dictating dictators

And another thought on journalism in Johannesburg. I’m told that the Mail & Guardian, a leaning liberal newspaper owned by Zimbabwean businessman Trevor Ncube, will no longer – in print – refer to Robert Mugabe as ‘Zimbabwean president’. Instead he will be titled ‘dictator’. Many will no doubt applaud this. Not I. If he’s a dictator, what are Zimbabwean ministers of government to be called? And how do we define a dictator? If it is length of office and high levels of brutality, then the Mail & Guardian might add to its list other leaders like Angola’s president José Eduardo dos Santos (in power for 29 years, heading a party that has ruled Angola for 33 years, and during his term in office hundreds of thousands of Angolans have died – not simply because of a war). And what about Sudan’s Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir, a mere baby of a president who came to power in 1989? Then there’s Equatorial Guinea’s president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who assumed office in 1979 in a coup d’etat. Who? Where? Take a look on a map and wiki or Google the man. And don’t just get lost worrying about Mark Thatcher. If you are someone who dislikes Obiang and you happen to have the same citizenship as him, you can expect to spend years in prison, or be exiled, or be terrified into silence. El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba has been running Gabon with an iron fist for more years than I’ve been on this earth: he scooped up power in 1967 and hasn’t let go ever since. And he certainly hasn’t held on that long because he’s an angel. Not that that should bother the Mail & Guardian (and no doubt many ‘other’ western media corporations in the northern hemisphere).

But is dictating about longevity? Or is it about violence? Or unfair and fraudulent elections? Or ignoring the citizens of the country that (didn’t) put you into power, and just going into war anyway?

George Bush may be about to go, but (leaving his dad and the family & fraternal fortune aside for one moment) let’s not forget the 2000 and 2004 elections. He may have stolen them in a more stylish manner than Uncle Bob’s 2008 theatrics, but few sane people on this planet dispute the fact the US elections were certainly not free nor fair. And yet the Mail & Guardian refer to him, I believe, as the USA president. Does it not count – what he has done to the people of Iraq (to give just one example)? Or is dictating only truly dictatorial when it takes place on your ‘own’ soil?

Come on people: wake up. Please. Please. Wake up. Look at the world. The whole of it. And think a bit. And anyone out there who wants to add a dictator to the list, please write a comment. I want a long list!

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10 thoughts on “dictating dictators

  1. “El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba has been running Gabon with an iron fist for more years than I’ve been on this earth”

    Wow! I don’t think these men know when it is enough or they don’t know what it means satiety.
    Anyway, the buffoon Mo Ibrahim came to Denmark recently and gave an interview. He said the silliest thing I ever heard. Basically he claimed his foundation will reduce the time these dictators have power by giving them money, because they are different compared to Western leaders where whence their term(s) end(s)they will get other position in businesses sector or became EU Commissioners or guest speakers (teachers). So another words, his foundation justifies crimes.

    “And anyone out there who wants to add a dictator to the list, please write a comment. I want a long list”

    Well, I believe Mugabe should be put on the list (and let us not forget his proxy war in Zaire).

  2. I’m not sure that Mo Ibrahim is a buffoon. I also don’t think his plan – which you can read about here http://www.moibrahimfoundation.org/newsroom.asp – will work. But the point about Western leaders who enter the business sector is not entirely irrelevant. Most have their fingers in many business pies before and during their reign anyway (see Bellusconi if you have any doubts). And regardless of whether they screw up regions of the world (see Tony Blair and Middle East) they still get themselves nice jobs as special envoys to those regions. There is huge hypocrisy from the West when it comes to pointing fingers at African leaders. This was the point of my post. I have named several African leaders here, but that’s the region I know most about, and I wanted to illustrate a point regarding the media coverage of the African continent. I was hoping that some of you out there might be able to think of so-called dictators in other parts of the world. Mugabe is not the only baddie. I seek balance and honesty and integrity in how we look at the world. There’s plenty of crap that involves western companies in the Democratic Republic of Congo: not just Zimbabwe. You read far less about that in our wretched newspapers.

  3. But Lara, these African leaders should be brought to justice instead of showering with money, and two wrongs do not make right. When I say he is ‘buffoon’ , then I look at the people he associates with. The same hypocrite people you mention, and something is fishy about when he is taken in open arms by Western media.

  4. These leaders cannot be “brought to justice” by the same hypocritical colonial nations that make bank off of keeping the dictators in power. Who do you think got fat off of the Mobutu years? It wasn’t any Congolese, let me tell you. As for Angola, surely you know that dos Santos (pardon the crudity, but I’m not going to masquerade behind overly-polite language) sucks Western dick like no whore you’ve ever imagined. What makes these folks different than Mugabe? Yeah, that’s right. Mugabe actually kicked some white folks off of their land – hence his demonization. I’m not saying he isn’t problematic, I’m saying it’s more complicated – just as Lara said far more eloquently. He is hardly taken in by the Western media…I read something just last week that was another sob story about settler farmers getting kicked off of the African land they were occupying. Why does anyone act like this matters?

