10 Most Brutal African Dictators

Hearts of Darkness.

FILE 1977 -- Jean Bedel Bokassa, President of the Central African Republic, is pictured during his coronation ceremonies. Held in the indoor sports stadium in Bangui. After putting the crown on his head he read a proclaimation from the throne. With Bokass

Robert Mugabe has died at the age 95, two years on from being ousted from power.

After four decades of political enormity, Zimbabwe finally awakened to a bright dawn in 2017 - or at least, a marginally less grim one - with the perennial leader's sensational and unexpected voluntary step-down. There's no doubt that the move came unwillingly; it had once seemed that the only way the seemingly immortal Mugabe would leave his throne was in a pine palanquin headed straight for Harare's nearest mortuary.

Whether the change would bring prosperity, or even democracy, to Zimbabwe was hazy. Mugabe's removal was still cause for celebration within the country, and across all of Africa. Just about the last in a long-line of post-colonial despots who ensnared power was finally out of office, and not a decade or two too soon.

In 1957, Kwame Nkrumah led the British colony of the Gold Coast to freedom, declaring himself president of the new Republic of Ghana. The first African colony to achieve self-determination, Ghana's independence sent a wave of nationalism across the continent, with citizens of various British, French, Belgian, and Portuguese properties now clamouring for their own self-determination.

The scramble for autonomy meant that in the next decade no fewer than thirty African territories seceded from their colonial masters. Unfortunately, few of them could follow the model of stability and economic prosperity set by Nkrumah's Ghana. Leadership and politics were unfamiliar concepts for most of the newly liberated nations, and for all too many of those in a position of power, the opportunity for change became an opportunity for personal gain.

This hitherto unknown authority had the capacity to corrupt, and quickly the continent began to replace colonial masters with tyrants whose regimes caused bloodshed amongst the very populations they were elected to save. Ethnic divisions caused civil war to sweep across the newly independent nations, as nepotism, venality, and persecution began to run rife amongst the continent's fresh crop of rulers.

From kleptocrats to kings to cannibals, Africa's despots have come - and still exist - in an array of insidious forms. These are the ten most bloody, brutal, and inhumane of the continent's worst dictators.

In this post: 
Robert Mugabe
First Posted On: 
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.