Flight of the world's great dictators

As President Suharto contemplates life after dictatorship, his fellow despots show it is possible still to find a safe haven

FORMER president Suharto of Indonesia is probably feeling more apprehensive now than he has done at any time in the past 34 years, as he contemplates his future. He has certainly made adequate financial arrangements for himself and his family, but he cannot guarantee he will have access to the billions he has milked from the Indonesian economy. Neither can he guarantee that he will even be able to stay in his own country.

Nevertheless, the fate of the dictators of the second half of the 20th century does not represent a universally bleak picture for him. True, many men of his age or thereabouts died soon after leaving office. President Mobutu of Zaire did not have a long and happy retirement; neither did the Central African Republic's Emperor Bokassa, nor Malawi's Hastings Banda. Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines keeled over when in exile in Hawaii.

But there are others who are managing to live in comfort, and even luxury - no matter how many thousands of their own people they murdered.

Idi Amin Dada of Uganda was in power for nine years between 1971 and 1979. During this time he set new standards of cruelty and violence until he fled the country in 1979 following a Tanzanian-backed invasion. After he was ousted, it was estimated that he had been responsible for the murder of 300,000 of his own subjects - a rate of 7,000 a week. After his expulsion, Amin escaped to Libya and later to Saudi Arabia, where he was provided with a house and an income.

Mengistu Haile Mariam, the former Ethiopian dictator, is being tried in absentia for genocide and crimes against humanity. Despite extradition attempts, "the black Stalin" found safe haven in Harare in 1991 courtesy of another African despot, Robert Mugabe. The cost to the increasingly impoverished Zimbabwean tax payer for Mengistu's security and the other expenses has so far topped pounds 1m.

Millions of Ethiopians died of famine and civil war under Mengistu's rigid Marxist rule. He and former political cronies are accused of ordering the execution of 1,823 opponents, including former Emperor Haile Selassie.

In November 1995, Mengistu escaped an assassination attempt by an Eritrean who later told a Zimbabwean court that his genitals were permanently damaged after he was tortured by Mengistu's henchmen.

Otherwise, Mengistu has been sitting pretty. However, he is said to be jittery about the increasing unpopularity of Mr Mugabe. If opposition groups in Zimbabwe have their way the two dictators may soon be house sharing in some foreign backwater. It is forecast that the teetering Mugabe will not last until 2002, the next presidential elections.

Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier, 46, former Haitian dictator and French Riviera playboy, fled Haiti in 1986 and has been virtually a missing person for three years. He is still living in France, flitting from apartment to apartment among the exiled Haitian community. His last known address was in Saint-Cloud, in the suburbs of Paris, where his mother - Mama-Doc, wife of Papa-Doc, Haitian dictator for three decades - died on 26 December last year.

At first, Baby Doc lived in some style with his wife, two children and mother at a villa in Vallauris, near Cannes, rented for pounds 80,000 a year. In 1990 his wife, Michele, having gone through much of the money, left him for a businessman. When they were divorced in 1991, Michele got custody of the children and most of what remained of the cash.

Baby Doc clung on at the villa, with his mother, until 1994. After failing to pay the rent for several months, he was forced into a nearby bungalow. A cloud of other unpaid bills forced him to leave the Riviera the following year; since then he has been reported to be in Paris, staying with exiled Haitian friends. In April last year, he told a Miami radio station he wanted to help transform Haiti into a "pluralist democracy" devoted to "liberty, peace, progress and reconciliation".

Mr Suharto would probably rather not wish to follow the example of Manuel Noriega of Panama - currently incarcerated in a Florida jail. He may reflect, on the other hand, that Raoul Cedras, responsible for the untold suffering of thousands of Haitians, is living in some style in Panama. Under a deal cut by mediators led by former US President Jimmy Carter, Cedras and his henchmen fled Haiti and he has since lived in a luxury apartment block called the Nuevo Emperador in Panama's Paitilla district.

Cedras is said to be a wealthy man from the proceeds of arms and narcotics sales and other businesses he was cut into while in power.

Haiti has asked for his extradition but the Panamanian authorities have always found technicalities they say make extradition impossible.

Alfredo Stroessner, who during a time in power that lasted roughly as long as Suharto's, tortured and murdered his way through the Paraguayan opposition. But he now lives in neighbouring Brazil, in a mansion on the outskirts of the capital, Brasilia.

Granted asylum by the Brazilian authorities, he and his wife keep a low profile in the upmarket Lago Sul district, favoured by foreign diplomats, politicians and company executives. He rarely ventures beyond his front porch, where the couple have occasionally been seen sunning themselves, but he is said to be still a very wealthy man.

But Suharto might be most attracted to the example of one General Pinochet of Chile, who ousted a democratically-elected Marxist government in 1973, but after a career littered with atrocities has now just been made a senator for life.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
people
Sport
SPORT
News
people
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Biggins as Mrs Smee in Peter Pan
theatreHow do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick