Ceasefires Bringing Peace to the World
Since the start of the decade, three wars have come to an end following years of brutal conflict. With the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, oftentimes, flooding the news, it can be easy to forget about the positive side of international affairs. However, there have been several conflicts that have ended in recent years. The end of the war has allowed various countries to rebuild during their times of peace and focus on strengthening themselves internally. Here are some examples of recent ceasefires that are bringing peace to the world.

The 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh Ceasefire Agreement

Azerbaijan and Armenia fought the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Nagorno-Karabakh is a region in Azerbaijan with the most Armenians. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Nagorno-Karabakh voted to become part of Armenia. This caused Azerbaijan to take action to reclaim its lost territory.

The war originally began in 1988 and ended in 1994 with a ceasefire; however, it did not lead to the signing of a peace treaty. The war resumed in 2020 for about a month and a half before Russia negotiated a ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan. During the initial conflict, more than 600,000 people experienced displacement and the resumption of the war in 2020 displaced 75,000. Ultimately, Nagorno-Karabakh returned to being part of Azerbaijan.

Following the war, Azerbaijani families began to return to Nagorno-Karabakh. With its newly regained land, Azerbaijan has decided to take advantage of various technological advancements since the start of the original war. The village of Aghali, specifically, will be a testing ground of sorts for the country’s “smart villages concept.” This will allow displaced families to home to new houses with smart technology and improved rural lifestyles with the additions of digital connectivity and automation.

The 2020 South Sudan Civil War Ceasefire

After earning its independence in 2011 and becoming the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan became entrenched in years of civil war. There were various factors behind the start of the war; but, much of it is due to the political rivalry between Salva Kiir and Riek Machar.

Similarly to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, both sides agreed to a ceasefire in 2018. Unfortunately, the ceasefire did not hold and fighting continued for two more years. It was not until 2020 that Kiir and Machar agreed on another ceasefire to officially end the war. There are currently about 2.3 million people that the conflict displaced.

While the war has left Sudan in ruins, many of its citizens have hope for the future. The first encouraging sign came when Kiir appointed Machar as the first vice president, signaling an effort to maintain peace. Additionally, South Sudan looks to improve its struggling education system. Just before the war, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) received a grant of $36.1 million to implement its education plan. Despite the conflict, the funding was fairly successful and contributed to the construction of 25 primary schools and a strategy to increase gender equality. With the war over, the GPE has given South Sudan another grant of $35.7 million to build on the foundations that were set in the preceding years.

The 2020 Libyan Civil War Ceasefire

In 2011, Libya attempted to create a new, democratic government after the overthrowing of the previous leader, Muammar Gaddafi. What followed was a disagreement between two different government ideologies that escalated into a full-scale civil war. The war was mainly between the leader Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez al-Sarraj, and rebel general Khalifa Haftar

This war in particular was the Second Libyan Civil War. The first took place in 2011 while the second ran from 2014 to 2020. Over the course of the war, more than 200,000 people experienced displacement and many more still require “humanitarian assistance.” After years of fighting, the two sides, eventually, came together and agreed to a “permanent cease-fire.” Many viewed this as a great accomplishment.

Shortly after the ceasefire agreement, Libya implemented a temporary joint government to avoid any clashes between the two opposing sides until proper elections can be implemented. Before the war, Libya included many unfinished buildings and projects that were on hold. Now, with the war officially over, several countries have taken interest in Libya’s reconstruction effort. Italy, in particular, would like to protect its interests in Libya’’s plentiful oil reserves. Italy also proposed the construction of a solar power plant in Libya.

While it can, sometimes, feel like the world is in a constant state of violence, these examples are proof that ceasefires are bringing peace to the world. Nations that have been fighting for years are burying the hatchet and transitioning into a new era of harmony. As their reconstruction efforts continue, many people can rest a bit easier knowing that the world is more peaceful than it once was.

– Tyshon Johnson
Photo: Unsplash

Women’s Rights in Libya The movement for women’s rights in Libya has deep roots that date back a century. Libyan women acquired the right to vote in 1920, and women’s rights groups in Libya date back to the 1950s. In spite of this, the Gaddafi regime instituted a series of repressions that targeted women across its four-decade rule, rolling back civil rights and exacerbating their de facto exclusion from the Libyan political and economic spheres. Since a popular uprising violently deposed strongman leader, Muammar Gaddafi, in 2011, instability in the North African nation has left its women in a state of political flux.

