Ten Other Despots Who Need to Go

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​Now that Egypt's Hosni Mubarak has finally given in to the masses of brave demonstrators (and military leaders) demanding his resignation, we couldn't help but fantasize about who should follow his example.

There are, after all, a ton of terrible dictators out there -- and the world would be much better off if they decided to pull a Mubarak and stepped down.

Our list of the dudes we'd most like to see hit the road after the jump.

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10. Silvio Berlusconi

Yes, there are technically much, more worse leaders out there than this prime minister -- who was, in fact, democratically elected. But c'mon -- this is Italy. The people who gave us one of the greatest empires in world history can do better than a buffoon who allegedly hired an underage hooker and generally seems convinced that the only women worth paying attention to (even as cabinet ministers!) are topless models and hot playthings. Time for this out-of-touch media mogul to quit.

9. Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba, Gabon
People of the central west African nation of Gabon surely hoped for change when the country's long-running dictator, Omar Bongo, breathed his last in June 2009. Instead, somehow, they got stuck with his son, Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba. Like his father, Ali Ben seems much more interested in looting the country to increase his personal fortune than bettering the lives of its citizens: Soon after taking office, he purchased a 48,000-square-feet mansion in the heart of Paris, complete with a swimming pool. As the U.K.'s Daily Mail reports, the average resident of Gabon gets by on $12 per day -- Ali Ben Bongo's palace cost $136 million.

8. Paul Biya, Cameroon
Paul Biya has run Cameroon for 28 years -- after an uncontested "election" put him into office. (Must be nice.) He has the backing of the U.S., apparently, but this is not a guy we should be proud to be in bed with: According to a recent report from Amnesty International, when protestors in Cameroon dared to protest against a constitutional amendment that would allow Biya to stay in office even longer, his security forces came down hard -- killing more than 100 citizens.

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This is Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. Trying saying that sober.

7. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, Turkmenistan
No, we did not include this guy (heretofore to be referred to as "this guy") simply because his name cracks us up. We included him because he earned the gig mainly because he the longtime dentist of this former Soviet Republic's President for Life, Saparmurat Niyazov. Niyazov was the head of a serious cult of personality, going so far as to rename days of the week and months after himself and his family -- and banning things like gold teeth and beards, just because he didn't like them. The government also restricted numerous freedoms, including those of "movement, speech, press, and assembly," according to the State Department.

Observers say the dentist Niyazov hand-picked to take over after his 2006 death has not improved matters much, if any. A memo recently released through WikiLeaks noted that Berdimuhamedov "does not like people who are smarter than he is. Since he's not a very bright guy, our source offered, he is suspicious of a lot of people." Observers report that repression has continued unabated, with Christians a particular target.

6. King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia
How is there even a "king" ruling a country in 2011? Isn't that so ... Middle Ages? Shouldn't world leaders at least feint toward democracy (e.g. "dictator for life"?)

And yes, Saudi Arabia is an ally of this country, but it's also ludicrously oppressive, especially toward women. The State Department notes that women have no right to come or go without their husbands' permission. Dancing, playing music and screening movies are forbidden in public areas, while pork, alcohol, and even some reading materials are banned outright. No bacon and no booze? It's amazing the Saudis aren't rioting in the streets.

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I agree with Rick Sincere. Why do people write without doing their research? Ms Fenske has obviously not checked her facts: maybe she works for the opposition in Gabon! That would explain her outburst, which obviously cannot afford to tell the truth, since that is what LOST them the last election.


I agree with some of Ms Fenske's comments, for example, regarding the leaders of Burma, Noth Korea, Sudan and Zimbabwe. But what is Gabon's new president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, doing in this collection of 'bad guys'? She must have made a terrible mistake. I have heard he's one of the few voices of reason and someone who is genuinely trying to improve his country. It may be true that he and his family have money (can you name me any developing country's head of state who doesn't?), but I've seen no proof that it is being wasted. Quite the opposite, he keeps taking repeated initiatives to cut waste, encourage new enterprise, stamp out corruption and help his people towards a better future. How can all this bad? I think, Ms Fenske, you need to check your facts first before you write. As someone with many Gabonese friends, I ask you to apologise for your insulting remarks to our president. And go to Gabon to see for yourself how things are changing: you will be impressed.


Give me a break. What a load of half-truths and dangerous nonsense. This reporter is NOT what you'd call well-informed, she really takes the biscuit! So readers should do themselves a big favor and steer clear of her ill-informed notions of what other countries do and don't need. This classic Western we-know-best propaganda, sticks in your craw frankly, for its sheer smugness. I find it embarrassing. I am no fan of Berlusconi nor his right-wing politics, but her comments on his admittedly compromising behaviour is not judged in the context of Italian society but rather by her own morals. So she ends up sounding like a nun deploring bad behaviour in a tavern. It's juvenile. And I have noted that Gabon's new president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, is one of the outstanding technocrats and genuine reformers on the continent. Opposition cries of foul play and of stolen elections are empty, self-serving drivel from would-be big players, who haven't half of the new president's skills, judgement or wisdom. They're children by comparison, sorry, and not very nice ones at that - most of them 'untrustworthy', to put it politely. In under a year and a half since his election, Bongo Ondimba has introduced more worthwhile reform across a raft of social and economic spheres of life - and boosted the economy with major foreign investors - than most of his contemporaries across the continent have done in a whole term in office. He ranks as one of Africa's top leaders for sheer get-up-and-go, probity and compassion for his people. Would that one could say the same for his carping and faintly ridiculous opposition critics. So little Miss hollow-moralising Fenske can take a jump off a high bridge, I suggest, if she wants to do everyone a big favor. Leave the world serious players, please, and spare us your empty homilies.


It's hard to take seriously an article that identifies the prime minister of Italy as a "despot" and "dictator" even while admitting he was democratically elected. Not only is Italy a member of NATO and the EU -- which requires democratic governance for membership -- its prime minister is responsible to a parliament with democratically elected members of several grassroots political parties.

So the credibility of this piece is immediately suspect, and then the second name on the list, the democratically elected president of Gabon is said to be someone the people of that country were "stuck with," as though he were imposed upon them rather than chosen by them in an election against 17 other opponents, winning 42 percent of the vote while the second- and third-place finishers each had about 25 percent support of the electorate.

At that point, I had to stop reading, because the author of this piece really needs to do her homework.

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