Each of these dictators have a highlight of habits that gives them sadistic pleasure when oppressing their own citizens. Sayyid Ali Kahamenei of Iran for example, is known to permit execution of juveniles. Reports of torture are common in Libya and Eritrea. The most oppressed women in the world are ruled by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Zimbabwe’s economy is the worst in the world, and the “good hearted” Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe allowed election, but said he would accept the results only if he won. Don’t laugh, it is true. Refugees used to flow to Zimbabwe to be helped in the 1980’s, but since Robert Mugabe took over Zimbabwians are now refugees in their neighboring countries. Similarly, there are now more Eritreans leaving the country than any other times in history. The atrocities are mind boggling, and these egotistic diehards all have common characteristics, and sadly they are all causing sufferings to millions of people around the world.
I appreciate Parade for exposing these dictators by name. However, it is not all inclusive, Hugo Chavez for example is left out from the list. Moreover, the highlight they put on each dictator, makes it seem that they don’t have other vices. I am going to try to give you what the common characteristics of these sick dictators are and after you read this I am hoping people will understand why Eritreans don’t deserve what they are getting right now. And why a lot of us protest this dictatorial regime, and all the totalitarian dictators of the world for that matter. Dictatorship is not a series of incidents that happen in a country (like Parade seem to portray), it is a system of governance, and people experience this system daily in their lives. As long as there is dictatorship, the citizens don’t get a break! For the record, just like all the past dictators our world experienced in the past, none of these dictators guarantee freedom of speech, freedom of press, opposition parties, independent courts or free and regular elections. Isayas Afwerke of Eritrea for example, made it clear that elections in Eritrea may take three to four decades. People of any country should not be muzzled from speaking their minds, they should be free to write responsibly and should be allowed to expose the truth, opposing ideas should be welcomed as long as they are not violent, and there should be a rule of law and a constitution whereby people are guided and governed. Anything short of that is repressive and no support should be given to such governments. Dictators follow pure anti-democratic agenda. People and their ideas do not matter in dictatorial rules.
All the aforementioned leaders lead a totalitarian dictatorship. Totalitarian means total dictatorial control. Movements of citizens within their own country are restricted. Citizens are constantly harassed, and if you try to travel from city to city without an ID card, you may end up in jail. The government bribes private citizens to spy on other citizens. Neighborhoods are constantly watched by these recruits and are known to report to government officials of any suspicious moves. Dictators invest their resources on the young. By brain washing and controlling the young and impressionable, they seek support and reverence. School curriculum is prepared and implemented by the ruling party. Religious groups are discouraged or completely shut down by the government. Private schools are required to submit their curriculum to the government. Mr Kim Jong Il of North Korea and Mr. Isayas Afewerke of Eritrea are examples of such practices and controls.
Another important characteristic of dictators is, they almost never name a successor. Who is going to be leading Eritrea after Isayas Afewerke? The people do not know who will succeed the current leader. We have a saying in Tigringa, “Bedehray Sairee ayboqola, belet Adghi”. The direct translation would be, “a donkey wrote a will and said, after I die let there be no grass”. To dictators, their ideology and power control is so important everything else is secondary and everything else exists to prolong their power.
Dictators are prone to start wars. They are not accountable to anyone therefore, it is easy to decide on wars without consultation. They are provocative. Kim Jong Il likes to provoke the U.S. and the neighbors just to get attention, but at the same time to make his own people insecure and put them on false alert at all times. The friendless, leader of Eritrea practically does the same thing. Most leaders of Africa shy away from him, except of course dictator Al-Bashir of Sudan and dictator Qudaffi of Libya. In fact the African Union leaders unanimously warned him in their last meeting this year, to behave and get his acts together. Peace and stability is seen as a threat to their power, and therefore, dictators have to work overtime to create political chaos inside and outside their country.
Where there is a totalitarian dictator, there is famine. When dictators cannot fix their economy, the people of course suffer. But according to a dictator it is never his fault. It is either the “imperialists”, “the foreign enemies”, “the country’s selfish merchants”, “the U.S. meddling on their affairs”, “the British”, “the religious groups” or “natural draught” etc.. However, where dictators rule famine is almost always “man-made” and the maker is the dictator himself. Dictators like to hide things and they do it by controlling the media and propagate the issue. In other words, they lie to the people and they lie to the world, even at the cost of sufferings and starvation of the people. In a free country however, because of the freedom of expression vices like famine are exposed quickly which helps to solve the problem before people suffer.
