In today’s world, everyone is pushing for democracy and freedom of choice. The world has seen some of the most democractic leaders who can be labeled as influential and powerful politicians. And still, there exist strongman dictators in the world.
In recent times, there have been many dictators that shook the core value of freedom and managed to engrave their names as prominent in their respective countries for better or the worst.
Here are some of the most powerful dictators that have held on to their power to date:
10. Saparmurat Atayevich Niyazov
Niyazov was president of Turkmenistan and later promoted himself to President for Life. He seized power after the breakup of the Soviet Union, filling the vacuum left by Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin. He also looked like Emeril Lagasse.
Niyazov had a penchant for renaming things. He renamed the months of the year, with January named “Turkmenbashi,” which means Father of the Turkmen, a name he gave himself. He also changed the names of the days of the week to things like “Young Day” and “Spirituality Day” (“Twinkie Twin Day” was presumably discussed but ultimately not selected). He also changed the word “bread” to “Gurbansoltan” which incidentally was the name of his mother, suggesting that one of his fantasies was to see his mother eaten alive by poor people.
9. Joseph-Désiré Mobutu
Don’t let the sad look on this guy’s face con you into thinking he was a good, sweet man. Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga, born Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, was President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (aka Zaire) from 1965 until 1997. Not so Democratic, I guess. A strong man leader and a big fan of execution and torture, he had many political opponents hanged in front of audiences of tens of thousands. One of his victims was an ex-Minister of Education and a rebel leader, who was promised amnesty. Instead, his eyes were gouged out, his genitals were ripped off, and his limbs were amputated one by one before finally being killed.
While his country starved he enriched his own fortune, drove a fleet of Mercedes, and the only public servants being regularly paid were the ones on who his safety relied. He would charter Concorde jets to take shopping trips in Paris with his family and had an airport especially constructed. The evening news was always preceded with an image of his face, smiling through the clouds, looking down from the heavens. One awesome thing he did manage, as he organized the famous Rumble in the Jungle between Ali and Foreman, though paying each fighter $5 million seems a tad excessive.
8. Nicolae Ceausescu
Nicolae Ceausescu came into power in 1965 by becoming the first secretary of the Communist Party of Romania. Given that he was the leader of a late-bloomer communist country, you wouldn’t think he’d have high hopes to become a grandeur. You thought wrong.
He called himself “Geniul din Carpati” (“The Genius of the Carpathians”). He even made a scepter for himself, prompting Salvador Dali to write him a telegram making fun of the said scepter. Of course, the deluded Ceausescu had no concept of satire and had Dali’s letter published on the front page of the newspaper.
In 1980, Genius Ceausescu wanted a palace to further cement his Godliness. He planned it smack in the middle of the most historic part of town, and it required the destruction of 19 churches, six synagogues, and approximately 30,000 homes. Lauded as the biggest building in the world after the Pentagon, the project was an ambition to the point of stupidity. It cost Romania $10 billion and necessitated a team of 700 architects. Or, put it this way: After his death, the palace was used as Romania’s Parliament house. To this day, Romania only uses 30% of the palace. What a waste of space and money.
The thing is, the West was friendly to Ceausescu because he was so crazy that even other communists hated him. The British even knighted him, and France granted him its Legion of Honor. This only fed his mad delusions (really not such a good idea to bestow a knighthood on a dictator version of Charlie Sheen), so he demanded that his nearly illiterate wife, Elena, be made a member of the New York Academy of Sciences and the Royal Institute of Chemistry. Back home, she was crowned “Comrade-Academician-Doctor-Engineer,” and top scientists had to include her name in their research. The man was executed in 1989 by firing squad. He and his wife Elena were the last people to be executed in the country.
7. Francisco Macías Nguema
The ex-president of Equatorial Guinea had a serious chip on his shoulder and banned the word ‘intellectual’ from the country’s dictionary as well as closing down all private schools. The son of a witch doctor, he banned the use of lubricants in a power plant as he believed his magic powers could keep the place running. They couldn’t.
By 1979, Macías Nguema’s brutality had led to condemnations by the United Nations and European Commission. In the summer of that same year, Macías Nguema executed several members of his own family, leading several members of his inner circle because of fear that he was no longer acting rationally. On 3 August 1979, he was overthrown by Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who was previously the military governor of Bioko and Vice-Minister of the Armed Forces, as well as Macías Nguema’s nephew.
He was tried and executed by firing squad on September 29, 1979. Today, Macías Nguema is regarded as one of the most kleptocratic, corrupt and dictatorial leaders in post-imperial African history.
6. Ne Win
Ne Win was head of state of Burma (today Myanmar) from 1962 to 1981 and was a typical mundane socialistic leader. That was until he decided to make a mad move to change the country banknotes to 15, 35, 45, 75, and 90. The reason was simple – they followed suit of his lucky numbers. Some people just play the lottery with their lucky numbers, but it wasn’t enough for him. He wanted to improve the country’s economy with his luck for gambling. Sources say that he chose # 90 because his numerologist told him that if he does that he would live to be 90. However, he changed his mind only two years later. Tell me a sane ruler who would gamble on his country’s wealth? Can you name one? I thought so.
