Tag Archives: North Korea

The World’s Worst Dictators go 4th

Dictators, like all of us, suffer from insecurities. It’s hard to know if you’re really very good at being a dictator – there are no books that tell you exactly how to crush freedoms and sideline opposition; and there’s rarely any positive affirmation, someone telling you what a good job you’re making of this authoritarianism business. Which is why dictators all over the world – and there are a lot of them – would have been waiting in nervous anticipation for the release of Foreign Policy magazine’s list of the World’s Worst Dictators, basically the Oscars for autocrats.

Kim Jong-Il did very well, as always, stamping his authority all over the top spot in the same way he stamps his authority over renegade elements at home. His mix of repression, secrecy and potential nuclear threat proved simply too good, as it has done for decades now. The good news will come as a relief to the country after their football team’s 7-0 humiliation by Portugal at the World Cup. No Portuguese figures make it onto this list, a fact likely to be emphasised by North Korean media.

Robert Mugabe too will be pleased. A silver medal is nothing to be sniffed at, especially when you consider that he’s had to invite his main opponent into government with him. To be the world’s second best dictator in a government of national unity takes some skill, but no one is surprised –Robert is a consummate professional, indeed a role model for some of the younger names on this list, such as Bashar Al-Assad and Hugo Chavez.

Than Shwe will accept his bronze medal, but might quibble the definition, and will need to make sure that the glory is shared around a little; after all, Burma’s meant to be more of a junta than a dictatorship, and there will be a few displeased generals to placate.

There are also a few figures which will be deeply troubled by the list. Most notable of course is Raul Castro, ranked only 21st; this is hardly a continuation of Fidel’s far more impressive dictatorial legacy. Also unhappy is Muammar Al-Gaddafi, out of the top 10, although he must have seen it coming. In February, Gaddafi launched an audacious bid to stop the rotation of the African Union’s rotating presidency, and make himself African Union president for an unprecedented second time. If the move had succeeded, he would have been dictator of an entire continent; as it was, he failed, and lost some of his dictatorial capital in the process.

The likes of Gaddafi, Kim Jong-Il, Hosni Mubarak, Islam Karimov, etc., will also be unhappy with the inclusion of a few controversial names. They are proper, old-school dictators; cult of the personality, individual control, and absolute power. Hu Jintao surely doesn’t fall into this category. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad certainly doesn’t; in fact, some would argue he is more of a flawed democrat than a real dictator. Paul Kagame too would be unlikely to describe himself as a dictator, and the World Bank and IMF will not be happy with the inclusion of their golden boy on this year’s list.

Nonetheless, congratulations to Kim Jong-Il, who looks like he’s got a secure hold on the title for many years to come. That’s not to say that other dictators of the world should give up – being a dictator is a somewhat precarious position at the best of times, so Jong-Il might pop off (or be popped off) at any time. And if this doesn’t happen, one can always hold out for a lifetime achievement award.

Here are the complete rankings (note that pretensions of royalty seem to be an immediate dis-qualifier):

  1. Kim Jong-Il (North Korea)
  2. Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe)
  3. Than Shwe (Burma/Myanmar)
  4. Omar Al-Bashir (Sudan)
  5. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov (Turkmenistan)
  6. Isaias Afwerki (Eritrea)
  7. Islam Karimov (Uzbekistan)
  8. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Iran)
  9. Meles Zenawi (Ethiopia)
  10. Hu Jintao (China)
  11. Muammar Al-Gaddafi (Libya)
  12. Bashar Al-Assad (Syria)
  13. Idriss Deby (Chad)
  14. Teodoro Obiang (Equatorial Guinea)
  15. Hosni Mubarak (Egypt)
  16. Yahya Jammeh (Gambia)
  17. Hugo Chavez (Venezuela)
  18. Blaise Compaore (Burkina Faso)
  19. Yoweri Museveni (Uganda)
  20. Paul Kagame (Rwanda)
  21. Raul Castro (Cuba)
  22. Alesandr Lukashenko (Belarus)
  23. Paul Biya (Cameroon)


Filed under 4th

Where’s the worst place to watch the World Cup? Somalia goes 4th

Third worst place to watch the World cup: New Zealand.
Despite the heroic performance of the All Whites (no, not a white supremacist group, just the New Zealand football team’s ill-conceived nickname; I imagine it really didn’t go down well in South Africa) against Slovakia and Italy we can only feel sorry for all the poor Kiwis who have to watch everything in the middle of the night due to the 10 hour time difference between there and South Africa.

