World Politics: The Firing Line

Ben Ali of Tunisia, Mubarak of Egypt, now Gaddafi of Libya. Who's next?

In the following countries, these men have been in power for extraordinarily long, mostly undemocratic periods of time. How long can they last, and who will remove them? Once gone will they be replaced by someone else equally despotic?
  1. ANGOLA - José Eduardo dos Santos, in power since 1979
  2. BAHRAIN - Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman al Khalifa, in power since 1971
  3. BURKINA FASO - President Blaise Compaoré, in power since 1987
  4. CAMBODIA - Prime Minister Hun Sen, in power since 1985
  5. CAMEROON - President Paul Biya, in power since 1982
  6. CHAD - President Idriss Déby, in power since 1990
  7. EQUATORIAL GUINEA - President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, in power since 1991
  8. ETHIOPIA - President Meles Zenawi, in power since 1991
  9. IRAN - Supreme Leader Ali Khameini, in power since 1989
  10. KAZAKHSTAN - President Nursultan Nasarbayev, in power since 1990
  11. SUDAN - President Omar al-Bashir, in power since 1989
  12. SYRIA - President Bashar al-Assad, in power since the death in 2000 of his father Hafez, who ruled from 1971
  13. UGANDA - Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986
  14. YEMEN - President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in power since 1990
  15. ZIMBABWE - Robert Mugabe, in power as Prime Minister since 1980, then as President since 1987
I think a fourteen year maximum stint makes sense, but that notion clearly couldn't be policed by any recognised or powerful international body. Some might well argue for something closer to ten years. And, anyway, who's to say that once out of power these people wouldn't still control the show? 

This isn't a complete list. There are so many others where the old leader still wields power from behind the scenes. Some of those are family affairs, but most are not. 

However, it does provide some indication as to where public pressure might be applied in the near future. Three skittles down so far, but many more to go.

"The death of Muammar Gaddafi sends a "huge signal" to others in the region that the sins of "grotesque dictators" eventually catch up with them, (UK) Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said" reports the BBC.   

Not just those close to Libya, but tyrants ruling everywhere.

There's been much media chatter about the influence Gaddafi had over countries south of Libya, to the extent of even a grandson of Nelson Mandela being named after him. He had helped in Mandela's election campaign, and was reported to have bailed out countries like Malawi when falling behind in their dues to the African Union (AU). 

He held out hopes of a United States of Africa, hoping he'd head it, no doubt. He sought a single currency for the continent, and assisted various countries as needs arose. He must have been popular amongst presidents, certainly was with the AU and with mercenaries from Chad, Mali and Niger, recruited and trained at Libya's expense. 'King of Kings', the African presidents proclaimed Muammar Gaddafi to be.

But was Gaddafi popular with the average African-on-the-street?  Perhaps even they could, as Desmond Tutu allegedly remarked, see how he behaved in the death throes of his tyranny: bombing and lashing out murderously at his own people.  I would hope he'd be remembered for that, rather than the lavish gestures to foreigners for which Africans might have previously been grateful.

Tutu nevertheless condemned the killing of Gaddafi, as did Zimbabwean Minister of Information Webster Shamu, according to News24 quoting Reuters and the South African Press Association (SAPA). That association also reported South African President Zuma as saying that Gaddafi should have been "captured".

Actually, he was. But that wasn't the point, he was then killed - much to the stated irritation of the Libyan interim PM Mahmoud Jibril who at a press conference said he'd have much preferred Gaddafi to have been tried.

Forensic evidence will perhaps determine who shot Gaddafi. A trial should have occurred, sure, but anger held sway on the day - apparently.

Nyiko Floyd Shivambu, the ANC Youth League's Head of Political Education (a future propaganda minister?) went even further, calling Gaddafi a "martyr", according to SAPA.

Shivambu's view was upheld by Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, head of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, in charge of a 'liberation' movement in Nigeria's oil-producing region, who'd benefitted from Libyan training, according to AFP.  Gaddafi had been up to his old tricks again, it seems.

All politicians eventually outlast their usefulness. And so if the other tyrants and undemocratic Big Men of Africa (the majority of those on the list above) are to be removed, it has to be because they have become regarded by their own people as vulnerable despots, not unstoppable juggernmauts.

If the most brutal of African dictators, Muammar Gaddafi - who hid behind a smoke-screen of peoples' committees - can be kicked out and caught, so can the lesser men of Africa.

Some time early in the Middle Ages, a legendary female Pope reigned supreme across Christendom (Pope John VIII or "Pope Joan"). The story surfaced in the Thirteenth Century, but is now regarded by most scholars to have been fictitious. As the tale goes, on discovering her sex and true identity, angry crowds of duped Christians ripped her body to shreds. 

So it is with Libya, as reporters relay the macabre spectacle of Gaddafi's body, lying on an old mattress in a meat coldstore in Misrata, on display for limited numbers of (no doubt fee-paying) tourists to shoot with their cellphones and cameras.

If ever there was a lesson to be learnt, for sure, it's don't outlast your welcome if you've treated people miserably. Nick Clegg has issued a telling warning to those unpopular politicians who use force, fear and patronage to cling to power in distant capitals.

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