The 7 Most Grandiose Projects by African Dictators on the African continent:

By Owaahh

Here’s the thing: being a dictator is hard. Being an African despot is even harder – you have to keep the people wowed and scared of you at the same time. All that responsibility, every minute of every day, even while you sleep.

Killing people pretty much does the job, but you can’t kill everyone can you? Some you kill, others you wow with your grandiosity. Others you hang from trees so the a boxing bout is without pickpockets, and because you know a good gig requires a dose of insanity.

#7 Kamuzu’s Kamuzu Academy

Kamuzu Academy

Kamuzu Academy

Malawi’s President for Life, Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda is known for many eccentricities, the biggest of them being racist towards his own people. He was so out of touch when he became president that he had forgotten his mother tongue, Chichewa, and had to speak through an interpreter. Any African will tell you that it is an unforgivable crime to forget your tongue.

He had spent most of his time outside Malawi in England, and had picked up more than just an accent. He had picked up the overly ambitious idea of a college so prestigious it would churn out the Malawi’s elite like a Chinese mass manufacturing factory. That idea became the Kamuzu Academy. Dubbed as the Eton of Africa and apparently a direct replica of Eton, the institution was opened in 1981 to give the poorest childen in Malawi a chance to get a proper education. Three students, two boys and one girl, would be picked on merit from each district to join this grammar school modeled on Eton, the best in the English board school tradition. It was so prim that the head of Eton itself said that Eton should be renamed ‘England’s Kamuzu.’

The man who changed the fortunes of the Eton of Africa - PressReaderAm I the only one who thinks the hats were too much?

Founder's Day Kamuzu Academy - , Kasunga -Malawi | Malawi, Malawi africa, Founders day

At Kamuzu Academy, the students would learn among other things Latin and Ancient Greek. All the teachers were expatriates, and students would be punished if they were caught speaking in Chichewa, the local tongue. Learning dead languages was apparently more important than learning African ones.

File:Dr Banda with staff for Kamuzu Academy.jpg - Wikimedia CommonsBanda and the expatriate staff of Kamuzu Academy

It is rumored, although it has never been proven, that Banda spent a large portion of Malawi’s education budget on Kamuzu College. The government funded everything, even the building of an artificial lake for water supply and a nine-hole golf course. Unlike most projects by dictators, Kamuzu College survived the loss of its patron, who was deposed in 1994, presumably with a more sensible business model and less lofty goals.

#6 Wade’s African Rennaisance Monument

Black History Heroes: The African Renaissance Monument in Dakar, SenegalThe African Renaissance Monument

Senegal’s former president Abdoulaye Wade’s pet project was a statue higher than the Statue of Liberty. He often compared it to the Eiffel Tower and, like Equatorial Guinea’s Obiang Nguema, micromanaged its construction. The controversial statue, meant to represent the rebirth of Africa, depicts three figures emerging from a volcano, a muscular man holding a woman behind him, and carrying a child aloft pointing out to sea. The woman is scantily dressed while the man is depicted as being in control. Standing at 49 meters (160ft), the African Renaissance Monument cost a reported US$27 million. Wade, ever the optimist, figured he deserved 35 percent of the revenue generated from the statue because he was its intellectual creator.

Abdoulaye Wade: 5 facts about Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade (VIDEO) | The World from PRX

Pay the poets! Pay the creatives! Pay the overbearing, wasteful, over-ambitious despots too?

For a statue that was meant to inspire an African renaissance for freedom from oppression, it is perhaps ironic that it was built by North Korean workers and is clearly plagiarized from Soviet statues. Still, Wade managed to sell the idea, attracting 19 African heads of state and 100 prominent African-Americans including Rev. Jesse Jackson to the inauguration during the Jubilee celebrations in Dakar.

It was seen by most as a vanity project by Wade, with the male face being said to have been crafted to resemble him.At one rally, a protester expressed the discontent quite succinctly saying it symbolized all the failures of Wade’s regime, the least of which is this horrible statue”.. Another said of Wades allusion to the Eiffel Tower, But the French had first sorted out their food before they built the Eiffel Tower.”

