I was ready to march up to the offending car to give it a piece of my mind.

My guide pulled me back. “Let it go.”

“But you saw what they did! I just-”

“Let it go,” he repeated. “Do you know whose car that was?”

I shook my head.

“President Mbudye Dawacadu. Leader of the Republic of Luba for the last thirteen years.”

I gasped and took a fresh look at the car as it rolled through the stoplight. “That? It’s not even a limousine.”

“No, it’s not,” my guide replied. “It’s bulletproof and bombproof, but you’d never know that to look at it. President Dawacadu enjoys driving throughout his country incognito, sometimes behind the wheel himself.”

“Why? Why would anyone, much less a dictator, go out with no security?”

“Do you know how Dawacadu came to power?” my guide asked.

“No clue,” I replied.

“Before him, the country was ruled by President Waran Kunyakua, who took over during the Cold War by executing the democratically elected Communist in office. Kunyakua was a big, boisterous man, and he put statues of himself up everywhere and renamed streets after his family members.”

“And Dawacadu was one of his soldiers?”

“No. He was a professor of economics at the University of Luba. He was also a writer of some note, and he wrote an essay praising the new regime which was carried in the newspapers. President Kunyakua liked it so much that he made him a minister in his new government.”

“And then he overthrew him?”

“No. Dawacadu became Kunyakua’s most loyal man. He did as he was asked without question and with great efficiency, from having political opponents jailed and murdered to emptying the slums in the way of government railway projects. But he learned, always watching and remembering.”

“So?”

“Eventually, Kunyakua’s megalomania got the better of him and he began to lose supporters at home and abroad. When the end came for him, Dawacedu was in the presidential palace within a week. Why? He watched, and he remembered. There was blackmail for some, bribery for others, but before the year was out all the dangerous men were dead and all the trustworthy dogs had bones in their mouths.”

The car’s taillights had faded to points of light in the distance. “That doesn’t sound all that different from the other guy.”

“Does it? There are no posters, no statues. Most people would be hard-pressed to pick the president out of a police lineup. He watched, and he remembered: statues and grandiosity bring unwanted attention. What Luba needs is someone to dirty their hands to drag the country kicking and screaming into the present.”

I chose my next words carefully. “It almost sounds like you admire him,” I said.

“My cousin is dead because the president saw him spraypainting graffiti on one of his drives. And our national parks are patrolled by men with machine guns who keep the poachers at bay and the animals safe. I admire him and loathe him in the same breath.”

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