Reflection Part 2: “Dictators’ Gun Powder Cake Theory”.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017 1836 Views 0 Comments
Reflection Part 2: “Dictators’ Gun Powder Cake Theory”.

There is a pattern.

A political pattern.

A pattern that followers of political events, especially events in third world “dictocracies” whose electoral systems suffer from ACUTE ELECTILE DYSFUNCTION can use to precisely and concisely predict outcomes of political movements.

Give it any name. On my part, I would prefer to call it:

“Dictators’ Gun Powder Cake Theory”.


We begin in the Caribbean. On June 5th 1980, in what the Guinness Book of Records listed as one of the three most expensive weddings, Jean Claude Duvalier AKA Baby Doc got married to Michele Bennett. This was paving a new hopeless trajectory for the Haitian people. Under his rule, remotely controlled by his wife, Baby Doc of Haiti, taking after his father – Papa Doc – who was himself a ruthless dictator, perpetrated medieval-styled savagery. He and his family literally pocketed the national income of the country, asphyxiated or rather sentenced economic growth to death and institutionalized voodooism while the average Haitian could barely afford a pair of shoes, not to mention three square meals a day.


All these were ingredients that constituted a perfect recipe of Baby Doc’s Gun Power Cake which awaited an ignition. The ignition!! A shopping spree by the dictator’s wife in France during which she spent a whopping $1.5 Million on clothes while the country suffered food and fuel shortages amidst corruption and many other ills. Many of such had taken place before but this was the tipping point that put an end to his rule. He fled to France aboard a U.S. air force jet on the 7th of February 1986, leaving behind less than $500,000 in the state treasury.


Next on my list is Idi Amin Dada. The buffoonery perpetrated by this Ugandan blood thirsty dictator was larger than his personality but extraordinarily insignificant when it comes to his brutality. A brute in the making, a sadist compared to none other on the African continent in recent times. His official title.. “His excellency, President for life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Dr. Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beast of the earth and fishes of the sea and conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in particular” was among some of his many theatrics he bamboozled the international community with while his henchmen flooded and choked Ugandan streams and rivers with the blood and bodies of innocent civilians.


Seizing power in a military coup d’état on the 25th of January 1971, it wasn’t long before this tinpot dictator started putting together ingredients for his gun powder cake. But first, he needed a promotion to Field Marshal and that, he accorded himself. And then, his ingredients; Human rights abuses, political repression, ethnic persecution, extrajudicial killings, nepotism, corruption and gross economic mismanagement just to name a few. All of these were enough to build dissent from within and abroad which served as a matchbox.  The ignition came when Amin attempted to use his infamous, ragtag army that was specialized in killing unarmed civilians to annex the Kagera Province of Tanzania in 1978. This triggered the Ugandan-Tanzanian war and led to the demise of Amin’s eight-year old regime leading him to flee into exile to Libya and then to Saudi Arabia where he lived until his death on August 16th 2003.

Maybe we take a turn to North Africa. Zine Al Abedine Ben Ali. A somewhat political tactician who became prime minister and later booted out Tunisia’s first post-independence ruler, Habib Bourguiba, in a bloodless coup on grounds that the president was “mentally unfit” to rule. He is credited to have overseen some level of economic growth and praised for his progressive stance on women’s rights and economic reforms. Sounds like he was doing great, right?

Ben Ali’s “gun powder cake” ingredients comprised of rising unemployment among a large section of the youth population and large sections of the Tunisian interior languishing in poverty. In the characteristic of many dictators, he became omnipresent with giant posters of his face in public spaces. He quelled political dissent and was on many occasions accused by human rights groups of unfairly arresting and maltreating critics. Protests were not tolerated and there was rising resentment of the perceived corruption of the elite.


The ignition here isn’t or wasn’t a metaphor but a real one. Mohammed Bouazizi, a young Tunisian graduate had the cart of vegetables he was selling to support his family seized by a police officer. He self-immolated and died later in the hospital. This triggered nation-wide protest which president Ben Ali first characterized as being fueled by extremist. He later changed his stance, expressed regrets for the deaths and announced what was seen by many Tunisians as cosmetic reforms. His concessions yielded no benefits and he fled to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, putting an end to his 23-year rule in January 2011. As stated in a headline by the “Mail and Guardian Africa”, he lived lavishly only to fade into obscurity in exile.