For Many in Senegal, Statue Is A Monumental Failure : NPRWade hadn’t even bothered with the garbage

Today, however, the white elephant wastes around $10,000 to $20,000 per month. According to a famed Senegalese sculptor, Ousmane Sow, the monument is excessively tall, poorly constructed and built on an unstable foundation. That pretty much sums up the African renaissance, if there ever was one, doesn’t it?

#5 Gaddafi’s Sirte

While most despots dream of only making their home villages the capital cities of the country, Gadaffi wanted to make Sirte the capital city of Africa. For a while, it looked like he had succeeded.

Gaddafi dead, eyewitness recounts final moments (VIDEO) | The World from PRXWell, until this happened.

After he seized power in 1969, he embarked on an ambitious series of projects to turn the seaside village into a small city. Although Tripoli remained the formal capital city of Libya, the Libyan parliament and most government departments moved to Sirte in 1988 or shortly after. In 1991, the Al-Tahadi University was established. He also built the grandiose Ouagadougou Conference Center with its outsized halls and a huge pink walled edifice. It was here that he held meetings with other African leaders to establish the African Union, successor of the OAU, a regional body that would go on to hold many meetings there, facilitated by an overbearing patron who saw himself as its head.

In Pictures: A look back at Gaddafi's reign | Egypt News | Al Jazeera

Bringing down Ouagadougou was as important as capturing and killing Gadaffi. Its psychological impact was to show that the despot was no more, and his dreams of a united Africa would have to find a new home. He embarked on many other ambitious projects in Libya, one of them being the Great Man Made River often described as the eighth wonder of the world. The $30 billion project was fully funded by the government without international assistance, as water in Gaddafi’s Libya was considered a human right.

#4 Teodoro Obiang, Ongoing Project

Oyala-Memorial-Building-1.jpg | The World from PRXThe Oyala Memorial Building

If we ignore Teodoro Obiang’s playboy son, Teodorin Nguema, a presidential grandiose white elephant project in his own right, Obiangs most expensive project would be his new capital city for Equatorial Guinea.

Obiang’s big idea is to create a new multi-billion dollar capital city smack in the middle of Equatorial Guinea’s rainforests. His logic is that his current capital city is open to sea front attack and that Oyala,the proposed new capital, would provide better security for his presumably lifelong dictatorship and political dynasty.

There is a six-lane highway to Oyala dubbed the Avenue of Justice because irony. The city was designed by IDF (Portuguese acronym for Ideas of the Future) and covers over 8150 hectares. It will house 200, 000 people in both the residential, government, and commercial areas.

Dictators and monarchs moving capital cities for security reasons is not a new thing: Islamabad took over from Karachi and Abuja from Lagos.

Dictators also tend to get overly involved in their pet projects but Obiang’s micro-managing is on a different level. Every once in a while he visits Oyala and orders the demolition and rebuilding of buildings he does not like. This delays construction and pisses off a lot of people who cannot say a thing because death.

#3 Felix Houphouet-Boigny’s Vatican

The first President of Ivory Coast, Felix Houphouet-Boigny didn’t think it was enough to have an awesome name, immense power, and a direct hand in the cocoa exports chocolate jar. He had a bigger idea, to transform his home village of Yamoussoukro into the host of a basilica bigger than St. Peters in the Vatican.

Like any good despot, he sought to move everything to his home village. He wrapped it up in the almost-book-title ambitious Great Lesson of Yamoussoukro in 1965. This would be the fourth movement of the country’s capital city in under a century. Boigny went all out on the eight-lane boulevards, schools, a golf course, hotels, an airport and a university. The airport was the only one of two in Africa at the time that could take a Concorde, and both were built by despots.

So, how could anything stand out in this overly ambitious project?

Completed in 1989 for an estimated $300m, the basilica is said to have doubled Ivory Coast’s national debt.How about the largest church in the world?

Officially known as the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro is the largest church in the world, built over 88 acres and cost a whopping $300 million.The Basilica was constructed between 1985 and 1989 in the design of a dome like the St. Peters, but not as a direct replica. It is shouldered by 272 Greco-Roman columns, has Italian marble tiles on 7.4 acres and is surrounded by an expansive swathe of 88 acres of nothing but formal gardens. The 7,000 square meters of stained glass was imported from France. The air conditioned basilica was designed with a seating capacity of 7, 000 and standing room for 11, 000.

There is a private papal villa that has only been used once, in 1990 when Pope John Paul II came to consecrate it.

When the Vatican learnt the dictators big plan to out-do the Vatican, it demanded that that the dome of Yamoussoukro Basilica not be higher than St Peter’s. To save face, the Vatican also demanded that a hospital for the poor be built near the new church.

Houphouet-Boigny agreed not to make it taller than St. Peters in Rome because he wanted the Pope at the consecration. But he did a few cheeky things, the cross of his Basillica is suspiciously 17m higher. On one stained glass panel Boigny is pictured beside Jesus in one stained glass panel. He had appointed himself the 13th Apostle.

Our Lady Of Peace of Yamoussoukro Basilica (1989- ) •Even weirder, the Basilica is not even a cathedral.

The nearby smaller and more practical Cathedral of Saint Augustine is the seat of the bishop.Although the giant replica of the Vatican was built with a seating space of 17, 000, fewer than 10 percent of the 120, 000 people who made up the city’s population were Catholics. Today, only a few hundred meet within the church. Even his funeral memorial ceremony only attracted 7, 000 sitting guests, a number that has not been achieved since. Perhaps Boigny should have invested more in conversion.

#2 Colonel Jean-Bedel Bokassa becomes Emperor

In what seems to have been open season for coups in Africa, Bokassa became ruler of Central African Republic after overthrowing his cousin David Dacko in 1966. In 1976, he ended the CAR and started an empire, the Central African Empire, declaring himself Emperor Bokassa I of Central Africa. As if that was not boisterous enough, he organized one of the most lavish and ridiculous coronation ceremonies ever.

Bokassa plagiarized heavily from the coronation of Napoleon I, who converted the French Revolutionary Republic of which he was First Consul into the First French Empire. Emperor Bokassa I, however, forgot that the French had already had been a monarchy for centuries before, and had enough in its coffers to make the coronation a cost-effective affair. Instead, he went all out; he had a mile-long cape, a giant eagle-shaped solid-gold throne, and a crown decked with emeralds, rubies, and 8000 diamonds. He imported 240 tons of French cuisine, dressed 3000 guards in lavish uniforms after sending some of them to France to learn riding skills. The horses, carriages, robes, champagne, caviar, thrones, court musicians, almost everything else were all imported from Europe.

Str8talk MagazineThe mile-long cape

Only a measly 600 of the expected 2500 visited. Bokassa commented on this rather disappointing turn-out:“They were jealous of me because I had an empire and they didn’t.” Of course they were, who wouldn’t be jealous of “His Imperial Majesty Bokassa I, Emperor?of Central Africa by the will of the Central African people, united within the national political party, the MESAN.

The coronation took a whole year to plan and gobbled up over $20 million, the equivalent of US$ 83 million in 2014, the country’s entire Gross Domestic Product.

#1 Mobutu’s Rumble in the Jungle

Early on the morning of October 30, 1974, at the 20th May Stadium in Kinshasa, Zaire, 60, 000 spectators chanted “Ali boma ye!” It was a euphoric chant meaning “Ali, kill him!” The bout was dubbed Rumble in the Jungle.

It was Africa’s first heavyweight bout, featuring Muhammad Ali, the former heavyweight champion, and undefeated world heavyweight champion George Foreman. Ali thumped Foreman to a pulp in eight gruelling rounds. That is the boring part of the story.

The demolition. Image Source

The demolition.
Image Source

It was the boisterous project of Mobutu Sese Seko, in a bid to boost his PR among African-Americans. At home, he had already transformed his home town of Gbadolite into the Versailles of the Jungle. The Moanda airport in Gbadolite was the second of the only two airports in Africa that could accommodate the Concorde. He had also built the biggest nuclear bunker in Africa and the only one in Central Africa. With absolute power and immense wealth, Mobutu aimed higher.

