10 Most Brutal African Dictators

2. Francisco Macias Nguema - Equatorial Guinea

Robinson Library

Today, Teodoro Obiang Nguema is considered one of the world's worst dictators, a ferocious autocrat with an unrelinquishable hold on power that has lasted over thirty-six years. But the brutality of his tenure is not a patch on that of his uncle, Macias Nguema.

One of only two properties held by Spain in Africa, Equatorial Guinea had began to prosper by the time Madrid gave way to independence. Macias, the country's first president, brought that to a grinding halt. Like so many inaugural post-colonial African leaders, the new found power was corrupting. Laws were passed making threats towards the administration punishable by death, with mere insults resulting in thirty years behind bars. Deeply distrustful of those with an education, a leery Macias killed every spectacle wearer in the country and forbid the use of the word 'intellectual'.

Equatorial Guinea's population was essentially imprisoned by Macias' paranoia about the outside world; the only road out of the country was laden with mines, and boats leaving the Gulf of Guinea were scuttled. Citizens under his rule had no option but to adapt to his ideals. The death rate increased as Western medicine was banned, and Spanish nomenclature was forcibly Africanised - including people's names.

With most of the learned inhabitants of the country executed or banished, Macias triumphantly proclaimed himself 'Grand Master of Education, Science, and Culture'. His grasp of economics was less assured. Under Macias' 'national miracle', the country lacked a development plan or any semblance of an organised system for public funds. There was no central bank - its governor was executed. Instead, the country's treasury comprised several suitcases filled with banknotes stashed under Macias' bed in his ancestral village of Mongomo.

Such events in the 'Unique Miracle's dictatorship are so remarkable they verge on the comical, such as the occasion over a hundred of his political opponents were rounded up on Christmas Day and shot dead by soldiers dressed as Santa Claus, whilst Mary Hopkin's 'Those Were The Days' echoed through Malabo's football stadium. Yet the reality was no laughing matter. Until he was ousted by his nephew Obiang, Macias murdered or exiled a third of the population, and crippled Equatorial Guinea's educated class to such an extent that the country has never recovered.

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Editorial Team
Editorial Team

Benjamin was born in 1987, and is still not dead. He variously enjoys classical music, old-school adventure games (they're not dead), and walks on the beach (albeit short - asthma, you know). He's currently trying to compile a comprehensive history of video game music, yet denies accusations that he purposefully targets niche audiences. He's often wrong about these things.