Modern Dictators: Third World Coupmakers, Strongmen, and Populist Tyrants » Chapter 6-Africa- Founders and Survivors
Africa: Founders and Survivors
No two men could be more different than Amilcar Cabral, leader of tiny Portuguese Guinea’s
independence movement, and Idi Amin, Ugandan dictator from 1971 to 1979. Yet comparing the
ideals on which their countries were founded with the tragic fates that befell them provides vivid
insight into the course of dictatorship in Africa.
In most countries the prestige and charisma of the man who led the independence
struggle assured him a long rule as a modern dictator. Where the leader proved inadequate for
the job or where the internal pressure of economic disaster or ethnic conflict proved too great,
the army took over. These varied greatly in their personalities, capabilities, and ideologies, yet in
virtually every case the same kinds of problem and solution proved necessary for those who
would seize and hold power.
The African ruler had to find a way to impose unity on the nation by marshaling
nationalism while building a cohesive party or tribe or both as a reliable base of support. He had
to ensure government control of the economy to finance his regime, reward supporters, and
prevent the rise of any alternative ruling group. But at the same time there were often no
nongovernment forces within the country that were capable of developing the economy. Selfinterest
and necessity often seemed to merge. Many politicians and intellectuals argued that the
new states required an enforced unity to survive and develop. A radical (or radical-sounding)
ideology legitimized these measures. In short, African states became more or less repressive and
more or less successful modern dictatorships.
In 1960 alone, seventeen African states became independent. Twenty years after Ghana
had celebrated its sovereignty in 1957, Africa had fifty-one functioning states with 455 million
people, half of them under fifteen years of age. Things went very badly for most of these
countries. Military coups seemed to follow one another in endless succession. Almost every state
became a food importer, dependent on foreign aid and deep in debt. Living standards actually
declined in many places. By the mid-1980s per capita income averaged only $365 a year.
Other statistics were equally gloomy. The terms of trade for sub-Saharan Africa declined
by approximately 13 percent between 1977 and 1985, with each percentage point costing about
$200 million in lost export earnings. Population grew at the rate of 3 percent a year, fastest of all
the world’s continents. External medium- and long-term debt rose from $14 to $66 billion
between 1973 and 1983; average per capita gross domestic product declined 4.5 percent between
1970 and 1985. The number of noneconomic refugees climbed from 400,000 in 1965 to 2.5
million in 1985, 1 out of every 200 Africans. Despite some bright spots–higher school
enrollments, better health facilities, improved transport and communications–Africa remained
far behind even the rest of the Third World in almost every category.
Virtually all the new states started with democratic institutions and nearly all dismantled
them in less than a decade. By. 1965 there were sixteen one-party states. Once the original
electoral systems had been abandoned, the military began to seize power for itself. In 1965 alone
there were five coups. Many of these difficulties were inevitable in view of the region’s innate
problems. But particularly crippling was the political paradox of Africa: Regimes either were
unstable or were modern dictatorships purchasing a modicum of political stability with
economically counterproductive practices and policies.
Cabral was the kind of leader who embodied political philosopher Fanon’s idea that
revolutionary struggle brought forth a nation’s best elements. Although his country was one of
the smallest, poorest nations on a continent of tiny, pauper states, this agricultural engineer
organized a party and guerrilla army that successfully waged war on the Portuguese for a decade
before his assassination in January 1973.
To meet Cabral was to recognize a rare man combining modesty, sensitivity, and
charisma. Well grounded in his country’s social structure and in revolutionary theory, he was
alert the pitfalls suffered by earlier revolutions and clear-eyed about what he wanted to achieve.
His goal was to adapt Marxism to his own country, and Cabral worked tirelessly to ensure
triumph of a humane socialism with honest, democratic-minded leaders.
But when independence came a few months after Cabral’s death, all his labor and theory
evaporated. The new state of Guinea-Bissau quickly degenerated into a typical despotism ruled
by a venal, incompetent elite of which Cabral’s own brother was one of the main villains. Finally
the military took power and settled down into ruling a ramshackle and stagnating country.
What were Cabral’s teachings? In his speeches and writings he argued that the country’s
very backwardness could be turned into a beneficial inheritance. Homogeneity enhanced the
nation’s chances for unity; shared poverty and an absence of class conflict eased the way for
socialism and egalitarianism. But the people also had to guard against the rise of a new set of
rulers who wanted to “exploit their own people,. . . to have all the diamonds, all the gold,… to do
as one pleases, to live well, to have all the women one wants in Africa or in Europe.” Such
leaders were mainly interested in “touring Europe, being received as presidents, wearing
expensive clothes–a morning coat or even [traditional dress] to pretend they are Africans”–
while they were really “lapdogs of whites.”
Independence could he gained only by a “struggle of the people, by the people, for the
people… to satisfy the aspirations, dreams and desires of our people: to lead a decent and worthy
life,… to have peace in order to build progress in their land [and] happiness for their children.”
To achieve development without despotism required “an organization such that even if some
want to divert the conquests of the struggle to their own advantage, our people will not let them.”
Already in the course of the independence struggle, Cabral argued, this bright future was
being shaped and protected by the cadre of his African Party for the Independence of Guinea and
Cape Verde (PAIGC) with its guerrilla fighters, supportive peasants, and the children being
educated in the party’s liberation schools. In short, the anti-colonial struggle would be waged in
conditions that would also incubate a close, cooperative relationship between leaders and people.
Only the best could join the party; anyone who lied or abused the people would be purged. Even
those making great sacrifices should not expect to have “a fine motorcar, servants, several
wives,” or other privileges. “Authority must be based on real work, on the accomplishment of
duty and on conduct … which is an example to everyone.”
Cabral’s views were paralleled by those of fellow anti-Portuguese revolutionaries in
Angola and Mozambique, the left-nationalist regimes in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Zambia, and
other African leaders. The result in Guinea-Bissau and elsewhere, however, was a modern
dictatorship which used these symbols to perpetuate its rule. Political elites selfishly exploited
the new ideology and structures while failing to deliver much social or economic progress.
