After 37 years Mugabe’s time in power is over, but what about the other autocrats in Africa?
Africa’s headlines in the last week have been dominated by Robert Mugabe’s fall from power. Once the leader of Zimbabwe’s (then Rhodesia) liberation struggle against British colonial authority, Mugabe and the ZANU-PF party have dominated Zimbabwe’s political system for almost four decades. After his resignation on the 21st November, Zimbabweans have celebrated the dawn of a new era for their country- one which they hope will be a time of prosperity.
Zimbabwe is not the first nor certainly the last African country to experience a dictatorship. The end of colonial rule in the late 20th century did not solve the continent’s problems. The 1970s and 1980s were coined ‘the decades of the dictators’ as many African nations became embroiled in liberation struggles and civil wars and emerged out of these struggles with autocratic leaders. This article is going to give a fact-file on some of the most ruthless African autocrats that you might not have heard of.
- Yoweri Museveni
Museveni rose to power in a similar way to Mugabe; through armed guerrilla struggle. Though this struggle was not against colonialism but against another dictator- the infamous Idi Amin. Museveni led the National Resistance Army, which consisted of a large number of child soldiers, during the Ugandan Bush War to victory in 1986 and has been president ever since. Museveni has accused of corruption and violating LGBT rights, claiming in 2009 that ‘European homosexuals are recruiting in Africa’.
- Omar Al-Bashir
The Sudanese president has been charged with seven crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his actions in Darfur including genocide, war crimes, murder, torture and rape yet has remained in power since 1989 through a coup which precipitated the second Sudanese Civil War. He has been regarded as one of the most ruthless African dictators in the 21st century.
- Paul Kagame
A former comrade of Museveni, Kagame was the leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) during the Rwandan Civil War and the Rwandan Genocide. Kagame hasn’t been in power for as long as many other autocrats, but since 2000 his presidency has been marked by severe human rights abuses, oppression of political opponents and censorship of the press.
- Joseph Mobutu
Mobutu emerged as a military dictator following a CIA-backed coup in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). He has been named as one of the most corrupt leaders in Africa after embezzling 5 billion US dollars in his country. He is also famous for his personality cult, ‘Mobutisme’, giving himself titles such as ‘The Messiah’ and ‘The Redeemer’.
- Charles Taylor
Perhaps the least well known out of the five, Charles Taylor was formally the President of Liberia but will now be found at HM Prison Frankland in County Durham where he is serving time for acts of terrorism, unlawful killings and murder to name a few. During his time in office, Taylor became known as ‘the tyrant of death’ and was accused of countless war crimes surrounding his involvement in the Sierra Leone Civil War.