As per the numerologist’s prediction, Ne Win did live past 90; he died on December 5, 2002, at the age of 91. The man was no good for the country. The Junta that rules Burma to this day was influenced by Ne Win and the latter was a shadowy figure on the military junta to his dying day.
5. Muammar Gaddafi
The leader of Libya sensibly insisted that all of his bodyguards had to be female virgins, one of which has already taken a bullet for him. He makes the unsubstantiated claim that Israel was behind the assassination of JFK and bought a 7.5% share of Juventus FC despite expelling all Italians from Libya after he came to power in 1969.
4. Adolf Hitler
Born in Austria in 1889, Adolf Hitler rose to power in 1933 as the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party, also known as the Nazi Party. Hitler was chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945 and served as dictator from 1934 to 1945. His policies precipitated World War II and the Holocaust, which resulted in the deaths of over 20 million people (11 million of them were civilians). Hitler committed suicide with wife Eva Braun on April 30, 1945, in his Berlin bunker. I include Adolf Hitler on the list of crazy dictators because he had an infatuation with Jewish people and the Communists.
He believed that the two groups were directly responsible for the situation that Germany was in. Most of his writings, such as Mein Kampf, and speeches were ramblings and there was no justification for why he wanted to annihilate Jews, Polish people, Gypsys, Homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Communists. One thing is for sure, he was very charismatic and he was first able to brainwash the German populace to democratically elect him as Chancellor and then to help him with his Grossdeutch plans.
3. François Duvalier & Jean-Claude Duvalier
Perhaps better known as Papa Doc, Duvalier ruled over Haiti as Dictator (for life) from 1957-1971. Using a combination of voodoo influence and a cult of personality, his rule saw the systematic annihilation of around 30,000 Haitian. He managed to get huge amounts of money from America as he was anti-Communist, which he utilized only on himself. Duvalier maintained much of his power by bringing back the traditional voudou religion and claiming that he was the physical manifestation of the spirit of the nation. He announced himself as a voudou priest, and modeled himself after Baron Samedi, claiming to be personally chosen by Jesus and God; a sign of a crazy person.
His 19-year-old son, Jean-Claude, succeeded him and was just as crazy as his father. The son ruled the nation until 1986 when a popular uprising overthrew him. He maintained a notoriously lavish lifestyle (like his father) and held a state-sponsored US$3 million wedding in 1980. He also made millions from involvement in the drug trade and from selling body parts of dead Haitians. Meanwhile, poverty among his people remained the most widespread for any country in the Western Hemisphere and nothing has changed 20 years later. He was charged with embezzlement in 2011. What sane person would make money off of selling body parts? Can anyone tell me?
2. Idi Amin Dada
Idi Amin Dada, a former heavyweight boxing champion, was the military dictator and self-appointed president of Uganda during the 1970s. When he took control of the small African country back in 1971 the people hailed him as a hero. However, they could not have to know what kind of man their glorious General would prove himself to be. Maybe the pressures of leadership got to him because pretty soon he began to act very strangely indeed.
Of all Amin’s larger than life characteristics, his ego is perhaps the most famous. He awarded himself many titles and honors, eventually styling himself as ‘His Excellency, President for Life Field Marshall Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC. Lord of all the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular’. This made him one of the most powerful men in the world, in his own mind at least. But there was one title he did not award himself – that of a king. This is not to say that he did not wish to be a king, however. He is rumored to have sent love letters to Queen Elizabeth II of England, proposing marriage and even that he be made King of Scotland. This is a strange thing for any man to do, especially one known to have despised the British. Of course, Queen Elizabeth did not return Amin’s affections. Perhaps she was turned off by the knowledge that he was a polygamist, amongst other things. He is known to have married at least six women throughout his life, one of whom was found dead, her body horrifically mutilated, after falling pregnant to another man. Amin is also thought to have fathered as many as 43 children.
Since Amin’s death in exile rumors have been abounded that he was a cannibal who loved eating the remains of his enemies; however, there is very little evidence to support this.
1. Kim Jong-Il
And yet, there’s one dictator whose craziness does not match anyone on this list. This dictator, whose birth was foretold by a swallow, and marked by a double rainbow and a new star in the sky. He always traveled in a private armored train. He loved cinema and had a large film collection, especially that of Elizabeth Taylor. If you disagree with my decision to include him on the crazy list, you should know that he kidnapped South Korean moviemakers to force them to jump-start the North Korean film industry, and film a Kaiju movie.
He built a fake city facing the southern border in order to intimidate the South Koreans; a good way to spend money his nation does not have. The DMZ guards had an ax enshrined that was used to kill American soldiers. In his first golf game, he shot five hole-in-ones and scored 38 under par. He owned 17 palaces; while his people were starving to death. Oh yea, I forgot to tell you that he invented the hamburger. His son succeeded him in December of 2011 and the purges have since continued.
Who do think is the strongest dictator ever?