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Top 5 craziest African dictators you never know

In the African continent, there are some craziest dictators even though the continent is becoming less safe for dictators and warlords.

From man-eaters to self-proclaimed emperors and even those who seem to be immortal almost, this motley bunch of insane dictators in Africa has no one outside their immediate neighborhood ever heard of.

Top 5 craziest African dictators you never know

1. Paul Biya of Cameroon

Paul Biya of Cameroon
Paul Biya of Cameroon

One of the most developed countries in Central Africa, Cameroon has one of the highest levels of corruption in the world. There is also one of the strangest dictators there: former Prime Minister Paul Biya, who spends more time outside the country than in Cameroon.

For a man who wants to be acknowledged for bringing democracy to Cameroon, Biya has undoubtedly done much to undermine it. While in power since 1982, he is accused of rigging elections, suppressing the opposition and imprisoning journalists who dare to speculate on his health.

Strictly speaking, he prefers to spend as much time out of the country as possible, returning only to remind people that he is still alive, and to fill his pockets with as much public money as possible. According to the BBC, senior members of his government are often hired and spend their entire political career without looking at him.

For the average Cameroonian, life under the regime of Biya is far from peach. In 2009, his troops killed 100 unarmed demonstrators, and anyone who does not adhere to the party line may face violence from his security services.

2. Yahya Jammeh of Gambia

Yahya Jammeh of Gambia
©AP – Yahya Jammeh of Gambia

A tiny piece of land at the western outpost of Africa, Gambia is one of the strangest countries on earth. But geographical strangeness has nothing to do with the mental disorders of its former president, Yahya Jammeh, who was in power after the 1994 coup.

Jammeh compared homosexuality to Satanism and called it the fall of civilization. He promised to behead any gay man who entered the country. Explaining why he finds homosexuality so disgusting, he simply stated: I have buffalos from South Africa and Brazil, and they never date each other.

There are legends about his mania of greatness. In 2010, a government newspaper claimed that Obama personally presented him with three awards, including the title of “Admiral Nebraska,” a real title that Nebraska gave to people who are not Yahya Jammeh.

Unfortunately, his ego more than meets his paranoia. Jamma’s devotees live in constant fear. People are imprisoned and tortured on whims, and spies are everywhere. The government even creates fake protest groups abroad, hoping to ‘smoke out’ the exiled dissidents. An attempt to overthrow Jammeh in a coup failed. However, he lost the last presidential election in the Gambia, and Adama Barrow won against him.

3. Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola

Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola
©DPA – Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola

Extensive, oil-rich, and slowly emancipating from the severe effect of a brutal civil war, Angola is preparing to become Africa’s next big hammer. It has a booming economy, oil lakes, and an almost invisible former president.

Meet Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Africa’s most shy autocrat. While in power since Jimmy Carter was in the White House, Dos Santos managed to last so long, making himself a complete hermit. He does not make speeches, give interviews, or appear on television.

He does not go to summits and conferences, rarely leaves the capital, and refuses to communicate with other people. In those rare cases, when he does go to the meeting, he does not say anything that has not been prepared and rehearsed in advance. His shyness is so intense that some people know him as a ‘silent president’.

Corruption is the only thing he does openly. The opposition accuses him of passing laws to enrich his own family and of infringing on human rights whenever his authority is questioned. At the same time, the oil boom brings billions of dollars into his pockets, while the vast majority of Angolans live in terrible poverty. Jose served as Angolan President from 1979 to 2017.

4. King Mswati III of Swaziland

King Mswati III of Swaziland
King Mswati III of Swaziland

Often described as “an island of dictatorship in the sea of democracy,” Swaziland is almost entirely surrounded by neighboring South Africa. Under the absolute ruler of King Mswati, it is not so much a working country as the fantasy of a 14-year-old boy.

Remember the pervert Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei? He has nothing on King Mswati. Playboy with a passion for women, the ruler of one of the poorest countries in Africa, already has 13 wives, as well as countless mistresses. Every year he organizes a dance where more than 10,000 naked virgins compete to become 14th wife.

In addition to being a bigamist, the king also suffers from megalomania and loves expensive projects. In 2014, he opened a brand-new airport in the middle of nowhere before he was granted an airline license, or someone agreed to fly there. The cost of the airport was estimated at about 10 percent of the country’s GDP. Meanwhile, almost all of the county’s residents lived below the poverty line, and many were dying of HIV infection.

5. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea

The small, resource-rich state of Equatorial Guinea on the west coast of Africa is home to the continent’s oldest dictator: Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

Despite his son’s tendency to spend the national budget on Michael Jackson’s memorabilia, President Mbasogo’s reign is not funny at all. The infrastructure is inadequate, and most of the country’s desperately poor citizens have no access to water or hospitals.

Torture is widespread, and democracy is such a joke that Mbasogo claimed he won the 2002 election with 103 percent of the vote. In a 2006 article, Der Spiegel said his regime is comparable to that of Pol Pot.

Perhaps worst of all are reports of torture camps, where prisoners are regularly hanged and beaten to death. Human Rights Watch’s page in Equatorial Guinea is full of disturbing stories of kidnappings of foreign businessmen inside the country who have been abused for years. All signs indicate that hunger and civil repression are comparable to North Korea. Still, hardly anyone has ever heard of this tin of Tirana.

+ Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea

Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea
Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea

As a mid-sized country in the Horn of Africa, Eritrea is famous for its child soldiers, government-sanctioned torture, and killings of all citizens who attempt to flee its borders. There is no constitution, no independent judiciary, and many of its citizens spend their lives in literal slavery.

Described by the American ambassador as an ‘autocratic freak,’ President Isaiah Afwerki is obsessed with self-sufficiency to the point where his people are starving to death. When a terrible famine hit the country in 2009, he turned down a food aid offer, saying to the BBC: “Foreign food aid demonizes the local population and makes them lazy”. Instead, he ordered his thugs to confiscate grain from farmers, aggravating an already severe disaster.

Since then, things have gone so bad that even the generals cannot afford to feed themselves. Fearing an uprising, Afwerki responded by attracting 20,000 Ethiopian mercenaries, who now fully control the local population. Now that the country is on the verge of collapse, many observers wonder how long the president can hold out.

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