They lived like they'd never die. Yet some died like they never lived. Some have faded away into obscurity, living in foreign lands where they wield ABSOLUTELY no power. Change indeed is the only constant. A constant that takes different forms. My reflection below.
Reflection part 2:
There is a pattern.
A political pattern.
A pattern that followers of political events, especially events in third world “dictocracies” whose electoral systems suffer from ACUTE ELECTILE DYSFUNCTION can use to precisely and concisely predict outcomes of political movements.
Give it any name. On my part, I’d prefer to call it “Dictators’ Gun Powder Cake Theory”.
We begin in the Caribbean. On June 5th 1980, in what the Guinness Book of Records listed as one of the three most expensive weddings, Jean Claude Duvalier AKA Baby Doc got married to Michele Bennett. This was paving a new hopeless trajectory for the Haitian people. Under his rule, remotely controlled by his wife, Baby Doc of Haiti, taking after his father - Papa Doc – who was himself a ruthless dictator, perpetrated medieval-styled savagery. He and his family literally pocketed the national income of the country, asphyxiated or rather sentenced economic growth to death and institutionalized voodooism while the average Haitian could barely afford a pair of shoes, not to mention three square meals a day.
All these were ingredients that constituted a perfect recipe of Baby Doc’s Gun Power Cake which awaited an ignition. The ignition!! A shopping spree by the dictator’s wife in France during which she spent a whopping $1.5 Million on clothes while the country suffered food and fuel shortages amidst corruption and many other ills. Many of such had taken place before but this was the tipping point that put an end to his rule. He fled to France aboard a U.S. air force jet on the 7th of February 1986, leaving behind less than $500,000 in the state treasury.
Next on my list is Idi Amin Dada. The buffoonery perpetrated by this Ugandan blood thirsty dictator was larger than his personality but extraordinarily insignificant when it comes to his brutality. A brute in the making, a sadist compared to none other on the African continent in recent times. His official title.. “His excellency, President for life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Dr. Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beast of the earth and fishes of the sea and conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in particular” was among some of his many theatrics he bamboozled the international community with while his henchmen flooded and choked Ugandan streams and rivers with the blood and bodies of innocent civilians.
Seizing power in a military coup d’état on the 25th of January 1971, it wasn’t long before this tinpot dictator started putting together ingredients for his gun powder cake. But first, he needed a promotion to Field Marshal and that, he accorded himself. And then, his ingredients; Human rights abuses, political repression, ethnic persecution, extrajudicial killings, nepotism, corruption and gross economic mismanagement just to name a few. All of these were enough to build dissent from within and abroad which served as a matchbox. The ignition came when Amin attempted to use his infamous, ragtag army that was specialized in killing unarmed civilians to annex the Kagera Province of Tanzania in 1978. This triggered the Ugandan-Tanzanian war and led to the demise of Amin’s eight-year old regime leading him to flee into exile to Libya and then to Saudi Arabia where he lived until his death on August 16th 2003.
Maybe we take a turn to North Africa. Zine Al Abedine Ben Ali. A somewhat political tactician who became prime minister and later booted out Tunisia’s first post-independence ruler, Habib Bourguiba, in a bloodless coup on grounds that the president was “mentally unfit” to rule. He is credited to have overseen some level of economic growth and praised for his progressive stance on women’s rights and economic reforms. Sounds like he was doing great, right?
Ben Ali’s “gun powder cake” ingredients comprised of rising unemployment among a large section of the youth population and large sections of the Tunisian interior languishing in poverty. In the characteristic of many dictators, he became omnipresent with giant posters of his face in public spaces. He quelled political dissent and was on many occasions accused by human rights groups of unfairly arresting and maltreating critics. Protests were not tolerated and there was rising resentment of the perceived corruption of the elite.
The ignition here isn’t or wasn’t a metaphor but a real one. Mohammed Bouazizi, a young Tunisian graduate had the cart of vegetables he was selling to support his family seized by a police officer. He self-immolated and died later in the hospital. This triggered nation-wide.
Melaine Nsaikila: Fulbright Scholar, Economist and Development Enthusiast.