Ruthless African warlords are individuals who rose to power through force and violence in various African countries. These individuals often came from a background of poverty and lack of education, and may have started as soldiers or militants before assuming leadership roles. They were known for their brutal tactics, including the use of child soldiers, rape and mass killings. They also often engaged in illegal activities such as drug trafficking, arms dealing, and diamond mining to fund their operations and maintain their power.
These warlords were responsible for widespread human rights abuses and destabilized entire regions, causing widespread suffering and displacement of civilians. Their actions also hindered economic development and hindered attempts to bring peace and stability to the region. Despite international condemnation and efforts to bring them to justice, many of these warlords continued to operate with impunity for very long periods of time.
Here are the top 10 ruthless African warlords in history.
1. Idi Amin
Idi Amin Dada Oumee was a Ugandan military officer and politician who served as the third president of Uganda from 1971 to 1979. He ruled as a military dictator and is considered one of the most brutal despots in modern world history. He was a commander of Ugandan army when he siezed power in 1971. He earned the title “butcher of Uganda” for his brutality. He was responsible for the death of 500,000 people. He died on 16 August 2003.
2. Muammar Gaddafi
Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, also known as Colonel Gaddafi, was a Libyan politician, revolutionary, and political theorist. He ruled Libya from 1969 to 2011. Gaddafi stockpiled chemical weapons. He was also blamed for the 1988 Luca bay bombings killing 270 people. It was also reported that he provided Viagra-like drugs to his men for the purpose of raping women as a form of intimidation. He died on 20 October 2011.
3. Charles Taylor
Charles McArthur Ghankay Taylor is a former Liberian politician and convicted warlord who served as President of Liberia from 1997-2003 following his victory in a bloody civil war of 1985. He was arrested to face embezzlement charges but fled to Libya to receive guerilla training from Gaddafi. In 1989, he led an uprising from Ivory Coast against Liberia leading to a civil war that lasted 7 years killing 200,000 people.
4. Jean-Bédel Bokassa
Jean-Bédel Bokassa, also known as Bokassa I, was a Central African political and military leader who served as the second president of the Central African Republic (CAR) and as the emperor of its successor state, the Central African Empire (CAE), from the Saint-Sylvestre coup d’état on 1 January 1966 until his overthrow in a subsequent coup in 1979. He was a great embezzler of funds and was reported for cannibalism. In 1979, his troops massacred civilians who were protesting over food prices in Bangui and later killed school children who refused expensive uniform bearing his image. He died on 3 November 1996.
5. Robert Mugabe
Robert Gabriel Mugabe was a Zimbabwean revolutionary and politician who served as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe from 1980 to 1987 and then as President from 1987 to 2017. He became known as an international hero of independence in Zimbabwe. In 1981, the Zimbabwean fifth brigade trained by North Koreans crashed an uprising in western Zimbabwe an estimated 20,000 people died during the uprising. He died on 6 September 2019.
6. Foday Sankoh
Foday Saybana Sankoh was the founder of the Sierra Leone rebel group Revolutionary United Front (RUF), which was supported by Charles Taylor-led NPFL in the 11-year-long Sierra Leone Civil War, starting in 1991 and ending in 2002. He recruited child soldiers who mainly killed using machetes. An estimated 50,000 people were killed during the war, and over 500,000 people were displaced in neighboring countries. He died on 29 July 2003.
7. Joseph Kony
Joseph Rao Kony is a Ugandan militant who founded the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a Christian fundamentalist organization, designated as a terrorist group by the United Nations Peacekeepers, the European Union and various other governments. Regarded as one of Africa’s most notorious warlords he was accused by government entities of ordering the abduction of children to become child soldiers and sex slaves. Approximately 66,000 children became soldiers, and 2 million people were displaced internally from 1986 to 2009 by his forces. Kony was indicted in 2005 for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, but he evaded capture.
8. General Butt Naked
Joshua Milton Blahyi, better known by his nom de guerre General Butt Naked, is a Liberian evangelical preacher, writer and former warlord best known for his actions during the First Liberian Civil War. During the conflict, Blahyi and his men, a group of soldiers known as the Naked Base Commandos, fought without clothing and perpetrated numerous atrocities, including child sacrifice and cannibalism. He claimed that his victims numbered at least 20,000 people. Blahyi and his men would place a bet on a pregnant woman on whatever she was carrying then slice her belly with a machete to prove who won the bet.
9. Bosco Ntaganda
Bosco Ntaganda is a convicted war criminal and the former military chief of staff of the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), an armed militia group. He greatly violated human rights by recruitment of children into soldiers and encouragement of raping and assaulting women. He surrendered to the ICC and was convicted him of war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of fifteen and using them to participate actively in hostilities. He was subsequently sentenced to 30 years for crimes against humanity.
10. Jean Kambanda
Jean Kambanda is a Rwandan former politician who served as the Prime Minister of Rwanda in the caretaker government from the start of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. He was instrumental in the genocide that led to death of at least half a million. He distributed arms and oversaw the roadblocks to identify Hutu and eliminate them. All survivors in hospitals were all killed. He was proven guilty and sentenced for life.