Africa: African Dictators of 2021; 3 Down, More to Go

Alaa Salah, Kandaka or Nubian Queen, leading protests in Sudan, in April 2019

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This year some African dictators were deposed or killed. Those deposed include Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and Guinean President Alpha Condé.  Chadian President Idriss Déby was killed. Meanwhile, many African dictators remain in power, including some already featured among AfroAmerica Network African ruthless dictators of 2018 (see AfroAmerica Network African Dictators Who Mattered In 2018: Congolese Joseph Kabila, Rwandan Paul Kagame, Ugandan Yoweri Museveni of Dec 27, 2018). New dictators are also joining the ranks.

Guinea Conakry: Coup after Coup.

On Sunday, September 5, 2021 military rebels led by Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, a former French legionnaire officer, staged a mutiny in Guinea and arrested the dictator  Alpha Conde.  After learning of the coup, a mass of supporters of the rebels took to the streets  to celebrate the victory. Alpha Condé, 83-years old, became Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010 and was re-elected in 2015. In 2021, he pushed through a constitutional change to allow himself to run for a third term, a move his opponents said was illegal.  The population had grown weary of Alpha Conde's authoritarian rule and his illegal maneuvers to stay in power.
The coup in Guinea Conakry reminds of a similar event in Mali, a few months earlier.

Mali: Coup after Coup.

 The coup in Mali, by Colonel Assimi Goïta in May 2021 against Bah N'daw, was a result of months of unrest following accusations by the opposition against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta  of  irregularities in the March and April 2020 parliamentary elections and  the kidnapping of opposition leader Soumaila Cissé. On 18 August 2020, Colonel Assimi Goïta and Colonel-Major Ismaël Wagué  led a military  coup and arrested President Keïta and Prime Minister Boubou Cissé.   Bah N'daw was named interim president,  with Colonel Assimi Goïta being appointed vice president.  Following the May 24, 2021 coup, Colonel Assimi Goïta became the new dictator after forcing the dictator  President Bah N'daw, to resign. On 20 July 2021, the new Malian dictator Assimi Goïta survived an assassination attempt.

Tchad:  A Dictator Killed and Replaced by His Son.

In April 2021, Chad’s long time ruling dictator Idriss Déby, addressed as Marshal Idriss Déby Itno, was killed  following intense fighting against rebels. He was replaced by 37-year-old son, General Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno (see African Dictators, Sons, and Daughters: Chad Dictator Idriss Deby Killed and Replaced by His son).

Idriss Déby had ruled Chad for more that 30 years, after seizing power in a coup in December 1990, as a leader of a rebellion against  the dictator Hissène Habré. He survived various rebellions and coup attempts against his own rule.  He won elections in 1996 and 2001. He then eliminated term limits in the constitution, which allowed him to  claim the elections in 2006, 2011, 2016, and 2021. In 2020, he gave himself the title of Marshal.

African Dictators Who Matter.



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The Guinean dictator Alpha Condé and Tchadian dictator Idriss Déby had changed their countries’ constitutions to allow them to run for additional illegal terms. Their actions are a reminder of what most dictators across Africa have been doing.  

Among the most ruthless African dictators are:

  • Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, 76, born in 1944 and dictator since 1986. When he overthrew another dictator in 1986, he promised to leave power in 1990, then in 1996, then in 2001, then in 2006,  then in 2011,  then in 2015, then never.  In 2000, he told Los Angeles Times: "I will leave office, for sure, because I am not a hereditary king. I would be very glad to leave office, once I have served my term. To be remembered, just as a freedom fighter, who helped to give the people of Uganda a key to their future, to give them democracy, get rid of the dictatorship."  Well, he not only remains the dictator of Uganda but also, on December 27, 2017, he amended the Constitution to remove the presidential age limit caps, allowing himlself to remain in power for life. Since then, he has been accused of wide repession against the opposition (see  Ugandan Dictator Yoweri Museveni Tells Media Reasons for Clinging on Power: Ugandans are Fools and Without Direction and Western Media is Ignorant and Arrogant). Yoweri Museveni has,  allegedly,  been grooming his sone, General Muhoozi Kainerugaba,  as the successor.
  • Paul Kagame of Rwanda,  63,  and dictator since 1994. Paul Kagame often talks about tolerance, openeness, reconciliation, and giving power to the Rwandan people but, for now, he is mostly known for his authoritarian streak and an impressive record of bloody repression and massive systematic crimes both inside Rwanda and in neighboring countries, since 1990.  Initially claiming to be ready to release power, Paul Kagame, in 2015, when his second term allowed by the constitution progressed,  decided to rewrite the term-limit clause of the Rwandan constitution, to allow him to run for a third term in the 2017 elections and remain in power for life.  Paul Kagame has,  allegedly,  been grooming his daughter, Ange Kagame,  as the successor (see Ailing Rwandan Paul Kagame's Attempts to Cling to Power Through His Daughter Ange Kagame
  • Paul Biya of Cameroon, 91, born in 1933 and dictator since 1982. Initially a promising bright and visionaly democratic leader, he has now turned into a senile dictator, awaiting to leave power only by death.
  • Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, 79, born in 1942 and dictator since 1979. He is one of the most corrupt leaders in Africa.  Yet, he overthrew his uncle Macías, after the latter ordered the murders of several members of their relatives, including Obiang's brother.  Obiang and others in Macías' inner circle feared the president had become insane. Obiang overthrew his uncle on 3 August 1979 in a bloody soup,  tried him for genocide and executed him by a  firing squad on 29 September 1979. Since then, he has become the copy of his uncle, with the sole difference that he has pushed nepotism to the extreme (see African Kleptocrat Dictators: Like the US, the European Union Steps Up Investigation Efforts)
  •  Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, 62, born in 1959 and dictator since 2009.  After being groomed by his father for years, he took over power after his father died. Since then, he  has held onto power with an iron grip. However, he has rarely been seen in public over the recent couple of years, and on accasion, with signs of deteriorating health. He is believed to mostly spend time in hospitals  outside the country and slowly appointing, to high positions, people who will protect interests of his relatives  and his and his later father Omar Bongo's legacy after him.  (see Gabon: Rose Christiane Raponda, First Woman Appointed Prime Minister)
  • Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé Eyadéma, 55, born in 1966 and dictator since 2005. After being groomed by his father Gnassingbé Eyadéma, he became president  after his father's death  in 2005. Gnassignbé Eyadéma became the president of Togo from 1967 until his death in 2005. He raised to the presidency after two successful military coups, in January 1963 and January 1967, and became president on 14 April 1967. During the presidency, Gnassignbé Eyadéma prepared his son to be the successor to the presidency. Hence, Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé Eyadéma was  appointed by his father as Minister of Equipment, Mines, Posts, and Telecommunications, serving from 2003 to 2005. In  2002, the constitution was ammended to lower the eligibility age for the presidency from 40 to 35  to match the age of Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé Eyadéma, then 36. 
  • Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast, 79, born in 1942 and dictator since 2011.  Alassane Ouattara  forced a third term last year after illegally changing his country’s constitution. His attempts to change the constitution and the country legal provisions  started early, even before he became president.  In fact serving as Prime Minister, under Houphouët-Boigny, Alassane Ouattara unsuccessfully tried, illegally and against the constitution, to carry out presidential duties for a total of 18 months,  when Houphouët-Boigny was ill. When Houphouët-Boigny died on 7 December 1993, a power struggle ensued between  Alassane Ouattara and  the then President of the National Assembly Henri Konan Bédié, over the presidential succession in total disregard for the constitution that clearly gave Henri Konan Bedié the legal right to lead the country if Houphouet became unfit. Konan Bédié prevailed: Alassane Ouattara resigned as Prime Minister in December 1993 . When he become president in 2010, following controversial elections marred with irregulalities, unrests, a civil war,  and arrests of opponents, he clearly was determined to keep himself in power, forever. 

What is Next for African Dictators.

 One lesson for African dictator may be the one in Sudan.  On April 11, 2019, Sudan dictator Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir was removed by the military after months of anti-government protests against his three-decade rule.  Women played a major role in his removal from office. Since then, Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir  has been facing charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. The new Sudanese government  has committed to hand Omar al-Bashir over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) along with other officials wanted over the crimes in Darfur, according to a Cabinet of Ministers.

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