Uganda provides an example of a state where a “progressive” nationalist modern
dictatorship not only failed to counter the forces making for anarchy but actually helped create
the conditions for a breakdown. A country rich in resources as well as natural beauty, Uganda
could have become prosperous and peaceful but fell victim to persistent misrulethe
kind of leaders characterized by Fanon as “nationalizing the robbery of the nation”–and
When Uganda gained independence, President Milton Obote seemed an attractive leader,
typical of the first generation of African heads of state. Yet Obote bears a major responsibility
for Uganda’s despoliation, the death of so many citizens, and its possibly irreversible economic
and political degeneration. He ruled from independence in 1962 until his own hatchet man, Idi
Amin, overthrew him in 1971. When Amin, in turn, was tossed out in 1979, Obote eventually
returned to power. At first Ugandans were jubilant at being liberated from a mad dictator whose
regime had killed up to 300,000 of them, tortured and robbed additional thousands, and left the
nation impoverished. Soon, however, they found that years of exile had not mellowed Obote.
Conditions improved only marginally, and in 1985 Obote was booted out by another coup, which
was itself set aside a few months later.
Cabral’s liberation movement had soon converted itself into an unresponsive ruling class.
Obote’s political institutions performed the same function almost from the start. Obote’s rule
rested on his own party, security police, and the Acholi and Langi tribes that made up half the
army. He abolished parliament and made himself president for life, jailed thousands, and used
the army to suppress the powerful Buganda tribe. His domestic authoritarianism was coupled
with a vocal radicalism in foreign affairs. A sizable section of the population was genuinely
represented by the governing group and gained a share of the benefits, the rest were forced into
Obote’s great error was to neglect the army’s political potential. A civilian himself, he
employed the military to suppress enemies but neither integrated the generals into his patronage
system nor successfully indoctrinated them with an ideology that might cement their loyalty. No
doubt Obote believed that the large Acholi presence in the ranks would ensure his rule. He
ignored warnings about Amin’s ambitions and unstable character, remembering how Amin had
saved him from an early coup attempt.
When an overconfident Obote finally accused Amin of embezzlement and then foolishly
left for an overseas visit, Amin seized power. The new ruler quickly destroyed Obote’s political
base by banning the party, destroying the security police, and purging Acholi soldiers. Of 4,500
Acholi in the army, 3,000 were killed and the rest fled. Amin then put into place his own support
structure by enlisting and promoting Nubian mercenaries and members of his own small tribe.
As an added incentive for loyalists, Amin seized the property of Uganda’s 40,000 Asians
and gave their homes, cars, shops, and businesses to followers, who in turn divided the new
wealth with their own friends and relatives. A whole group of officers, officials, and tribesmen
was thus given a vested interest in Amin’s rule. Moreover, Amin’s expulsion of Europeans and
Asians, insults aimed at the West, and orientation toward the USSR, Libya, and the PLO made
him seem a strong “anti-imperialist” nationalist. The Ugandan leader had a good reputation
If Amin had stopped there, he might still he in power today, but his mentally unbalanced
excesses led to his downfall. A modern dictator who eliminates his own supporters when they
cannot be replaced and systematically wrecks his own country’s economy cannot long survive.
Even the most determined opportunists would not long devote themselves to a mercurial sixfoot-
four-inch, 240-pound general who ordered the execution of his own cabinet ministers on a
whim. Endless rounds of beatings, arrests, executions, and looting disrupted society to the point
of a breakdown.
In the end Aniin made the same kind of mistake as his idol Adolf Hitler. Drunk on his
own rhetoric, Amin invaded Tanzania in October 1978, giving that country the opportunity to
counterattack. Ugandans, sickened by the reign of terror, would not defend the country; Amin’s
own men had fallen out over dividing the spoils. Libyan troops and PLO bodyguards could not
save Amin, who fled to refuge in Saudi Arabia.
Amin’s rise showed that civilian dictators like Obote had to figure out a way to control
the military if they wanted to stay in power. But Amin’s fate also showed that repression alone
could sustain a regime for only so long, particularly if it was indiscriminate. Further, while
demagogic foreign policy talk might contribute greatly to a leader’s popularity, adventurous
action could spell ruination, as it almost did even to mighty Nasser in 1967.
After Amin had run away and the exiles from his reign of terror had returned home, Uganda
embarked on an experiment in pluralism that showed the poor prospects for that sort of
government. The attempt to establish a cabinet incorporating all sectors of political opinion
broke down in the face Uganda’s ethnic, religious, ideological, and personal splits. Initial
enthusiasm quickly quickly bogged down in disastrous paralysis. Obote’s earlier manipulation
of tribal differences had left too much bitterness and mistrust; Amin’s destruction of the civil
service, provincial administration, and military discipline meant that the capital’s decrees
remained mere words on paper. Law and order and national unity proved impossible to rebuild.
The economy stagnated as politicians fought for months about power, policies, and
whose followers would receive the ex-Asian businesses now seized from Amin’s supporters.
When the interim president tried to dismiss the new army commander, the general removed the
politician instead and returned former President Obote to office. But the would-be populist
dictator could neither govern competently nor unite the country. Five years later Obote was
overthrown by officers from an allied tribe. He had never really learned how to control the army
or build a multitribe political base and a more viable party structure. His political skill was
effective enough to rule Uganda for fourteen years, but it left him in exile and the country in
The leader of Guinea-Bissau sought a different course. While himself a Marxist, Cabral
was conscious of the danger that all the fine talk about people’s rule, socialism, liberation, and
nationalism could end by becoming a self-justifying apologia for a small ruling class. He tried to
ensure that these institutions would have enough democratic life in them to ensure a real “say”
for the common people.
But Cabral’s intended safeguards could not turn his party and mass organizations into
pillars of democracy and grassroots participation because once the party and state had eliminated
pluralism and subordinated everything else, it created a system custom-made for abuse by
leaders. These very institutions then became effective instruments of a dictatorial regime. In the
case of Uganda, such a regime produced the conditions in which a murderous monster like Idi
Amin could take power. Elsewhere it paved the way for chronic instability or, where rulers were
skilled and conditions were right, modern dictatorships.
These tragic developments were a far cry from the expectations of both Africans and
foreign well-wishers during the early period of independence in the 1960s. At that time
“moderate” nationalists held that foreign rule was Africa’s primary problem. The end of
colonialism could not resolve all difficulties but would at least allow new states to begin the
battle for development with a fair prospect of success. The leaders of former French colonies like
Senegal and the Ivory Coast and ex-British possessions like Kenya and Nigeria began with this
While imposing a large degree of state control on the economy, the political elite used its
power to seize some of the best land, franchises, and commercial opportunities. These states’
economies did grow faster, but they also produced sharp disparities in wealth, with the large
number of landless or impoverished peasants disguised by aggregate positive statistics on
development. Tanzanian President julius Nyerere called them “man eat man” societies.
