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Like father, like son?

Sons of strongmen, in Africa and elsewhere, have earned their own notoriety.

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor sits in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court prior to the hearing of witnesses in his trial in The Hague. Taylor is on trial for directing atrocities in Sierra Leone. His son was convicted of carrying out torture and was sentenced to 97 years in jail. (Michael Kooren/Reuters)

WASHINGTON — In early 2009, a chubby young man from suburban Florida, infatuated with girls and hip-hop music, was sentenced to 97 years in prison for the torture of Africans half a world away from the United States.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, "Chuckie" Taylor and his associates engaged in "burning victims with molten plastic, lit cigarettes, scalding water, candle wax and an iron; severely beating victims with firearms; cutting and stabbing victims; and shocking victims with an electric device."

In a very real sense, the 31-year-old Taylor was following in the bloody footsteps of his notorious father, the Liberia's violent former dictator Charles Taylor, himself facing a life behind bars because of his current trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague for war crimes and other atrocities. Brutal though he was, the young Taylor is far from the only male offspring to model his behavior on that of an infamous father. Call it "Sociopathic Son Syndrome" or SSS for short.

This past December, another West African strongman, Guinea's Lansana Conte, passed away after a long illness and for a time there was real fear among the Guinean people that he would be succeeded by his son, Ousmane, who made a name for himself by shooting down peaceful protesters in the streets of the capital city two years ago. After some gentle prompting by Guinea's new military government, Conte fils appeared on national television to contritely confess to involvement in the cocaine trade.

Smuggling, of drugs or other contraband, is apparently the occupation of choice for SSS sufferers. Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic's son Marco has been accused of heading a multi-million dollar, black market cigarette ring, while one of Zaire's (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) Mobutu boys, Kongulu (known as "Saddam"), was reported to have been involved in illegally running gold out of his country. Saddam Mobutu, who also served as one of his father's more brutal enforcers, died at age 28, in exile in Monaco, certainly a much more civilized end that that of the two son's of the original Saddam Hussein — Uday and Qusay — who perished in a hail of bullets courtesy of the U.S. army.

The list goes on and represents every geographical region: "Bong Bong", the son of Philippines autocrat Ferdinand Marcos, was sentenced to nine years imprisonment for tax evasion (although he never served a day); Haiti's "Baby Doc" Duvalier, the son of "Papa Doc", remains a relatively comfortable refugee in Paris, twenty-two years after he and his avaricious wife fled the country amid accusations of corruption and torture; and one of Libyan leader Gaddafi's sons, nicknamed "Hannibal", is constantly in trouble with the law, most recently in Switzerland for allegedly beating his domestic staff.