Women’s Rights in an Unstable Nation

In Libya’s post-Gaddafi era, attempts at consolidating rival administrations into a unified national government have systematically failed. Since 2014, two governments, the General National Congress based in Tripoli and the House of Representatives (or Tobruk Government) based in Tobruk, have fought for control of Libya against one another and other regional factions. Because of consistent fighting, the situation in Libya has at times resembled anarchy.

International relations think tank, Freedom House, in its 2020 annual Freedom in the World Report, designated Libya as “not free” with a score of 9/100. Its sub-scores in political rights and civil liberties rank at 1/40 and 8/60 respectively. Regarding women, Freedom House summarizes that “Women are not treated equally under the law and face practical restrictions on their ability to participate in the workforce.”

Further, the report states that many of the laws implemented under Libya’s warring governments are based on Sharia (Islamic Law) and personally disadvantage women in bodily autonomy, marital and financial status as well as civil liberties. Domestic violence is not directly criminalized and most instances go unreported. Further, Libyan law imposes penalties for extramarital sex and allow rapists to escape punishment by coercing their victims into marriage. As a general trend, Freedom House notes, “communities that lacked an affiliation with powerful militia were especially marginalized.”

International Organizations Report on Women in Libya

Because of Libya’s rampant factional violence, the Netherlands-based global advocacy organization, Cordaid, reports that violence against women at the hands of militias frequently goes unpunished. Cordaid also notes that restricted freedom of movement, driven by fear of violence, is leading to declines in schooling among women and girls.

The Atlantic Council, another globally-oriented policy think tank, points out that sexual and gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and forced prostitution are common practices in many conflicts. Of the hundreds of thousands of Libyan civilians currently displaced in refugee camps, a large proportion are women and children at risk of militia aggression. And after 2019 the abduction of Representative Seham Serghewa, a rights activist, Atlantic Council cites a larger pattern of violence and disappearances leveled against Libyan women in government.

Present Women’s Rights Work

In the face of continual conflict, networks of advocacy organizations continue to work on behalf of women’s rights in Libya. Some examples are:

  • The Libyan Women’s Union, established in 2012, works to support women in and around Tripoli by providing resources for women affected by violence, hosting courses and workshops to facilitate women’s political participation and professional development and spreading awareness for Libyan women in elections.
  • The Libya Women’s Forum, since its founding in 2011, runs courses in English language and legal literacy, trains women to communicate more effectively, facilitates joint dialogue sessions between women and men and helps draft laws advancing women’s rights in Libya.
  • International organization Jurists Without Chains publishes research advocating on behalf of women’s rights, female candidates, expanded suffrage and active political participation of women in Libya, along with holding workshops on women’s roles in human development.
  • Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice supports local women’s advocacy organizations in Libya through technical planning and consultancy, advocacy and network-building. These efforts culminate in the hosting of national conferences containing over 100 local organizations working to advance women’s rights in Libya.  

The Future of Gender Equality in Libya

In spite of the advocacy, education, support and other work being completed on behalf of Libyan women, issues associated with gender, including violence, sexual and marital repression and politically motivated violence, are endemic to Libya’s larger structural issues such as its ongoing civil war. Advancing women’s rights in Libya means ending the conflict and returning the country to a baseline of stability.

– Skye Jacobs
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Libya
Between Egypt and Algeria in the northeastern corner of Africa lies Libya, a large desert nation consisting of roughly 6.5 million people. Since 2011, a violent and chaotic civil war has plagued this North African nation and many aspects of Libya’s society are in shambles.

A former colony of Italy, Libya gained independence in the years following the Second World War. In 1969, rebel leader Muammar Gaddafi assumed power, using oil exports to fund an extremely repressive and prosperous regime. Decades later, as Arab Spring protests swept through North Africa, Gaddafi’s grip on power fell and the country descended into civil war. Because Libya’s quality of life is often stunted by the rampant chaos within the country, the following 10 facts about life expectancy in Libya unpack the economic, societal and cultural issues brought on by the conflict.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Libya