Responding to the economic failures of Nyerere’s government, a Kenyan leader retorted that the
radical model made “man eat nothing” societies.
The “radicals” claimed, along the lines of Fanon and Cabral, that a social and economic
revolution must accompany formal, legal independence. Otherwise, colonialism would live on as
neocolonialism; the oppressed/oppressor dichotomy would he reborn in an unequal division of
wealth and power between a colonialist-imitating elite and the large majority of peasants and
workers. The gift of independence installed ready-made was worthless if it merely put in place
parliaments and politicians chosen as acceptable stand-ins by the departing Europeans.
Ironically, by advocating the concentration of power in a without any real restraint, the
radicals also created a new elite empowered by its permanent hold on government. Nyerere
defined a capitalist as a “man who uses wealth for the purpose of dominating any of his fellows,”
but a simple semantic change from “wealth” to “control of wealth” describes the situation in the
radical states. Even their relative egalitarianism compared to the “capitalist” regimes was largely
neutralized by the fact that failed economic policies produced far less wealth to distribute.
While “moderates” and “radicals” criticized each other and academics strained to define
the differences between them, the two systems had much in common. Almost all African regimes
subordinated the legislatures, trade unions, and media to a single party, which in turn is tightly
controlled by the ruling elite. Socialism and nonalignment are proclaimed national policy as the
state takes a large economic role and proclaims neutrality between the United States and the
USSR. The president builds a cult of adoration; rivals are silenced or driven into exile. But
because of the regime’s dependence
one man, a leader’s fall or failure means the military is likely to seize power.
Yet there are not many viable alternatives. Politically, electoral democracy hardly ever
worked well or long survived except in a handful of countries. Economically, governments were
often desperate to avoid famine, much less make progress. Socially, the task of knitting together
disparate groups into one nation was extremely difficult. Underlying everything is what Nyerere
called “the greatest evil of colonialism: the destruction of the self-confidence of the people.”
There can be no heavier responsibility than to direct a nation in its search for identity, to make a
people believe in themselves, their country, and their leaders.
As if these problems were not daunting enough, African regimes must address these
problems at the same time as they face great social change and psychological upheaval. There
are high birthrates, a shortage of educated people, a lack of infrastructure, growing foreign debt,
and an unfavorable trade balance for the producers of raw materials, who must pay more and
more of their crops and minerals in exchange for the same amount of imports.
Urban migration, for example, disrupts attempts to cope with unemployment and the
uncontrolled growth of cities. In Tanzania 66 percent of those living in towns were born in rural
areas. Stable villages, the cooperation and hospitality of which display the finest aspects of
African traditional society, are made politically irrelevant or are disrupted by urban dominance.
Mutual family support allows people to survive in the cities, but this asset is transformed into the
basis for corruption as officials put their own families and tribal relations first. Contact with city
ways, which implies more influence from Western ideas and culture, raises popular demands for
faster progress and new kinds of goods, particularly among those born there. All this puts added
pressure on the country’s political and social structure.
Since the cities are mainly administrative and commercial, rather than industrial, centers,
they provide fewer jobs than are needed. They soak up foreign aid and domestic taxes rather than
add to the nation’s wealth. Many of the nation’s talented and educated citizens are employed in
an unproductive bureaucracy that comes to view the government as its own
property and the citizenry as its subjects.
This relationship is generally reinforced by a socialist development strategy which
exploits agriculture by paying the peasants low prices for crops and instituting government
control over export earnings. City people benefit from low food prices and get imported goods
bought with foreign loans and export income. Not only do urban dwellers make up most of the
political, professional, and bureaucratic elite, but they can also influence the regime through riots
or strikes. Since the rural areas have no political leverage in a modern dictatorship, their
problems can be ignored. The peasants can retaliate only by themselves moving to the city, a step
that damages rural productivity and undermines the whole system.
Indian economists suggest their country has increased agricultural productivity and
virtually eliminated famine because politicians in a democracy must listen to peasant demands to
win their votes. In an African modern dictatorship, however, control of the capital, army, and
radio station replaces any need to heed rural demands. The ideas of men like Cabral for
combining Marxist rule with grass-roots democracy are not put into practice. Rather, the ruler
uses the new ideologies and party organizations for more effective control, not for more effective
Outside of the dictator and the organizational channels he authorizes, many of these
countries have no institutional backbone. If Latin America is paralyzed by its heavy historical
legacy of entrenched oligarchy and reactionary officer class, Africa is weakened by the lack of
national identity and the strength of ethnic friction. While class interests and entrenched
struggles between interest groups limit change in Latin America, the stable alignments needed
for political constancy are absent in Africa. The only reliably cohesive institutions have been the
tribe and the army.
Tribes are simply an African equivalent of national and ethnic groups. They enjoy the
loyalty of members, and each is differentiated from other tribes by linguistic, regional, religious,
cultural, historical, and even occupational differences. In view of the weakness of countrywide
patriotism and the lack of other strong institutional loyalties, tribal membership assumes a
particular importance in forming political blocs.
“When the word government was mentioned,” explained Nyerere, “the African thought
of the chief, he did not, [like] the Briton, think of a grand building in which a debate was taking
place.” So the African leader would try to become the new chief, but one standing above an
individual tribe. Nyerere rejected the multiparty system, which would “reduce politics to the
level of a football match.” The party and national ideology would he substitutes for tribal
localism. Leaders like Obote and Amin, who essentially based themselves on one tribe, were far
more vulnerable than those who could assemble a broader coalition of supporters.
All regimes must strive to convince their subjects to he good citizens, and in Africa the
local concept of socialism has often been used for this objective. Again, Nyerere proves to he
most articulate in explaining this objective: “The question ‘What profit would 1 myself get?’
must he … replaced by the question ‘What benefit, and what loss, will be obtained by the people
who make up this society?’” As in the West, practice often falls short of idealism, and leaders do
not set a good example.
