The Great Dictator Decline of 2011

Evidently, 2011 was a bad year for dictators, tyrants and terrorist leaders. Across Northern Africa, parts of the Middle East and Asia, mad men were dropping like flies thanks to citizen uprisings, a gung-ho Navy team and good old natural causes. Of course, that doesn’t mean that all is right across the globe, but here’s hoping that 2012 sees a more peaceful, civilized co-existence for the nations who were kept under the thumbs of these power-mad oppressors.

To recap, let’s take a look back at the dictators who fell in 2011.

By Mike Crisolago

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali

Country: Tunisia

Reign as Leader: President from 1987 to 2011

Overthrown: January 2011 via popular uprising

Mandate: Took all pages out of the dictators’ playbook, such as subduing his people with massive unemployment, poverty, severe limits on free speech and the media, corruption and running a police state, all the while coming off as somewhat less tyrannical when compared to neighbouring dictators in Egypt and Libya.

Consequences: Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country, was denied entrance into France (must have been a problem with his passport) and instead was welcomed with open arms in Saudi Arabia, where he was rumoured to have suffered a stroke and declining health.

Possible Last Words Before Overthrow: “This will probably blow over.”

Fallout: Political and social unrest remain, though the first free elections since the country’s independence almost six decades ago formed a new Constituent Assembly and, most recently, saw Moncef Marzouki, a long-time human rights activist jailed under the previous regime, elected president. Just as the Tunisian uprising sparked the Arab Spring, it’s hoped that the first free elections to result from the movement will inspire similarly affected countries to follow suit.

Hosni Mubarak

Country: Egypt

Reign as Leader: Prime Minister from 1981-2011

Overthrown: February 2011 via popular uprising

Mandate: Lead with an iron fist over a military state while many Egyptians live in poverty, high unemployment and inflation. As well, he committed violence against his own people, censored media and critics and generally wasn’t so hot on the idea of democracy being brought up.

Consequences: When all was lost for Mubarak, he stepped down but refused to leave Egypt, which, incidentally, worked out well for the incoming powers who denied him permission to leave Egypt.

Possible Last Words Before Overthrow: “Khufu didn’t have to deal with this sort of stuff.”

Fallout: Protests and violence continue, as many are unhappy with the ensuing oppressive military rule and unwillingness to hand over power to a civilian authority. Parliamentary elections have taken place, but with many fearful of the front-running parties, the future of Egypt’s leadership is still a question mark. Meanwhile, a frail and ill 83-year-old Mubarak, along with his two sons, stand trial for charges of corruption and murder in connection with the deaths of more than 800 Egyptians during the uprising.

Osama Bin Laden

Country: Was not a formal head of state but was born in Saudi Arabia and resided primarily in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Reign as Leader: Leader of al-Qaeda from 1993 to 2011

Overthrown: May 2011 via U.S. Navy Seal capture and killing

Mandate: War on the United States accompanied by issuing of countless terrorist attacks in the Middle East, Africa and, of course, the United States. His most high-profile terrorist plot was the Sept.11 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. Catchphrase “Death to America” not very quirky and never caught fire à la “Where’s the Beef?” or “What ‘chu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”

Consequences: Catalyst for the “war on terror,” ultimately leading directly or indirectly to conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Sparked decade-long worldwide manhunt while proving to be more prolific than most Hollywood directors with his videotape releases. Suffered fatal gunshot wound at the hands of U.S. Navy Seals who raided his compound in Pakistan and was subsequently buried at sea.

Possible Last Words Before Raid: “Keep it down out there! I’m trying to watch Glee!”

Fallout: Many Americans cheered while others decried the U.S. for not taking the 54-year-old Bin Laden alive. U.S. President Barack Obama praises justice, world leaders congratulate America, al-Qaeda promises to continue to fight.

Moammar Gadhafi

Country: Libya

Reign as Leader: Ruled from 1969 to 2011 under various titles

Overthrown: March 2011 via civil war

Mandate: Live long life while reaping the spoils of an oil-producing country while his people live in poverty and fear under oppressive rule. Also, popularize the sunglasses/lavish robe combo. He failed at both.

Consequences: Overthrown in a civil war backed by NATO support. After proving stubbornly elusive for months, was reportedly dragged from a drainpipe in the city of Sirte and beaten and killed by his own people.

Possible Last Words When Pulled From the Drainpipe: “Okay, I’m ready to negotiate.”

Fallout: With refugees having fled to neighbouring countries and still reeling from the unrest, Libya is nevertheless transitioning into life after Gadhafi through an interim government and humanitarian aid, as well as the lifting of many sanctions against them by the U.S. and the UN.

Ali Abdullah Saleh

Country: Republic of Yemen

Reign as Leader: Ruled from 1978 to 2011 under various titles

Overthrown: Signed deal in November 2011 to hand over power by February 2012.

Mandate: Keep a low profile compared to better-known dictators while following their lead on human rights abuses, corruption and, you guessed it, distaste for the concept of democracy.

Consequences: Breaking his word countless times regarding concessions and the handing over of power, as well as the use of violence against protesters led to an assassination attempt via grenade which left Saleh badly injured and burned. Eventually, he agreed to step down in February 2012 after presidential elections, many refuse to believe it until they see it.

Possible Last Words Before Election: “I don’t remember agreeing to this.”

Fallout: Unrest continues in Yemen, and it is yet to be seen what will happen once the February election date comes around.

Kim Jong-Il

Country: North Korea
Reign as Leader: Prime minister from 1994 to 2011

Overthrown: December 2011 via heart attack causing death at age 69

Mandate: Crush citizens into submission through poverty, famine, brainwashing, extremely minimal contact with the outside world and the threat of death. In addition, build one of the world’s largest military forces to enforce his totalitarian rule and enhance the preposterous creation myths invented for him. Also, ensure image of a really dull and evil looking cartoon character is secure.

Consequences: None for him. He lived well, aside from medical issues he suffered from, which is still light years ahead of how his people lived. As well, always had a steady supply of colourless, awkward looking suits at his disposal.

Possible Last Words Before Heart Attack: “Any word on how that Kim Kardashian marriage is going?”

Fallout: Mourners wailing in public, throwing themselves on the pavement and cursing the heavens for taking the “Dear Leader” from them followed by lavish funerary processes and the ushering in of the shiny new “supreme leader.” In other words, some very, very elaborate propaganda.