Eager to strike it big, promoter Don King made the boxers sign contracts that they would fight if he could get a $5 millon purse. He then went around looking for sponsors until he encountered Mobutu Sese Seko, the dictator of Zaire (now DRC) at the time. Mobutu put up $10 million to be divided equally between the two boxers just for showing up, but demanded that it had to be held in the Central African nation. Don agreed, and in the months leading to September 1974, the world moved to Zaire.

Behind the scenes, however, the bout was Mobutu’s Public Relations campaign to win legitimacy among African-Americans.

He was particularly eager to win over African-Americans who disapproved of his CIA-backed coup of the immensely popular Patrice Lumumba. Lumumba was an icon for prominent African-Americans such as Malcolm X who idolized and quoted him repeatedly.

Don King had originally named the bout “From the Slave Ship to the Championship”?but Mobutu demanded it be named something else, finally agreeing to the catchier rhyme for a title.

The fight was originally slated for September, and the boxers and hordes of legendary journalists such as Hunter S. Thompson thronged to Kinshasa. Zaire 74, a music extravaganza to promote African and African-American music, was held a few days before D-Day. A few days before the slated date, however, Foreman’s sparring partner caught him above the eye with an elbow and wounded him, preempting what became five weeks of debauchery as everyone waited for the world champion to heal. Ali, the aging former champion, used that time to play mind games and win over the Congolese people.

Other than the money, which exceeded the $10 million he paid to the boxers, Mobutu went all out. One rumor has it that he summarily executed criminals in Kinshasa by hanging them from trees in the main square to reduce insecurity during the duration of the bout.

In the movie When We Were Kings, Norman Mailer says that Mobutu had secret detention cells right under the stadium?and it is almost certain the torture continued?during the fight. About the ethics of accepting money from a despotic mass murderer for PR, Ali was quoted as saying Some countries go to war to get their names out there, and wars cost a lot more than $10 million.

Ironically, for a man who had invested so much and almost certainly killed hundreds of criminals to make Kinshasa safer for visitors, Mobutu did not attend the fight. Instead, he watched it on TV in his palace, fearing his enemies would take advantage of the crowd to assassinate him.

Canada’s Supreme Court to consider whether Native Americans in the United States of America have rights north of the border, in Canada:


Richard Desautel, a member of the Lakes Tribe in Washington state, shot an elk in British Columbia in 2010 to assert a right to the traditional hunting lands of the Sinixt people.
Richard Desautel, a member of the Lakes Tribe in Washington state, shot an elk in British Columbia in 2010 to assert a right to the traditional hunting lands of the Sinixt people. (Mark Underhill)
7 October, 2020 

It was a frosty October morning when Richard Desautel aimed his Mauser 98 bolt-action rifle at a cow elk in the Arrow Lakes area of British Columbia, shot the animal dead and phoned wildlife conservation officers to report what he’d done.


That call, made a decade ago this month, set into motion a plan that was years in the making. Authorities charged Desautel, a U.S. citizen and member of the Lakes Tribe of the Colville Confederated Tribes in Washington state, with hunting without a license and hunting big game while not a resident of British Columbia.

It was what Desautel wanted. It gave him the opportunity to argue that he was exercising his right under Canada’s constitution to hunt for ceremonial purposes on the traditional land of his ancestors, the Sinixt, an Indigenous group that Canada declared extinct more than 60 years ago.

Now he’ll argue his case before Canada’s Supreme Court, in a proceeding that could have sweeping implications for Indigenous groups on both sides of the border. A victory could give more Native Americans in the United States the right to use their tribes’ traditional lands in Canada. 

The main question before the justices is whether rights afforded to “aboriginal peoples of Canada” by the Constitution Act can extend to groups that don’t live in Canada. But for Desautel, who traveled to Ottawa for the hearing Thursday, it’s about something larger.

“For the Sinixt people, this case — and it sounds almost corny to say — is about their very identity,” said Mark Underhill, Desautel’s lawyer. “Everything is at stake for them.”

The lower courts considered centuries of history.

Desautel, 68, says he is a descendant of the Sinixt, an Indigenous group that hunted and fished in traditional lands that extended north and south of the 49th parallel before and after contact with Europeans in 1811.

