The first few paragraphs summarise a list of horrific "first ladies" of dictatorships, and the accompanying suggestion that they are often as responsible as their dictator husbands for the suffering inflicted.
"Every revolution, every hated dictator, indeed, it seems every leader must have its femme fatale, the Lady Macbeth figure who is held responsible for the problems of the regime. "However, Ghanaian writer and politician Elizabeth Ohene evidently realises she's forgotten to blame society and men for all this, so panics and slips in a major non-sequitur:
"I wonder why we always seem to need to find a powerful woman behind every strongman."Ah, so it's in fact the finding of the woman that is the issue. And by the way, "powerful"? Really? Is that a good word to describe Leila Trabelsi, who stole 1.5 tonnes of gold from the Tunisian central bank, leaving her beloved country even more fucked, as if Tunisia needed the help after her husband's efforts.
But I digress. Back to the BBC, where we learn some interesting facts about the Mugabes.
Apparently, Robert Mugabe has an "intimidating intellect", and "has been known to reduce his opponents to silence in arguments".
I'm pretty sure that his arguing style is much on a par with Kim Jong-Il's! I don't think opponents are stunned into silence by Mugabe's verbosity and vast knowledge of political history. No, I'm pretty sure his army of thugs have a similar effect.
Not only that, but he is apparently "under his wife's spell to such an extent that he would do anything she asks him to do".
Fascinating. What is the conclusion to all this?
I wonder if it is possible for a man to become autocratic without a strong woman by his side?A strong woman? This isn't a Destiny's Child song FFS, we're not talking Oprah here, these are the wives of Dictators, men who have thought nothing of starving and murdering their people in order to line their own pockets. The women that Ms. Ohene mentions are at best complicit and at worst encouraging of this behaviour.
And all she can think of is to wonder if an autocrat needs a "strong woman".