Looking at it from our warm homes all the way in the West, the North Korean regime might look like a ruthless and cruel dictatorship that has lived way longer than it should’ve. But when you put yourself in the shoes of a North Korea citizen, it’s hard to deny the logic behind following a man such as Kim Jong Un. Just take a second to think about it. As far as most North Koreans know, the man living inside the huge palace in Pyongyang is no mere human. Kim’s body is allegedly so well calibrated that he never had to urinate or defecate. His father was born atop a sacred mountain as a new star was created, winter turned to spring, and a double rainbow appeared in the sky. Supposedly, Kim is also a skilled composer and musician who could drive by the age of three.
Those are just a taste of the myths regarding the Kim Dynasty in North Korea. So, if we give it a little thought, it's not that hard to imagine why the poor citizens of that country would “choose” to follow such a leader. Nevertheless, while in terms of mythology he is one amazing specimen, in reality, Kim Jong Un is nothing more than a despicable dictator who punishes his own people. Among his many crimes are the alleged torture of children, forcing mothers to drown their own babies and the extensive use of prison camps that are terrifyingly similar to the concentration camps in World War II.
With a resume like that while he’s still in his mid-30s, Kim puts to shame a barrage of horrible dictators in the history of our world. And yet, we have picked out 15 leaders who could put Kim to shame in their own right regarding how despicable they were. So if you are eating, you better stop because here are 15 leaders more despicable than Kim Jong Un.
15 Omar Al-Bashir
The current president of Sudan is an excellent example of how you might be one of the worst human beings ever to live and still be reelected with 94 percent of the votes in your country. Omar Al-Bashir has been the leader of the African nation since June 30 of 1989 when he led a coup and took over the country. Since becoming the head of Sudan, Bashir has taken several measures to retain his power such as dissolving the Parliament after a party chairman proposed a law that would limit presidential power. He is most notorious, however, for playing a role in what the international community deemed to be a genocide in the Sudanese region of Darfur.
Because of that incident, Bashir became the first sitting head of state to be issued an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court. According to an ICC spokeswoman, Bashir’s indictment included five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes. The international court claims Bashir allegedly tried to wipe out three non-Arab ethnic groups in the region of Darfur.
14 Mao Tse-Tung
Have you ever heard the expression: “progress comes with a price?” That was the bread and butter of the first chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Mao Tse-Tung. Mao is most commonly known as the figurehead behind China’s great leap forward, which saw the country develop its economy at an astounding rate. The price for such nimble economic development, however, was nothing less than the lives of around 45 million people.
According to the Hong Kong-based historian Frank Dikötter, Mao’s policies resulted in millions of people dying from starvation, work exhaustion, and some were even beaten to death as their great leader steered the boat towards development.
The punishments for petty crimes were also draconian under Mao’s rule. Apparently, people who stole as little as some fruit or vegetables could be sentenced to be tied up and thrown into ponds to drown. Some people were even forced to work naked during the winter, which is not so different from a few of the barbarities that Kim Jong Un oversees these days in North Korea.
13 Jan Matthys and John of Leiden
In the year 1534, something peculiar happened in the small German city of Münster. Most commonly known as the Münster Rebellion, this dark spot in the history of religion is not as well-known as the atrocities committed by other leaders on this list. But the actions of Anabaptist leaders, Jan Matthys and John of Leiden, and the consequences they brought on the poor people who followed them, earned these prophets a spot on our list.
Led by their discontent with the Catholic Church, these Anabaptist leaders found in Münster the perfect place to start their “New Jerusalem.” Quickly after the arrival of Jan Matthys, the Anabaptist population in Münster boomed and outnumbered any other religious groups in the town. Eventually, the Anabaptists ousted the Prince-Bishop who ruled Münster and took the city.
On the outside, the Prince-Bishop found allies and started a siege of Münster, while on the inside, the Anabaptists led by Matthys, performed orgies in sacred temples and churches. Matthys’ rule wouldn’t last long as, after a visit from God, he took on the sieging forces with the help of a handful of followers. He died in the attempt and the control of Münster went to his successor John of Leiden, who legalized polygamy and took 16 wives while the rest of the city starved. Leiden was killed as the siege ended and his body was exhibited in a cage that hung from a church. A cage that is still there today.
12 Charles Taylor of Liberia
If you studied economics at Bentley College in Massachusetts around 1977, there is a good chance that you had a class or two with one of the most ruthless killers in the history of Africa. Former Liberian president Charles Taylor has a history that would make for one hell of a movie. This is a man who aided a coup in the 80s, attained a position of power and used it to embezzle around $1 million, then fled his country to the United States only to be arrested on US soil. Somehow he escaped an American prison and fled to Libya where he trained under Muammar Gaddafi. With Gaddafi’s blessing, Taylor formed a guerrilla and started a Civil War that ended with him becoming president of Liberia. Amazing story, right?
