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Most of them have been incarcerated for political reasons and are not guilty of any internationally recognised crimes. Prisoners have to endure conditions that resemble the worst forms of human rights abuse and many die of starvation.

The human rights of the people of North Korea are routinely violated, despite its ratification of numerous international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

People are living in constant fear and insecurity, knowing if they do not follow the government-scripted codes of conduct it could result in the loss of their freedom, basic human rights, and their lives. They are subject to enforced disappearance, “unfree labour”, torture and execution.

The DPRK government stands guilty of crimes against humanity and flagrant violations of international laws. It is accused of arresting people on false premises and giving harsh penalties for small offences.

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Millions of North Koreans are suffering from hunger, malnutrition and inadequate health care. According to our understanding, the DPRK government has the capacity and resources to offer a minimum level of care to people but apparently it is neglecting it.

Let’s face it. People’s fundamental rights to freedom of expression and opinion and freedom of religion are not acknowledged in your country. Access to and sharing of information is restricted. The voices of dissent are ruthlessly suppressed. Whatever we know and hear about North Korea—considered to be the most tightly closed-off region in the world—come through the filter of a state-controlled media.

Food Shortages and Famines

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In March 2011, a joint UN survey estimated that over six million people in North Korea urgently required international food assistance to avoid famine. The World Food Programme called it the worst famine in a decade. Several NGOs and media outlets reported hunger-related deaths.

Some of the causes of the famine are harsh winters, destruction of harvests through floods, economic mismanagement, and the government’s discriminating food policies that favour the military, government officials, and other loyal groups.

Since 1995 the United States has provided North Korea with over $1 billion in help, about 60 percent of which was given as food aid and 40 percent for energy, according to a Congressional Research Service report in 2008. The aid was suspended halfway through due to a lack of transparency in aid distribution and the escalating tensions caused by the North’s nuclear missile tests and restrictions on international monitors.

More recently, reports surfaced about a ‘hidden famine’ in the farming provinces of North and South Hwanghae, killing up to 10,000 people so far. People were so desperate to ward off starvation that incidents of cannibalism rose dramatically. Yes, it is hard to believe in this modern age but ‘numerous testimonies’ have confirmed the shocking findings.

The international community is always willing to provide assistance to a people in need. But it is ironic that when you ask for food aid, the first question that comes to their mind is: will it be really delivered to the people for whom it is given, or it will be manoeuvred like before? They fear the fund might be used for military purposes.

Torture and Abuse of Human Rights

Individuals arrested on criminal charges often face torture by officials aiming to enforce obedience and extract bribes and information. Common forms of torture include sleep deprivation, beatings with iron rods or sticks, kicking and slapping, and enforced sitting or standing for hours. Prisoners are subject to pigeon torture, in which they are forced to cross their arms behind their back, are handcuffed and hung in the air tied to a pole, and finally beaten with a club causing loss of circulation or limb-atrophy that often leads to death within weeks.

Guards sometimes rape female detainees. One study done in 2010 found that 60 percent of refugee respondents who had been incarcerated saw a death due to beating or torture. Incidents of cannibalism were also reported in some prison camps as a result of confiscation of meat rations by prison officials.

Executions

North Korea’s Criminal Code stipulates that death penalty could be applied only for a small set of crimes, but these include vaguely defined offences such as “crimes against the state” and “crimes against the people” that could be and are applied broadly. What is concerning is that your government exercises inhuman methods of torture and execution.

In 2001, a condemned inmate had got his body torn apart by guard dogs as executioners fired. Three bullets shattered his skull, splattering blood near other prisoners who were forced to watch.

According to statements of some defectors, forced abortions have also become a common practice, and if babies are born, many of them are killed, sometimes before their mothers’ eyes.

Forced Labour Camps

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Testimonies from escapees have established that persons accused of political offences are usually sent to forced labour camps, known as “gwalliso”, operated by the National Security Agency.

The Kwan-li-so are gulags or concentration camps that, as of 2003, unlawfully detained about 200,000 North Koreans in a total of six to eight camps in remote valleys guarded by high mountains, in the country’s northern provinces. The Kwan-li-so violates international laws on multiple grounds and are generally charged with various crimes against humanity such as forced internment, forced labour, torture, rape, forced abortion, starvation, and death without charge or trial.

