Where to begin? Maybe an icebreaker for your next dinner party? Did you know the word “genocide” was coined in 1943 to describe when the Armenians were slaughtered haphazardly by Turkish leader Ismail Enver? Until then there was no specific word for it in our language. It makes me think about how much more cognizant we’ve become in this last century to these events. So, a quick toast between you and I to a more peaceable future, where less of what follows below is allowed to happen. Sit back, but don’t relax.
1. Mengistu Haile Mariam(400,000 – 1.5 million deaths)
Breakdown: As president of Ethiopia and colonel of “the Derg” (communist militia) Mengitsu systematically killed those against him in the “Red Terror” campaign. Mengistu Haile Mariam is (as in still alive) a politician who presided over Ethiopia from 1974 to 1991. The way he got into power was by smothering the previous president Haile Selassie although he has denied those rumors. His biggest claim to fame is the Ethiopian Red Terror which was a campaign of repression led by the Derg (communist militia in Ethiopia). In his introductory speech Mengitsu yelled, “Death to counterrevolutionaries! Death to the EPRP!” Then he took three bottles filled with blood and threw them to the ground.
It was an auspicious beginning to say the least. Thousands were killed and found dead on the streets in the years that followed. Much of the murdering can be attributed to the friendly neighborhood watch there known as “Kebeles”. As if killing innocents wasn’t enough they would then charge the family a tax to return the dead body to them. The tax was aptly named “the wasted bullet”! Are you serious Mengitsu? However there was an even more gruesome fate of being left on the street where wild hyenas would fight over the dead. The campaign has been described as one of the worst mass murders ever in Africa. Mengitsu is even known to have garroted people to death
2. Yakubu Gowon(1.1 million deaths)
Breakdown: 1 million civilians on the wrong side of a blockade caused by a war of secession in Nigeria and 100,000 soldiers who died in that war.
It starts as many sad stories do with precious beautiful oil. It had been found in the Niger delta where tensions were already high between the Eastern region (led by Ojukwu) and the rest of the country (governed by Yakubu). A dummy agreement was signed between them called the “Aburi Accord”, but it meant nothing to either leader. Yakubu started to put pressure on the region, and tested how much sway he had in the area versus Ojukwu. Well Ojukwu being no slouch declared secession from the rest of Nigeria and became the “Republic of Biafra”. This began a war that caused the deaths of 100,000 soldiers, and much worse, a blockade on the region which starved 1 million civilians.
3. Idi Amin(250,000 – 300,000 deaths)
The 3rd President of Uganda was responsible for about 250,000 deaths which were a result of his regime of terror marked by torture, extra-judicial executions, corruption and ethnic persecution. He held power from 1972 to 1979 when he fled the country due to the defeat against Tanzania which he attacked one year earlier. He found refuge in Libya and then in Saudi Arabia where he died in 2003.
4. Sani Abacha(100,000 – 200,000 deaths)
A report on corruption, published in July 1997 by the Berlin-based organisation Transparency International listed Nigeria as the most corrupt nation in the world. Abacha took office in during a military coup occurred in November 1993, following the annulment of presidential elections in June that year.
General Sani Abacha, the Armed Forces Chief of Staff, took power. He annulled the organs of state, banned political parties and dismantled the democratic structures. International pressure forced General Abacha to announce a three-year timetable for the transition to democracy in October 1995, but the plans were plagued by repeated delays.
Local elections held in March 1997 were five months later than planned. Only five political parties were registered of the 15 who applied. Nigerian commission responsible for the transition to democracy announced that Presidential elections would be held on August 1, 1998. A handover to civilian rule is due to occur by the beginning of October. It was a military tribunal which ordered the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and nine other activists in November 1995 , the 26 faced the death penalty.
5. Ahmed Sékou Touré(100,000 – 150,000 deaths)
Ahmed Sékou was a Guinean political leader; head of the PDG, he was elected as the first President of Guinea, serving from 1958 to his death in 1984. Touré was one of the primary Guinean nationalists involved in gaining independence of the country from FranceIn 1960, he declared his Democratic Party Of Guinea (PDG) to be the only legal party in the state and ruled from then on as a virtual dictator. He was nominally re-elected to numerous seven year terms but Guinea had no other political parties, and he imprisoned, killed or exiled his strongest opposition leaders.