Ask someone to name a dictator and the answer is almost always Adolf Hitler and/or Joseph Stalin. It’s quite easy as both are amongst a well-known group of horrible dictators and world leaders who have subjected millions to untold misery. And with good reason, as the former led the extermination of 6 million Jews during World War II while the latter subjected his own people to a harsh living environment where dissenters were murdered.
But whilst Hitler, Stalin, and their contemporaries are all (thankfully) gone, there are other leaders and dictators who have taken their place and are making life difficult for the whole world. Just take a look at Equitorial Guinea where political opponents are allegedly killed and eaten by Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the country’ long-serving dictator. Other dictators on this list may not eat their opponents, but they do subject their populace to conditions no human should endure.
Whilst the people who live in complete freedom in first world countries don’t really experience problems beyond ‘where’s my phone charger?’, millions of people are still currently under the thumb of brutal dictators and are subjected to repressive regimes, extreme poverty, and constant violation of their basic human rights.
In no particular order, because let’s face it all these guys are bad, here are 10 of the world’s worst dictators who are still (unfortunately) alive and in power.
10. Kim Jong-Un, North Korea – The “Supreme Leader”
Kim Jong Un’s reign over North Korea may be still in its relative infancy, but he’s quickly racking up a reputation not unlike his father, Kim Jong Il. Not only does he look ridiculous, he seems to have inherited his father’s penchant for being a terrible human being.
When Kim took over as ‘Supreme Leader’ of North Korea, there were slim hopes that he would break his father’s regime. Unfortunately, not only are human rights violations continuing to happen all over North Korea, but Jong Un decided to add his own flair to his reign by engaging in some world leader trash talk using nuclear weapon threats.
He’s still young and time could mellow him, but he’s already making his mark on the world and it’s not looking like a good one.
9. Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Equatorial Guinea – Eats His Enemies
Teodoro Obiang Nguema’s rise to power (and subsequent abuse of it) sounds like something out of Game of Thrones. First Nguema’s uncle goes insane, starts ruling Equatorial Guinea with a violent and repressive iron fist, and then gets really paranoid before murdering most of Nguema’s family. Nguema decided to do something and overthrew his uncle in a military coup before installing himself as president and vowing to be a better ruler. And like Game of Thrones, Nguema has shown himself to be just as bad of a ruler.
Nguema’s regime over Equatorial Guinea is one of the world’s harshest, most violent, and most repressed. Despite the country having rich oil and gas reserves, most of Equatorial Guinea lives in poverty whilst Nguema and the rich live in luxury. Nguema’s rule doesn’t seem to be loosening either with every election conveniently going his way with over 90 per cent of the vote.
And because Nguema’s life wasn’t considered bizarre enough already, his detractors have accused him of cannibalism, specifically eating parts of his powerful enemies in an attempt to ‘gain their power’. Yeah, that’s some supervillain-level stuff right there.
8. King Mswati III, Swaziland – The Playboy King
King Mswati III is Swaziland’s ruling ‘absolute monarch’ and is probably more fit to lead Charlie Sheen’s life than the life of a ruler.
After inheriting the crown at age 14 and having his mother help with important matters until he was 18, he then proceeded to Joffrey (see Game Of Thrones) his way through life. He lives a lavish lifestyle whilst his country is gripped with poverty; he has resisted democratic reforms and subjected Swaziland to a violent and repressed regime; and he has let Swaziland become the country with the highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world. Oh, and he is also a fan of polygamy, marrying 14 women, most of whom were under-aged when he married them.
Just to show how little he cares about whatever he does as king, he performed a ‘rite’ that banned women under 18 to have sex in an attempt to address the HIV/AIDS issue, only to completely forget two months later when he married his 13th (and under-aged) wife. The penalty for breaking his own rite? A cow, which was admittedly paid in full.
7. Isaias Afewerki, Eritrea – Worst Dictator In Africa
Eritrea is the most closed off and repressed country in Africa and has arguably the worst human rights record of any country in the world. Even North Korea somehow has a better human rights record than Eritrea and that country is ruled by a man-child who looks like a balloon. This is all due to Isaias Afewerki, Eritrea’s first and only president so far.
Under Afewerki’s totalitarian regime, he holds all the power and calls all the shots for the entire country. As such, the people of Eritrea have been subjected to extrajudicial killing, torture, rape, indefinite national service and forced labour. Media freedom is virtually non-existent, the people live in poverty, all the essentials have all but disappeared, and those brave enough to stand up and speak are usually silenced by imprisonment or execution.
Afewerki and Eritrea has been subjected to scrutiny from the UN for crimes against humanity and there may be some hopeful developments out of the country to come.
6. Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus – Europe’s Last Dictator
Aleksandr Lukashenko was voted into power in 1994 and has done his best at being a despicable leader.