  1. Libya’s total life expectancy is at 71.9 years, 75 for women and 69 for men. The WHO ranks Libya 104th in overall life expectancy, although the chaos within the country often prevents humanitarian and nongovernmental organizations from collecting accurate data.
  2. Despite decades of human rights violations, Gaddafi’s regime upheld one of the more comprehensive and effective health care systems in the Arab World. Funded by oil exports, the government offered free, quality health care to all citizens. Although the conflict has destroyed much of Libya’s infrastructure, remnants of Gaddafi’s health care system are still present today.
  3. The biggest hindrance to improving Libya’s life expectancy is the civil war. The WHO estimates that 1.2 million people are suffering from food insecurity as a result of the conflict and more than 650,000 have unreliable access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Roughly 30,000 people have suffered from conflict-related injuries and a sharp rise in gendered violence has severely affected communities across the country. For the elderly, sick and young people of Libya, the long list of hardships brought on by the conflict has complicated an already difficult life.
  4. The conflict has devastated much of Libya’s once flourishing health care system, most notably in the urban centers of Tripoli, Sirte and the rural south. In one year, the U.N. reported 36 attacks on medical facilities and personnel, though many suspect the actual number is higher. Seventeen hospitals have been closed, while only four of Libya’s 97 health care facilities are functioning above 80 percent of their normal capacity. The remaining hospitals are overcrowded, struggling to perform basic procedures as medicines and supplies are often depleted and many health care providers have fled the country.
  5. With up to nine factions fighting within the country, Libya’s official U.N.-backed government has little control outside of Tripoli and Sirte. Therefore, public health and awareness campaigns have been largely absent as the WHO reports that 75 percent of Libya’s public health facilities have shut down. Prior to the start of the conflict, HIV/AIDS rates in Libya were relatively low. However, the lack of public health efforts, compiled with increases of rape and gendered violence have resulted in a higher prevalence of the virus.
  6. Nearly 64 percent of Libyans are either overweight or obese. The study also found that the diet of most Libyans that was already lacking in fruits and vegetables has been heavily influenced by Western food practices. In the past decade, the burger has become a staple in Benghazi cuisine.
  7. Libya is Africa’s largest importer of rolled tobacco and each year roughly 3,500 Libyans die from tobacco-related causes. Though the war has crippled Libya’s tobacco industry, cigarette consumption rates are expected to rise by 25 percent in the coming decade. This could have a significant impact on Libya’s life expectancy as there is a clear correlation between high smoking rates and decreased national life expectancy.
  8. Because Libya’s state-run health care is largely ineffective, organizations like the WHO provide essential medical services. Partnering with a number of Libyan hospitals, the WHO has provided $1.4 million worth of drugs and medical supplies, reviewed 10 Libyan hospitals and upgraded the country’s disease surveillance system. As recently as January 15th, the WHO offered a workshop on noncommunicable diseases, attended by 30 nurses.
  9. Libya and Egypt recently began a cross border partnership monitoring diseases and issuing vaccinations. Facilitated by the WHO, the partnership has made important treatments, including the poliovirus vaccine, available to Libyans and has helped curb outbreaks in the rural Western regions. Since the initiative, no cases of polio, neonatal tetanus, or yellow fever have been reported.
  10. Despite the long list of issues, Libya’s life expectancy is relatively high considering the violence and chaos within its borders. When compared to Yemen (65.3), Afghanistan (62.7), Iraq (69.8), Syria (63.8) and Somalia (55.4), areas currently experiencing some of the most intense conflicts in the world, Libya’s life expectancy is the highest at 71.9.

Most of these 10 facts about life expectancy in Libya revolve around the current civil war that is the main roadblocks in improving the country’s life expectancy. The current government is unable to provide consistent health care, food, water, electricity and other basic rights to Libyans, threatening the lives of the country’s most vulnerable.

After almost eight years of conflict, tensions may be cooling as rival factions met recently in Benghazi to discuss a possible ceasefire. If these recent peace talks prove to be successful, the resource-rich country could become a fully functioning state once again. Yet, Libya still has a long uphill climb, and nongovernmental organizations and foreign aid will still be an integral part of the country’s development.

– Kyle Dunphey

Photo: Flickr

When the 2011 Arab Spring swept through the Middle East, it left behind a number of ongoing conflicts that still continue to rage. One of the most serious of these conflicts is the Libyan civil war, which began with the ousting and subsequent death of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi. The conflict has been a long and complicated one, with many different factions taking their turn in the spotlight. Below are 10 facts about the Libyan crisis:

  1. The current phase of the war is primarily being fought by the House of Representatives government, based out of Tripoli, and the rival General National Congress, elected in 2014, as they both vie to take control of the whole nation.
  2. The U.N. brought the two sides together in 2016 to sign the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) and form a transitional government, led by Fayez al-Sarraj, that would help bring stability to the nation. It still remains unclear whether the new government will be able to enforce its U.N. mandate.
  3. Khalifa Haftar, general of the Libyan National Army, has aligned himself with the House of Representatives, who voted against the U.N. agreement, and has been aiding them in their struggle with al-Sarraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA).
  4. When the House of Representatives was voted into office in 2014, only 18 percent of eligible voters turned out and cast their ballots. This was largely due to a lack of confidence in the ability of an elected government to make meaningful change.
  5. Considering such low voter confidence and the fact that the original LPA expires in December of this year, the U.N. has begun taking steps to amend the LPA to ease the divisions between the House of Representatives and the GNA, as well as create free and fair elections.
  6. The Libyan crisis is commonly divided into two official civil wars. The first lasted for several months in 2011 and was marked primarily by the deposing and killing of Muammar Gaddafi. The currently ongoing civil war began in 2014 when the national government came into conflict with the General National Congress, a Muslim Brotherhood-backed Islamist government.
  7. The second civil war has already claimed nearly 7,000 lives, with over 20,000 people wounded in the conflict and many thousands more displaced from their homes. Fighting in Sabratha, a city near Tripoli, saw nearly 10,000 people fleeing their homes to seek aid from U.N. groups in Libya.
  8. Fleeing the same fighting in Sabratha, a group of immigrants, as over 100,000 others from all across North Africa have sought to do this year alone, tried to cross the Mediterranean to Italy in a dinghy that subsequently ran out of fuel and capsized. Of the 100 refugees in the boat, more than 50 are feared to have drowned. They join the over 2,400 of that 100,000 that have drowned crossing the Mediterranean while fleeing the fighting in their home countries.
  9. The BBC reports that refugees caught fleeing Libya are thrown into crowded and dirty detention centers where they are held to keep them from fleeing. There are also rumors that the falling numbers of Libyans fleeing to Italy is spurred by the GNA’s use of Libyan militias, who may be involved in human trafficking.
  10. Though representatives of the U.S. government have made statements in favor of the measures being taken to end the crisis, actions such as the United States’ past military involvement with the Libyan oil industry and the inclusion of Libya in President Trump’s travel ban have led many to questions as to what the U.S. is doing to help bring stability to the nation.

The wars in Libya are an increasingly complex, evolving and seemingly convoluted issue. These 10 facts about the Libyan crisis can serve as an overview of the conflict, but there is far more information to be delved into as the world seeks a resolution to the crisis.

Erik Halberg

Photo: Flickr

New UN Plan for Peace in Libya DevelopedLast Wednesday, head of U.N. Support Mission in Libya, Ghassan Salame, announced a new plan for peace in Libya. Salame stated that this plan was not designed by himself, but was instead conceptualized by the desires of the Libyan people whom he had spoken to on his travels. “They want an inclusive process,” said Salame, “a way forward which clearly defines stages and objectives…Libyans want a process that they themselves own and lead.” This new action plan will focus on uniting Libya’s rival governments.

The nation of Libya has been in crisis since the revolt against the reigning dictator – Muammar Gaddafi – in 2011. The power vacuum left in the wake of the revolt inspired rebel groups and militias to compete for power with the transitional government. Conflict in Libya erupted into Civil War in 2014, when Libya’s General National Congress (GNC) refused to step down when their rule had expired and therefore came into conflict with the democratically elected House of Representatives (HoR). In 2015, the U.N. helped broker a unity deal between the GNC and HoR, which planned to unite the two governments into a Presidential council called the General National Accord – a democratically elected HoR and a State Council. However, the majority of the HoR has refused to sign on with the General National Accord.

The U.N. plan for peace in Libya proposed by Salame will amend the Libyan Political Agreement brokered by the U.N. in 2015. The U.N. supports the General National Accord that was formed by the agreement, but recognizes that rival factions in Libya do not feel represented by the government in its current form. To resolve the issues rival factions have with the Libyan Political Agreement, Salame will convene next week with a committee to draft new amendments.

The second step of the action plan is to bring together the HoR, the State Council and armed groups without proper political representation. Together at a national conference hosted by the U.N., they will have a chance to politically engage with one another and discuss peace and reunification.

The final step of the U.N.’s plan for peace in Libya is for the HoR to begin drafting legislation for a constitutional referendum and national elections. This is designed to lead to the ultimate goal of creating a new Constitution that will reunify Libya. However, Salame believes that additional steps must be taken by Libya’s governing bodies and the international community. Ensuring free and fair elections, integration of armed groups into civilian life, continued peace talks, reunification of Libya’s military and dedicating funds to ensuring the well being of internally displaced persons are necessary steps to ensure that Libya can draft a new constitution and that the lives of the Libyan people see significant development.

The U.N.’s goal of a reunified Libya is an ambitious one, but it is one worth pursuing. Prior to its current crisis, Libya was one of the wealthiest countries in Africa, but under the current crisis over 241,000 Libyans have been displaced and have scarce access to food, water and medicine. A stabilized Libya would mean an end to the war and a chance to return these displaced people to their old lives. It would also mean the nation would be better equipped to fight terror groups such as ISIS within its borders and to provide proper aid to the thousands of refugees that the EU has demanded Libya take in.

Carson Hughes
Photo: Flickr

8 Facts About the Libyan Crisis
Disputes in Libya date back to the 7th century when the Arabs conquered Libya and first spread Islam. Since then, it has developed first into a united country, then into a divided one. Now, the Libyan crisis is worsening. Here are eight facts about the Libyan crisis:

  1. Conflict in Libya has a long history. The beginning of the conflict in Libya dates back to the 7th century when Islam spread widely and became the national religion. In 2011, Arab Spring protests led to the first civil war in Libya.
  2. The conflict that led to the 2011 civil war began in 1969. Muammar Gaddafi led a group of military officers in a protest against King Idris in 1969, which landed Gaddafi in power of the new Libyan African Republic. As all power and wealth within Libya were under Gaddafi’s control, many pro-monarchy civilians lashed out, and anti-Gaddafi groups formed.
  3. Protests in neighboring countries spurred the war on. Word spread of revolts in neighboring countries, which inspired protests in Benghazi and other cities in Libya. War broke out in early 2011 as rebels opposed the Gaddafi government, but security forces defeated them. With the National Transitional Council, the main opposition group, now recognized as the new Libyan government, the first civil war ended in October 2011. The second civil war began in 2014, as the conflict began between various rebel groups seeking control of Libyan territory.
  4. During the Libyan civil war of 2011, it is estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 people were killed. Death sources are from rebel sides, government forces and civilians. To date, since the 2014 crisis broke out, there have been 5,871 civilian deaths in Libya.
  5. Countries across the world have aided Libya’s citizens in a number of ways. Over the course of the Libyan crisis, the European Union has given almost $160 million in aid. Aid came in different forms: civilian resources, transportation, sanitation, healthcare resources, food supplies. Many other countries around the world have also donated generously, but those within the EU take the lead as a combined force.
  6. The Libyan crisis has produced thousands of refugees who flee to neighboring countries, for example, Egypt, seeking asylum. In May 2011, already around 746,000 people had fled Libya since the beginning of the War. Most Libyans fled to Italy, where 36,222 refugees currently reside. Surrounding European countries also continue to allow migrants to seek refuge.
  7. Gaddafi’s capture was a major turning point. The rebels captured and killed Colonel Gaddafi on Oct. 20, 2011. This is a key event within the Libyan crisis because the beginning of the conflict started with pro-Gaddafi forces and anti-Gaddafi rebels.
  8. International organizations tried to help Libya in solving civil issues. In March 2011, the United Nations Security Council issued a no-fly zone over Libya. NATO then authorized air strikes in order to protect civilians. Many countries give help by providing Libya with vital resources for its citizens, such as warmth, food and shelter.

For now, Libya continues its division while the international community continues providing aid. Recently, African leaders have held a mini-summit in Congo to discuss what further action is necessary. They decided that lifting the arms embargo was necessary to begin a more proactive approach to ending the war in Libya. Over 29 countries in the Middle East and Europe are continuing to open their borders to refugees, which is the greatest help that Libyan citizens can receive at present.

Georgia Boyle

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Libya

Prior to Muammar Gaddafi’s assassination, Libya was a thriving African nation. However, since then, the country has been trapped in an ongoing civil war, and poverty in Libya has increased.