It is unfortunate that your government still practices collective punishment, sending people to forced labour camps to work under a “guilt-by-association” system (yeon-jwa-je), where not only the offender but also his or her relatives such as parents, spouse, children, and even grandchildren have to work. Some defected guards have said that they were taught to treat prisoners as national traitors who must suffer condemnation up to three generations of their families.

These camps are notorious for their inhumane living conditions and gross human rights violations, including severe food shortages, little or no medical care, lack of proper housing and clothes, mistreatment and torture by guards, and executions.

Forced labour at the gwalliso often involves strenuous manual labour such as mining, logging, and agricultural work, all done with rudimentary tools in dangerous and harsh conditions. Death rates in these camps are reportedly extremely high.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

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Your government has criminalised leaving the country without state permission and those who leave face harsh punishment if caught, including interrogation, torture, and other penalties. Those suspected of religious or political activities, including contact with South Koreans, are given lengthier terms in horrendous detention facilities or forced labour camps with chronic food and medicine shortages, harsh working conditions, and mistreatment by guards.

Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have fled since the 1990s, and some have settled in China’s Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture. Beijing categorically labels North Koreans in China “illegal” economic migrants and routinely repatriates them.

A number of North Korean women and girls have been trafficked into marriage or prostitution in China. Many children of such unrecognised marriages have been forced to live without a legal identity or access to elementary education, because their parents fear that if they register they would be identified by Chinese authorities and forcibly sent back home.

Government-Controlled Judiciary

Your country’s judiciary system is not independent as all staff including judges, prosecutors, lawyers, court clerks and jury members are appointed and controlled by the Supreme People’s Assembly. The judges remain highly vulnerable to threats from the government which can subject them to “criminal liability” for handing down “unjust judgments.” The penal code, with definitions of offences and penalties often ambiguous and open to interpretation, is not also consistent with the principles of modern criminal law.

Anything done in opposition to the regime is treated as political crimes, leading to strict punishment and subjugation. When a person is arrested for political crimes, suspects are not even sent through a nominal judicial process; after interrogation they are either executed or sent to a forced labour camp, often with their entire families.

Your government uses fear by threats of forced labour and public executions to prevent dissent, and imposes harsh restrictions on freedom of information, association, assembly, and travel.

Your government periodically investigates the “political background” of the citizens to review their level of allegiance to the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WRK), and forces those who fail such assessments to leave the capital.

Military-First Policy

A strong leadership for a battered economy like yours is essential. But you seem to have chosen your father’s military-first policy instead of a peaceful and diplomatic process. Your actions stand in direct contrast to your pronounced resolve to rebuild your country’s moribund economic condition.

This was proven once again on Saturday (26 January) when you decided to take the path of “retaliation” in response to an American-led United Nations sanction on North Korea. You have reportedly ordered your party officials to take “substantial and high-profile state measures” to conduct a third nuclear test to show your ability to “target” the U.S. But the sanction, which was also a response to your government’s December 12 rocket launching, was not uncalled-for. Carrying out such expensive and destructive experiments is not the way to boost an impoverished economy.

Last words

Dear President Kim Jong-Un, have you ever paused for a moment and considered how you really want to be remembered by your people? As a dictator? Or a people’s leader? Perhaps you should. How you are remembered would be determined by how you act as a statesman.

The fact is, your treatment of your people resembles the way some former dictators used to treat their people, sending them to camps or execute them. Hitler organised the execution of the Holocaust, the systematic extermination of six million Jews and millions of other non-Aryans. Josef Stalin deliberately orchestrated the famine that claimed between 7 and 11 million lives in Ukraine and in parts of the Soviet Union. Pol Pot, through his hegemonic agrarian socialism, caused the deaths of approximately 26 percent of the total Cambodian population.

These dictators died a very disgraceful death. Not to mention, their people hated them for what they did and associated them with all that is evil and heinous. We urge you to take lesson from their fates and end all violations of human rights in your country.

We urge you to abandon the decades-long systematic pattern of human rights abuses committed by Pyongyang against its people and sincerely hope that you will create your own legacy. You can restore the North Koreans’ trust in their rulers and gain their respect by upholding their human rights.

If you want to be remembered as the man who stood against the current and abandoned a brutal legacy, it is the time. Your people need democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of religion. We are in the 21st century and there is no room for dictatorship at the expense of precious lives and basic rights.

Your late father, Kim Jong-II, isolated your people from the modern world, so much so that those few North Koreans who managed to escape had to spend several months in special care schools to adjust themselves to the ways of the 21st century.

Whom are you trying to punish? The western world doesn’t suffer from this, only your people do. Last year’s rocket launch failure cost your government $850 million, enough to feed millions who are starving to death.

Women suffer the most in a famine situation; every 40 of 1000 women had died in the previous famines. They also suffer due to the gendered structure of North Korean society. Women face problems like anaemia, premature birth and haemorrhage because of vitamin deficiency.

Children also face high mortality rates. The main reason behind the deaths of infants under two is the lack of breastfeeding. A child may die because of various reasons such as prenatal, neonatal and postnatal complications. A child may die even long after it was born owing to reasons of malnutrition, infections and so on. So, a high-impact prevention policy is necessary to redress the mortality problems.

Another thing that you should look into is the violation of individual’s right to privacy. Every home in your country is forced to set up a portrait of the “Great Leader” Kim II Sung and the “Dear Leader” Kim Jong II. Inspectors come on a surprise visit and hand out fines if the portraits are not well-kept. Every adult citizen must also wear a button of Kim II Sung!

It is quite ironic that since its establishment, the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea could never justify the purpose of its official name. When a country’s name says it is democratic, it has a moral obligation to be so. Its leadership should work towards uplifting the democratic values and allow people to apply their choices to elect or change their own representatives. If North Korea is a democratic state, it is indeed the worst kind of it in the entire history of democracy. There can be no justification for Mao Tse-Tung—styled “people’s democratic dictatorship,” which is only an extended version of dictatorship sustaining repression and regimentation.

A democracy should serve its people’s interests and work for their prosperity by empowering them with the power of their rights and freedom to choose their path of livelihood. The citizens of North Korea under your leadership are far from getting any such privileges. Over the years their lives have been made miserable and their rights deliberately denied.

We, on behalf of your people who have no means to express themselves, would like to pose a few questions which may provide some food for your thought:

Q.1. Being a young leader of this country, what are the ways you seek to bring the lives of the people at par with the lives of those on the other side of the DMZ?

Q.2. Do you and your regime still think you have the consent and mandate from common people to continue your job?

Q.3. In this world of globalisation, is this right to keep North Korea isolated and its people more like distant aliens away from the advancements of civilisation?

Q.4. Is it not your duty to respect the rights of your people who have obeyed your family’s leadership for decades, albeit with little improvement in their living conditions?

Q.5. In what context does your leadership thinks that North Korea could be a role model for peace and humanity for the world?

Q.6. Are nuclear weapons more important than your people’s prosperity? Should they remain hungry and half-fed to fuel your baseless ambitions?

Q.7. Does North Korea’s age-old socialistic framework, which has no acceptance and practicability in this age of democracy, still holds the future for its people?

Mr. President, before you answer these questions, you must first think that even those whom your regime has followed as leadership models were washed over by the tides of time and their system had to be remodelled to suit the needs of a changing world.

You should analyse your position in light of that. The direction in which you and regime have being heading has outlived its relevance. You must change your direction now and democracy is all you have at the moment. You are standing at a crossroads in history and a bold decision can seal your place permanently in the heart of your people. Even with a functional democracy you can continue your lineage and continue to serve your people.

Our humble wish is that you would be able to rise to the occasion and do what must be done today or tomorrow.

On behalf of ‘The Oslo Times’

Yours Sincerely,

Hatef Mokhtar

Editor in Chief

Oslo, Norway

Supporting a Dictator’s Regime

As the entire world opposes Bashar al Asad’s brutal killing of the rebels in the middle-eastern country of Syria, it is interesting to see how Russia is going a step ahead in supporting the ill deeds of this dictator who has brought the country to the brink of breaking down.

The massacre of innocent people which has taken a toll on thousands of people across Syria is not unknown to the world. Recently, United Nations had reported that the violence in Syria has left at least 4,500 civilians dead. Official figures add around 2,000 soldiers more to the dead. The dictator regime of Bashar al Assad has left the entire country bleeding with wounds given by this dictator. The innocent people are being crushed and peace and fundamental rights denied to the public. While on a public front, Assad has promised several times to restore peace in the region, violence has only escalated in the region. After years of suffering, it is now that rebels are raising heads in the country. It is now that the innocent people of Syria are demanding for a better future for them and generations to come.
While the entire global community is supporting the rebels, it is not only surprising but also disheartening to see how Russia is breaching all norms of humanity and standing with a person who has violated all norms of humanity. Bashar al Assad is the culprit of all innocent civilians who have lost their lives in the violence that has continued for quite some time now.
At this time, when the entire world should oppose the policies of Assad administration and should vote for introducing complete democracy in Syria, Russia is going out of the way and supporting something that should have been long abolished from the civic society.
Recently, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov met the Syrian president Assad in Damascus. Through this meeting, Russia has tried to send across a message to the entire global community that no matter what, it will continue to extend its support to this dictator regime. Although Russia is trying to cover the move by coming out with lame excuses, its intentions are no longer hidden. Lavrov, after his meeting with Assad, commented that Assad has promised to open dialogue with the opposition but we all know that all this is mere a cover to the real thing that is going on.
In a major move, Russia and China had blocked a UN Security Council resolution that called for increased pressure on Assad. Both the countries said that they were worried that foreign powers would use the resolution as a basis for military intervention similar to Libya. Earlier, Lavrov had also commented once that regime change is not their occupation and that the resolution had put all the blame on Assad government alone.
The analysts also view this move as a major step by the Russian government to support Syria which has been its major ally in the past. The real story behind the curtain is that with Iraq and Libya falling into the hands of the US and other global forces after the end of dictatorship regime in each of these countries, Russia is worried that it may lose its last resort in the middle-east. Presently, Syria is the only dependable ally that the country has in the region. The experts also insist that Russia is serious in defending the interests of its ally in the region, which can also aptly be termed as its last frontier.
The world needs to look a bit deeper into Russian interest in this country. It should be known to us that Syria is among the largest buyers of Russian weapons and the contracts signed with the country are generally worth $3.5 billion. Russia does not want to lose this market which may continue to remain a major customer provided the struggle continues in the country. The total business and military interests of Russia in Syria are reaching $20 billion in total. Who would want to lose such a lucrative business opportunity! Syria has also been home to a small Russian naval base which was built during Soviet times and functions till date as Russia’s only port beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union.
Another reason why Russia is backing Syrian government is that the country wants to maintain good relations with all powers which have conflicts with the US. Recently, a presidential candidate in Russia also insisted that the country should protect and support all countries which resist the United States.
It’s high time that the Russian government should wake up and understand that today it is a different world altogether. It has to be understood and accepted that in the present day, dictatorship is something which should be opposed and abolished by all means. Even the Russian public would not want to be under the rule of a dictator!
Russia should support genuine causes which protect and conserve humanity and democracy and should stop opposing everything which comes from the US blindfold. It is time that the country needs to rethink on its policy in the region and also to understand that no matter what, if the violence continues in the country, not even its support would be able to save Syria for long.

Dictatorship covered in oil

As we read about the modern day dictators especially in the Middle East, Azerbaijan’s dictator President hasn’t been spoken about as much as the others. It is one of the worst countries with a suppressing brutality, undemocratic but with huge oil resources. Azerbaijan is characterized by low levels of freedom of expression and listed among the bottom 20 in Reporters Without Borders, recently released Press Freedom Index 2010. The entire list consists of 178 states.

Azerbaijan has a short history as it was created in 1920 as the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan. They got Zaratustras teaching from the Persians before they were Christianized around 400 BC. A couple of hundred years after, the Arabs brought Islam but the tension remained between Russia, Turkey and the Persians. In 1812, the Russian Tsar won a military campaign against the Shah and the Russians gained control over most of Azerbaijan but the northern part declared its independence in 1918 but was quickly occupied by the Red Army. The communists now took of the silk gloves and eliminated the nationalists, religious and others who might pose a threat towards them.

1988 marked a bloody year as the armed conflict for Nagorno-Karabakh from February 1988 to May 1994 between the majority ethnic Armenians and was backed by the Republic of Armenia and Republic of Azerbaijan which resulted in an ethnic cleansing on both sides. Azerbaijan lost a large part of its territory and the situation is still tense until today.