Map of British Columbia

The map of the boder between USA and CANADA


British Columbia Provincial Court Judge Lisa Mrozinski wrote in a 2017 ruling that a “constellation of factors” eventually led the Sinixt to “more or less” live full-time in the southern part of their territory, which became part of the United States in 1846 when the Oregon Boundary Treaty established that section of the U.S.-Canada border.

Many of the Sinixt, who had become known as the Lakes Tribe, took up residence in the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington state, where Desautel lives. By the 1930s, they had stopped traveling north to hunt. The Sinixt in Canada were moved in 1902 to a reserve set up along the west side of the Upper Arrow Lake for the Arrow Lakes Band. 

After the last member of the Arrow Lakes Band died, Canada in 1956 declared it “extinct” under the country’s Indian Act.

Their descendants, including Desautel, contend that their very existence proves the opposite.

Arrow Lake, British Columbia.
Arrow Lake, British Columbia. (Shutterstock)

Crown prosecutors argued that Desautel doesn’t hold a constitutionally protected right to hunt in Canada because he doesn’t belong to one of the groups that make up the “aboriginal peoples of Canada” — and that granting him such a right would be incompatible with Canadian sovereignty.

The Crown also said Desautel failed to prove that the Sinixt people’s tradition of hunting before contact was carried out by its modern-day successor group — a test for establishing a right under Canadian law. Prosecutors argued that they voluntarily drifted from their northern territory and traditional practices there. 

Mrozinski disagreed and acquitted Desautel. Even if members of the Lakes Tribe moved south, she wrote, there’s no evidence that they gave up their claim to the rest of their traditional territory or that their move was entirely voluntary.

“Whether or not the Sinixt, or Lakes Tribe as they are known, utilized their traditional territory north of the 49th parallel after the 1930s,” she wrote, “I am left with no doubt that the land was not forgotten, that the traditions were not forgotten and that the connection to the land is ever present in the minds of the members of the Lakes Tribe.”

British Columbia’s Supreme Court and its Court of Appeal dismissed the Crown’s appeals. 

“Imposing a requirement that Indigenous peoples may only hold Aboriginal rights in Canada if they occupy the same geographical territory in which their ancestors exercised those rights,” Court of Appeal Justice Daphne Smith wrote in the 2019 ruling, “ignores the Aboriginal perspective, the realities of colonization and does little towards achieving the ultimate goal of reconciliation.”

The Crown appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the case is of national importance. Its ruling could have far-reaching ramifications.

In legal filings, prosecutors warned of “legal and practical difficulties” that could arise from a decision in Desautel’s favor, including the possibility that other Indigenous groups in the United States with traditional territory divided by the border could be entitled to constitutional rights in Canada. The government would then have a duty to consult with them on projects impacting their traditional lands, such as pipelines.


Several such groups applied for and have been granted intervener status — comparable to amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” standing in the U.S. courts — in the appeal to the Supreme Court. The Peskotomuhkati Nation, which has communities in New Brunswick and Maine, said in legal filings that it’s “dishonorable” to hold that U.S.-based Indigenous groups do not have rights in Canada.

“If you read the factum for the government, there’s a fear of what we call the floodgates of law,” said John Borrows, a professor of Indigenous law at the University of Victoria. “That if you allowed this example . . . then that unlocks the door to dominoes.”

Many of the major rulings that have established Indigenous rights have arisen from defenses to criminal or regulatory charges. Borrows said it would be “much better to have this done through negotiation or some other dispute resolution process that [is] more systematic.”


Shelly Boyd, a member of the Lakes Tribe who says she is descended from the Sinixt, remembers what it was like as a young girl to learn that Canada considered her “extinct.”

“I thought, ‘That doesn’t make sense. That’s what happens to dinosaurs. That’s what happens to animals,’ ” Boyd said. “The reality is that we weren’t thought of as human. . . . You’re not just treated as if you’re less than. You’re actually, in this case, declared less than, declared nothing.”

Desautel says a ruling in his favor would affirm that his decade-long battle was “a journey well spent.” 

“The court decision is something that’s in the judicial system that has to be taken care of,” he said. “As for me, being here in my traditional territory, the burial ground of my ancestors, walking the path of my ancestors . . .

“You can’t take that away from me.”