Most Ruthless African Dictators of All Time

African Dictators

Most Ruthless African Dictators of All Time

If you really want to call a spade a spade, then you have to accept that the great African continent has had her fair share of horrible dictators. After rising above colonialism between the 1950s to the early 90s, some of the continent’s nations failed to rise above dictatorial governments.

Notwithstanding the popularity of African democracy, power-drunkenness has also swept across Africa and destabilized some countries. This article brings you the lists of the most brutal dictators that ever ruled or still rule some African nations.

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi

No African dictator could have ever been badder than this man. Gaddafi was an extremely popular Libyan dictator who plunged the country into chaotic revolutions in 2011 after he refused to step down from office.

He forced his way into power through a 1969 coup. After spending almost 42 years in office, Gaddafi wasn’t ready for any change of government.  He implemented a lot of good projects on education, health, housing, potable water, etc. But he also committed serious crimes against his own people, e.g. torture and extrajudicial killings.

In 2011, the Libyan rebels, who were backed by NATO forces, put a bullet to the dictator’s head, bringing to an end his four-decade rule.

Gnassingbe Eyadema

Gnassingbe Eyadema

Gnassingbe Eyadema

He was a Togolese dictator who rose to power in 1967, through a fatal coup. Africa knows him as one of her long-serving dictators. Nobody could rise against him. It took Eyadema a cardiac arrest in 2005 before he gave up the ghost and the throne.

In a non-democratic twist, his death saw his own son Faure Gnassingbe succeed him. Eyadema left behind a bad historical name for himself. Having spent 38 years in power, Eyedema’s dictatorship paved way for other African nations to follow his dictatorial footprints.

Idi Amin Dada

Idi Amin Dada

Idi Amin Dada, Uganda’s brutal dictator of the 70s

Idi Amin Dada was a wicked  Ugandan dictator. His era (1971-1979) was full of “human butchering”.  In 1971, he embarked on a coup and overthrew ex-president Milton Obote. From a humble beginning of serving in the British Colonial Army, he rose through the rank and file of military powers and realized his autocratic dreams in his home country, Uganda.

President Idi Amin’s regime had a lot to do with human rights abuses, corruption, murders and all sorts of negativity. In his era, it has been estimated that about 100k-500k people met their hot deaths. Ousted in 1979, he finally died in exile in 2003.

Charles Taylor

Charles Taylor

Charles Taylor – Sierra Leone’s scourge and warlord 

No one knew how to be the worst dictator than this ex-president of Liberia. Taylor got into power in 1997 and ruled till 2003. Before his rise to the presidency, he was a rebel leader who had his hands in serious wars such as the Sierra Leone Civil War.

There was nothing good to write home about him. Eventually, the ICC found him guilty of numerous crimes such as recruiting child soldiers, terror, killings, etc. He stepped down in 2003. In 2012, he started serving 50 years behind bars.

Sani Abacha

Sani Abacha

Sani Abacha, Nigeria’s ex-dictator

The list has finally landed on Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria. In 1993, Abacha took over the affairs of Nigeria, only to steal and fill his pockets with the country’s oil resources. Allegedly, he was a dollar billionaire with several offshore bank accounts and properties across the globe.

As if the corruption and embezzlement of billions of US Dollars of state funds weren’t enough, General Abacha had the guts to kill people who opposed him. In any case, he managed to achieve a few good things before dying in 1998. Nigerians still remember this military dictator for his ability to reduce crime rates. He is also credited for revamping Naija’s economy and its road network.

Blaise Campaore

Blaise Campaore

Blaise Campaore

Campaore was a Burkina Faso dictator (1987-2014), who masterminded the assassination of his predecessor Thomas Sankara. Comparatively, Sankara was a better leader who didn’t use power to amass wealth.

After winning a series of unfair elections, Campoare looted and enriched himself. His last move was an attempt to manipulate the Constitution to extend his tenure. In 2014, this caused turmoil and he eventually fled for his corrupt life. As of 2019, this former dictator is still alive somewhere.

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo

Born June 5, 1942,  Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo is an Equatorial Guinea dictator. He has been in power since 1979. That’s to say that, close to half a century, this dictator is still glued to his seat. He used a blood-shedding coup to come into power by overthrowing his own uncle by name Francisco Macias Nguema.

Despite his age-old rule of this oil-rich country, the country’s citizens still live in worse deplorable conditions. Infant mortalities are high, education is inaccessible, potable water is a problem. Meanwhile, the dictator’s biological son (Teodorin Obiang) is living luxuriously in riches.

Yahya Jammeh

Yahya Jammeh

Yahya Jammeh, the former leader of the Gambia

This man was more than a dictator; he was a serial killer. Yahya Jammeh organized a coup in 1994 and became a notorious Gambian dictator. For years, the commander had strong support from his military operatives. He handled Gambian affairs in controversial ways.

From making dangerous claims of having discovered a cure for HIV/AIDs, Jammeh detested and condemned homosexuality.

He manipulated elections in his favor until 2017, when his cup got full and he lost the presidential seat to Adama Barrow. Jammeh was prepared to resist the government change, but he lacked support. He is now in exile, somewhere in Equatorial Guinea.

José Eduardo dos Santos

José Eduardo dos Santos

José Eduardo dos Santos of Angola

President Eduardo Dos Santos of Angola is one of the all-time greatest dictators. He came to power in 1979 following the demise of Angola’s Agostinho Neto. Before stepping down in 2017, dos Santos ran the country like his personal assets while his people cried in abject poverty. In fact, almost 70% of Angolans can’t afford a $2 meal a day. Interestingly, his whole family is rich from head to toe.

Robert Mugabe

Robert Mugabe

Robert Mugabe, former president of Zimbabwe

Coming in last on our list of African dictators is Robert Mugabe. This Southern African independence fighter was a famed Zimbabwean ruler who was president from 1980-2017. Born poor, the 95-year-old  ex-president died rich in September 2019. In the last few decades of his reign, Mugabe, a leader who was once a pan-Africanist and beacon of hope for Africa, descended into absolute authoritarian ideologies.

The controversial leader managed to achieve some successes in uplifting literacy rates to over 80%. Surprisingly, these high literacy numbers don’t translate into jobs. Zimbabwe’s unemployment hit 60%. Even when health increasing failed the nonagenarian, Mugabe refused to step down until he was forced out of power in 2017.

Corruption, savagery and dictatorship is certainly not confined to just the African continent. Across the globe, millions of people have been killed or locked behind bars by power-hungry leaders. Click on this link to get to know 10 of these brutal leaders. They hold the dishonorable title of being the World’s Most Ruthless Dictators of All Time.

FACT CHECK: At worldhistoryedu.com, we strive for utmost accuracy and objectivity. But if you come across something that doesn’t look right, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.

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4 Responses

  1. Roselyn Chikandiwa says:

    Thank you

  2. Mcmillian says:

    Can’t find Mobutu se se seko, Ibrahim Babangida,Olusegun Obasanjo Gowon

  3. Taliban kibee says:

    Robert mugabe was also a dictator
    I didn’t know

  4. w says:

    You missed Samuel Doe, Francisco Macías Nguema, Jean Bedel Bokassa

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