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Hatch, Match and Dispatch - 5. Nine Lives

Archive on 4: After the Dictator

Friday 28 October 2011, 16:00

Phil Tinline Phil Tinline Producer

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Ed's note: Following recent events in Libya this Saturday's Archive on 4 explores what happens after dictators leave power - PM.

Beijing portrait of Chaiman Mao Tse Tung

Portrait of Chaiman Mao Tse Tung on the wall of the Forbidden City, 2001

Last Thursday at 12.52pm, a BBC Breaking News alert popped up in my email:

"An official in Libya's ruling NTC says ex-leader Muammar Gaddafi was captured as his hometown Sirte fell, though the news is unconfirmed."

A day later, it had been confirmed that Gaddafi was not only captured but had been shot in the head - and around a table in Broadcasting House were sat a team of Radio Documentaries Unit and World Service producers and editors, Radio 4's commissioning editor Mohit Bakaya and BBC reporter Owen Bennett-Jones.

As the news that the dictator was dead sank in, World Service documentaries editor Jeremy Skeet contacted Mohit Bakaya to suggest Radio 4 and the World Service team up and make a programme about what happens when dictators fall.

Great, said Mohit, let's put that out on Saturday week.

Simon Watts, the World Service producer charged with delivering a complex, hour-long documentary in a week, looked a tiny bit tense.

But together we hammered out a central theme to guide the programme: how does the way the dictator falls shape the future of the country they leave behind?

Is it better to kill them quickly - like Gaddafi or Nicolai Ceaucescu in Romania in 1989, or try to try them - like Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic?

What if they face neither fate, but hover in the background for years afterwards, like Pol Pot or Pinochet? Or just die peacefully in bed like Mao and Stalin?

Over the last week, Simon and Owen, assisted by production trainee Leo McGann, have been delivering a programme that attempts an answer to these questions.

They have corralled a huge range of BBC archive, not least from the World Service's 'Witness' programme. Including an interview with an Iraqi who confronted Saddam Hussein in his prison cell.

He recounts having to suppress the desire to kill the newly-captured tyrant there and then, for the good of his country - and how he insisted to himself that Saddam had to be put in the dock instead.

Owen has interviewed historian Richard Overy, foreign correspondents Mark Doyle, Isabel Hilton and Misha Glenny and ex-State Department staffer Nick Burns (with one more historian, Andrew Roberts, to go, as of Thursday lunchtime).

And he's drawn too on his own recollections of reporting from Romania in the immediate aftermath of Ceaucescu's overthrow.

I think, by Saturday evening, we'll have made a clear, sharp account of how the dictator's downfall shapes what follows. Hopefully, if you hadn't read this, you wouldn't know it had taken only a week. And when Simon does his second Archive on 4, he may even get a fortnight...

Phil Tinline is an executive producer in the BBC Radio Documentaries Unit

  • After the Dictator goes out on Radio 4 at 8pm this Saturday 29 October, as well as on the World Service. A shorter version will go out at 3pm on Monday. It'll be available to listen to online shortly after transmission.

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    Comment number 1.

    There should be Ten Year Maximum Term Limit for Prime Ministers and all world leaders. And yes CEOs of listed companies. That would prevent dictators being formed in office.

    http://goo.gl/djbC1

  • rate this
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    Comment number 2.

    Whether or not the fall of Gaddafi’s government is something to celebrate is still a question. It depends on what will come after that fall, a truly democratic country with economic boom, or another dictatorship and chaos. But it is sure, in my opinion, that the death of Gaddafi is nothing to celebrate. There is no doubt that Gaddafi deserves a death penalty regarding what he had done to Libyan people. But if the one who is going to lose his/her power knows the result of losing the game will be nothing but death, he/she will surely fight to death. Therefore, the model of to “king the winner and kill the loser” in a political transition will, without doubt, increase the price that we, human being as a whole, will pay for our future political progress.

    For the people who are still living in an undesirable political system and for our future generations who will surely experience other political changes, we shall learn to compromise, to let the sinner live, or sometimes even to let them live well in order to achieve a sustainable way of political transition.

    It may sound offensive to ask those who had been oppressed by Gaddafi government and those who had risked their lives to catch and kill Gaddafi to hold their anger. But however offensive it may sound, it always worth listening to the opposite, considering that there may be other ways, or sometime better ways.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 3.

    The blokes made the mistake of thinking dictators are politicians when they are primarily moved to protect their peoples from politics. They were confused by the phoney label "dictator".

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    Comment number 4.

    Regarding the mass murderer and dictator Pinochet - why was it not mentioned that our then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher gave him sanctuary in her own home in London. Yet another one of her misdemeanours glossed over by the media and world press. The Saudi Royal family was mentioned for giving sanctuary, villas and protection to other dictators/ mass murderers.

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    Comment number 5.

    Small list of worst dictators in recent history:
    Fidel Castro--Founder of Communist Cuba, Castro took power (1959-2008) through a revolution. He transferred power to his brother in 2008. The Castro brothers ruled through force and have driven hundreds of thousands of people to flee Cuba for a better life in the United States. Castro involved Cuba in multiple wars and revolutions throughout Latin America and Africa. Nicolae Ceausescu--Communist dictator of Rumania (1965-1989). Ruled on the Stalinist model and through a cult of personality. Considered one of the more ruthless Communist rulers in Eastern Europe. Ceausescu was overthrown and executed in a national uprising in 1989. Francisco Franco-Dictator of Spain (1939-1975) who took power after a long and bloody civil war. (according to israel news) Muamar el-Gadhafi--(1969-2011)--Eccentric, crazy, and increasingly desperate dictator of Libya. As of 8/24/11, Gadhafi was in hiding after rebels seized most of the capital city of Tripoli. See also Libyan War 2011. Also spelled Khaddafy, Qaddafi, Gaddafi. Adolf Hitler--Nazi dictator of Germany (1933-1945) who originally took office through the German electoral system but quickly threw out the constitution and ruled through force. Responsible for millions of deaths by starting the European portion of World War Two and thorugh the Holocaust, which was an attempt to destroy all Jews in Europe. Saddam Hussein--Dictator of Iraq (1979-2003). Committed genocidal acts against minority Kurds and Shiites in Iraq, began the Iraq-Iran War, the Gulf War by invading Kuwait, and was finally overthrown in the U.S.-led invasion generally known as the Iraq War. Joseph Stalin--Soviet dictaor (1924-1953). Set up the first Communist cult of personality. Responsible for the deaths of millions in his purges and genocidal policies against his political opponents.

 
 

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