  1. Before Gaddafi’s assassination, Libya had the highest GDP per capita and life expectancy of all African countries. According to Global Research, Libya actually had fewer people living in poverty than the Netherlands.
  2. Oil was the main driving force behind Libya’s economy, but the events of the past five years led to a slump in production. According to CNN, Libya extracted nearly 1.6 million barrels per day in 2010. In 2011, the year that Gaddafi was killed, production declined more than threefold.
  3. According to the CIA, Libya’s GDP declined by 49 percent because the Libyan government continued to provide salaries and subsidies to the workforce despite the lack of oil funds.
  4. Libya has received the largest number of African migrants trying to escape to Europe. According to CNN, about 700,000 to 1 million migrants were in Libya at the beginning of August 2016.
  5. Libya has successfully established a unified authority, called the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is supported by the United Nations. While the GNA still faces some opposition, it received majority support from Libya’s House of Representatives. Since its inception, the GNA has attempted to bring two formerly opposing factions, the House of Representatives and the Libya Dawn coalition, back together.
  6. The United Nations Security Council extended the activity of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) until December 15, 2016. UNSMIL was formed to help Libya solidify the legitimacy of its unified government, and the increased duration of the program will hopefully allow that goal to be achieved more quickly and peacefully.
  7. A rival government in Libya called the National Salvation Government stepped down last April in order to stop future violence. This development furthered the GNA’s goal of establishing itself as the sole authority in Libya.

Many of these factors have helped perpetuate poverty in Libya. However, though the situation in Libya appears bleak, some positive development has taken place with the GNA being established as a major power.

Edmond Kim

Photo: Flickr

Cruelest_DictatorsHere is a list of the top 10 cruelest dictators.

10. Vladimir Putin is the current president of Russia and has been in power since 1999. He spent four years as the Russian Prime Minister from 2008 to 2012, though most experts believe he was still calling the shots. Putin is a strong man who rules Russia with a fierce grip. His presidency has been lamented by human rights groups and Western governments. Putin maintains a terrible domestic civil rights policy, and viciously puts down political dissension and free speech. Moreover, under his command, Russia has engaged in military action in Georgia, Chechnya and most notably, Crimea, the invasion and annexation of which violated Ukrainian sovereignty.

9. Robert Mugabe is now in his seventh term of office as the President of Zimbabwe. Many political scientists and experts have cited massive electoral fraud and rigging in Mugabe’s favor during the 2013 election as the reasons behind his victory. According to both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Mugabe’s government systematically violates the right to shelter, food, freedom of movement and political expression. In addition, Mugabe made all acts of homosexuality illegal in Zimbabwe.

8. Muammar Gaddafi was the self-proclaimed “Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution” of Libya for more than 50 years. Gaddafi was, at first, a widely supported leader after he led the September Revolution in 1969. However, as he consolidated power, his regime became more authoritarian. His calls for Pan-Africanism were greatly overshadowed by his pitiful human rights record. During the Arab Spring, Gaddafi ordered his forces to fire on unarmed protesters calling for his resignation. The United Nations Human Rights Council called for an investigation into war crimes. Gaddafi was deposed and killed at the end of the Libyan Civil War.

7. Idi Amin’s paranoid administration was marred by rampant violence toward his political enemies. U.N. observers estimate that 100,000 to 500,000 were persecuted and killed in Uganda under his reign. Amin’s victims were originally his direct political opponents and those who supported the regime he fought to overtake. However, extrajudicial killings began to include academics, lawyers, foreign nationals and minority ethnic groups within the country.

6. Kim Jong Il continued his father’s fearsome policy of official party indoctrination. North Korea currently ranks as one of the poorest nations on the planet, with millions facing starvation, disease and lack of basic human needs. Under Kim’s reign, North Korean military spending quadrupled, yet he refused foreign aid and did not invest in his country’s farms, thereby indirectly killing millions. Kim’s policy of mass internment through the use of labor camps and virtually no political debate makes him one of history’s worst despots.

5. Pol Pot was the dictator of Cambodia for 20 years, from 1961 to 1983, as the leader of the Khmer Rouge government. His regime is characterized by the Cambodian genocide and the infamous “killing fields.” Pol Pot began a program of severe nationalization whereby he forced millions of people out of urban areas into the countryside to farm and work on forced labor projects. Due to the forced labor, poor food and medical conditions, as well as the addition of massive amounts of state-sponsored killings, nearly 25% of Cambodia’s population died under Pol Pot’s rule.