Second worst place to watch the World cup: North Korea
According to various reports, and the slightly xenophobic English commentators, North Koreans aren’t allowed to watch games unless their team wins; the sports page headlines reflect the Dear Leader’s wishful thinking rather than what happens on the pitch; and players face punishment if they return home empty-handed. While I imagine that most of this is insidious South Korean propaganda, I am fairly sure that North Korea, what with famine, dictatorship, and the constant threat of war, is not where I will find a world cup carnival atmosphere.

First worst place to watch the World cup: Somalia
Not content with declaring war on the government, Somalia’s Islamist militias have also declared war on football. And fun. The World Cup, apparently, is un-Islamic. “We are warning all the youth of Somalia not to dare watch these World Cup matches. It is a waste of money and time and they will not benefit anything or get any experience by watching mad men jumping up and down,” Sheikh Mohamed Abdi Aros, a spokesperson for Hizbul-Islam, said to the BBC. While “mad men jumping up and down” is a rather apt description (I’m thinking of Christiano Ronaldo in particular), it seems unnecessarily cruel to deny long-suffering Somalians even the distraction of a few football matches. And, while I’m not expert, I would certainly challenge their contention that sport is incompatible with Islam. As IslamOnline points out, in response to that exact question, the Prophet Mohammed is reported to have said “”Entertain your hearts, for hearts become blind when they are tired”. In other words, everyone needs some escapism, and the World Cup provides exactly that. This debate is not merely academic; houses in Mogadishu have been raided, and apparently some people have been killed just trying to watch a football match from clandestine satellites. All of which makes Somalian-born rapper K’Naan’s world cup anthem “Waving Flag” all the more poignant; his waving flag, at the world cup concert, was Somalia’s white star on a light blue background (watch it here). An image that few in Somalia would have been allowed to see.


Filed under 4th

One week until the World Cup goes forth

Only a week to go. A couple of World Cup stories:

1. Oh dear. This is the last thing they needed. As if sinking a South Korean warship wasn’t enough to deal with, North Korea has just discovered that due to an administrative nightmare, their main striker will only be allowed to play as goalkeeper in the World Cup. Here’s what happened: All teams are required to submit the names for their squads of 23. Three of these players MUST be goalkeepers. North Korea thought they would be clever and send only two goalkeepers, listing an extra striker in the third goalkeeper slot. Only one hitch – they didn’t realise that the players listed as goalkeepers are prohibited from playing in the outfield. So Kim Myong-won, career striker, can only play goalkeeper at this year’s world cup. We’d love to be able to tell you how much North Korea will miss him, but we’ve got no idea whether he’s any good or not – the North Korean team turning up at this year’s world cup is pretty much a complete mystery to everybody (no one’s even sure what kit they’ll be wearing).

2. Robert Mugabe scattered himself – for the second time – with a little World Cup gold dust. After his photo-op with the trophy earlier this year, he somehow managed to persuade Brazil to play a friendly in Harare. An “undisclosed fee” changed hands; it usually takes about US$1 million to get Brazil to play anywhere. The Zim warriors were duly dispatched 3-0 by South America’s finest, but it proved a festive occasion with even Morgan Tsvangirai getting involved. Moments like this are what unity governments are all about. While Zimbabwe was a controversial choice, it is good to see Brazil actually playing some friendly matches in Africa – they have another one lined up against Tanzania. Brazil may never play in either of those countries again, so it really is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the fans. While they cheered, hotels and tourist agencies were less excited: despite promises to the contrary from the government, the World Cup has brought no extra tourists to Zimbabwe, making a mockery of the expensive refurbishment undertaken by many places to prepare for the event.

3. Just because it’s brilliant – this interactive World Cup chart will tell you everything you need to know about the upcoming matches. Let the games begin!

Leave a comment

Filed under Forth