Muamar Gadhafi.  His was a regime full of controversies and constantly at loggerheads with the western world. Born to a Bedouin family in Sirte, Gadhafi seized power on September 1st 1969 when he was only 27 years old and in the words of Martin Aser, “he paraded the world stage with a style so unique that the words MAVERICK OR ECCENTRIC scarcely did him justice”.  A quixotic ruler, yet he changed the income status of many a Libyan meanwhile, stupendously enriching himself and family. Barely a decade after taking over, the per capita income of Libyans was more than those of some developed countries. Libya became a major destination of economic migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa. He supported anti-colonial struggles around the world and on the African continent and even championed the idea of a “United States of Africa” which was rejected by many African heads of state. In fact, there just might be too much on the good side to write about “The Brother Leader”.


              While doing some good stuff in Libya and Africa, the Colonel became very controversial especially with regards to what is alleged he supported around the world. His lengthy rambling speeches showed defiance to western values but it did not end there. The ingredients for his “gun powder cake” cannot be exhausted in this short write-up. Remember the killing of British police woman Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan embassy in London? The bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 which killed 243 passengers, 16 crew members and 11 more people on the ground? The 5th April 1986 Berlin discotheque bombing in which three people were killed and over 230 wounded? The 1996 Abu Salim prison massacre in Libya in which it is alleged 1200 prisoners were massacred? Gadhafi’s outright support for Black September, the group that planned and executed the massacre of Israeli athletes in Munich, Germany during the 1972 Olympics? All of these events and more saw Gadhafi transition from a revolutionary hero to an international pariah. Even his flamboyance, strongman ship and grandiose personality was unable to suppress the waves of freedom that had swept away two of his authoritarian neighbors in 2011. The final ignition that set to flames his “gun powder cake”, his promise to “Go to Benghazi and root out any opposition”. This wasn’t just a threat. He backed it up with action by sending tanks to the Libyan Eastern city of Benghazi, the epicenter of opposition to his rule. This triggered international condemnation and a call for a no-fly zone over Libya. In the bitterly ensued civil war, he was killed on October 20th 2011, bringing a complete end to his 42 years old regime. In fact, he lived as if he would never die, yet died as if he never lived.


Burkina Faso. In this small West African Nation, formerly known as Upper Volta, there emerged a Pan Africanist theorist and a strong believer in African Solutions to African Problems. This man was Captain Thomas Isidore Noel Sankara. He espoused Marxism, which I fundamentally oppose but he championed the Burkinabe struggle for complete political and economic independence and as well changed their economic wellbeing for good during his time in office between 1983 to 1987.

Always next to Sankara was a cunning, seemingly submissive fellow and close confidante, with a sagged face and a permanent ever-present look that one would find it difficult to describe even while looking at it. His facial appearance, neither a frown nor a smile but definitely something in-between. There just isn’t an English word to describe the look. This man was Blaise Compaore.


Compaore, supposedly supported by the French staged a coup in 1987 that eventually killed his friend Sankara and set the pace for an economic nightmare in Burkina Faso. He was elected and re-elected in several elections under very questionable circumstances. Performing very badly domestically, he sought international recognition and immersed himself as a strategic negotiator in several conflicts and other international events. He headed the Burkina Faso Delegation that participated in the First Tokyo International conference on African Development. He mediated the Inter-Togolese dialogue in August 2006 that resulted in an agreement between the Togolese government and opposition parties. He brokered the peace agreement signed between the erstwhile Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo and rebel leader Guillaume Soro on March 4th 2007. In March of 2012, he mediated talks between leaders of the Malian coup d’état and other regional governments. He even served on the advisory board of the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber Threats (IMPACT). And in 2014, the BBC described him as the strongest ally of U.S and France in the region despite his corrupt history of manipulating elections and fueling wars in the region. His “Gun Powder Cake” was set to be baked.


