The Evils of Dictatorship

By Haben Zeray

This past Saturday, September 08, 2012, I flipped through the channels and watched EriTV News.  You can check it for yourself, the main news item was on how corrupt the merchants, brokers and traders were inside the country.  The journalist was insistent that the government was not controlling these merchants enough and was accusing them for charging the masses with unacceptable prices.  The journalist interviewed people in the leadership and he interviewed on the streets everyone was in unison advocating punishing the merchants and the leaders were appealing to the people to spy on these merchants and report to them so that “they can take appropriate actions”.  Everything was about control and punishment.  No wonder the best of Eritrean merchants are active in the Congos, Rwanda, Kenya, the Sudan including Southern Sudan, South Africa and Ethiopia.

I realized the difference between a “Free Market Economy” and “Military controlled economy” are diametrically opposed to each other.   The  following article is nothing new, millions of people live through dictatorship and millions are practically fighting this dictatorial system of governance around the world even as you read this article.  I hope you find it informative enough and decide for yourself to become a human right advocate to help those who are not lucky enough to enjoy freedom in their own home country.

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Every year Parade magazine informs its readers by listing the top worst dictators in the world by rank. According to here is the ranking for the top five:

  1. Kim Jong-Il of North Korea, now replaced by his son.
  2. Issayas Afewerke of Eritrea. (He was ranked #8 in 2008).
  3. Omar Al-Bashir of The Sudan
  4. Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan
  5. Bashar Al-Assad of Syria.

You may check the web-site for more dictators and some details on these leaders.  Our world is filled with leaders like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who allowed election at one time but said, “I would accept the results only if I win”.  You think this is comical but as we shall see below, all dictators have a psychotic thought process.  They are “wired” sickly!

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 were common in Libya and are still common in Eritrea.  There are now more Eritreans leaving the country than any other times in history, simply because of the unbearable environment the PFDJ created over the last 21 years. The most oppressed women in the world are ruled by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.    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 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. Issayas Afwerke of Eritrea for example, made it clear that elections in Eritrea may take three to four decades.  Dictators follow pure anti-democratic agenda. People and their ideas do not matter in dictatorial rules.   Those of us who believe that all people deserve access to peace and democratic rights repeatedly say, that people of any country should not be muzzled from speaking their minds, they should be free to write  and should be free to expose the truth as people see it, opposing ideas should be welcomed as long as they are not violent, and there should be a rule of law and a constitution where the  people formulate their own system of governance..  Anything short of that is repressive and no support should be given to such governments.

All the aforementioned leaders lead a totalitarian dictatorship.  Totalitarian means total dictatorial control.  Movement 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. The late,  Mr Kim Jong Il of North Korea and Mr. Issayas 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 Issayas 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’s wish:  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. Psychologists and sociologists who study terrorism say dictators are able to spread fear among their people, and place themselves as their only salvation. Manufacturing an external threat, like Jews to Hitler's Germany, or S. Korea and the entire West for Kim Jong-Il, or Ethiopia and entire West for Isayas Afwereke of Eritrea, help keep the society off balance and collectively paranoid as well. They are not accountable to anyone therefore, it is easy to decide on wars without consultation.  They are provocative.  Kim Jong Il used 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 is doing the same thing now by arming any able boded person in Eritrea.   Most leaders of Africa shy away from him, except of course dictator Al-Bashir of Sudan and it is said dictator Ghadafy of Libya used to be his comrade before he was brutally ousted by his own people. .  The African Union leaders unanimously warned him in their last meeting in 2008, 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.  In fact he promised to make Eritrea the Singapore of Africa, instead he produced the best singers and the country ended up to be Sing-a-poor.  For Issays  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 distort the truth , 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.  Dictator Issayas 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.   Dictators forget and deny that our world is much faster and smarter than them.  Thanks to e-mails, cell phones, twitters, “face book” and other social medias, people can now find out what exactly is happening at the remotest parts of the world. But dictators try to hide the truth.    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.

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.

Alice Locicero, a Cambridge, Mass. Based clinical psychologist: “Dictators also exploit a well-known instinct for most people to seek protection from a strong leader, according to Alice LoCicero, a Cambridge, Mass.-based clinical psychologist and researcher on leadership and terrorism.

"Our behavior is still affected by what went on thousands of years ago," LoCicero said. "It's easier to understand why it's adaptive and common for people to bond to powerful leaders. In Darwinian evolution, the people who bonded with the leader survived. That instinct got passed along."

LoCicero has studied terrorist leadership and victims of terrorism from all five continents. She says that in some cultures, it's important to show respect to leaders, whether it's North Korea's Kim family of dictators or just the local schoolteacher.
"It would be embarrassing to a family or individual if they didn't show a great deal of respect," she said.

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.

So if we know all this why don’t people rebel?  In my opinion the top three reasons are:

  • Dictators control by making sure four or more people are not assembled together without the knowledge of the government.  Unauthorized crowds are instantly squashed.
  • The machine of fear and intimidation is busy 24 hours of the day. Dictatorial system must come up with some kind of threats from outside or inside to make people to live on fear and make them jumpy.
  • As George Orwell the author of “The Animal Farm” calls it “pigeons”. These are spies.  A dictatorial country is normally filled with citizens who spy on each other.  A dictator thrives on citizens who betray others.  The attention and resentment stays within the citizens community, while the dictator and his juntas enjoy sadistically as the drama unfolds.

What kind of personality do these dictators have in common? According to the Colorado psychologists, Coolidge and colleague Daniel Singer, who developed a personality test for dictators came up with the following conclusion on dictators.  This was done  after studying Kim Jong-Il, Sadaam Hussein and Hitler. They agreed dictators have personality disorders and they called these disorders the “Big Six”:  Namely, sadistic, paranoid, antisocial, narcissistic, schizoid and schizotypal.  Coolidge and Singer also wrote, “all three dictators also showed evidence of psychotic thought processes.”

Footnote: If you watched the movie called “The dictator”, right at the beginning you can see the map of Eritrea as a setting.  The movie named the country, as The Republic of Wadiya.  Many have been asking  if The Republic of Wadiya is Eritrea?  Check this link below and watch the video for yourself.  Of course the PFDJ followers in Diaspora have been telling everyone not to watch this movie.  Why?  To find out go to the movies and watch it yourself or rent a DVD.  But for now check this link below.

Don’t take your minor children to watch The dictator.


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