Another main characteristic is that dictators do not like to share the media with anybody. All written or spoken materials are censored and are government controlled. In other words no one can write an article, or a book or speak in public or radio or TV without a written permission by the government. This kills creativity and invites myopic views about the world around you. Pathetic but true. Dictator Isayas propagates his agenda using press and TV, while Eritrean journalists who legally expressed themselves were put thrown into prison since 2001. He is the only one who enjoys the freedom of expression, while his followers repeat the dictator’s whims and fancies. In Eritrea there are no private or independent TV’s stations, newspapers or magazines. The dictator and his regime control what information is given to the people. Dictator Issays had learned one principle from other dictators. He thinks “if you repeat a lie and stick with it, eventually it becomes the truth or reality”. Dictators forget and deny that our world is much faster and smarter than them. Thanks to e-mails, cell phones, twitters, “face book” etc.. people can now find out what exactly is happening at the remotest parts of the world. But dictators try to hide the truth. In this past Iranian election, Kahamenei tried to hide the truth from the people and the world, but the world heard every cry of “Allah Akobar” in every corner of Iran. People are more informed now than the past decade or century, and therefore, dictators are having a hard time keeping up with the people. Gone are the days of Hitler, Stalin or Mao when they were able to convince people using their propaganda and lies. Nowadays, Most homes and businesses are equipped with computers, and thanks to the internet and browsers the world can be at your finger tips, literally! If you own a cell phone, you are instantly capable of connecting with the rest of the world. Therefore, lying is less effective for Dictators and their propaganda only lasts a few hours or days, before they get discovered.
Dictators control the army. Without the military support or manipulation, they become ineffective and helpless. Thus to gain absolute loyalty from the military, dictators make sure their generals are paid handsomely and too much power is given to them to do whatever they want with the people. These military leaders know how indispensable they are to their master, and therefore, they are usually cruel, inhumane and corrupt. Unfortunately, Eritrea’s businesses, schools, manufacturing plants and most vital organizations are headed by these military “juntas”.
Dictators use strata to divide and rule. They use anything they know that people would be vulnerable. They inject a divide into diversity and make people to focus on their differences instead of focusing on what is happening to them as a society and their rights in politics. In Eritrea we have witnessed the persecution of religious groups using other religious groups, sometimes subtly and at other times overtly. Merchants have been accused as selfish and their licenses confiscated or their ability to trade discouraged by overwhelming restrictions and penalties. Farmers are likewise accused of hording their harvests and have been prone to forced sale of their crops. Dictators celebrate and thrive on equal opportunity of misery. Dear reader: please do not be fooled by these divides. In Eritrea there are only two classes; namely the dictator with his corrupt juntas, and the people who want freedom and justice. Unless we recognize that Eritrean enemies to be the dictator and his followers, we can be easily distracted and our unity can be disrupted as we seek justice.
Dictatorship is the most controlling type of governance. It is a sad fact that a dictator has followers who implement his wishes. These are people who are usually looking for their personal interest and not for the interest of the people. Therefore, to gain short-term benefit for themselves they betray their own people. The dictator cannot do all the dirty jobs by himself and these followers are constantly engaged in propagating, torturing, harassing, murdering and inflicting pain on their own brothers and sisters.
Back in 1997 the people of Eritrea had democratically spoken by submitting the Constitution. This constitution was drafted after much debate both from within and outside the country. The constitution does not allow dictatorship form of government, instead it is very clear about the rights of the people, and it is clear that Eritrean leaders should be appointed by the consent of the people of Eritrea. In Eritrea elections are not allowed to vote for their leaders, nor do they allow for vote of confidence. This dictatorship does not allow any democratic way of expression nor does it promise to be democratic. Therefore, the ruling party is self-appointed and is illegal based on the law of the constitution. Moreover, dictatorship system of governance denies the basic rights of the citizens of the country and therefore, this system must be changed to allow the people have a say in their own country. The thousands of Eritreans who sacrificed their lives, and the thousands of people who are disabled or physically challenged due to the struggle, and the thousands of Eritreans who supported and fought to gain independence from outside forces, did not fight to gain enemies from inside and to be dictated by a few cruel, disrespectful military government. We fought for freedom from oppression, and what we have now is a conspiracy, dictated by military juntas.