It is clear that despite his international escapades, he didn’t succeed to win much support domestically. The ignition came when he attempted to change the constitution to allow him run for another 5-year term in office. Burkinabes took to the streets and set ablaze the parliament where the deliberations were taking place. He shelved the proposed amendments and promised to dialogue with opposition parties. Alas for him. It was too little, too late and he fled to Ivory Coast.


To a small West African Country called The Gambia. Back in 1994, a 29-year-old lunatic in military uniforms led a group of soldiers and usurped power. From then on, savagery is a euphemism for the crimes he has committed. An ugly looking erratic fellow who unfortunately survived many coup attempts on his government. Never seen without his Koran and prayer beads, Jammeh has used religion to shroud himself with some level of mysticism and rumors of secret powers. Apart of the human rights abuses, he amused the world with many other absurdities some of which were declaring The Gambia an Islamic country against the will of the Gambians, withdrawing from the International Criminal Court and stupidly claiming he had concocted a cure for HIV/AIDS. Well, His Excellency Sheik Professor Alhadji Doctor Yahya AJJ Jammeh Babili Mansa as he called himself had put together his ­Gun Powder Cake and the ignition was forthcoming.


To his dismay, Jammeh lost the elections he organized in 2016. Unlike other elections, which he dubiously “won”, the youths of The Gambia thronged the ballot boxes this time around and voted the lunatic out. In a surprising move that initially elated the Gambians that this Lunatic had gained some sanity, Jammeh accepted the results. However, characteristic of dictators, a few days after he declared the elections null and void only to be forced out with the threat of military intervention. He had once said, if Allah permits, he would rule The Gambia for a billion years. ALLAH DOESN”T PERMIT SUCH NONSENSE.


Then to us. 34 years ago, a seemingly quiet but viciously cruel fellow came to power. It is alleged he tricked the currently deceased erstwhile president into resignation on health grounds. Since then, he has remained defiant in all crisis that have plagued the nation and widespread calls for a change. The country has known nothing but rising debts, human right violations and the disappearance of the most scathing critics of the government. Ours is a system where ministers are appointed, governors are appointed and 30 out of 100 senators are appointed. In fact, every function/promotion within the government is based on partisan affiliation rather than technical competence. In such a system, what do we expect? Trophies. However, none that we could be proud of. Two times the most corrupt country in the world. Economic growth has been lackluster and mostly driven by astronomically expensive projects that in no way affects the life of the common Cameroonian. Unemployment has become normal.  Ours is a nation rich and heavily endowed yet it is also heavily indebted. An endowment that our leaders have failed to exploit for the common good but have rather tremendously enriched themselves by embezzling unimaginable sums of money. Public services are BOUGHT AND SOLD like groceries in a super market. The brutality of Nazi Germany’s forces is no match to those of our nation’s security forces. We are a nation of the 21st century, with a lifestyle and governance framework hardly different from that of 15th century nation states. This is our own Gun Powder Cake recipe.


The trigger!!! It is my humble opinion that the current crisis in the former British colonial territory is the trigger. Lawyers and teachers have gone on a peaceful industrial action and demanded a change in the system of governance. Being unable to negotiate, and in a sheer demonstration of ineptitude in dealing with the concerns of the people, government has resorted to banning the umbrella association and arrested its leaders. In addition, internet service has been suspended in the two regions of the country and calls throughout the national territory and beyond been made extremely difficult. We pray this to be the ignition as we await and try to influence the outcome. Change is the only constant. This time it is change for Good we seek. And we look forward to providing an answer to the question mark.


Who Next? God Help us.

Melaine Nsaikila

Nsaikila Melaine is an economist, data analyst and development professional/Enthusiast from Cameroon. In 2013, he moved to the U.S to study under the Fulbright Scholarship Program for a Masters in Economics.Currently serving as Economic Policy Analyst at the Nkafu Policy Institute of the Denis & Lenora Foretia Foundation in Cameroon.

4 posts | 0 comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.