Well, it’s great from a filmmaker’s standpoint, but from a humanitarian one, Taylor’s ascension to power was nothing less than a tragedy. Taylor was indicted by an international court and accused of atrocities like the use of child soldiers, sexual slavery, acts of terrorism, and being the mastermind behind a conflict that killed over 600,000 people including civilians. The former Liberian president is currently serving a 50-year prison sentence in the United Kingdom.
11 Vlad The Impaler
Count Dracula is one of the most famous characters ever created. The father of all vampires might not be a real supernatural creature, but the root of the myth behind Dracula is genuine.
The inspiration for Bram Stoker’s creation of the character Dracula was a 15th-century Romanian leader by the name of Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler.
Vlad earned the nickname “the Impaler” because of the peculiar habit he had after winning a battle. Following a victory on the battlefield, this Romanian warlord would use large stakes to impale his enemies and then erect those steaks on the battleground to exhibit the corpses of the losers. What is even worse, is that sometimes the people getting impaled weren’t even dead. This was such a perfect scare tactic that some historians say that when the Ottomans marched to attack Vlad’s empire, they could not believe the sight of thousands of impaled corpses surrounding Vlad’s stronghold and simply ran away.
10 Augusto Pinochet
Latin America has had its share of ruthless leaders, but few were as systematic about it as the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Just in terms of human rights violations, the death toll that is linked to Pinochet’s regime was recognized by Chile to be a little over 3,000 people. The number of people tortured and imprisoned, on the other hand, goes up to over 40,000, and that is not counting all the people who “disappeared” during Pinochet’s presidency.
More than the human rights violations, which include but are not limited to physical and sexual abuse as well as torture, Pinochet’s Chile was characterized by the instillment of fear on the population. Right at the beginning of his presidency, Pinochet authorized what was called the Caravan of Death, a military group ordered by Pinochet to target anyone who could have a strong voice to stand against his government. The results were the deaths of 68 people within three days. It might not sound like much in total numbers, but would you have the courage to speak out against the government after something like that?
9 Jim Jones
James Warren Jones became a folkloric figure following the mass suicide he led in Jonestown, Guyana. It is tough to imagine that a kid who grew up in rural Indiana would go on to convince almost 1000 people to commit suicide in Guyana. First, who could guess that anybody who was born in rural Indiana would end up becoming a cult leader and ruling over a small village named after himself in South America? None of what happened in Jonestown makes sense unless you get the complete background of the story.
The tale of Jim Jones involves the rise of a religious preacher who created the People’s Temple, a faith that appealed to a lot of folks for being racially integrated at a time that America was not even a bit as integrated as it is today. Unfortunately, what seemed like a religion of peace and acceptance showed its true face when Jones and a small group of his followers moved to Guyana. There, the charismatic preacher became a dictator who distributed punishment to whoever dared say anything against him. This despicable story ended with the mass suicide of the people Jonestown, which included Jim Jones.
8 Young Turks
They began as a movement to oust the monarchy and establish a modern, more European, constitutional government to Turkey. Their revolution was called the Young Turks revolution, and it finally came to fruition after the group ousted the Turkish monarch of the time, Sultan Abdul Hamid II. It was a period of much-needed hope for the society of Armenians who lived in Turkey, as just a few decades before that they had suffered several massacres at the hands of the Turkish military.
With the ousting of the monarchy and the rise to power of the Young Turks, the Armenians hoped they would finally get a fair say in Turkish society. However, their dream soon turned into despair. The band of revolutionaries they hoped would help them, instead became the masterminds behind the Armenian genocide that began on April 24, 1915. As many of the conflicts that plague that region of the world, a major reason behind the genocide was religion. The Muslim Young Turks created killing squads to murder the Christian Armenian population. The death toll estimates of the genocide range anywhere from 800,000 to 1.8 million Armenians killed.
7 Dom Pedro II
This is a name you won’t often see in a list of despicable leaders. That is because Dom Pedro II would very likely not have become the ruthless military commander he had to if his hand hadn’t been forced. Unfortunately for the whole nation of Paraguay, their leader Francisco Solano Lopez decided at some point in 1865 that his country had a chance of winning a war against Brazil, while also antagonizing Argentina and Uruguay.
Solano pushed his troops towards Brazilian territory and invaded their neighboring nation, promoting the r*pe of Brazilian women and violence against civilians in the villages they pillaged along the border. With that, he evoked the wrath of Dom Pedro II, who decided he would stop at nothing other than the utter destruction of those who wronged his citizens. His campaign into Paraguay was a vicious one, and it only ended with the death of Lopez. The toll paid on the way to Lopez’s death, however, can still be seen in Paraguay to this day. Different sources have different numbers, but the one thing that is for sure is that the Paraguayan population was decimated by the conflict. One estimate claims that little less than 2,000 Paraguayan men over the age of 20 were left alive after the war.
