How to remove a dictator: guide for a successful revolution

1. Create an opposition coalition and set up a consensus agenda against the power in place. A scattered opposition will not do the job.

2. Know the enemy. Understand his alliances and strategic interests. Know the institutions the dictator controls, and the key people behind these institutions.

3. Communicate with the population, offer another source of information than state TV, press and radio. Use alternative medias such as pirate radio, Twitter, Facebook, blogs…

4. Use the dictator weaknesses. Do not focus the revolution on one place. It has to be nation-wide. Stretch the dictator military forces and weaken its resistance.

5. Use existing legal framework, and other judiciary means to guarantee the freedom of speech and press.

6. Disassemble the autocratic system and oppressive apparatus. Follow political, institutional and constitutional reforms to set up a new system allowing more freedom. Economic reforms need to happen only after these social and political changes.


These are, according to George Ayittey, Ghanaian economist, author and president of the Free Africa Foundation, the instruction to follow to free African countries.

The modus operandi of all dictators is essentially the same: Besides parliament, if there is one, they seize control of six key state institutions (the security forces, the media, the civil service, the judiciary, the electoral commission, and the central bank), pack them with their supporters, and debauch them to serve their interests. To succeed, a popular revolution must wrestle control of at least one or more of these institutions out of the dictator’s clutches. The game was over for Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak when the military refused to fire on civilians. Ditto in the Philippines in 1986 and Georgia in November 2003, where the security forces were charmed with roses (hence, the “Rose Revolution.”) Ukraine’s Orange revolution of November 2004 won the Supreme Court to its side and Pakistan’s Black Revolution of March 2007 had the full support of the judiciary. From The Huffington Post

In light of the recent events in Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Tunisia or even Senegal, it is interesting to hear a scholar analysis of the popular revolutions occuring throughout Africa this year. Ayittey’s new book, Defeating Dictators: Fighting Tyranny in Africa and Around the World, will be out in October. I’ll tell you more about it when it comes out.

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One thought on “How to remove a dictator: guide for a successful revolution

  1. […] About the author « How to remove a dictator: guide for a successful revolution […]

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