The FACES OF TERRORISM: Who Will Strike Next?
With all the attention focused on the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Korea since the attack of September 11th, Americans and much of the world seem quite confident where the next terrorist threat lies. We’re carefully watching Iran’s Ahmadinejad, Pakistan’s Zardari, India’s Patil, and Korea’s Jong-il. But, have we become too complacent as to where the next terrorist strike may come from? Should we broaden our view? Here are five world leaders who bear closer watching.
- 1. General Than Shwe
- 2. President Isayas Afewerki
- 3. Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir
- 4. Robert Gabriel Mugabe
- 5. Marc Ravalomanana
1. General Than Shwe
General Than Shwe (born February 2nd, 1933) of Myanmar, which is the second largest country in Southeast Asia, became commander-in-chief by military junta in 1992. As chairman of the State Peace and Development Council, a group he established after installing himself as uncontested dictator, Shwe used his ongoing ties with several known terrorist groups to seize power, has shown little regard for human life (delaying aid to over 2 million homeless after cyclone Nargis hit in 2008), regularly imprisons those who oppose his rule (including Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi), and used military force to impose his country’s current constitution. Though he allowed Myanmar to hold elections earlier this year (2010), he has made it quite clear that he has no intention of stepping down, and has, in fact, enlarged his army in recent months.
2. President Isayas Afewerki
President Isayas Afewerki is the first and current president of Eritrea, in northeast Africa. Born February 12th, 1946, the now 64-year-old dictator seized power in 1991, founding the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front. Recognized as a potential threat and contributor to terrorist groups in 2008 by the US State Department, sale of arms to Eritrea has been banned, with Afewerki being added to the terrorist watch list. Since his self-appointment as dictator, he has postponed any future national elections (citing “social polarization” as justification), has imprisoned at least 10 prominent journalists beginning in 2001 who currently remain jailed, has banned all privately-owned media sources, and has stepped-up military training for his personal army.
3. Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir
Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir (born January 1st, 1944) is the current President of Sudan and head of the National Congress Party. As a brigadier in the Sudanese army, Ahmad al-Bashir led a bloodless military coup in 1989 which ousted Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdj, then installed himself as president and reigning dictator. In October of 2004, Ahmad al-Bashir ended the Second Sudanese Civil War (one of the 20th century’s longest running civil wars) by granting limited autonomy to Southern Sudan. In essence, this act condoned the continuing violence in Darfur which has now resulted in a death toll of nearly 400,000 African people. In 2008 the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Ahmad al-Bashir charging him with supporting genocide, crimes against humanity, and other war crimes. To date, Ahmad al-Bashir remains at liberty and in power.
4. Robert Gabriel Mugabe
Robert Gabriel Mugabe (born February 21st, 1924) is the second and current president of Zimbabwe. Rising to prominence in the 1960s by leading a liberation movement against white-minority rule, he was elected into power as the head of government and Prime Minister in 1980, and became the first executive head of state in 1987. Since that time, Mugabe has installed his own cabinet, stripped the people of Zimbabwe of all personal freedom, and driven the nation into extreme poverty. While living an opulent and visibly luxurious lifestyle, unemployment in his country has risen to more than 85%, hundreds who have opposed his control have been killed (with thousands more tortured and beaten), and he has blatantly ignored a cholera epidemic that has killed an estimated 4,000 Zimbabweans. All the while, Mugabe maintains a well-trained army that grows in size, weaponry, and regional power.
5. Marc Ravalomanana
Marc Ravalomanana (born December 12th, 1949) is the current president of Madagascar. Elected to office in 2002 (re-elected in 2006), Ravalomanana is a fervent Christian of the Reformed Protestant church, and is presently a minister of the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar, with a reported 2.5 million followers--achieving what many term cult-like status. While preaching that he “dreams of a Christian nation,” his personal agenda has come to international attention numerous times in recent years. In December of 2008, the major financial donors of Madagascar (IMF, World Bank, European Union, and African Development Bank) suspended disbursement of funds to Madagascar due to blatant budgetary misconduct involving the mixing of the president's business interests with state interests. Replacing civil police with military personnel, Ravalomanana has amassed a sizable personal fortune while recruiting additional soldiers from mainland Africa. On January 26th, 2009, his factory was burned by opponents of his government, with many people mysteriously found burned to death inside. The following month, an opposition rally with 20,000 in attendance, marched on the president’s residence in downtown Antananarivo. As demonstrators attempted to enter the Presidential Palace, Ravalomanana’s guards opened fire, killing at least 30 people and leaving dozens more injured. Ravalomanana’s allowance of his personal defense forces to shoot at the crowd has made him the most feared man across the region.
images via wikipedia.org