6 Idi Amin Dada
If you are impressed by the ridiculously long title of Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones, Idi Amin Dada’s title will be a treat for you. This Ugandan military dictator bestowed on himself the title of: “His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.”
A military commander who enjoyed torturing and killing, this man has been coined by many as the most terrible dictator of the last hundred years. Idi Amin masterminded a coup in Uganda in January 1971, and seized control of the government. After that, his reign of terror began with the mass murders of Christian tribes as well the killing of those whom he deemed to be a threat.
By the end of his time as ruler of Uganda, the death toll of civilians murdered by this dictator’s forces was about 300,000.
5 Ishii Shiro
Picture this: in the middle of a terrible war that drew in most of the world, a mad scientist manages to get his hands on enough samples of a deadly disease to wipe out the entire human population. That sounds a lot like a horror movie plot, right? Or something that Tom Cruise would have to stop in a Mission Impossible movie.
Well, this actually happened. During the Second World War, Japan approved a secret germ warfare research project that was called Unit 731. Spearheading that project was the Japanese scientist Ishii Shiro, who was dead-set on finding a way to win the war for Japan. While the Americans were developing their nuclear program, Ishii was using the population of Manchuria as test subjects to develop the most deadly bio-weapon the world had seen at the time. The disease he used was the good old bubonic plague, a disease that had already almost wiped humans off the face of the Earth once. But that fact didn’t stop Ishii, who apparently not only acquired enough of the disease to kill everyone but also found a way to spread it efficiently using fleas.
The death toll of Unit 731's tests and experiments is believed to be somewhere north of 13,000 people.
4 Pol Pot
Life was never easy for the population of Cambodia, but the period between 1975 and 1979 was a long nightmare for these poor people. After an eight year long civil war that killed around 300,000 people, a communist group led by Pol Pot took control of Cambodia. Communism under Pol Pot, however, differed greatly from the idea Karl Marx probably had for his ideology. From the time when he took control in 1975 to the time when he lost power in 1979, Pol Pot’s government was responsible for the deaths of around 1.5 million Cambodians. That is a ridiculous number when you consider that the population of the country in 1975 was about 7.5 million people.
Executions, diseases, famine and work exhaustion were the main causes of the deaths in Cambodia during that time. The prison camps established by Pol Pot put the Nazi concentration camps of World War II to shame regarding mortality rates. The biggest example of that was a camp called S-21. At this particular prison camp, thousands of people were killed, and there were only seven known survivors.
3 Félicien Kabuga
Perhaps the one thing more despicable than a leader who gets his hands dirty with blood is one that pays so he doesn’t have to. The most wanted man in Africa, Felicien Kabuga was allegedly responsible for financing one of the most brutal genocides in human history.
This Rwandan millionaire made most of his money from the yields of his tea farms but soon ventured into other areas, most notoriously founding and funding the Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines. The radio station played a key role in starting and inciting the genocide of the Tutsi population in Rwanda.
Kabuga has also been accused of funding the political and militia groups that led the genocide. His money was used to import weapons like the nearly 500,000 machetes that entered Rwanda to be used during the genocide.
The millionaire was indicted by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The charges brought against him by the prosecutor include but are not limited to genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, persecution as a crime against humanity, and extermination as a crime against humanity.
The history of the Roman Empire was painted with a lot of blood and terrible atrocities. In that bloody history, however, few Roman Emperors ever got close to rivaling the reign of terror that ensued under the rule of Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, most commonly known as Caligula.
Just try to imagine if somebody made mentioning a goat near them punishable by death. That was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ridiculous actions taken by Caligula during his four-year reign over Rome. The beginning of his time as Emperor was good for the Roman people as he eliminated unfair taxes and freed several prisoners who he deemed were unjustly imprisoned. But at some point, Caligula went mad.
After surviving a serious illness, the Emperor came to the conclusion that he was a living God and started acting as such. Ordering statues of himself to be built, killing folks for mere amusement while his people starved to death, and living a lifestyle that was deemed perverted even by the standards of Roman society at the time. Fortunately for everyone, Caligula’s reign was cut short as a group of plotters assassinated him at a public gathering.
1 Adolf Hitler
It would be humanly impossible to make up a list like this and leave out the one man who is the personification of what a despicable leader is. While ruthless leaders like Joseph Stalin and Genghis Kahn sure deserved a place here, competing against Adolf Hitler is not something easy to do in terms of being evil.
Not only did Adolph killed the toothbrush mustache look, which had potential as Charles Chaplin showed before Hitler destroyed the look for everyone else, Hitler was also responsible for one if not the most heinous crime in the history of the world, which was the Holocaust. The numbers vary, but it is believed that Hitler’s Holocaust killed anywhere from 6 to 11 million people.
To go along with the killings perpetrated in his concentration camps, Hitler could be very well be deemed responsible for all the deaths that occurred during World War II, a war he was responsible for starting. The total number of casualties during World War II is believed to be around 85 million people.
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