Since taking office, Lukashenko has been responsible for getting rid of democracy, and any form of free speech and media influence. Political opponents have always been conveniently silenced and the parliament has been sent into permanent emasculation. Lukashenko himself is an old-school conservative person who speaks his mind, no matter how stupid his thoughts are. This probably explains why Belarus is one the the few countries that still has the death penalty, why Lukashenko is particularly keen on bringing the ancient concept of ‘serfdom’ back as an attempt to ‘improve’ efficiency, and why he thinks Hitler wasn’t actually too bad of a guy.
Lukashenko’s reign has been derided enough that he has been given the slightly insulting (or complementary) nickname of ‘Europe’s Last Dictator.’
5. Raul Castro, Cuba – Same Old, Same Old
Unlike Teodoro Obiang Nguema’s rise to power, the story of how Fidel Castro ceded power to his younger brother, Raul, is quite boring. Fidel got too old and Raul decided to step up and keep it in the family.
Fidel’s reign was known for its repression of Cuba’s people, a lockdown on media freedom and freedom of speech, and a penchant for locking up political enemies until they basically rot. When Fidel left and Raul stepped up, there was hope for change. Unfortunately, Raul thought Fidel’s brutal and repressive Cuban regime was fine as it is and kept it. Just to top things off, Raul isn’t anywhere near as charming as his older brother so Cuba somehow actually came out worse.
There might be light at the end of the very long tunnel yet as Raul has stated that he won’t seek re-election in 2018.
4. Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan – Silences Political Opponents
Since the fall of the USSR in 1991, Islam Karimov has been the first and only President of Uzbekistan. Based on his track record so far, it’s pretty safe to say that his successor won’t have to do much to improve on Uzbekistan’s abysmal human rights record.
Since Karimov seized power and kept it for over two decades through obvious nefarious means, Uzbekistan has been a hub for some atrocious abuses of human rights and press freedom. Almost any human right violation you can think of (from torture, massacres, and rape to corruption, imprisonment of over ten thousand political opponents, and media censorship) has been reported under Karimov’s administration.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Karimov is leaving office anytime soon as he only recently won another five-year term with a whopping 90 per cent of the vote. Either Uzbeks really like Karimov (extremely unlikely) or there is something afoul in the election process (extremely likely).
3. Bashar al-Assad, Syria – Eye Doctor Turned Dictator
Next to Kim Jong Un, Bashar al-Assad has been under the world’s spotlight in recent years for all the on-goings currently happening in Syria. After abandoning his earlier career as an eye doctor by taking over the presidency from his horrible father in 2000, initial hopes were high for positive reform in Syria.
But Bashar decided to take after his father and set events in motion that would lead to the Syrian Civil War.
Bashar’s regime is characterized with use of excessive brutal force to quell any protests, extreme racial and religious insensitivity, and a penchant for war crimes. Over 10,000 Syrian civilians have been killed in 2015 alone, over two hundred thousand have died in the civil war, and millions have fled from their homes and into Europe.
Bashar is currently under investigation from a number of parties, including France and the UN, for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
2. Omar al-Bashir, Sudan – The Racist Ruler
Omar al-Bashir became President of Sudan in 1989 after a bloodless military coup. His reign since then however, has been considerably bloodier as Omar has cultivated a reputation for being amongst the most atrocious dictators still out there.
First there was the second Sudanese Civil War which lasted twenty two years and caused the death of millions through warfare, drought, and famine. Next there was the racially-charged genocide in Darfur where hundreds of thousands were killed and many more were forced to flee from the carnage. Finally, there’s Omar’s brutal reign over the Sudanese people in which he began implementing Sharia Law in Northern Sudan, abolished the Legislative Assembly, banned political parties and trade unions, banned freedom of speech, and issued out purges and executions.
The UN has issued an international arrest warrant for Omar and everyone has their fingers crossed that they get him this time.
1. Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe – Rules With An Iron Fist
Robert Mugabe has been Zimbabwe’s first and only president since 1987. For over three decades, Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe with a corrupt and racist iron fist.
Zimbabwe is bankrupt and rife with debt, the inflation rate is ridiculous, the health care system is a mess, millions are starving and impoverished, unemployment is shockingly high, and you can forget about the notion of freedom of speech. Mugabe’s reign has also been shaped partially by his homophobic and racist tendencies, and he is quick to persecute anyone who looks at him the wrong way. Mugabe is also responsible for a genocide in Matabeleland which killed over 20,000 people and the land reform policy in the 2000’s which resulted in hundreds of thousands becoming homeless and left millions worse off. Finally, there’s widespread corruption that has been prevalent throughout his reign and has not only kept Mugabe in office for far too long but has also seen exorbitant amounts of money being embezzled into his own pockets.
Wishing death upon someone is horrible but Mugabe is very old and he could possibly croak at any moment, which is the only thing going for Zimbabwe at the moment.