Dictators run rampant throughout Africa and the Middle East. In 2011, I read a tweet that said “We are getting majority tyranny all over the Middle East because people think that dictatorship is okay if the majority does it.” Poor grammar withstanding, the message is loud and clear.
A diplomat I spoke with at one time told me “we unknowingly create dictators. We feed their pride, greed and jealousy which then builds a monster who is difficult to put back in a cage.”
Monster at Large
Dictators put on different facades. Some of the dictators in Africa and the Middle East in the last few years clearly fall into the category of “Monster at Large.” Gaddafi was the perfect example of a “Monster at Large.”
Two years after his death at the hands of the People’s Revolution, Libyans are still struggling to shake off his corrupt ways. Efforts to rebuild the broken government and infrastructure he left behind have been slow to kick off. In fact, there have been several restarts in the government, but to their credit Libya has stayed the course of “Democracy-in-Progress.”
Egypt is another country where the people rose up en masse against their corrupt leader demanding democracy. The youth movement of Egypt led the country in massive protest that eventually led to violent clashes with the Egyptian military. In short, Mubarak was ousted, the military was in, elections were held, and Morsi was elected President of Egypt. Was this an election by the people, of the people? That is highly questionable.
Morsi hardly got his feet wet when he realized that his Muslim Brotherhood party wasn’t widely favored and he could be at risk. So in expected dictator’s behavior, he revised the constitution giving himself undeniable “super powers.” Essentially, President Morse unofficially made himself self-appointed “King of Egypt,” and now many Egyptians felt they had a new “Monster at Large” to cage.
Others have tried to keep a more “Dictator Evolved” look and feel, but one has to ask is it real? When you are a super wealthy Regent of a Kingdom with black gold flowing riches in amounts greater than a mind can imagine, I assume it is not very hard to become a corrupt tyrant. Before the days of the black gold, these same Tribal Leaders may have been a little better at taking care of their people, but let’s face it, there have always been Kings, Princes and the poor of the Middle East.
What these Kings and Princes must face now is that the people of the Kingdom are no longer just peasants anymore. The people have a voice and they are willing to use it. The Royals of Bahrain have been fighting this very problem for a couple of years. The people are rising up and protesting in the streets, supported by high profile activists, while the Royals seem to be living in some kind of insulated fantasy as Saudi Arabia takes on the job of dealing with the problems in the streets being caused by “clandestine groups.”
While in their own house, Saudi Arabia has felt the heat also (and I don’t mean from the weather). They have faced pressures from religious clerics who want more restraints, social unrest from women and youth who are ready for change, and political pressures from neighbors and allies. According to Arab News, King Abdullah has focused his recent efforts to enhance the welfare and well being of Saudis and promote world peace.
Mohammed Tayeb, director general of Saudi’s Foreign Ministry branch office in Makkah was quoted to say, “His [King Abdullah] interfaith dialogue initiative has been widely applauded.” Further Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, chief of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques, emphasized the importance of unity and solidarity between Saudi rulers and citizens to take the Kingdom to new heights of progress and prosperity. He said “King Abdullah is definitely a great leader.” Of course, some would wonder what would happen if either of these men had colored their message any differently. Even so, the message is interesting coming from a succinctly Salafi Muslim country that is considered the leader of the Middle East.
The Sultanate of Oman had a brief scrape with unrest in 2012, but the Sultan responded smartly in what appeared to be an effective “with the people” move by firing twelve cabinet members and making other changes immediately. According to Huffington Post World, “Since ousting his father in 1970, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said al-Said has brought remarkable prosperity to his nation while modernizing the country’s infrastructure.”
Also according to a 2010 United Nations Development Program (UNDP) report, examining overall progress made in 135 countries over the past 40 years, Oman now ranks first in health, education and income followed by oil rich Saudi Arabia as number five. The Sultan seems to have taken on an “all in the family” philosophy, which is possible in a country where the population is 3.314 million (2012).
Empty US Promises
A woman recently wrote me about the longstanding problem in the African nations with cruel dictators, and the recent attack by terrorists in Kenya. She said that promises made by foreign governments [the USA] to help the African Nations strengthen through economic development as far back as the Regan Presidency had never been fulfilled. This lack of follow-through had in her opinion left countries ripe for Dictatorship.
Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese billionaire communications mogul might agree. He has personally put out a stark message to dictators in sub-Saharan Africa … “The African people will no longer tolerate tyrannical rule.”
With his Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which promotes better governance in Africa through its annual prize of $10 million for good governance and leadership in Africa, one man has made a significant impact. According to Mo Ibrahim, Africa’s problem is that once elected, leaders are reluctant to leave the office, often changing the rules so they can remain in office well after they should have left. The annual price for good governance addresses this problem by requiring a leader to leave office turning over a well run government before accepting the award.
According to Mr. Ibrahim, “It’s time Africa started listening to our young people, instead of always telling them what to do. It is their potential, after all, which will decide our continent’s future. Let’s not waste it.”
Most Horrific Middle East Monster At Large
Although there may be competing criminals who are dictators on the loose in Africa, the most horrific “Monster at Large” in modern Middle Eastern history is certainly Bashir al-Assad. In the past two years, the People of Syria have taken to the streets in non-violent protest. Students have protested on University Campuses, groups protest after Friday prayers at the Mosque, and women protest in their villages as their men are off fighting.
Syrian Activist, author and University of Arkansas Professor Mohja Kahf told Kristen Deasy of the Millennial Letters, “Week after week, hundreds of nonviolent protests are logged across Syria,” she explained, citing “street demonstrations” as well as campaigns by “nonviolence activists on the ground in Syria, even under shelling.”
Assad has been ruthlessly fighting the “Will of the People” since day one, becoming more monstrous over time. He has killed over 100,000 of his own people. This Human Monster has set Shabiha (hired killers) on the loose to kill protesters or massacre entire villages. More recently he used Internationally banned Chemical weapons on a village where over 60% of the victims were children.
Assad’s terror has sent 2.1 million fleeing the country as refugees, and has knowingly trapped millions of Syrians in-county without food or water – refusing them access to humanitarian aid. Save the Children said in an appeal Monday, September 23rd, that more than 4 million Syrians, more than half of them children, do not have enough to eat. Food shortages have been compounded by an explosion in prices. According to the Huffington Post World, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “(Assad) has committed many crimes against humanity.” Although the Syrian war is excruciatingly painful, an end will come and the People of Syria will prevail.
Governing by tyranny isn’t going to be tolerated any more. People are educated, interested, politically smart individuals who have had enough nonsense from self-absorbed, egocentric dictators! Aspiring to be a ruthless dictator doesn’t make for employment longevity. These days unless a dictator is “people friendly” life can get pretty rough. One day you are self-appointed king and the next day you are under house arrest. Or worse, you’re on on the run for our life and end up buried somewhere in the Sahara with a one way ticket to hell! As far as Assad goes, the story is still waiting to end.