4. Bashar al-Assad is the current President of Syria. Assad’s authoritarian regime was called into question during the Arab Spring and was cited for numerous civil rights violations, including suppression of free speech, corruption and political freedom. Assad ordered massive crackdowns and thus triggered the ongoing Syrian Civil War. Government forces only grew more violent towards protesting Syrian citizens, and there have been allegations of chemical warfare. Assad has been accused of numerous human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

3. Joseph Stalin was the second leader of the Soviet Union. Though part of the original seven Bolshevik leaders, Stalin quickly consolidated sole power and became a tyrant. In the 1930s, he pursued a policy of political upheaval known as “the Great Purge.” From 1930 to 1934, millions of Soviet citizens were imprisoned, exiled or killed. Stalin also pursued a policy of massive economic reforms that led to the deaths of millions due to famine and forced labor in Gulag camps.

2. Mao Zedong was the first Chairman of the Communist Party of China, and in terms of numbers of deaths during his reign, he tops the list. Nearly 70 million Chinese died during his rule. Mao systematically broke down ancient Chinese culture and nearly ended political dissent and freedom in China. His revolutionary economic policies during “the Great Leap Forward” resulted in one of the worst famines in modern history. In addition, Mao also implemented forced labor and public executions.

1. Adolf Hitler was the Führer of Nazi Germany from 1934 to 1945. Hitler tops the list because of his disturbingly systematic genocidal policies. 5.5 million Jews and other “unwanteds” were deliberately targeted and executed in sanctioned ghettos, work camps and extermination camps. Hitler’s foreign policy and unrelenting desire to give the German people “room to live” were the major causes of World War II. Hitler also put down political dissenters and enemies and banned art, film, literature and teaching methods not sanctioned by the state.

Joe Kitaj

Sources: Forbes, List25, The Atlantic
Photo: Flickr

The uprisings in Ukraine have once again exposed the penchant of the powerful to amass great sums of wealth at the expense of those for whom they are sworn to care. Following former Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovich’s ousting Saturday morning, Ukranian protesters discovered his secret cache of vintage cars, exotic animals and personal golf course in his Mezhyriya compound in Kiev.

Now open to the public as a “Museum of Corruption,” Yanukovich’s exorbitant horde qualifies him for inclusion to the growing legacy of dictators and political leaders that cash in on the wealth of the public.

Here’s a list of some of the more eccentric, public-fund wielding leaders that the world has had to tolerate.

Uday Hussein

Hussein would have had to drive at least 35 of his cars every single day in order to make use of all 13,000 cars in his collection in one year.

Amid high levels of poverty at the turn of the 21st century, the eldest son of Saddam Hussein had a personal harem, gym and zoo complete with lions, cheetahs and a bear. He also possessed $1.65 million in fine wines, liquors and heroin.

Known for his cruelty, Hussein reportedly trapped Iraqi athletes inside of an iron maiden when they displeased him and would leave unconscious friends to the whims of his inebriated pet monkey named Lousia.

Uday Hussein died in 2003 during an artillery battle between United States Armed Forces when they attacked his compound in Baghdad, Iraq.

Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos

When the insurgents of the “People Power” Revolution stormed Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos’ palace in 1986, they encountered artwork by Cezanne and Monet, cartons of jewelry and gold coins, and most infamously, his wife Imelda’s room full of designer shoes. Alongside his wife, the 20-year dictator of the Philippines stole an estimated $10 billion from the public treasury, an especially exorbitant amount considering that much of the island nation’s population lived in abject poverty, many without shoes.

Following the ouster the Marcos’ fled to Honolulu in exile, where Ferdinand died in 1989. Imelda returned to the Philippines in 1991 and has continued a life in politics, eventually becoming the representative for the Ilocos Norte province in 2010.

Muammar Gaddafi and Family

At the time of his death in 2011, news organizations reported that the Libyan despot had an estimated $200 billion in wealth, making him one of the wealthiest individuals in the history of the world. Although these funds were never owned by Gadhafi himself and were not explicitly proven by financial sites like Forbes, he still siphoned heavily from public funds to feed his need for luxury, as well as his children’s.

Artists like 50 Cent, Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Nelly Furtado all played concerts for events sponsored or hosted by members of the Kadafi Family, customarily receiving millions of dollars for their performances.

Misappropriation of public funds is nothing new, but these dictators took their privilege beyond levels of ordinary reproach. For the vast sums of money they spent on arguably superfluous luxury items, demands for transparency will not quite cut it. Instead, worldwide accountability for political leaders may be necessary, whether or not the leaders accept it.

– Emily Bajet

Sources: Forbes, LA Times, NBC, BBC, Al Jazeera, Sydney Morning Herald, Car and Driver,, TIME,
Photo: The Guardian