Aliyev junior, known as a playboy and his affection for luxury life and the roulette table is trying to be more and more like his strong and iron willed father who was a former KGB chief and ruled the country for more than 30 years. Once Aliyev senior ordered shut down for all casinos in the country after his son had got into a huge debt to a Turkish man. But he has done surprisingly well after being vice President of the states oil company since 1994. Aliyev is sharp, well dressed, speaks fluent English and has a charming smile ready for any occasion. He has developed a very good knowledge of the modern world’s politics and economics but the intelligence company Stratfor.com who has links to the CIA described him; “Ilham Aliyev lacks his father’s charisma, political skills, contacts, experience, stature, intelligence and authority. Aside from that he will make a wonderful president.” Ilham Aliyev turned to rule his people with a brutal hand and doesn’t allow democracy and freedom of speech. He even wanted to change the constitution in 2009 enabling him to stand as long as he wants as a ruler.

When Anita Utseth then-Secretary of State for Petroleum and Energy, visited the Oil and Gas Conference in June 2007, she got the chance to join a meeting with Aliyev but it showed to be a disaster when she started talking about free speech and human rights. Utseth was insulted and yelled at and as the U.S. embassy memos that were leaked out to Wikileaks, Aliyev had told her that she had no right to speak about the human right issues and a serious of meetings was cancelled. Later on in a meeting with two managers of the oil company BP, an extremely upset Aliyev said that it was “unacceptable” for Norway to “teach” him about human rights. “It’s only the U.S. that can treat me like this, because the U.S. is the world’s only superpower,” he said, according to embassy note.

4 years later, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Espen Barth Eide called on the Aliyev government to respect the human rights followed by the visit of Norways Crown Prince Haakon’s visit to Baku where he expressed his protest against the suppression of human rights and freedom in Azerbaijan explaining that Norway is not only interested in oil but in democracy and human rights as well.

Suppressing journalism

Aliyev has planned to build pipelines that would take Azaerbaijans Caspian Sea gas reserves through Turkey and to the rest of the continent and this diplomatic and global improvement has allowed the western world to ignore the human rights violations. That’s why the government has continued to imprison Eynulla Fatullayev, a 2009 CPJ International Press Freedom Award recipient. The editor of two now-closed newspapers, Fatullayev was imprisoned in April 2007 on a series of fabricated charges, including terrorism and defamation, in retaliation for his investigation into the 2005 murder of his boss and mentor, Elmar Huseynov. He was sentenced to more than 8 years in prison as Fatullayev alleged that Huseynov’s murder was ordered by high-ranking officials in Baku and that authorities had engaged in a cover-up in the aftermath. Fatullayev’s supporters did also face an aggressive campaign of harassment after his arrest and an anonymous male caller telephoned Emin Fatullayev, the editor’s father, at his Baku home and said he and his son must “shut up once and for all” or “the entire family will be destroyed,” the elder Fatullayev told CPJ.

 

In 2007, the Norwegian reporter and documentary producer Erling Borgen and his cameraman Dag Inge Dahl were leaving Azerbaijan after a weeklong reporting trip focusing on freedom of expression and Fatullayev’s case when they were approached by 7 men. The men seized the journalist’s bags claiming they were overweight and checked the luggage. When the journalists arrived in Oslo, Borgen said, the reporting material, video footage, documents and papers were gone from the bags. The journalists had backed up the files, however, and completed the documentary in late year.

The government has also put restrictions about independent online news and many websites with critical journalism have been periodically blocked domestically. For example, the Azeri language website RFE/RL was blocked for two days after it posted a translation of a Washington Post story about nine luxurious homes in Dubai, worth around US$75 million, that had been purchased in the names of the president’s three young children those who documented the problems faced pressure.

President Ilham Aliyev has denied there is a problem with freedom of speech in Azerbaijan but the evidence speaks for its self as journalists and bloggers gets arrested and face restrictions. It is an assault on independent journalism and freedom of speech and I hope that the international world will see through the oil and protest on these human rights abuses.

