I’m sorry I missed this story when it first came out, and grateful that someone on Metafilter blogged it: David Wallechinsky, a contributing editor for Parade Magazine, produces an annual list of the world’s worst dictators, in consultation with Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House and other smart do-gooder organizations.
The 2004 list includes a number of up-and-comers, notably Swaziland’s King Mswati III, who is the youngest dictator on the list at age 35, as well as Africa’s only remaining constitutional monarch. Several familiar names are off the list – Qadaffi has been demoted from the top ten list, Hussein has been toppled and Charles Taylor is now in exile.
Fellow afrophiles will be pleased to note that our favorite continent hosts only four of the top ten: Mswati, Sudan’s genocidal Omar Al-Bashir, Zimbabwe’s Mugabe and (personal fave), Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who somehow manages to redistribute the nation’s oil wealth so that 60% of the people in his country live on $1 a day, despite the fact that average per capita income is $4500.
Asia claims the top three spots on the list with leading dictators in North Korea, Burma and China; the always-colorful Saparmurat “Turkmenbashi” Niyazov brings the continent’s count to four; Cuba’s Castro and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah flesh out the list.
To get a sense for the staying power of the world’s dictators, compare the current Parade list with a 1996 Reporters without Borders Top 25 Enemies of Press Freedom list.