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Remember when a job was for life? Not any more, even if you happened to be the youngest ex-dictator in the world. What happens after the glory years? When by the sheer luck of staying alive, living in exile ex-dictators put paid to the theory there is a just god somewhere.
Times were when borderline insanity, ruthlessness and an inflated sense of ego were the only qualifications necessary for a lifetime position as a dictator. Sadly in these days of economic decline jobs opportunities just aren?t what they used to be. So what does life on the dole mean for former dictators?
Well, if you are a washed-up and homeless 35 years old, like former dictator Valentine Strasser it means moving back in with mum. Ten years ago Valentine was flying high as the world's youngest head of state. Unfortunately the good times, fame and fortune didn?t roll for long. Four years after reaching the dizziest pinnacle of power in Sierra Leone, none other than his favourite opo Julius Bio ousted him in a coup.
Thankfully, mum was there to wipe his tears and is proving very understanding about her lazy-arse son cluttering up the front room.
"I'm basically living off my mother now. She's been very supportive," Strasser told Associated Press, last year, "It has been tough. I'm unemployed, but I'm coping."
Times have certainly changed since Strasser, in 1992, led a small group of officers, known as ?the boys? to power, ousting yet another dictator, Major General Josef Momoh. At the time Strasser was hailed as a hero by many, especially when he put the national TV station back on the air.
Its always a temptation to feel sorry for the jobless but before you do its worth remembering that Strasser was no angel. His short sojourn in power was characterised by some pretty nasty acts from torture of his enemies to the enforced recruitment of child soldiers. It had all started so promisingly and Strasser collected a formidable selection of allies and acolytes, including Bill Clinton and John Major. However only eight months in and allegations of torture began to spread. Pretty soon Britain suspended aid to Sierra Leone and the international community isolated Strasser.
Apart from an obvious talent to undemocratically take over countries what else does Strasser have on his CV? It?s heartening to see old friends don?t forget the less fortunate. Thanks to the UK government and the United Nations, who gave him law scholarship, he holed up in the UK and enrolled at Warwick University. Unfortunately, he only managed 18 months of study, but with a little ingenuity, perhaps the advice of a good career guidance officer, the ingenious Strasser could surely turn this into something bit more concrete. Lets face it, who doesn?t embellish their CV just a teeny little bit? He seems to have already got the hang of it, changing his name to Reginald. Whether this increases his job prospects remains to be seen.
It wasn?t his fault he was a university dropout or that he was deported. He missed his mum. Denied unemployment benefit because of some silly government rule meaning ex-dictators are not entitled to unemployment benefit, Valentine cuts a lonely figure in the bars of Freetown. For one thing he has had to economise in ways that will send shudders down the spines of other members of the Executive Dictator Job Club. The Ray Bans and the snazzy designer suits have gone. Replaced with a baseball cap and, perhaps, the ultimate symbol of the free world - Nike trainers.
Poor old Strasser cannot even afford a second hand car, which makes it a bit hard to dodge the stones thrown at him as he walks to the local offie. Thankfully, the new government have been very understanding on this point and has exhorted people to desist in case someone gets hurt.
Valentine is pragmatic, although given to reminiscing about better times "Oh it was good. I was the youngest head of state in the whole wide world," he said. Whatever you say about him, hope certainly springs eternal. In a move that would make any job centre proud to call him a client, he is looking forward to running for government in the upcoming democratic elections.
Copyright © 1995 - Photius Coutsoukis (All Rights Reserved).
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