 

Statesman of Egypt – Gamal Abdel Nasser

Born on Jan. 15, 1918: A graduate of the Royal Military Academy, Gamal Abdel Nasser first rose to prominence as an officer in the first Arab-Israeli war, where he gained recognition for holding out for three weeks in 1948 while his battalion was surrounded in what came to be known as the “Faluja Pocket”. While serving in the army, Nasser become the leader of a covert organization called the Free Officers whose goal was to overthrow the hereditary Egyptian royalty and free Egypt from British influence. These goals were accomplished in a 1952 coup d’etat which ended with King Farouk’s exile after Nasser vetoed his execution. Though he was the real leader of the new government, Nasser remained unknown to the public media until 1954 when he assumed the role of Prime Minister and published his book “Philosophy of the Revolution”, a call for pan-Arab resistance to imperialism. In 1956, Nasser proclaimed the adoption of “Arab Socialism” in Egypt and was elected almost unanimously to the office of Egyptian President. Later that year, Egypt nationalized the British-run Suez Canal to pay for a massive public works project, the Aswan High Dam. This invited an invasion of the Sinai Peninsula by Israel and the decimation of Egypt’s air force by British and French bombers, but also won Nasser the respect of many leaders of the “nonaligned” nations – countries which were allied with neither the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact nor the United States-headed North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Further, the prevention of a full-scale British invasion by both a Soviet threat of nuclear war and a United States warning of further reprisals set the tone for “Third World” affairs for years to come, as Nasser had established that weaker states could keep their independence by playing NATO and the Warsaw Pact against each other. Nasser would continue as a major leader of the nonaligned states until his death in 1970; among his efforts at “small power” independence were his support of Kenya’s Mau Mau movement in the late 1950s and the periodic rallying of Arab states against foreign domination. As president, his record of success was decidedly mixed: he finally finished the Aswan High Dam with Soviet assistance in 1968, but was constantly frustrated in his struggle against Israel, including an embarrassing defeat in the Six-Day War of 1967. Though he is almost unanimously regarded as a hero in the Arab world (he was the recipient of one of the largest state funerals in the region’s history).

Dictators of Africa – Part 3

Gnassingbé Eyadéma – Togo – 1967–2005

President of Togo. Gained power in a coup; never fought a contested election until 1998; banned tortured and killed opposition. Fostered a cult of personality that was reinforced after he was the sole survivor of an airplane crash in 1974. In late 1991, troops loyal to Eyadéma closed a constitutional conference that had shifted most executive power to a new transitional government and banned Eyadéma’s RPT party. January 1993 saw a mass exodus of residents to neighboring states after security forces fired on pro-democracy demonstrators. Further repression followed a purported 1994 coup attempt.

Omar Bongo – Gabon – 1967–2009

Chairman of the Military National Liberation Committee 1968-1969; Head of State 1969-1979; President of Mali 1979-1991. Seized power in a coup; banned all opposition; installed a police state; established one-party state in 1979.

Moussa Traoré – Mali – 1968–1991

As vice president, he acceded to the presidency following the death of President Léon M’ba. In 1968, Bongo decreed a one-party state under his Gabonese Democratic Party and was thrice elected unopposed in the 1970s and 1980s. He became very wealthy during the country’s oil boom. Open elections were held in 1990 and Bongo was re-elected in 1993, 1998 and 2005. Observers have criticized the elections as unfair and corruption watchdogs have accused the president of nepotism. Riots resulting from the mysterious death in 1990 of prominent dissident Joseph Rendjambe in a government hotel room were put down by French troops.

Francisco Macías Nguema – Equatorial Guinea – 1968–1979

President of Equatorial Guinea 1968-1979. Elected in 1968 but declared himself President for Life in 1972; “extreme personality cult”; over a third of population fled his regime. Banned fishing and sanctioned the deaths of most of his pre-independence political rivals, including ex-prime minister Bonifacio Ondó Edu and foreign minister Atanasio Ndongo Miyone. Declared an atheist state by Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. As many as 50,000 civilians were killed, in particular those of the Bubi ethnic minority on Bioko associated with relative wealth and intellectualism.

Gaafar Nimeiry – Sudan – 1969–1985

Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council 1969-1971; President of Sudan 1971-1985. Gained power in a military coup, banned opposition, dissolved southern Sudanese government, imposed sharia law. Executed several leading communists (the most prominent being Abdel Khaliq Mahjub and Joseph Garang) after a botched 1971 coup attempt.

 

Dictators of Africa – Part 2

Felix Houphouët-Boigny – Côte d’Ivoire 1960–1993

President of Côte d’Ivoire. Ruled until 1990 with all opposition banned, but not considered particularly repressive. Relocated the official capital to his home village of Yamoussoukro and constructed the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro, the largest religious structure in Africa.

Milton Obote – Uganda – 1962–1972, 1980–1985

Prime Minister of Uganda 1962-1966; President of Uganda 1966-1971 and 1980-1985. Suspended the constitution and declared himself President and Prime Minister in 1966.

Hastings Kamuzu Banda – Malawi – 1963–1994

Prime Minister of Malawi 1963-1966; President of Malawi 1966-1994. Banned all opposition in 1966; declared himself President for Life in 1971; exiled and killed opposition leaders. Ordered that a letter bomb be sent to exiled opposition leader Attati Mpakati; suspected of being involved in the car crash deaths of senior Congress Party leaders; violently crushed an attempted rebellion. Aged 98, he allowed and lost a free election in 1994.

Kenneth Kaunda – Zambia – 1964–1991

President of the Republic of Zambia 1964-1991.Elected 1964, banned all political parties in Zambia, viewed himself as “WAMUYAYA” (eternal President).Accused of torturing political opponents. Defeated by Frederick Chiluba in 1991.

Houari Boumediene – Algeria – 1965–1978

President of Algeria from June 19, 1965 to his death, (December 27, 1978); Chairman of the Revolutionary Council until December 12, 1976).

In June 1965, Boumédienne seized power in a bloodless coup. Initially lacking a personal power base, he was seen as a weak ruler. But after a botched coup attempt against him by military officers in 1967 he tightened his rule, and then remained Algeria’s undisputed ruler until his death in 1978.

Jean-Bédel Bokassa – Central African Republic – 1966–1979

President of the Central African Republic 1966-1976; Emperor Bokassa I of the Central African Empire 1976-1979. Bokassa overthrew the autocratic Dacko in a swift coup d’état and assumed power as president of the Republic and head of the sole political party, the Mouvement pour l’évolution sociale de l’Afrique Noire (MESAN). Bokassa abolished the constitution of 1959 on January 4 and began to rule by decree. He proclaimed himself emperor in 1976.


Dictators of Africa – Part 1

Gamal Abdel Nasser – Egypt – 1954–1970

Prime Minister of Egypt 1954-1962; President of Egypt 1956-1970. Part of a group of officers in control of Egypt after the coup against British supported King Farouk in 1952; In February 1954, Egyptian Statesman. A graduate of the Royal Military Academy, Gamal Abdel Nasser first rose to prominence as an officer in the first Arab-Israeli war, where he gained recognition for holding out for three weeks in 1948 while his battalion was surrounded in what came to be known as the “Faluja Pocket”. Nasser forced President Muhammad Naguib to appoint him prime minister and give up most practical power to him; later in that year Naguib resigned and Nasser became president by self-appointment; elected by popular vote (as only candidate) in 1956, and subsequently. Many personalistic elements to Nasser’s rule, but nominal parliamentary system under Nasser’s 1956-1970 presidency until his death in 1970.

Ahmed Sékou Touré – Guinea – 1958–1984

President of Guinea. Widely described as a dictator with estimates of up to 50,000 extrajudicial killings during his rule and 250,000 Guineans fleeing his rule.

David Dacko – Central African Republic – 1960–1966, 1979–1981

President of the Central African Republic. Banned opposition; Gained power by coup in 1979, though subsequently stood for election

Modibo Keita – Mali – 1960–1968

Schoolteacher and first president of Mali. Forced socialization and extensive protectionism severely harmed the economy and continued the country’s dependence on aid donors. Discontent with these policies led Keita to implement his own “Cultural Revolution” and establish a network of people’s militias to inform on and punish dissent. In the last few years of his presidency, full powers were vested in an extralegal “National Committee for Defense of the Revolution”. He was deposed in a military coup.

François Tombalbaye – Chad – 1960–1975

Head of State 1960-1962; President of Chad 1962-1975. Never fought a contested election; imprisoned opposition leaders. Launched a “Cultural Revolution” in the early 1970s encouraging authenticité.

Moktar Ould Daddah – Mauritania – 1960–1978

President of Mauritania 1960-1978. Elected President upon independence from France; merged four largest parties into Mauritanian People’s Party, which he made the sole legal party; changed constitution in 1964 to make one party state with authoritarian Presidency; re-elected uncontested three times (1966, 1971 and 1976); overthrown by military in 1978 due to dissatisfaction with the War in Western Sahara.

 

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