This is a list of the worst current dictators in the world. It is astonishing that these people continue to rule while we occupy ourselves fighting in places ruled by much less dangerous men. Since the original list was written in 2007, it has necessarily been updated in 2019 with continuous stories of those who no longer rule.
10- KIM JONG IL, NORTH KOREA (IN POWER 1994-2011)
[Update: Kim Jong-il passed away in 2011 and was succeeded by his son Kim Jong-un. Jong Un has been in the news a lot lately due to the warm relationship with the United States under the leadership of President Donald Trump, who for the first time in history stood on North Korean soil without security in order to meet Kim. Unexpectedly, Kim Jong Un and the President of South Korea agreed to take the necessary steps soon to officially end the Korean War.]
The scale of the controversy over North Korea's recent nuclear weapons development has managed to distract people from the fact that the Kim government is repressing its own people more thoroughly than any other living dictator. North Korea has, for the past 31 years, been at the bottom of Freedom House's rankings for political rights and civil liberties. It also ranks last in Reporters Without Borders' press freedom rankings. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights estimates that there are approximately 150,000 Koreans who perform forced labor in concentration camps for political opponents and their families.
Contrary to popular belief, Kim Jong Il is actually a very intelligent and effective manipulator of his people. He is the author of the book "On the Art of Cinema and the Art of Opera".
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9- THAN SHWE, BURMA (IN POWER 1992-2011)
[Update: In 2011, Than Shwe resigned in favor of his hand-chosen successor Thein Sein, Burma's first democratically elected president and a moderate and reformer who had developed a cordial relationship with former President Barack Obama. Sen himself resigned in 2016 and was "ordained" a Buddhist monk the next day. Burma (Myanmar) is now ruled by Win Myint who was elected in 2018 by the Governing Council.]
General Than Shwe survived a power struggle to emerge as the sole leader of Burma's military dictatorship. Because of his hardline views, he has taken the already poor human rights situation to an even worse level. Burma has more child soldiers than any country in the world, and the Burmese regime continues to kidnap citizens to force them to serve as army porters in conflicts against non-Burmese ethnic groups.
In 1990, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi's party won 80% of the vote in an open election. The army canceled the results. Suu Kyi has spent most of the years since then under house arrest. On May 31, 2003, tenant thugs attacked Suu Kyi's motorcade, killing several of her supporters and arresting dozens including Suu Kyi herself.
Choi is a very private person, preferring to work behind the scenes. Thus, even the Burmese know very little about it.
8 HU JINTAO, CHINA (IN POWER 2002-2012)
[Update: Hu Jintao voluntarily retired in 2012 and was replaced by Supreme Leader Xi Jingping who currently rules as dictator of China. Jing Ping is China's first dictator born after the communist revolution. Early in his life, Jinping lived in a cave after his father was executed during the cultural purge of the 1960s and 1970s. Xi Jinping is more of a dictator than his predecessor and his reign has seen the rise of deeper censorship of people, the introduction of anti-Muslim concentration camps, and more internet censorship with the help of companies like Google that acquiesce (to increase profits) to his demands.]
Trained as a water engineer, Hu Jintao joined the Communist Party in 1964 and spent 38 years working his way up the hierarchy. While serving as party secretary in Tibet, he did not hesitate to implement martial law and supervise the killing of unarmed protesters. Now that he is the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Hu, although not full-blown, is the leader of an extraordinary repressive regime. The Communist Party still controls all media, and uses 40,000 Internet security agents to monitor online usage. More than 200,000 Chinese serve sentences of re-education in labor camps, and China carries out more than 4,000 executions each year, more than all other countries in the world combined, many of them for nonviolent crimes.
7- ROBERT MUGABE, ZIMBABWE (IN POWER 1980-2017)
[Update: Mugabe was replaced by his aide Emmerson Mnangagwa in the coup of 2017. So far, Mnangagwa has ruled in a crazy way like his predecessor and attempts on his life have taken place. Mnangagwa is considered one of the richest men in Zimbabwe (which is not surprising). Mugabe died on September 6, 2019 in Singapore where he underwent treatment due to the lack of decent health care in Zimbabwe thanks to his failures as a leader and his racist anti-white policies.]
Mugabe began his reign with broad international and national support. After leading a successful liberation war against colonialism, he was elected as the first president of independent Zimbabwe. But over the years it has exhibited increasingly dictatorial tendencies. According to Amnesty International, in 2002 alone, the Mugabe government killed and tortured 70,000 people. Unemployment exceeded 70% and inflation 500%.
Mugabe was accused of obstructing food aid from reaching groups and regions that support the main opposition party. He continued to hold elections, but restricted the opposition's ability to campaign and shut down media outlets that did not support him. When opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai won 42% of the vote, Mugabe arrested him and accused him of treason. Mugabe also confiscated farms owned by whites and handed them over to his supporters.
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6- CROWN PRINCE ABDULLAH, KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA (IN POWER 1995-2015)
[Update: Crown Prince Abdullah died in 2015 and was succeeded by his brother, King Salman. Both are the sons of Ibn Saud, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, who established the nation through the conquest in 1932. Under King Salman, there has been some modernization with women now being allowed to drive.]
