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The 7 longest ruling dictators in the world
Here are 7 current dictators that have ruled their countries the longest.
The 20th century has seen its share of dictators, rulers with absolute power, who ran their countries for decades while brutally oppressing any potential opposition. Cuba’s Fidel Castro, for one, was in power for 52 years, while North Korea’s Kim Il-sung (Kim Jong-un’s grandfather) led his people for 48 years.
While some such guys (yes, they are pretty much always guys) went away, our times still have quite a few dictators holding on to power individually or through the strength of their family's dynasty, like Kim Jong-un or Togo’s Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé Eyadéma. But which ones have been at it for the longest amount of time?
1. Paul Biya, President of Cameroon, has ruled for 42 years.
In a land rife with dictators, Paul Biya is now the longest-ruling dictator in Africa, controlling his country of Cameroon since 1975 when he became Prime Minister. Biya consolidated his power during a fake attempted coup in 1983-1984, which allowed him to eliminate his rivals. While he introduced some reforms to allow for multiparty politics, the elections organized under his leadership have been plagued with voting irregularities and fraud.
2. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of Equatorial Guinea, has ruled for 38 years.
Obiang has been President of Equatorial Guinea since 1979, when he ousted his uncle from power in a military coup. He tolerates little opposition, with the Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea, which he established, being the only party allowed. Obiang has wide-ranging powers thanks to his country’s constitution, allowing him to rule by decree.
Under his rule, abuses have included "unlawful killings by security forces; government-sanctioned kidnappings; systematic torture of prisoners and detainees by security forces; life-threatening conditions in prisons and detention facilities; impunity; arbitrary arrest, detention, and incommunicado detention,” according to the U.S. state department.
In 2003, the state-run radio declared Obiang "the country's god” with "all power over men and things." The radio also claimed Obiang was "in permanent contact with the Almighty" and "can decide to kill without anyone calling him to account and without going to hell." If that kind of job description doesn’t make you a dictator, nothing will.
3. Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran, has ruled for 36 years.
While he was chosen as Iran’s President in 1981, Khamenei has been the country’s Supreme Leader since 1989. As Supreme Leader, he is both head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He can rule by decrees, making the final decisions on the government’s main policies regarding the economy, foreign relations, and national planning.
Under his rule, Iran has known numerous protests that have generally been violently put down, with participants like the students who took part in the 1999 protests disappearing in Iranian jails. He has also been accused of ordering assassinations.
The 2017 protests over the state of the Iranian economy featured demonstrators chanting “death to dictator” while taking down banners with Khamenei’s face.
4. Denis Sassou Nguesso, President of the Republic of Congo, has ruled for 33 years.
Sassou Nguesso has been running Congo since 1979. After controlling the country as the head of the single-party regime under the Congolese Party of Labour, he lost power for a 5-year period between 1992 and 1997. He led opposition rebel forces during the Second Civil War in the Congo from 1997 till 1999, when he re-assumed the leadership after ousting President Pascal Lissouba.
Nguesso was implicated in the disappearances of many Congolese refugees during the so-called “Brazzaville Beach affair”.
5. Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia, has ruled for 33 years.
Hun Sen has been the Prime Minister of Cambodia from 1985, which makes him the world’s longest-serving prime minister. Coming to power with the bloody Khmer Rouge, Sen has been accused of corruption, as well as using violence and intimidation to maintain his hold on power. Thousands of opposition politicians, activists and human rights workers have been murdered under his regime.
Amnesty International claims that under Hun Sen, Cambodia authorities have been torturing prisoners using electric shock, hot irons and near-suffocation with plastic bags.
6. Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda, has ruled for 32 years.
Leading Uganda since 1986, Museveni has been known to suppress political opposition and passed a constitutional amendment in 2005 to scrap presidential term limits. That allowed him to rule for life.
Museveni-headed National Resistance Army (NRA) has been accused of using child soldiers and extrajudicial executions, while his government has been attacking journalists, as per the 2013 World Report. He also backed the institution of the death penalty for homosexuality in 2009.
7. Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, President of Sudan, has ruled for 28 years.
Becoming President in 1989 as a result of a military coup, which ousted a democratically-elected government, al-Bashir has been accused of major corruption during his tenure, looting the wealth of his country. US diplomatic cables showed that he is thought to have embezzled $9 billion of his country’s money and stashed it in London banks.
Al-Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for overseeing a campaign of mass killing, pillaging and rape during the war in Darfur. The death toll there ranged between 200,000 and 400,000 people. The ICC has issued an arrest warrant against him for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Sudanese government, of course, refuses to recognize that ICC has any jurisdiction over its affairs.
Geologists discover a rhythm to major geologic events.
- It appears that Earth has a geologic "pulse," with clusters of major events occurring every 27.5 million years.
- Working with the most accurate dating methods available, the authors of the study constructed a new history of the last 260 million years.
- Exactly why these cycles occur remains unknown, but there are some interesting theories.
Our hearts beat at a resting rate of 60 to 100 beats per minute. Lots of other things pulse, too. The colors we see and the pitches we hear, for example, are due to the different wave frequencies ("pulses") of light and sound waves.
Now, a study in the journal Geoscience Frontiers finds that Earth itself has a pulse, with one "beat" every 27.5 million years. That's the rate at which major geological events have been occurring as far back as geologists can tell.
A planetary calendar has 10 dates in red
Credit: Jagoush / Adobe Stock
According to lead author and geologist Michael Rampino of New York University's Department of Biology, "Many geologists believe that geological events are random over time. But our study provides statistical evidence for a common cycle, suggesting that these geologic events are correlated and not random."
The new study is not the first time that there's been a suggestion of a planetary geologic cycle, but it's only with recent refinements in radioisotopic dating techniques that there's evidence supporting the theory. The authors of the study collected the latest, best dating for 89 known geologic events over the last 260 million years:
- 29 sea level fluctuations
- 12 marine extinctions
- 9 land-based extinctions
- 10 periods of low ocean oxygenation
- 13 gigantic flood basalt volcanic eruptions
- 8 changes in the rate of seafloor spread
- 8 times there were global pulsations in interplate magmatism
The dates provided the scientists a new timetable of Earth's geologic history.
Tick, tick, boom
Credit: New York University
Putting all the events together, the scientists performed a series of statistical analyses that revealed that events tend to cluster around 10 different dates, with peak activity occurring every 27.5 million years. Between the ten busy periods, the number of events dropped sharply, approaching zero.
Perhaps the most fascinating question that remains unanswered for now is exactly why this is happening. The authors of the study suggest two possibilities:
"The correlations and cyclicity seen in the geologic episodes may be entirely a function of global internal Earth dynamics affecting global tectonics and climate, but similar cycles in the Earth's orbit in the Solar System and in the Galaxy might be pacing these events. Whatever the origins of these cyclical episodes, their occurrences support the case for a largely periodic, coordinated, and intermittently catastrophic geologic record, which is quite different from the views held by most geologists."
Assuming the researchers' calculations are at least roughly correct — the authors note that different statistical formulas may result in further refinement of their conclusions — there's no need to worry that we're about to be thumped by another planetary heartbeat. The last occurred some seven million years ago, meaning the next won't happen for about another 20 million years.
A new episode of "Your Brain on Money" illuminates the strange world of consumer behavior and explores how brands can wreak havoc on our ability to make rational decisions.
- Effective branding can not only change how you feel about a company, it can actually change how your brain is wired.
- Our new series "Your Brain on Money," created in partnership with Million Stories, recently explored the surprising ways brands can affect our behavior.
- Brands aren't going away. But you can make smarter decisions by slowing down and asking yourself why you're making a particular purchase.
How Apple and Nike have branded your brain | Your Brain on Money | Big Think youtu.be
Brands can manipulate our brains in surprisingly profound ways. They can change how we conceptualize ourselves and how we broadcast our identities out to the social world. They can make us feel emotions that have nothing to do with the functions of their products. And they can even sort us into tribes.
To grasp the power of brands, look to Apple. In the 1990s, the company was struggling to compete with Microsoft over the personal computer market. Despite flirting with bankruptcy in the mid-1990s, Apple turned itself around to eventually become the most valuable company in the world.
That early-stage success wasn't due to superior products.
"People talk about technology, but Apple was a marketing company," John Sculley, a former Apple marketing executive, told The Guardian in 1997. "It was the marketing company of the decade."
So, how exactly does branding make people willing to wait hours in line to buy a $1,000 smartphone, or pay exorbitant prices for a pair of sneakers?
Branding and the brain
For more than a century, brands have capitalized on the fact that effective marketing is much more than simply touting the merits of a product. Some ads have nothing to do with the product at all. In 1871, for example, Pearl Tobacco started advertising their cigarettes through branded posters and trading cards that featured exposed women, a trend that continues to this day.
It's crude, sure. But research shows that it's also remarkably effective, even on monkeys. Why? The answer seems to center on how our brains pay special attention to information from the social world.
"In theory, ads that associate sex or status with specific brands or products activate the brain mechanisms that prioritize social information, and turning on this switch may bias us toward the product," wrote neuroscience professor Michael Platt for Scientific American.
Brands can burrow themselves deep into our subconscious. Through ad campaigns, brands can form a web of associations and memories in our brains. When these connections are robust and positive, it can change our behavior, nudging us to make "no-brainer" purchases when we encounter the brand at the store.
