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Meet the 7 dictators in India today

Ranjan Crasta | Updated on: 29 October 2015, 20:16 IST

The Third India Africa Summit has seen over 40 African heads of state jet into the country to hammer out deals with India, from infrastructure to energy to healthcare. But while the signing of deals and inking of pacts seems like good business, it's important to know just who we're doing business with.

Take, for example, the "President" of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore.

Compaore actually stepped down as President of Burkina Faso almost exactly a year ago, after ruling Burkina Faso for nearly 27 years. He rose to power in a bloody coup and maintained his dominion over the African nation through a series of unconstitutional constitutional amendments allowing him to repeatedly seek re-election.

When he was finally ousted last year, after nationwide protests comparable to the Arab Spring, Compaore's Presidential Guard led a coup to overthrow the transitional government and reinstate him. Thanks to international intervention the transitional government was restored. Still, as Burkina Faso's political fate lies in limbo, Compaore is in India as a guest of State.

But Compaore is merely the tip of a grizzly, human rights abuse laden iceberg of African dictators currently being wined and dined in the nation's capital. Here are seven others we really shouldn't be welcoming:

01
Robert Gabriel Mugabe

President of Zimbabwe

Age: 91

Years in power: 35 (and counting)

Mugabe

Few Presidents can claim to have turned the vast majority of their citizens into quadrillionaires and still be this hated. But maybe it's because Mugabe achieved this by running the Zimbabwean economy into the ground with hyper-inflation wreaking havoc on the Zimbabwean dollar. In June, 2015, Zimbabwean banks were trading 135 trillion Zimbabwean dollars for $1 USD. The currency is now defunct.

Still, his crimes against the Zimbabwean economy aren't a patch on his crimes against his people. Between 1982 and 1985, Mugabe presided over the ethnic cleansing of certain Zimbabwean tribes that weren't loyal to him, resulting in the genocidal killings of at least 20,000 civilians. Since then he's clung to power by rigging elections, intimidating, abducting and even killing political opponents. Mugabe also has a history of being racist against the white minority in Zimbabwe and the persecution of Zimbabwe's LGBT community.

It sounds terrible but should come as little surprise from the man who proudly boasted to reporters in 2003 that "I am still the Hitler of the time".

02
Mswati III

Age: 47

Country: Swaziland

Years in power: 30 (and counting)

Mswati

Mswati III came to power as a 14 year-old following his father's passing, even though his mother ruled in his stead until he turned 18. Waiting for him to mature into a sensible leader was a good idea, unfortunately, it didn't pan out that way.

As King of Swaziland, Mswati III is virtually all-powerful, with powers over both the executive and judiciary. But with great power comes great responsibility. sadly no one ever told Mswati III that.

He practises polygamy and currently has 15 wives, which isn't the problem. No, the problem is that not all of his brides consented to marrying him. One, as young as 18, disappeared from her school and was later found being forced to marry Mswati III, an act that was condemned by Amnesty International.

Still, he builds his wives palaces and sends them to Europe on his private jet for lavish shopping sprees. Unfortunately this benevolence doesn't extend to Swaziland's general populace, with over 60% of the population living on under $2 a day.

He's also been accused of using force (even lethally) to silence dissenters, activists and journalists. With Swaziland's monarchical system deeply entrenched in the Swazi way of life, his reign isn't ending anytime soon.

03
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo

Age: 73

Country: Equatorial New Guinea

Years in power: 36 (and counting)

Teodoro Africa dictator embed

Teodoro Mbasogo has been in power in Equatorial New Guinea so long they might have to change the country's name to Dictatorial New Guinea. We're not exaggerating either, while Mugabe might be the most internationally vilified of the African dictators, Mbasogo is officially the longest serving.errr.ruling.

Evidently being dictator for that long must be like being God, because, well.he's declared himself God, with state radio declaring he has dominion over "all men and things". Since he's God he can do what he likes without worrying about hell (which, believe it or not, was also part of the radio announcement.)

So he does.

He's presided over killings, kidnappings and widespread corruption. He's managed to stay in power through the oppression of all who would oppose him, asserting almost, if not outright, control over all media in the country. He has won every election since he re-introduced a multi-party political system to the country, though the propriety of these elections is dubious. And that's if we're using the word dubious in the most charitable way possible. While he routinely wins elections with over 90 percent of the vote (98% in 1996 and 2002 and 97% in 2009), he sometimes even manages to outdo mathematics itself, once registering 103% of the votes in a single constituency.

As if that wasn't enough, he even enters Idi Amin-levels of craziness with allegations that he eats his enemies being levelled against him. Hopefully no one upsets him at the summit and ends up on the dinner menu.

