Father & Son Dictatorships in North Korea, Syria, Togo & More (PHOTOS)

Legacy dictators have run some of recent history’s most brutal regimes. From Assad to Baby Doc, see photos.

Getty, AP, Getty (3)

Getty, AP, Getty (3)

'Tator Tots

This is the type of family business you don’t want to get into. Some of the most brutal regimes in recent history have been run by legacy dictators—passed the reins by their power-seizing fathers. From Bashar al-Assad to Baby Doc, here are some mini-mes who made their papas proud.

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North Korea

Kim Il-sung (1948–94), succeeded by son Kim Jong-il (1994–2011), succeeded by son Kim Jong-un (2011–)
Just two years ago, prior to his grooming as the leader of the world’s most secretive nation, there was only one photo of Kim Jong-un in circulation: from when he was 11 years old. Two years after his appointment as North Korea’s leader, Jong-un continues the legacy of an absurdly powerful dynasty—one that stretches back to the creation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by his grandfather Kim Il-sung’s regime in 1948. According to the first family’s former chef, Jong-un was heralded by his father as the child most like him, and he has so far proved to be so (he, like his father, also greatly enjoys looking at things). While there was initially hope that new leadership in North Korea might result in some progressive reforms, Jong-un has continued his family’s legacy of ruthlessly abusing human rights, quelling free speech, and threatening hostility to the outside world. If reports from South Korea are correct, this family’s legacy could be around for another generation: Jong-un and his wife just welcomed a baby.

Giancarlo Giuliani/Vatican Pool, via Getty


Gnassingbé Eyadéma (1967–2005), succeeded by son Faure Gnassingbé (2005–)
In 1967 a military coup brought Gnassingbé Eyadéma to power, and he and his bloodline have held an iron grip on Togo since. Eyadéma’s rule as both president and minister of national defense was marred by corruption and fraud. After his father’s death, Faure Eyadéma was the target of international condemnation when he altered the country’s Constitution to take his father’s seat—and then shifted around some laws to ensure he’d keep the presidency. Even after elections in 2006 and 2010, he has held on to power, despite some opposition parties’ protestations. In 2012 a sex strike was organized by Togo’s women to protest the family’s extended reign.

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Omar Bongo (1967–2009), succeeded by son Ali Bongo Ondimba (2009–)
In 2009 Ali Bongo Ondimba took the reins of a 42-year-old regime from his father, Omar Bongo, the former president of Gabon. The family was well known as one of the richest heads of state in the world, with personal wealth of at least $1 billion. The 2009 election that put Bongo into power was democratic, but accusations of fraud were widespread. And though Bongo insists he’s a reformer, Gabon is known for corruption and sending political dissenters to prison. Unfortunately, the family’s main legacy has been one of excess: their personal wealth was accumulated by siphoning off national funds to offshore accounts in a country where one third of the population lives on $2 a day.

Giovanni Coruzzi/AFP/Getty; Lee Celano/Getty


François “Papa Doc”  Duvalier (1957–71), succeeded by son Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier (1971–86)
Jean-Claude Duvalier, known as Baby Doc, led an extravagant lifestyle after assuming the presidency when his father, François Duvalier, died in 1971. At just 19, he was the world’s youngest president. His regime continued the corrupt and brutal tactics of his father, who is estimated to have ordered tens of thousands of Haitians killed. Baby Doc even banned all political groups and activities before a 1986 uprising stripped him of power and he went into exile in France. But he didn’t stay away forever. Upon returning to an earthquake-ravaged Haiti in 2011, Duvalier was promptly hauled in front of a judge with charges of corruption, theft, and other misuse of funds and power during his reign.

Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty


Hafez al-Assad (1971–2000), succeeded by son Bashar al-Assad (2000–)
How did an unassuming ophthalmology student become one of the most ruthless dictators of modern times, seemingly happy to order the deaths of thousands of Syrians? Hafez al-Assad seized power in 1970, ensuring the coming three decades would be marred by power consolidations and brutal suppression of all opposition. Syrian civilians were targeted in massacres, with as many as 30,000 citizens cut down at a time. Bashar, a focused student in the United Kingdom, seemed to want nothing to do with his family’s power, but when his brother, the regime’s heir apparent, died, he found himself summoned back from a quiet life in London and preparing to rule the country after his father’s death. Today, two years since civil war broke out, Syria is in a bloody state of disarray, a reported 70,000 are dead, and Assad has garnered a reputation as one of the world’s most brutal dictators.

Harold Valentine/AP; Gamma-Keystone via Getty; AP


Anastasio Somoza García (1937–47, de facto 1947–50, 1950–56), succeeded by son Luis Somoza Debayle (1956–63, de facto 1963–67), succeeded by brother Anastasio Somoza Debayle (1967–72, de facto 1972–74, 1974–79)
For 43 years, three members of the Somoza family pulled the strings of Nicaraguan politics. Anastasio Somoza García seized power in 1936 and, with the support of the United States, led for 20 years. Upon his murder, he was succeeded by his sons Luis Somoza Debayle and Anastasio Somoza Debayle, and the family’s reign lasted until the latter was overthrown by rebels in 1979. The Somoza period was known for its rampant corruption, and as a result Nicaragua was one of the most unstable countries in Latin America for decades.