In my “Oslo Journal” today, there are several remarkable characters, and brave ones: like the Bangladeshi publisher who was almost hacked to death but refuses to shut up. And a Somali-born woman who refuses to stop inveighing against FGM, or female genital mutilation. But here on the Corner, I’d like to single out a former head of state.
He is Mohamed Nasheed, who was president of the Maldives from (late) 2008 to (early) 2012. In his younger life, he was a journalist who endured imprisonment, torture, exile, and more. But his country had a democratic parenthesis, and, during that parenthesis, he was president.
The previous president had ruled as a dictator for 30 years. Nasheed and his colleagues made the decision not to arrest him, because they wanted to break the cycle: the cycle of the incoming president jailing the previous one. If a ruler knows that he will be jailed — he will be reluctant to give up office.
As it happened, Nasheed was deposed in a military coup after a little more than three years.
I think of our David Pryce-Jones, who has long made a point about the Arab world: A ruler goes when he dies in bed — or when he is overthrown and imprisoned or put to the wall. You hang on to power for dear life (literally). If this cycle can be broken, it will herald good things, in a region that could use them.
Last week, I was talking to a distinguished Venezuelan about the dictator of his country: Nicolás Maduro. I like justice, I said. But it would be fine with me if Maduro went into exile and lived comfortably in a villa somewhere — just to get him and his gang out of power. “Yes,” said my friend, “but no one will take him.”
That is a problem. Not even Raúl? Maybe they can go together to, say, Saudi Arabia, where Uganda’s Idi Amin lived for more than 20 years. He loved going to the grocery store — Safeway — in his Chevy Caprice Classic. (Really.)