    As for your question, Lara, I recommend adding Bush, of course. Are we speaking only in the present? I’d like to put Uribe on there, and Fox, and hell, let’s be honest, Preval is suspect, too. He’s now apparently appointing ministers from the Duvalier days.

  5. I apologize for the double-commenting, but I realized that I stupidly left out Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, and – of course – Nigeria’s Yar’Adua. More Western puppets. I particularly loved the last election in Nigeria, when Rivers and Cross state were reporting something like 90% for the PDP. Suuuure. Meanwhile, he’s taken to bombing villages in the Delta. As for Kagame, I think the “re-education camps” for Hutus qualify him, and if you want to talk about proxy wars, gess, let’s look at both Museveni and Kagame up in the DRC’s business.

  6. Jessica, good to have you back in as fine a form as ever! Yup: the Nigerian elections were indeed suspect, as are the other examples you mention. And I’m still intrigued by the British elections – which seem to raise little interest even from the British – and which allow a ruling party to be voted in by a minority of the population. I have always felt very strongly that the UK – and all other countries – should publish as part of the official vote results, the number of people who spoilt their votes. These people matter. I’ve spoilt mine on many occasions, writing short hopefully humorous messages to the vote counter, to inspire them to buck the system with me… Not sure I’ve had much success there!

    But I’m still interested in trying to define a dictator. Can you help?

  7. Defining a dictator…Hmmmm…

    Someone who rules against the will and interests of the people for the benefit of self and/or foreign powers?

  8. I am ardently opposed to Mugabe and his cronies. What I will not do though is to allow my hatred to allow me to believe western propaganda. That Mugabe is a dictator is beyond question so I won’t waste my time trying to prove that.
    What concerns me though is the west’s hypocritical statements and double standards.
    They say Mugabe is a dictator, yes he is. Mugabe commits gross human rights abuses, yes he does. Mugabe stole the election, yes he did. He has presided over an economic collapse, yes he has. The man is indeed a tyrant.
    But any open minded analyst is tempted to ask a most provocative question? Are these western governments opposed to these vile acts against democracy or are they simply using these as a scapegoat to achieve their own ends.
    Allow me to explain. Why did the USA and Britain want to bring Zimbabwe onto the security council agenda. It cannot because of the aforementioned viles because the west continues the wine and dine with like minded dictators who have no regard for human rights not to mention democracy.
    In Nigerias most recent election the international observers made it explicitly clear that the elections were flawed in every respect. They were not free and fair. One observed was so disgusted he called the elections a charade. So anyone who is not inclined to any political party in Nigeria knows with absolute certainty that the forces of democracy are not at play there. Nigeria should be brought before the security council. Sorry, I apologise for my oversight I had forgotten they supply the US with much needed oil. I suppose that is why the election rigging did not attract much of a response. Still on democracy, Eduardo do santos has been in power for 29 years in Angola. The last presidential election was in 1992. I haven’t heard gordon Brown speak with a passion on democrasy in Angola. I suppose they love Zimbabwe so much which is why they are blinded to the atrocoties being commited so close to Zimbabwe. What about Egypt, same president for 28years?
    Okay so we’ve established that being a dictator does not warrant international condemnation and certainly not being hauled onto the security council agenda. So Mugabe might have thought stealing the election was okay after taking cue from the Nigerian government.
    Having eliminated democracy and fair elections lets go on to Human right. As I said, Mugabe indeed is guilty of gross human rights abuses. In many parts of China christians and political disidents suffer horrendous abuse at the hands of state security agents. Genitals are crushed and teeth are pulled out, if you manage to escape with a severe beating you belong to the group of the lucky one. Egypt is another example of countries were government find clandenstine means of silencing critics. Media freedom in Egypt? I don’t think so. How about the thousands of civilian Palestinians who have been maimed and killed at the hands of the Israeli army. Sorry, those lives are expendable. Surely Britain should make a statement on all these serious cases of disregard for human rights.

    Okay maybe human rights aren’t so important. What else is Mugabe guilty of? Presiding over an economic collapse? Well Mugabe is not the first. The west actively supported Mobuto whilst he plundered Zaire and brought the country to its knees. I suppose those diamonds were shining so brightly that most western diplomats were blinded to the gross abuses of a regime they actively aided. They should have hauled him before the security council.
    Okay so I’ve made it clear that the West is not really concerned with human rights, democracy or economic prosperity in Africa. So why have they been so irked by this particular dictator?
    You would have to be incredibly naive or plain simple stupid not to realise that the main contention is on Mugabe’s audacity in terms of taking land from the whites. Yes I know the land was not given to the people but rather his cronies but all the same he took the land. It had never been heard of, a Negroe standing up to a white man. It had to get personal, it is now personal. The west’s cover of human rights is absolute nonsense.
    Why did they not use military intervention in South Africa when Africans suffered terrible abuses at the hand of fellow white under apartheid? Its simple, African lives are expendable.
    At the moment Europeans, Amerians can travel freely between their countries. The only purpose for tightening immigration regulations is to keep Africans, Arabs and Asians out.

    Food for thought.

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