Memo to our fellow dictators: Are you the ruler of a dodgy republic? Any trouble with do-gooders? Jonathan Eyal passes on some timely advice

Related Topics
A STUDY commissioned by the Brussels-based Mobuto Foundation for International Solidarity, and just published by the Dessalines Barracks Press in Port-au- Prince, Haiti (price 100 gourdes) has come into my hands. Entitled How to Survive as a Dictator in the 1990s, it contains such useful insights, and such timely ones, that I have prevailed on the Independent to publish the most pertinent extracts.

The Problem for Brother Dictators

The end of the Cold War has rendered all dictators unsafe. In the name of a 'right' to democracy the sovereignty of our countries is violated, peace-keeping forces are introduced and 'humanitarian missions' launched. To make matters worse, the United Nations is now used as justification for such actions. We must assume that this organisation will continue to work against our interests, despite the fact that the UN Secretary General used to serve Egyptian leaders who enjoyed 99 per cent support in every unopposed election. Do not despair, however.

Not All is Bleak

The time of the dictators is far from over. Freedom House, the American think- tank - for so long the bane of our existence - has finally done something right: in its January report it admitted that the number of the globe's population living in totally free societies stands at 19 per cent, the lowest for almost two decades.

The major Western countries have no stomach for spreading democracy around the world. They have cut their military to the bone: Europe as such is unable to mount a major military operation on its own and America is unlikely to become much more active either. Since the end of Communism all those priests, do-gooders and CND supporters who argued that force solves nothing in the world are demanding instant military action, while all the generals who believed that weapons are the only answer to international disputes claim to be unable to stop a few bands of marauders in Bosnia. The result, happily, is stalemate.

What Should We Do Now?

Fear is the key. President Daniel arap Moi should be congratulated for ordering all his Kenyans to 'sing like parrots' and sing his tune.

Regrettably, however, the West's hunger for at least the trappings of democracy is such that it is wise to hold some elections. But there is nothing to fear either from their result or the presence of international observers. Romania's President Ion Iliescu, a candidate member in our fraternity, managed to obtain 1.5 million more votes than there were people on the electoral register in 1990.

But he's still there, and will shortly be received by Clinton in the White House. How is this achieved? First, publish some opinion polls in your officially controlled media indicating your inevitable victory. Fly in the international observers on the day of the election, show them a few happy peasants queuing to vote and surprise them with a result which is slightly lower than you originally predicted. Even if the busybodies discover misdemeanours, don't worry: no foreign ministry has ever bothered to act on their reports.

When Things Turn Tricky

Dictators unlucky enough to attract more media attention can always claim that their national circumstances are unique and that any attempt to impose a uniform standard of democracy amounts to cultural imperialism. Remember: the same do-gooders who believe in humanitarian intervention are also likely to assume that feeding your people is more important than talking to them.

Satellite television has led to more intrusion than we are used to, but it is still overwhelmingly in English, and mostly concerned with the affairs of OJ Simpson. Only 1 per cent of Americans watch CNN regularly anyway.

But even if a dictator is threatened by an invasion, there is plenty of scope for damage limitation. First, everything depends on the region. The West will do nothing in the former Soviet Union. Asian dictators need not fear much either: China will veto any UN resolution there. Nor are the dictators in the Middle East under much threat, provided they are prepared to put up with the occasional visit from Secretary of State Warren Christopher.

If you must invade your neighbour, do it in bits; do not take over a country completely, like Saddam Hussein has done. If you must kill people either do it quickly and massively like in Rwanda, or slowly and furtively like in the Sudan.

Do not generate many refugees and, if you do, be ready to negotiate their repatriation. Do accept other people's refugees, for this gives you a humanitarian veneer; Zaire showed the way.

Do involve international humanitarian organisations: that allows Western governments to claim they are doing something even when they are not and they may remove your obligation to feed your own people.

At every stage, claim that the alternative to your regime is an even worse one; if your opponents are Islamic fundamentalist, you are a lucky dictator.

But should the worst comes to the worst, remember those documents detailing your previous secret co-operation with the West. Threaten to publish those and you will usually be granted asylum somewhere.

Finally, a word of advice: prepare for your exile by depositing cash in East European banks, not Switzerland; the gnomes of Zurich are far too unreliable nowadays.

Jonathan Eyal is director of studies at the Royal United Services Institute, London.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Rafael Nadal is down and out, beaten by Dustin Brown at Wimbledon – but an era is not thereby ended  

Sad as it is, Rafael Nadal's decline does not mark the end of tennis's golden era

Tom Peck
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test