Dictatorship in utero

They’re so adorable when they’re little:

The Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh has told the BBC that he will rule for “one billion years”, if God wills. He said critics who accused him of winning last month’s elections through intimidation and fraud could “go to hell”. The West African regional body Ecowas said the electorate had been “cowed by repression”.

Mr Jammeh, who took power in a coup in 1994, was re-elected with 72% of the figures, official figures show. The 46 year old said he did not fear a fate similar to Egypt’s ousted President Hosni Mubarak or killed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. “My fate is in the hands of almighty Allah,” he told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme.

I am reminded of a true story involving a star NHL goalie, a blood alcohol level over the legal limit, and a highly-amused police officer. It seems that the goalie, when pulled over and informed that he was under arrest for drunk driving, slurred to the cop “do you know who I am?” When the officer responded in the negative, the goalie said “I’m ________, and if you let me go, I’ll give you a billion dollars.” The judge would later rule that this drunken offer did not constitute attempted bribery, as the hockey player did not in fact have a billion dollars to offer. If he had instead offered a million, well that would be quite a different story. The extravagance of the boast was all that kept the man from serving a much larger sentence.

While this story is funny in an awkward, dark sort of way, it’s actually nighmarish for the poor people of The Gambia who are forced to deal with a political leader who is both powerful and insane. The interesting thing about Mubarak and Gaddafi is that neither of those guys thought they’d be overthrown, and both lavished praise upon the exact same Allah who would undoubtedly preserve their respective legacies. Of course, the important point has to be made here that they believed in Allah as a symbol of human compassion and well-being, not in an actual intervening entity of any kind </ridiculous faitheist apologist nonsense>.

So how do we spot a developing dictator? Well the first sign is invariably extreme intolerance of any kind of political opposition or criticism from the media. Let’s see how President “Billion Years” Jammeh stacks up:

In 2004, the editor of the privately owned The Point newspaper, Deyda Hydara, was gunned down, but no-one has been charged over his murder. In the BBC interview, Mr Jammeh denied that the government’s security agents had killed him.

“Listen to me: Is he the only Gambian who died? Is he better than Gambians who die in accidents, Gambians who die at sea, Gambians who die on their way to Europe?” Mr Jammeh asked. “Other people have also died in this country. So why is Deyda Hydara so special?”

Not bad, not bad. Defiant with more than just a touch of crazy. Bonus points for not actually answering the charge, but instead pivoting to “shit happens, what are you gonna do?” Of course, for full marks President “Drunken Boast” Jammeh would have had to deny any involvement, while simultaneously saying that any other critical journalists would meet an identical fate.

The next sure sign of a burgeoning dictator is the process by which the leader becomes an embodiment of the state, appointed to that position by (usually) the almighty or some ‘not based on statistics’ view of the wishes of ‘the people’. Mr. Jammeh?

Mr Jammeh said he was not bothered by the criticism of human rights groups. “I will not bow down before anybody, except the almighty Allah and if they don’t like that they can go to hell,” he said.

Once again, not big-league, but an admirable showing. For full marks, Mr. Jammeh would have had to invoke the entire arc of history as leading up to his glorious ascension as the truly appointed leader. Maybe he should get on the horn to Newt Gingrich for some lessons in megalomania.

Give him another decade or so, and I think Mr. Jammeh will have become a household name. At the very least, he’ll qualify for an invitation to dinner with ol’ Pigfucker.

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  1. ambulocetacean says

    Does the US government know about this? They might be running short on destinations for extraordinary rendition these days.

  2. Didaktylos says

    Another sign of a megalomaniacal dictator – when they do hold (rigged) elections, they always give themelselves a super-majority.

  3. ambulocetacean says

    Yah, really. I’d pretend I got, say, 59.1 per cent of the vote, rather than 99.9 per cent…

  4. papango says

    I think he’s getting pretty close to the big leagues. He believes he can cure AIDS with herbal remedies, advocates hunting down and killing gays and lesbians, and is believed to model himself on Idi Amin. And, of course, he’s a huge pigfucker fanboy.

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