Most Bizarre Things Banned by African Dictators

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By Owaahh and Chris Orwa

Equatorial Guinea
The Central African nation has the largest share of irrational decisions made by Presidents.  When the country was hit by a fuel crisis 1973, the revered despot Francisco Macias Nguema had an ingenious solution. A descendant of a witch-doctor, he banned workers from the Malabo city power plant from using lubricants as he believed his magic powers could keep the place running. A few hours later, the generators overheated and exploded plunging the capital city in darkness.

He’s reign of insanity did not end here. After failing civil servant entrance exams three times in a row, he developed an inferiority complex and banned the use of the word intellectual as he was intimidated by people more knowledgeable than him. He went ahead to ban private schools in addition to closing hospitals and replacing them with witch-doctors. To add the cherry on top of the cake, he banned all religion and changed the country’s official coat of arms motto to, ‘There is no other God than Macias Nguema’ .

He was dethroned and executed by his nephew Teodoro Obiang Nguema when he became paranoid and started killing his family members. Teodoro Obiang  serves as the current President of the country. However, redemption is a distant dream.  When the country’s musicians to the stage to talk about inequality President Obiang banned rap. It is now a criminal offense to spit rhymes in Equatorial Guinea.

Over to West Africa, the self-styled ‘’natural pharmacist’’ and doctor Yahya Jammeh,  President  of Gambia banned antiretroviral drugs in his country after he invented his own cure of AIDS. He announced his ‘medical breakthrough’ in a gathering with foreign diplomats declaring “Mine is not an argument, mine is a proof. It’s a declaration. I can cure Aids and I will.” His non-patented drug is made of green paste, bitter drink and banana.

In one of his hospital visit, the Gambia’s president Yahya Jammeh pulls out a plastic container, says a brief prayer and rubs a green paste on a patient’s ribcage. He then orders the patient to swallow a bitter yellow drink, followed by two bananas. Done! Aids cured. But the medicine comes with a warning – you must not take any antiretroviral drugs. No one knows what happened to the patient but most said ‘they’ll felt healed’ – placebo effect? or fear of opinion?
Yahya disapproves his critics, he says “I am not a witch doctor, and in fact, you cannot have a witch doctor. You are either a witch or a doctor.”

Soon after the declaration of independence in Guinea, the new president Sekou Toure had his sights set on a new political and social order. He named it the African Socialism – an amalgamation of African value fused with modern ethics. It was to be a  revolution. One thing got on his way – masks. These inanimate objects bore a threat to his revolution more than any other standing army because they represented traditional authority. He then issued a decree banning masks, especially the chiwara (antelope) mask.

The revolution then banned the masks, both for use in ritual performance and for export in foreign markets. One lad, Sidime Laye had his uncle arrested and later tortured to death after a mask was discovered on a plane he was boarding. All the extended family members were expelled from Guinea. Masks, therefore, entered global political conflicts as organizers of markets risk to get authentic masks. This is akin to blood diamonds of Liberia.

The flamboyant Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had a penchant for sincere pragmatism. During his rule, the country had zero foreign debt, the country owned a bank that issued loans at zero interest, there was no electricity bill – electricity was free, newlyweds would get US$ 50,000  from the government to buy the first apartment, among other things.

On his quest for sincere pragmatism,  Gaddafi likened house maids to slaves and banned any Libyan to work as a cleaning lady.  Europeans living in Libya had to let off their house maids and cleaning ladies. However, Soviet doctors volunteering in Libya came to their rescue, they ended up doing dishes in European homes. In one hour they earned the equivalent of an entire month’s salary back home.

Zimbabwe’s first president had a rare problem, his second name. Reverend Canaan Banana used to be ridiculed by the citizenry on the banana nature of his name. In 1982, he passed a law banning any citizen from making jokes about his surname. He had gone bananas as it was discovered later that he defiled civil servants including policemen and air force crew.

He was fond of sticking his banana up other men without invitation and remarked ‘that was the food for elders’.

The first president of Malawi Hastings Kamuzu Banda had a name problem too, but not his name, rather his mistress Cecilia Tamanda Kadzamira. In 1970, American music Paul Simon and Garfunkel released a song titled ‘Cecilia’ just as Kamuzu Banda took power.  The lyrics, ‘Cecilia you’re breaking my ‘heart’ became the synonymous attitude of the president to his mistress and became a meme. The angered statesman then banned the song Cecilia as it ‘ridiculed’ his mistress.

His Excellency President for life, Alhaji Dr. Idi Amin Dada,  VC, DSO, MC, Lord of all Beast and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda, in Particular, was quite a mercurial man. Amin got his name Dada (Swahili for sister) for his lust for girls while a soldier at the King’s African Rifles in Kenya. He crowned his lust by marrying 6 wives, but what happened when he became president.

Idi Amin  banned women from using perfumes, deodorants and creams. In 1973, he topped  that up by banning mini-skirts, wigs and trousers. Finally, he ordered the streets to be cleared of  unmarried women as they were alleged to be prostitutes. His military officers also mounted a crusaded for force single Ugandan women to marry. What happened to the man who so loved women that they begot him a last name?

Joseph-Désiré Mobutu (Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga) was a man of style. He loved his African attire and consequently banned Congolese men from wearing European suits. By decree he ordered that they should be replaced with a collarless Mao-style tunic, worn without shirt or tie which came to be known as abacost –  á bas le costume – literally down with the suit.

For the love of his African roots, he also banned European name. Congolese with Christian names were ordered to drop them for African ones. Priests were warned that anyone caught baptising a Congolese child with a European name would face a five-year jail sentence.

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