Crown Prince Abdullah has been the acting leader of Saudi Arabia since his half-brother King Fahd suffered a stroke in 1995. Saudi Arabia is one of the only countries that never hold elections. The royal family has promised municipal elections soon but has not announced whether women will be allowed to vote. In fact, Saudis of the opposite sex who are not related are prohibited from appearing in public together, even inside a taxi. A woman is not allowed to testify in her name in divorce proceedings, and in all court cases, the testimony of a man is equal to that of two women.
According to the US State Department, Saudi Arabia continues to practice arbitrary detention and torture. During a human rights conference in 1995, Saudi authorities arrested nonviolent protesters who were calling for freedom of expression. Some were later subjected to flogging, the usual punishment for alleged political and religious offenses.
In an unusual show of force, religious people banned children from playing with Barbies, which they called "Jewish dolls" that represented "symbols of the decadence of the perverted West."
5- TEODORO OBIANG NGUEMA, EQUATORIAL GUINEA (IN POWER SINCE 1979)
This small West African country (population 500,000) was a forgotten dictatorship until large oil reserves were found in 1995. Since then, American oil companies have pumped billions of dollars into the country. Although the annual income per capita is $4,472, 60% of Ikwatogoni residents live on less than $1 a day. The bulk of the oil income goes directly to President Obiang, who declared that there is no poverty in Guinea, but that people are used to living differently. In July, state radio announced that Obiang was "in constant contact with Almighty God," and that he "can decide to kill without being held accountable and without going to hell."
There is no public transportation, no newspapers, and only 1% of government spending is devoted to healthcare. When asked why so much of his country's oil money is deposited into his personal account at Riggs Bank in Washington, D.C., Obiang explained that he maintains complete control of the money in order to "avoid corruption."
4 OMAR AL-BASHIR, SUDAN (IN POWER FROM 1989 TO 2019)
[Update: A coup in Sudan in 2019 ended the era of Omar al-Bashir and abolished the post of president. Sudan is now governed by a group known as the “Sovereignty Council” that was formed in August 2019. Over the course of its life as a republic, Sudan has switched several times between the rule of the Sovereignty Council and the presidential rule.]
Sudan, the largest country in Africa, is in the midst of a complex 20-year civil war that has claimed 2 million lives and displaced 4 million others. Al-Bashir seized power in a military coup and immediately suspended the constitution, abolished the legislature, and banned political parties and unions. He tried to negotiate a peace agreement with the main rebel group, but insisted that the nation be governed according to Islamic law, even in South Sudan, where the people are Christians and pagans.
His army routinely bombs civilians and tortures and kills non-Arabs, particularly in the oil-producing areas of the south. He has a long history of providing sanctuary to a large number of terrorists, only to turn on them. He extradited the notorious Carlos to France in exchange for financial and military aid, and in 1996, he unsuccessfully attempted to sell Osama bin Laden to the US government.
3- SAPARMURAT NIYAZOV, TURKMENISTAN (IN POWER 1990-2006)
[Update: Niyazov died in 2006 and was succeeded by Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, who won the "election" with just under 90% of the vote. He, like his predecessor, has a cult of personality developing around him.]
Since taking over the presidency of this former Soviet republic in Central Asia, Niyazov has developed the world's most extreme cult of personality, faced only by the cult of Kim Jong Il. The image of Niyazov appears on all Turkmen coins, there are statues of him everywhere, and he renamed the month of January after him. His book The Book of the Spirit is required to be read in all schools at all levels, and all government employees must memorize sections of it in order to preserve their jobs.
Niyazov rules without opposition. As he put it, "there are no opposition parties, so how can we give them freedom?" In recent years, Niyazov has suppressed religious and ethnic minorities, including Russians, and denied exit visas to families of women under 35. He has imprisoned political opponents and subjected them to Stalinist-style show trials and public confessions. .
Turkmenistan's constitution provides for retirement at the age of 70, but Niyazov ensured his rule by creating a 2,507-member People's Assembly that was unanimously elected president for life.
2- FIDEL CASTRO, CUBA (IN POWER 1959-2016)
[Update: Fidel Castro died in 2016. He was succeeded by his brother Raul Castro who, apart from legalizing television, rules in a similar way to his mad brother before him. Is it not funny how often the governmental form of “popular” communism becomes a monarchy?]
Castro, the world's longest-serving dictator, took advantage of the world's preoccupation with the Iraq war in March and April of 2003 to launch the largest arrests of peaceful dissidents in more than a decade. He arrested 75 human rights activists, journalists, and academics, and put them in prison for an average of 19 years.
Cuba remains a one-party state and all power rests with Castro. The courts are controlled by the executive branch (in other words, Castro). Traditionally, he blames the USA for all his country's problems.
1- KING MSWATI III, SWAZILAND (IN POWER SINCE 1986)
Swaziland (population 1.2 million) is the last remaining absolute monarchy in Africa. Mswati III ascended the throne at the age of eighteen, four years after his father's death. Because he was educated in England, it was believed that he would make his kingdom happen. However, he did admire some Swazi traditions. On September 15, 2002, he watched thousands of girls and young women dance topless at the annual Reed Dance, and then chose one as his tenth wife (his father had 100 wives). The girl's mother sued the king for kidnapping her daughter. Mswati, ruling by decree, then declared that the Swazi courts were forbidden to pass judgments limiting the king's power.
In an effort to appease international public opinion, Mswati agreed to draft a new constitution to replace the one that his father suspended 30 years ago. But the new constitution bans political parties, allows the death penalty for any criminal offense, and provides for the reinstatement of debtors' prisons.