Still, the Third World desperately needs to encourage such behavior because the old
society, where individualism was submerged for the sake of family and community, is rapidly
being destroyed. In Western capitalist countries these bonds were gradually supplemented by
civic consciousness and the regulatory state. In Communist countries the coercive state and
propaganda take over. Citizens are told, and allowed, only what the rulers believe will serve the
regime’s needs. Sincere patriotism and desire to contribute to national development will always
stimulate an idealistic minority. But African states cannot afford the patience to await such an
evolutionary process. The techniques of modern dictatorship, providing citizens with a choice
between being persuaded and being repressed, will inevitably seem swifter and surer to most
Africa’s problems have been intensified by arbitrary borders, drawn by nineteenthcentury
colonial powers which knew little and cared less about how these lines affected the
tribes. Nevertheless, the problem is not so much that tribes are divided by borders as that diverse
ones are necessarily thrown together by them since most tribes are too small to sustain a national
state of their own.
The variety of tribal mix affects the politics of African countries in different ways. A few
lucky states like Tanzania have so many small tribes that the problem largely disappears. Where
there are two major tribes, as in Zimbabwe, or three, as in Nigeria, their battle for predominance
threatens to preoccupy national politics. Similarly, where one large tribe confronts several
smaller ones, the former may win the upper hand, as in Kenya, or the latter may form inherently
unstable alliances to rule, as in Uganda. Other kinds of divisions include the more modernized
coast against the less developed interior (most of West Africa), farmer versus nomad tribes,
Muslim against Christian, or even Catholic against Protestant.
The result is that battles for power are rarely based on ideology or party alignments,
although these may become the tools of different interest groups. Almost every African state is
fragile because it lacks a national identity or patriotism that can bind the country together. The
one advantage of this weakness is that there are few wars between states.
Contrary to Western experience, African states exist before nations have been built. The
accumulation of a common experience as citizens of one country-political history, economic
patterns, the influence of leaders, and the power of the bureaucracy-may produce national
integration over time, as they have in the Arab world. But trends that resist this development are
also set in motion. The likelihood that each internal conflict, election, or open debate could turn
into civil war makes a multiparty parliamentary system seem quite dangerous, threatening the
country’s survival in one piece. Civilian democratic politicians find it difficult to build a base
that is national and cohesive; modern dictators justify their rule as necessary to avoid chronic
anarchy or even the dissolution of the country. Only the caution of these leaders has kept the
number of coups and civil wars from being even more numerous.
To build a viable country able to maintain its unity and to develop economically was the
objective of each of the independence movements and the leaders who became their countries’
Three of the most influential of these men were Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana, Sékou Touré
in Guinea, and Julius Nycrere in Tanzania. Each became president when his country attained
independence in 1957, 1958, and 1961 respectively. All three implemented their ideas in creating
somewhat different versions of modern dictatorships and setting the political patterns that
dominate the continent.
No one was more influential in the founding generation that struggled to resolve these
problems than Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah. In the 1930s, when few Ghanians even
finished the first grade, Nkrumah become a secondary school teacher. He studied in the United
States from 1935 to 1945 and then spent two years in London. Nkrumah’s experience with
American racism and segregation inevitably made a deeper impression on him than did his
observations of an imperfect American democracy.
Returning home in 1947, he put into practice his new ideas: Independence required a
movement for organizing, politically educating, and uniting the people. If Britain and France did
not want to give up their empires, Africans would have to force them to do so. Europe yielded
independence only when it was credibly demanded, a lesson Third World
leaders were to remember in future dealings with the West.
While still in Britain, Nkrumah had been offered the leadership of Ghana’s nationalist
Convention People’s party (CPP) which advocated independence and leadership by young,
Western-educated activists instead of by the traditionalist tribal chiefs. In the decade after his
return home Nkrumah wrote the party’s platform, set up branches, organized a central office, and
spoke at meetings around the country. He built alliances with the trade unions and cooperatives
while creating veterans’, farmers’, and women’s organizations. At a showdown meeting with the
chiefs in 1949 Nkrurnah asked thousands of cheering followers if he should pack his bags and
leave the country. “No,” his supporters loudly chorused. As with many other modern dictators, a
threatened resignation had settled the issue.
The CPP called for peaceful demonstrations, breaking with the old elite’s timidity. What
seemed radical soon became mainstream positions, and the British began a series of concessions
leading to internal self-rule. After a general strike and boycott of the colonial regime, London
finally decided the colony was more trouble and expense than it was worth. Ghana became the
first black African country in modern times to achieve independence.
Of course, as Nkrumah recognized, this was only the beginning of a new stage of
struggle. “Slums and squalor in our towns, superstitions and ancient rites in our villages,” unfarmed
land, nutritional diseases, and a lack of roads or railroads meant the new country had
“much ignorance and few skills.” There was no industry, and there were too few teachers; trade
and commerce were mostly in foreign hands. The new government’s task would be to solve
problems great enough to defeat even the bravest and most innovative leader.
Nkrumah described himself at the time as “a nondenominational Christian and a Marxist
socialist,” yet he was above all a modern dictator. The unions, civil service, and media
subordinated to his direction. To break tribal loyalties and transfer popular allegiance away from
the chiefs, Nkru-encouraged a campaign to glorify himself. Projecting himself as the national
symbol might have promoted unity, but it also meant that national identity was dependent on his
Addressing the one-party National Assembly, Nkrumah explained, “The multi-party
system which exists in Western countries is in fact a reflection of a social cleavage and the kind
of class system which does not exist in African countries. A multi-party system introduced into
Africa results in the perpetuation of feudalism, tribalism, and regionalism, and an inordinate
power struggle and rivalry.” Nkrumah warned against the power of an economic “petty
bourgeoisie,” an idea taken more from Marxist texts than from Ghana’s reality. Cabral, a far
more consistent Marxist than Nkrumah, had realized that the real threat to the country came from
those who used the control of government and party to their own advantage rather than from
small traders or shopkeepers who barely stood above the peasantry.
Nkrumah’s goal as dictator was to prevent individuals from possessing enough wealth,
popularity, or independent organization to stand outside the control of government or party. But
the real danger to stability came from what the regime did to itself and the country. Nkrumah
created a political class thriving on a socialism that monopolized power and wealth in the state
they controlled while eliminating competition from other groups, criticism from the media, or
punishment from the courts.
Nkrumah admitted that unless the CPP expressed the “will of the masses [it] can quickly
develop into the most dangerous form of tyranny,” but he never used his power to prevent this
development. Behind the fine rhetoric were corruption and mismanagement. The CPP leaders
enjoyed loot at home and prestige abroad as courageous radical nationalists. When Nkrumah
spoke to parliament about punishing officials who held funds in overseas banks-the main way of
hiding ill-gotten gains-the chamber rocked with laughter and the president himself smiled. Under
such conditions the country’s fine civil service, perhaps its best inheritance from colonial days,
was demoralized and joined in the division of spoils.