It's a marketing principle that's related to the work of Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist and economist who won the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. In his book "Thinking Fast and Slow", Kahneman separates thinking into two broad categories, or systems:
- System 1 is fast and automatic, requiring little effort or voluntary control.
- System 2 is slow and requires subjective deliberation and logic.
Brands that tap into "system 1" are likely to dominate the competition. After all, it's far easier for us as consumers to automatically reach for a familiar brand than it is to analyze all of the available information and make an informed choice. Still, the most successful brands can have an even deeper impact on our psychology, one that causes us to conceptualize them as something like a family member.
A peculiar relationship with brands
Apple has one of the most loyal customer bases in the world, with its brand loyalty hitting an all-time high earlier this year, according to a SellCell survey of more than 5,000 U.S.-based smartphone users.
Qualitatively, how does that loyalty compare to Samsung users? To find out, Platt and his team conducted a study in which functional magnetic resonance imaging scanned the brains of Samsung and Apple users as they viewed positive, negative, and neutral news about each company. The results revealed stark differences between the two groups, as Platt wrote in "The Leader's Brain":
"Apple users showed empathy for their own brand: The reward-related areas of the brain were activated by good news about Apple, and the pain and negative feeling parts of the brain were activated by bad news. They were neutral about any kind of Samsung news. This is exactly what we see when people empathize with other people—particularly their family and friends—but don't feel the joy and pain of people they don't know."
Meanwhile, Samsung users didn't show any significant pain- or pleasure-related brain activity when they saw good or bad news about the company.
"Interestingly, though, the pain areas were activated by good news about Apple, and the reward areas were activated by bad news about the rival company—some serious schadenfreude, or "reverse empathy," Platt wrote.
The results suggest a fundamental difference between the brands: Apple has formed strong emotional and social connections with consumers, Samsung has not.
Brands and the self
Does having a strong connection with a brand justify paying higher prices for their products? Maybe. You could have a strong connection with Apple or Nike and simultaneously think the quality of their products justifies the price.
But beyond product quality lies identity. People have long used objects and clothing to express themselves and signal their affiliation with groups. From prehistoric seashell jewelry to Air Jordans, the things people wear and associate with signal a lot of information about how they conceptualize themselves.
Since the 1950s, researchers have examined the relationship between self-image and brand preferences. This body of research has generally found that consumers tend to prefer brands whose products fit well with their self-image, a concept known as self-image congruity.
By choosing brands that don't disrupt their self-image, consumers are able not only to express themselves personally, but also broadcast a specific version of themselves into the social world. That might sound self-involved. But on the other hand, humans are social creatures who use information from the social world to make decisions, so it's virtually impossible for us not to make inferences about people based on how they present themselves.
Americus Reed II, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania, told Big Think:
"When I make choices about different brands, I'm choosing to create an identity. When I put that shirt on, when I put that shirt on — those jeans, that hat — someone is going to form an impression about what I'm about. So, if I'm choosing Nike over Under Armour, I'm choosing a kind of different way to express affiliation with sport. The Nike thing is about performance. The Under Armour thing is about the underdog. I have to choose which of these different conceptual pathways is most consistent with where I am in my life."
Making smarter decisions
Brands may have some power over us when we're facing a purchasing decision. So, considering brands aren't going away, what can we do to make better choices? The best strategy might be to slow down and try to avoid making "automatic" purchasing decisions that are characteristic of Kahneman's fast "system 1" mode of thinking.
"I think it's important to always pause and think a little bit about, "Okay, why am I buying this product?" Platt said.
As for getting out of the brand game altogether? Good luck.
"I've heard lots of people push back and say, "I'm not into brands,"" Reed II said. "I take a very different view. In some senses, they're not doing anything different than what someone who affiliates with a brand is doing. They have a brand. It's just an anti-brand brand."
Powerful branding can not only change how you feel about a company, it can actually change how your brain is wired.
- Powerful branding can not only change how you feel about a company, it can actually change how your brain is wired.
- "We love to think of ourselves as rational. That's not how it works," says UPenn professor Americus Reed II about our habits (both conscious and subconscious) of paying more for items based primarily on the brand name. Effective marketing causes the consumer to link brands like Apple and Nike with their own identity, and that strong attachment goes deeper than receipts.
- Using MRI, professor and neuroscientist Michael Platt and his team were able to see this at play. When reacting to good or bad news about the brand, Samsung users didn't have positive or negative brain responses, yet they did have "reverse empathy" for bad news about Apple. Meanwhile, Apple users showed a "brain empathy response for Apple that was exactly what you'd see in the way you would respond to somebody in your family."