Top 10 Most Brutal And Crazy African Leaders
Like so many inaugural post-colonial African leaders, the new found power was corrupting. This list could have easily been a top 30, but we've narrowed it to 10 with great difficulty.
Mswati III of Swaziland (1986 - Present)
Mswati, Sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute king, has been chastised for living a luxury lifestyle while his people starve. Over 70% of the country’s citizens survive on less than $1 per day, and 40% of the population is unemployed. Despite the Swazi people’s suffering, King Mswati has shown no compassion or interest. He lives opulently, squandering his kingdom’s wealth on German automobiles, first-class leisure travel across the world, and women. Mswati is a prolific polygamous man. He is preoccupied with marriages and sexual pleasures while his country suffers.
However, his egregious mismanagement of his country’s finances is now wreaking havoc on the economy. Swaziland is in the midst of a severe financial crisis. Pensions have been halted as the kingdom’s economy collapses.
Sèkou Tourè of Guinea (1958 - 1984)
Ahmed Sèkou Tourè became the first President of Guinea in 1958 and served until his 1984. Similarly to other dictators, after his election he made his party the only legal party in the state.
Toure’s aim was to make Guinea a socialist country and those who were in opposition of this were persecuted or exiled. Those who dared to make their opposition public were sent to detention camps or paid visits by the secret police. An estimated 50,000 people are believed to have been killed under Tourè’s rule.
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Hissenè Habrè of Chad (1982-1990)
Hissenè Habre’s ascension to power was aided largely by France and the United States of America. Under his rule, human rights abuse became the norm.
He created a secret police force that tortured and killed his opponents. Habre’s government practiced ethnic cleansing and the secret police killed by forcing detainees to put their mouths around car exhaust pipes and they were sprayed with gas or burned.
In May 2016 he was sentenced to life in prison on charges of rape, sexual slavery and ordering the killing of 40,000 people.
Omar al-Bashir of Sudan (1989-2019)
Al-Bashir ascended to power by a bloodless military coup against Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, a democratically elected leader by the Sudanese population in 1989. Al-Bashir disbanded all political groupings in his country shortly after assuming power, dismissed the country’s parliament, and shut down all privately held media outlets.
Civil wars erupted during his reign, resulting in the deaths of 300,000 to one million people and the relocation of nearly 3 million of his subjects. His record on human rights is one of a kind. He has committed rape, genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, as well as looting the country’s oil money (stowing $9 billion in secret bank accounts in the United Kingdom). He was overthrown by popular revolt in 2019.
Jean-Bedel Bokassa of Central African Republic (1966-1976)
Bokassa's regime was characterized by brutality, corruption, and an authoritarian style of governance. He quickly established himself as an absolute ruler, and any opposition was met with violent repression. Bokassa banned all political parties and imposed strict censorship laws to control the media. He also established a cult of personality around himself, which included erecting statues of himself and changing the name of the country to the Central African Empire in 1976, with Bokassa declaring himself Emperor in a ceremony so expensive that it ruined his country's economy.
Bokassa’s regime was also marked by extreme violence and human rights abuses. He ordered the execution of suspected opponents, including schoolchildren who had protested against his rule. Bokassa was also accused of cannibalism and was alleged to have eaten the flesh of some of his victims. In addition, he maintained a private army of over 2,000 soldiers who were used to enforce his rule.
Sani Abacha of Nigeria (1993-1998)
A Nigerian army general, Abacha seized power in 1993 when he overthrew the government of Chief Ernest Shonekan.
Through a decree, he gave himself absolute power by dissolving every legislative and executive institution. Unlike other dictators that led their countries to political ruin, Abacha increased Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves, reduced the national debt and reduced the inflation rate.
However, his government was full of human rights abuses and murders of political opponents violating human rights and Abacha and his family were accused of lining their pockets with money from the country’s treasury. Abacha was ranked as the fourth most corrupt world leader in history in 2004, and stole about $5billion.
Charles Taylor of Liberia (1997-2003)
The Liberian civil war, which resulted in the deaths of many innocent Liberians, was primarily his fault. He committed so many atrocities that it will take a book to enumerate. He urged his supporters to rape opponents, amputate their hands and eat their flesh as a form of violence. Taylor was responsible for the killing of millions of people in both civil wars, while using child soldiers and drugging them so heavily and make them kill their own parents and family to desensitize them.