Graft used up the limited national resources. When the chairman of the farmers’
cooperative asked for money to import tractors, a senior civil servant discovered that the last
shipment ordered was still sitting in storage, rusting in the rain. Nkrumah called in the man
responsible, who quickly fell on his knees before the president and said, “If 1 ever let you down,
you may hang me in the public square!” The matter was forgotten. After all, Nkrumah had his
own priorities: Political loyalty came first. Honesty could he “objectively” disloyal since it meant
making accusations against party leaders and undermining the system that ensured their support.
The cost of this system was high. A 10 percent kickback on each tractor purchased did not
interfere with development statistics, but the people or aid donors had to pay for the overpriced
and useless equipment as well as for the commission itself.
Similarly, projects like stadiums, fancy government buildings, unneeded military
weapons, or roads and factories sited for political benefit rather than economic efficiency could
serve a constructive political purpose. National pride would be augmented, and important
constituencies appeased, thus protecting the leader’s base of support. Such spending priorities are
common in Western democracies, but they can afford the waste better than Ghana and have selfcorrecting
mechanisms-legislatures, newspaper exposés, honest courts, even competing interest
groups-to limit the damage.
In Ghana, however, the only way the system could he challenged was by its overthrow. If
control of the state was merely a means of self-enrichment, there was no reason why others
would not grab it to gain their share. The falling price of cocoa, Ghana’s staple export, when
added to Nkrumah’s misrule and inexperience in maintaining his regime’s security, led
to trouble. Military officers were particularly incensed at Nkrumah’s increasing use of foreigners
in the presidential guard, a move they considered a step toward the army’s dissolution. While
Nkrumah was abroad in February 1966, the military staged a coup. His once-adoring public did
nothing, welcoming the regime’s fall because they had painfully experienced its
Nkrumah’s apologists see the army takeover as an isolated event caused only by foreign
intrigue. They remain confident that the people could never reject socialism, the party, and the
leader who loved them and protected their interests. Exiled in Guinea, as guest of its more
“successful” modern dictator, Sékou Touré, Nkrumah himself promoted this explanation. In
increasingly abstract tracts he attributed defeat to insufficient firmness in stamping out
opposition and opposing foreign imperialism. If only he had more relentlessly applied Marxist
analysis, Nkrumah said, he could have detected and wiped out his enemies. In a sense, this
conclusion was accurate: A tougher party structure, a more reliable police apparatus, and a more
thoroughgoing purge of the army might have allowed Nkrumah to stay in power longer. But
Nkrumah also missed the point: The abuse of the state and of one-party rule was as much the
cause of his defeat-and even more the source of his declining popularity.
Nkrumah’s conclusions at the end of his life about the political course he should have
followed were no doubt influenced by the policies of his host, Sékou Touré, whose Guinea
followed Ghana into independence.
Touré was much tougher than Nkrumah had been in stamping out opposition, and he
stayed in office for twenty-five years compared to Nkrumah’s nine-year tenure. Clearly the
Guinean dictator developed a much more sophisticated type of modern dictatorship, with
institutions that were strong at least as long as the leader was there to provide a focal point for
decision making. Guinea paid a high cost for sovereignty. When Touré was the only leader of a
French colony to refuse Paris’s offer of delayed independence, an angry French President
Charles de Gaulle ordered out French technicians, removed equipment, and cut off aid. Guinea
was economically devastated, but Touré’s defiance made him a hero. At independence Touré
declared that the Guinean people preferred poverty in freedom to riches in slavery. Unfortunately
Touré gave them both poverty and slavery.
Partly because of his fear of foreign intervention, Touré maintained a high level of
internal repression. Members of the elite who fell under his suspicion were tortured to extract
confessions, imprisoned, killed, or forced into exile. Tight political and economic controls
maintained the regime but could not deliver much development. The economy grew an average
of only 1.5 percent annually during his reign. Between 1970 and 1982 debt doubled and food
production fell. Conditions became so bad that an estimated 1 million Guineans went abroad for
political or economic reasons. There were many parallels with other African countries and
Touré’s international reputation and domestic support, however, remained fairly strong.
Keeping out the foreign media and controlling dissent prevented any contradiction to official
exhortations and announcements of successes. Moreover, the regime created an elaborate
network of institutions for its protection. Touré had learned well from his years of experience
allied with the French Communist party, on which he apparently modeled the Democratic Party
of Guinea (PDG). In addition, there was the PDG-controlled Youth of the African Democratic
Revolution, Local Revolutionary Authorities, Women’s Wing of the PDG, and National
Confederation of Guinean Workers. In contrast with Marxist models, however, all Guineans
were party members (dues were paid as part of taxes), and as many as 20 percent of Guineans
were elected party officials.
Despite this pantomime of participation, the party was ruled along democratic centralist
lines-i.e., from the top down–and Touré rejected any decentralization of authority. After all, he
argued ingenuously, since the government was in the people’s hands, to give any special
authority to, say, the judiciary or the press would simply rob the masses of control. It was a neat
justification for the concentration of power in own hands. The regime allowed shortcomings to
be discussed only either when it announced measures to combat or when it blamed the
difficulties on recently purged officials.
There was, however, a real popular reservoir of gratitude to Touré’s regime for bringing
some improvement in living conditions and the only independence Guineans had ever known.
The regime was also successful in maintaining control because 90 percent of the population was
illiterate peasants or young people. They had no experience with palatable alternatives. The
regime was the sole source of information, patriotism, and rewards ranging from career
opportunities to educational and sporting facilities. Those still unhappy could always emigrate,
as hundreds of thousands did.
The other 10 percent consisted of traders, intellectuals, bureaucrats, and soldiers who had
more knowledge about the regime’s failings and about possible alternatives. They found it easier
to envision their future apart from, even enhanced by, the regime’s demise. This group was at the
same time the main beneficiary (if it worked for the party or government) and the main target of
its surveillance and repression. Thousands of them left the country.