04
Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir

Age: 71

Country: Sudan

Years in power: 26 (and counting)

Al-Bashir African dictator

Omar Hassan al-Bashir is a bit of a visionary as far as African dictators go. He even proposed setting up a pan-Africa space agency, which seems like a good idea, because it's our best shot at launching him into the outer reaches of space.

Amazingly, that would be Bashir's best shot at escaping justice.

While every dictator on this list has undoubtedly done terrible things, al-Bashir has managed a unique first - he's the first sitting President to be indicted by the International Criminal Court. And he REALLY earned it.

He oversaw the genocide in Darfur which resulted in over 3,00,000 deaths according to the United Nations. The sheer range of atrocities committed at his behest sees him charged by the ICC with murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape as well as 2 counts of war crimes. The UN has even called for India to arrest him during the Summit.

Not sated by just violence, al-Bashir is also notoriously corrupt, siphoning of vast amounts of money from the Sudanese exchequer. While his total wealth is still unknown, leaked US cables claimed that he has over $9 USD billion stashed away in British banks while Sudan wallows in poverty.

05
Paul Biya

Age: 82

Country: Cameroon

Years in power: 33 (and counting)

Paul Biya African dictator

Paul Biya was originally hailed as a reformer. He opened Cameroon up to a multi-party political system. which he has since undermined like few others. Every election since his rise to power has been dogged with allegations of rigging and intimidation of political opponents. The man is brazen about it too. He once hired six US ex-congressmen to be his "international observers" and certify the election free and fair, which they duly did once they presumably received their cheques.

He's since amended the constitution in 2008 to ensure his tryst with power goes on, resulting in widespread protests where over 200 people were killed.

You'd imagine with this sort of craving for power he'd spend all his time in Cameroon but he frequently jets off to foreign locales for months at a stretch. Reports state that one of his French holidays cost the Cameroonian exchequer an estimated $40,000 a day.

06
Yoweri Museveni

Age: 71

Country: Uganda

Years in power: 29 (and counting)

Yoweri Museveni African embed

Museveni was once heralded by the West as "a beacon of hope".but who isn't a beacon of hope after Idi Amin and Milton Obote? In some senses Museveni has been a marked improvement on his predecessors, with his regime in the early years being seen as one that respected human rights. This record though has been sullied by the years that followed.

Museveni has since gone on to oversee the displacement of over 100,000 people, extra-judicial executions and the use of child soldiers.

His election, both in 2001 and 2006, saw numerous allegations of cheating with two of the countries five Supreme Court judges suggesting the results be scrapped. He then amended the constitution to allow him to stand run for President for a third and now even a fourth term. All the elections have been dubious at best according to both domestic and international observers.

Hating homosexuals also seems to be something of a trend for African dictators and Museveni is no exception. In 2014 he signed into law an anti-homosexuality bill that stipulated gays would receive the death penalty. While it's extreme, it isn't surprising coming from a man who considers homosexuals "disgusting".

With the situation in Uganda getting worse, Museveni is also clamping down on press freedom so expect to hear less and less about his ongoing atrocities.

07
Yahya Jammeh

Age: 50

Country: Gambia

Years in power: 21 (and counting)

Yahya Jammesh African dictator

His official title is His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Aziz Awal Jemus Junkung Jammeh Naasiru Deen Babili Mansa and some of his dictatorial rap sheet is nearly as long and strange as his title.

Jammeh is a man of medicine.or more accurately, a medicine man, or even more accurately, a complete quack. He claims to have herbal cures for HIV AIDS and his controversial and unscientific treatments even bar patients from taking life prolonging anti-retroviral drugs. He also claims to have a similar cure for blood pressure.

Yeah, it's like if Baba Ramdev was elected PM and didn't even know Yoga.

He's also alleged to have ordered police firing on a group of student protesters resulting in the deaths of students and a journalist.

Far be it from him to care about the lives of journalists though, he once told journalists to obey him or "go to hell", an offer that he was evidently serious about given the killing of a newspaper editor who was gunned down, allegedly by Yammeh's security forces. A journalist for a Gambian paper was also arrested in 2006 and hasn't been heard or seen since.

He's also led a purge of witches in the country with the State's witchdoctors detaining over a thousand citizens on charges of witchcraft. This came on the back of the death of Jammeh's aunt, a death he blamed on witchcraft.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, he's also publicly called for attacks on members of the LGBT community.

If it makes it any better he once donated two truckloads of turkey to a Christian charity, so at least there's that.right?

First published: 29 October 2015, 20:16 IST
 
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