He was also an adept of human sacrifice. On the day he became president, he celebrated by burying several pregnant women alive and ate the flesh of many political opponents with his generals. On August 11, 2003 he resigned after being pressured by the U.S government and was exiled to Nigeria. When Nigeria ordered his return, he escaped and was caught in the north of Cameroon.
In 2012 after years of trial, Taylor was convicted of eleven charges. The Special Court for Sierra Leone judged the warlord guilty of all 11 counts of "aiding and abetting" war crimes and crimes against humanity. These charges included acts of terrorism, murders, rape, sexual slavery, enslavement and enlisting child soldiers. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Francisco Macias Nguema of Equatorial Guinea (1968 -1979)
Macias Nguema was a madman. He was so paranoid he killed his family members too.Laws were passed making threats towards the administration punishable by death, with mere insults resulting in thirty years behind bars. Deeply distrustful of those with an education, a leery Macias killed or banished every spectacle wearer in the country and banned the use of the word 'intellectual'.
There was no central bank - its governor was executed. Instead, the country's treasury comprised several suitcases filled with banknotes stashed under Macias' bed in his ancestral village of Mongomo.
On Christmas Eve 1969, he had 186 political opponents executed in the national football stadium in Malabo. While the executions were going on, amplifiers played Mary Hopkin's song "Those Were the Days". 150 were shot or hanged with the remaining 36 being ordered to dig ditches in which they were buried up to their necks and eaten alive by red ants over the next few days.
Macias murdered or exiled a third of the population, and crippled Equatorial Guinea's educated class to such an extent that the country has never recovered. He was overthrown by his nephew Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who has been ruling in a similar way since 1979 till now.
Joseph-Désiré Mobutu of Democratic Republic of Congo (1965-1997)
Between 1965 and 1997, Mobutu Sese Seko reigned over the Democratic Republic of Congo. During his time as president, he murdered a great number of individuals. He murdered opposition figures in the open by hanging them. He was known to also elaborately torture opponents by gouging their eyes out, cutting their genitals and removing their limbs one after the other till they died. He was one of the parties responsible for the murder of Patrice Lumumba in 1961.
Inheriting the most mineral-rich country in the world, Mobuto stole so much money that in 1970, he had used 60% of the national budget for his lavish lifestyle, while his people lived in abject poverty and fear. After destroying his country’s economy for 22 years, he was ousted by rebel forces in 1997 and three months later he died from prostate cancer on exile in Morocco.
Mobutu was the archetype African dictator. He established a massive personality cult. He changed his name to Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (meaning "The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake."). He made it mandatory for all television networks to show an image of him coming down through the clouds on the evening news. It is estimated that he stole $15 billion from his people. The term Kleptocracy is literally about him.
Idi Amin Dada of Uganda (1971-1979)
He killed more than 500,000 people in Uganda, including archbishops, foreign businessmen, and opposition figures. He acknowledged having consumed human flesh. Nearly all of the stunning girls that were in the vicinity of the his palace were raped, making him of of the most fearsome dictators, not only in Africa, but in the world.
Amin's forces were inventive in their slaughter. Entire squadrons of Acholi and Langi soldiers, the ethnicity to which former president Milton Obote belonged, were compelled to parade and immediately ran down by tanks. Other times, a hand grenade was simply thrown into a room packed with prisoners. Soon people from all strata of society were victims of the president's brutality.
The loss of life was astronomical: power-cuts hit Kampala when the hydro-electric dam on Lake Victoria became bunged up with human remains. Amin stored the severed heads of personal rivals within his Botanical Room, including that of his eventual fifth wife's former fiancé. The remains of his second wife were dismembered after a failed, clandestine abortion attempt, and the limbs reattached back-to-front to caution future infidelity. He fancied ripping off the limbs of opponents one after the other, and committed several executions himself.
Faithful to his personality cult, His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Dr. Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, King of Scotland and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa are just a few of the titles he bestowed upon himself.
Amin was exiled first to Libya, until even Colonel Gaddafi could not tolerate him any longer, and later to Saudi Arabia. Seeing out his remaining days in relative comfort, Amin fell into a coma in 2003 and never recovered. Nor did he ever pay for the monstrous brutality he exacted on his population.