But Touré also had them politically stymied with his ideology as much as with his secret
police and party network. If people felt alienated from the regime, he was able to brand them as
unpatriotic, procapitalist, and proimperialist, disruptive of national unity. In his quasi-Marxist
approach Touré. (like Nkrumah) warned against the unreliable nature of the intellectuals and
petty bourgeoisie. The subordination of this group’s independence and initiative damaged the
development process since it sapped the energy or excluded altogether many of those people
most qualified to lead the development effort and to correct or implement policies better. it bred
and encouraged the worst characteristics: sycophancy, dishonesty, refusal to take responsibility
or initiative, decisions made on erroneous information or ideological dogmatisrn, and the
paralysis of lower levels afraid to point out
errors and shortcomings.
This structure also enhanced the regime’s control. As in Communist countries, class
analysis was in the service of a ruling class that entrenched itself under the pretext of serving the
people. The more it talked of socialism and the rule of the masses, the tinier became the circle of
those with power. By playing on real needs–unity against foreign threats and tribal conflicts,
cooperation in the difficult process of development-the government could impose unanimity of
opinion and eliminate any power centers outside itself. Socialism had proved tailor-made for
modern dictators. It is not surprising that the system did not work well, but equally, there are
good reasons why it sustained itself for so many years.
Yet while the leaders frequently changed in many of these states, the demand for
unanimity and the appeal of nationalism remained constant themes that often succeeded in
rallying support. When a new leader rose to power, the old regime might he more skeptically
viewed, but an incumbent could always claim loyalty by dint of being national leader and
through the patronage he could distribute.
Guinea amply illustrates this point. When Touré called on the people to vote for
independence from France in 1958, 98 percent had supported him. And he was quite sincere in
his determination to reduce foreign influence, allowing no one else to take France’s place. The
USSR’s ambassador was expelled in 1961 for interference in internal politics. Youth group
members were organized to attack U.S. cultural centers in 1966. By attributing all problems to
past colonialism and to
current “imperialist and neocolonialist machinations,” the regime sometimes cynically
manipulated popular fears. But these attitudes were also sincerely held and had a basis in reality.
Guineans knew how the French had tried to sabotage independence; in 1970 the country was
attacked by Portuguese mercenaries.
Such powerlessness produced an injured patriotism—”How easy it is to inflame an
insulted people,” comments Nyerere—and the Third World’s efforts to create a nonaligned
movement. There is anger at the former colonial states for past mistreatment and at the West for
its wealth and power. International trade and debt often take more capital from the developing
countries than aid and investment return. African leaders fear that the gap between rich and poor
countries is growing, and that much of the Third World is sliding backward.
The weakness of the African states makes them fearful because they know how easy it is
for foreigners to buy or overthrow political leaders and to play on internal divisions. “The
question is still being asked,” notes Nyerere, ‘Who is going to control Africa?’ Those who are
asking it do not expect
answer to be: ‘The Africans.’ “ Usually the Third World’s only way to retaliate is with heated
anti-Western or anti-American rhetoric, which also wins the ruler popular support.
Nasser’s pattern of playing off the two great powers was closely followed by Touré as
well as other Third World leaders. The story is told that Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere and
Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew once met at a summit
meeting of the nonaligned nations. “According to an old Swahili proverb,” said Nyerere, “when
the elephants fight, the grass gets trampled.” “Yes,” answered Lee, “but when the elephants
make love, the grass also gets trampled.”
So Touré set out to derive the most benefit from foreign powers’ jockeying for influence
while mistrusting all of them. The government preached that there was a “permanent plot”
against the country’s independence, a conspiracy in which anyone might he involved, although
France was a sentimental favorite. There was the teachers’ plot and the traders’ plot and the
military plot, all of which were dealt with by summary arrests, torture to obtain confessions, and
long prison sentences.
These groups, though usually innocent of treason, were not chosen at random. They were
the sectors of the population most critical of Touré: intellectuals who thought the regime was not
Marxist enough; small merchants and marketwomen who thought it was too economically
inefficient; military officers who sought power in their own right. The modern dictatorship’s
response is to talk of “class struggle.” Critics, charged with having selfish motives, are
threatened with the loss of their privileges unless they accept the regime’s primacy.
The government’s proudest claim was that it transcended tribal and religious conflicts
and forged a basis for national unity. Ironically, Touré argued that counterrevolutionaries thought
in tribal terms, but those he accused of this crime–his critics–came from the most cosmopolitan,
detribalized sectors. Touré used “ethnic arithmetic,” a type of affirmative action, in distributing
posts. When Guinea had its first military coup, the junta was multiethnic.
The more important fact, of course, was that Guinea finally did have its coup, albeit only
after Touré’s death in 1984 on an operating table in Cleveland, Ohio. The quarter century of
party, ideology, mobilization, political education, and battalions of committees did not prevent
the battalions of soldiers from taking over. The PDG disappeared overnight, and a Military
Committee of National Recovery took over.
The apparatus had served Touré’s purpose, enabling him to become black Africa’s
longest-reigning ruler, but the modern dictatorship system did not guarantee continued rule by
the dictator’s designated successor. It did, however, ensure that the new ruler would keep the
established pattern even if he changed the names of the institutions and the faces of their masters.
In traditional terms, Nkrumah and Touré seem like men of the left. The distinction
between “left” and “right,” however, has little application to their policies and tactics.
Nationalism, statism, a ruling party, ideology, and the rest of these political techniques were as
useful for Stalin as for Hitler and as much employed by Khomeini as by Castro. To divide
Africa–or the Third World–into progressives and reactionaries or between Communists and pro-
Western leaders only masks the striking similarities of these regimes.
The third of Africa’s “radical” founding fathers was Julius Nyerere. Like Cabral, Nyerere
tried to create a modern dictatorship that would also be profoundly democratic. Although his
system was milder than that of Nkrumah or Touré, it did no better at development and only
somewhat better at fostering pluralism. Tanzania’s relative flexibility helped preserve the system
but, ironically, in no small part because it made the country such an appealing client for Western
In a part of the world where institutions and national political cultures are so weak, a
dictator’s personality can have a tremendous role in shaping his country. There are few, if any,
innate reasons why Uganda did not have the good fortune to produce a Nyerere or Tanzania did
not just happen to have an Idi Amin instead. Because Nyerere was Tanzania’s leader, though, he
tried to ensure that the country would never produce an Idi Amin. He sought to make the
country’s single party, the Tanzanian African National Union (TANU), a representative national
organization that policed itself against corruption and abuses. He tried to create guarantees of
rights and political checks and balances similar to the pluralism that protects Western
democracies from becoming tyrannies.
