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10 of Africa’s longest serving presidents

Following the tumult that resulted in the end of Blaise Compaoré’s 27-year tenure as President of Burkina Faso, we take a look at some of Africa’s longest serving leaders who after revolutions and and coups, still remain in power



Some we love for their bravery, commitment to their people and altruism. The national development and patriotism which characterises their rule does only wonders for the countries they lead.
But some of Africa’s longest serving presidents have long overstayed their welcome. They plunder much-needed resources from their countries while the populace starves and the national coffers run on deficits.

In the lists of the world’s 20 longest serving leaders who are still in power, Africa boasts 10. One thing’s definitely for sure: Power is addictive. Whether we love them or not, this addiction can never be a good thing.

1.Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo – Equatorial Guinea (35 years)

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea. UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

After ousting his uncle, Masie Nguema Biyongo Ndong, in a violent 1979 coup Teodoro Obiang Nguema Basongo took over as head of the Revolutionary Council (which governed over post-coup) Equatorial Guinea. He sat is Chairman in the council in the same year when his uncle was convicted and executed for crimes including mass murder, genocide, embezzlement of public funds and treason.

It wasn’t until 1982 that he officially became sworn in as president.

2. José Eduardo dos Santos – Angola (35 years)


Angola’s President Jose Eduardo dos Santos in 2007. Photo: Getty

President Dos Santos has been President of Angola since 1979, four years after the country attained its liberation.

While being praised for his role in transforming the country’s oil sector, he’s been similarly criticised for leading one of the continent’s most corrupt regimes. While 70% of Angola’s population live on less than $2 a day, his daughter Isabel has, through her political connections, gone on to become one of the richest Africans and certainly the youngest billionaires.

3. Robert Mugabe – Zimbabwe (34 years)

Robert Mugabe

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe in 2008. Photo: Getty/AFP

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is probably the most polarising in the list. While receiving intense criticism from the West, he also has fierce support from Africans within and outside Africa for his outspoken defiance of Western control and influence.

Currently, his wife Grace is believed to being in the running as her husband’s successor.

4. Paul Biya – Cameroon (32 years)

Paul Biya

Cameroon’s President Paul Biya. Photo: Getty

Prior to the commencement of his presidency in 1982, Paul Biya served as Prime Minister under Ahmadou Ahidjo.

Biya has held on to power through political reforms like a single-party system in the 80s (which he abolished under pressure in the 90s), high-margin election victories (which have consistently been suspected as fraudulent) and has maintained a close relationship with France, the former colonial master.

5. Yoweri Museveni – Uganda (28 years)

Yoweri Museveni

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni. Photo:

President Yoweri Museveni has been at the helm of Uganda’s government since the toppling of Idi Amin and Milton Obote (1986).

He has been in the limelight this year mostly for his government’s conservative stance on homosexuality, with draconian laws and sever punishment for “offenders”. He is also known for leading Uganda to economic stability and one of the continent’s most successful HIV/Aids programmes.

6. Omar al-Bashir – Sudan (25 years)

Omar al-Bashir

Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Photograph: Toru Hanai/Reuters

In 1989, Brigadier Omar al-Bashir led a bloodless military coup which toppled Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi and his government as the country faced nationwide famine.

Since then, he has been elected three times in dubious elections. In 2009 he became Africa’s first sitting president to be indicted by the ICC for directing mass killings, rape and torture in Darfur.

7. Idriss Déby – Chad (23 years)

Idriss Deby

Idriss Déby took over Chad’s presidency in 1990 after a rift formed between him and the then-president Hissene Habré. This rift resulted in Déby’s exile in Libya where he garnered support from both Libya and Sudan. He used this support to launch an attack against President Habré. A year later, Déby’s troops marched into the capital, N’Djaména unopposed.

8. Isaias Afwerki – Eritrea (23 years)

Isaias Afwerki

Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki. Photo: Natna

Since Eritrea’s independence in 1993, President Isaias Afwerki has held on to the top office.

Eritrea is a one-party state. Afwerki’s People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) is the only party allowed to participate in the country’s politics.

Mr Afewerki has been criticised for failing to implement democratic reforms. His government has clamped down on its critics and has closed the private press.


9. Yahya Jammeh – The Gambia (20 years)

Yahya Jammeh

President Yahya Jammeh. Photo: Reuters

President Jammeh turned 49 years old this year. He has ruled over The Gambia since 1994, first as chairman of the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) and was sworn in as president two years later, meaning that he took up office at the age of 31.

In his tenure, he has not been one to shy away from controversy. He has been an outspoken critic of homosexuality and, in 2008, announced that his government would introduce legislation against homosexuals “stricter than those of Iran”. He has also claimed the ability to cure ailments such as AIDS and asthma through the use of natural herbs.

10. Denis Sassou Nguesso – Republic of Congo (17 years)

Dennis Sassou_bis

Dennis Sassou Nguesso. Photo: Reuters

President Nguesso has had two tenures as head of state in the Republic of Congo. The first one was from 1979 to 1992 where he led the single-party regime of the Congolese Party of Labour (PCT).

He returned to power at the end of the 1997 civil war where his forces ousted President Pascal Lissouba.

Source: Wikipedia