Can a modern dictatorship also inspire autonomous popular participation and criticism?
Nyerere tried to do so by ensuring inner-party democracy in TANU. He mandated a network of
elected village development committees and a party cell for every ten houses in the country.
Rather than serve as a mere conduit for his decrees, these institutions were to provide, in
Nyerere’s words, a “two-way all-weather road” linking the rulers to the ruled, the capital’s center
with the rural periphery. After all, Africa’s really exploitative “capital-ism” is a system in which
the capital exploits the peasantry. Cabral once told French journalist Gérard Chaliand that it
would be better not to have a capital city at all. As they stood in a forest clearing, Cabral
explained, “You know, after independence this wouldn’t make a bad capital-a tree in a clearing
to rest under, after making the rounds of the villages.”
Ruling a country, however, required a trained bureaucracy that easily made itself into a
privileged elite which was not accountable to the people. The concentration of power in the
leadership was a constant temptation for self-aggrandizement and the abuse of prerogatives.
Faced with such unpleasant realities, Nyerere often ignored the practice and took refuge in his
But he persevered with charm, energy, and imagination, if not always with effectiveness.
To retard development of a permanent political ruling class, he ordered that TANU members
compete in elections for parliamentary seats. It is an interesting example of the parallelism
among African modern dictatorships to note that “conservative” Kenya has this same system. In
contrast with Kenyan leaders, however, Nyerere set a good example with his modest life-style.
His charisma and image as a progressive but humane leader were the country’s greatest single
asset, attracting $3 billion in Western aid during the 1970s to cover two-thirds of the
development budget. Relative to other Third World modern dictatorships, Nyerere did create a
populist dictatorship with a human face.
The theory behind Nyerere’s economic strategy was ujamaa: self-reliance, grass-roots
democracy, and an emphasis on agriculture rather than the usually disastrous Third World leftist
stress on heavy industry. Ujamaa villages concentrated the peasants into larger living units
which could he more easily supplied with schools, health centers, and other services. But
Tanzania’s image was damaged when the outside world discovered that many peasants had been
forcibly resettled and that a number of the consultative structures were frauds. Meanwhile,
government-owned companies, the workers and managers of which lacked incentives or
competition for greater efficiency, were in ruins, and Tanzania did not have enough foreign
exchange to buy bags for shipping its export crops.
Nyerere’s system must be judged a failure on two counts: It did not provide successful
economic development, even relative to other African states, and it did not lay the foundation for
a lasting democratic society even in terms of a single-party socialist state. While Nyerere was a
largely benevolent dictator, there was nothing to stop his successors from using the mechanisms
in the brutal ways familiar from Ghana, Guinea, and elsewhere.
Where Nyerere was undeniably successful was in subordinating the army to the party and
avoiding the coups that plagued so much of Africa. Other regimes, whether originally civilian or
led by officers who had put aside their uniforms, tried to buy off officers with economic
privileges or to keep the army professionally apolitical. In modern dictatorships as diversely
“socialist” as Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe or as variously “capitalist” as Zaire, Kenya, and
the Ivory Coast, officers have been held in check for two decades or more. These countries each
had a strong charismatic modern dictator who attracted enough loyalty, spread enough fear, and
established a solid enough alliance of benefiting groups to stay in power. Other states, lacking
such a strong man, trying multiparty democracy, or bereft of even a minimal base for national
unity, faced one coup after another.
It should he clear that some of the “moderates” who came to power at independence or
through a coup can build modern dictatorships that have both the strengths and weaknesses of
their “radical” counterparts: well-entrenched regimes coupling economic failure with political
strength yet unlikely to outlive the dictator himself. Perhaps the most notorious of these regimes
is that of Mobutu Sese Seko, by some reports the world’s wealthiest man, in Zaire. Once a
noncommissioned officer in the Belgian Congo, Joseph Mobutu gained quick promotion after his
country’s strife-torn independence in 1960. The wealthiest province tried to secede with backing
from a Belgian mining company, the first president, Patrice Lumumba, a Touré-like figure, was
murdered, and UN troops had to be called in to restore order. Mobutu emerged, with U.S.
support, as dictator in 1965 and for the next twenty years managed to hold together his complex
Precisely because he had come to power with questionable credentials, Mobutu worked
hard to emphasize his authenticity. He wore a leopardskin hat and carried the staff of a chief.
Political scientist Manfred Halperin has suggested that an African leader must act somewhat like
the Wizard of Oz, presenting himself as a miracle worker by busily “working smoke-machines
and amplifying his voice.” Mobutu, like his colleagues, has a terrific grasp of political
symbolism. He Africanized place-names and personal names and made his murdered predecessor
Lumumba a national hero (as Ghana’s later military rulers did for Nkrumah). After a visit to
China and North Korea, Mobutu copied for himself the titles of Helmsman and Guide held by his
Communist modern dictator hosts.
The cult of personality was reinforced by gimmicks like showing Mobutu emerging from
the clouds and descending to earth at the beginning of television programming. Western business
suits are banned, and officials must wear “Mobutu suits.” This is an interesting reflection on the
reversal of sartorial symbolism since Kenial Atatürk made Western dress mandatory as a sign of
modernization. Again, many other countries have decrees similar to those of Zaire to promote
what is designated as “the national costume,” usually with limited success in keeping out foreign
fashion. Such actions were marks not of craziness but of political shrewdness as leaders sought
to manipulate traditional social, mythical, and religious imagery. The extent of Mobutu’s
regime’s corruption necessitated some psychological and political countermeasures, particularly
since the weak army could not maintain order very effectively through repression.
Mobutu’s party, the Popular Movement of the Revolution (MPR), is an extension of the
government bureaucracy, and every Zairian is a party member, a pattern familiar from Touré’s
“progressive” Guinea. Mobutu explains, “in our traditional societies … there has never been two
chiefs in the same village, the true chief and the opposition chief. There have perhaps been
conflicts between villages…. But once they were unified, only one chief emerged democratically:
the chief of all. That is African authenticity.” And that is the ideology of Mobutu
and the MPR, widely paralleled elsewhere in Africa.
Political conformity, like cultural homogeneity, is seen as essential form of loyalty and
patriotism. Participation in party and mouthing the official line, as in Communist states, are a
precondition for temporal success. Those who do are admitted to what is called the “helper
class.” Mobutu’s corruption is so extreme even by African standards that it is in the pattern of
traditional dictatorships. But while undermining the economy, it still plays a role in the regime.
Mobutu also is more extreme in that the extent of his rewards to the elite and its helpers
allows them to treat the people as prey. A former interior minister comments, “Most
administrators treat their charges as conquering occupiers.” Abuses include accepting bribes to
remove flies; demanding payments for office visits and letters of recommendation; the sale of the
government’s gasoline and misuse of its vehicles; kickbacks from poachers, job seekers, and
ivory smugglers; officials’ neglect of their duties to run private businesses; embezzlement; tax
fraud; shakedowns by the military and police; and kickbacks for hiring. All these activities go on
in states ruled by Mobutu’s “radical” counterparts as well. In Tanzania or the Marxist states,
however, the regime’s sense of acceptable limits and self-preservation forces officials to be more
cautious and restrained in their depredations to escape possible punishment.
Yet if Mobutu had ever ignored his populist side, he would not have survived so long in
power. When state transport workers called a wildcat strike, Mobutu personally discussed
grievances with their leaders and fired the company’s Belgian expatriate director on television.
Mobutu is, in the words of a perceptive journalist, “Part actor, part statesman, part gangster.”
The experience of the only African leader to experiment traditional dictatorship will
probably discourage others from following his example. Jean Bokassa showed his nostalgia for
the old style by crowning himself emperor of the Central African Republic in 1977, complete
with throne and a celebration that cost $22 million, one-fourth of the annual national revenue.
Two years later he had several dozen schoolchildren murdered after they had protested being
forced to buy uniforms supplied by a Bokassa crony. France, which supplied half his budget,
engineered a coup. Those dependent on foreign support are more easily removed by foreigners, a
lesson that Touré, Nyerere, and their counterparts well understood.
The effectiveness of a modern dictator cannot, then, be judged by superficial
measurements of popularity or legitimacy. Nkrumah, after all, had a better international image
than Mobutu. The Ghanaian leader was considered a heroic pioneer, a man of integrity and
imagination; Mobutu, in comparison, seems a thug. Still, Mobutu, although he was more
personally corrupt, proved a better survivor-and probably not a worse ruler-than Nkrumah.
To judge political virtue by economic policy is equally problematic. Modern dictatorships
firmly believe in Mao’s dictum of “politics in command,” meaning that the regime’s
requirements for staying in power should never be subordinated to strictly economic
considerations. Socialism in the Third World does not necessarily mean a rigid refusal to deal
with foreign companies. A modern dictatorship’s two key objectives are to avoid any
concentration of domestic economic power outside the government and to keep any foreign
multinational corporation or corporations from being able to undermine national independence.
As rigid state planning and autarchy failed, many modern dictatorships adopted more
flexible economic policies while carefully preserving their tight control over their economics. In
fact, these reforms are designed to protect the political status quo, not alter it, as can be seen in
China’s post-Mao use of market mechanisms, material incentives, small-scale private initiative,
and offering opportunities for foreign investment. Capitalist companies, accustomed to wholly
owned investments and subsidiaries, fought against nationalization or any challenge to their
power to do as they pleased. Used to paying low prices and wages to government and workers,
the multinationals were spoiled. Anything less than subservience to United Fruit, ITT, Kennicott
Copper, Standard Oil, or other such companies in the 1940s and 1950s would earn a regime the
epithet of “Communistic” and inspire U.S. sanctions or even a covertly sponsored coup.
Yet when nationalistic Third World governments were able to take over their own
resources and survive, most companies quickly adjusted. Now there was plenty of money to be
made within the framework of contracts, partnerships, or joint ventures with the “radical”
governments. Businesses found many of these regimes to be reliable in their dealings, and the
new contractual relationships lessened the danger of dispossession by local instability. Modern
dictatorships even ensured that labor would remain docile.
Ironically, trade unions are one of the main targets for control and subjugation by modern
dictatorships, particularly leftist ones. Since unions represent workers, they conflict with the
regime’s claim to embody the working class’s interests. Any labor demands against state
industry pose a direct challenge to the state’s determination to set economic priorities and
contradicts the leader’s alleged objective of improving workers’ conditions. Trade union
independence is totally unacceptable to the modern dictatorship. In Tanzania, as well as in
Guinea and other such states, the unions are amalgamated into a national federation under the
party’s control and are forced to put increasing production ahead of improving wages or
In Zambia, where founding father President Kenneth Kaunda’s modern dictatorship has
been unable to gain complete control of the unions, the government has not hesitated to attack
them. It arrested and held union leaders for several months in 1981, charging that strikes were a
conspiracy to overthrow the government. High inflation and empty treasuries also mean that
workers’ pay lags behind price increases.
The regimes’ priority on efficiency and discipline does not leave much room for workers’
autonomy. Further, since foreign-managed projects are often the country’s sole source of foreign
exchange, protecting them from any threat is of vital importance. Thus, there is the apparent
paradox of Cuban soldiers, called in to preserve the Angolan government, guarding the Gulf Oil
Corporation’s installations there from pro-Western guerrillas and even from South African
The dictatorship’s economic policy is designed to maximize the government’s income
and to keep wealth or control out of the hands of potential rivals. The state must take the lead in
economic development because there are too few native entrepreneurs with too little experience
and capital. By the same token, only the state can negotiate on an equal basis with foreign
multinationals. This does not mean, though, that the ruling elite and its relatives do not
themselves become rich through political power, accumulating wealth through the
misappropriation of government assets or, where permitted, by accumulating land and business
Like governments elsewhere, African regimes differ in the quality of their leadership, the
degree of open debate permitted in their single parties, the heights of violent repression, the
extent of openness toward foreign companies, the amount of conflict or cooperation among
tribes, and other ways.
Yet what is far more striking are their similarities: the one-party state; the regime’s large
(though far from total) degree of control over the economy and society; the ideology of
consensus and nationalism; the priority on development and the limited success in gaining it.
Dictators experimented with instruments and ideas for staying in power, discouraging coups,
fostering development, and building popular support. Military officers, having made a coup, had
to learn how to use the techniques of modern dictatorship to legitimize their rule. The lessons of
Atatürk, Nasser, and Perón–as well as those of Marx–were adapted to African and Third World
conditions. This road was followed both by military men and by the more doctrinaire Marxist
revolutionaries among the second wave of African modern dictators who came to power during
the 1970s and 1980s.