Culture The Beauty of Africa

7 Africa’s Longest Serving Presidents

Written by Jesca

Africa’s longest-serving presidents have held onto power for many years and show no signs of stepping down anytime soon. In the world of politics, nothing is ever set in stone. This is especially true in Africa, where power transfer from one leader to the next can often be chaotic and violent.

Paul Biya is the oldest president in Africa, born on 13 February 1933. He has served as a Cameroonian president since 6 November 1982. Paul Biya is second Africa’s longest-serving president and the longest non-royal serving leader in the world.

In this blog post, we will look at some of the longest-serving presidents on the continent and examine how power has changed hands throughout history. Ready? Let’s dig in.

Africa’s Longest Serving Presidents

1. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo

Africa's Longest Serving Presidents

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. Photo/Wikipedia

First Africa’s Longest Serving President on our list is Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea. He has been in power since 1979, making him the longest-serving African president. In the early years of his rule, President Obiang was known for being a brutal dictator. He oversaw a government responsible for the torture and killings of political opponents. 

In the 1990s, he loosened his grip on the country and allowed multiparty elections. However, he has remained in power ever since.

In the past few years, President Obiang has come under fire from human rights groups for his continued repression of the people of Equatorial Guinea. In 2014, there were accusations of him using the country’s oil wealth to fund a lavish lifestyle for himself and his family. 

He has also been criticized for allegedly rigging elections to stay in power. Despite the criticism, President Obiang shows no signs of stepping down soon.

2.  Paul Biya

Africa's Longest Serving Presidents

Paul Biya. Photo/Twitter

The second president on our list is Paul Biya of Cameroon. He’s been in power since 1982, making him the second longest-serving African President. 

President Biya came to power in a coup d’etat and has ruled the country ever since. In the early years of his rule, he was known for being a repressive leader. He oversaw a government responsible for the torture and killings of political opponents. 

In the 1990s, he loosened his grip on the country and allowed multiparty elections. However, he has remained in power ever since.

President Biya has had his fair share of trouble with human rights groups for his continued repression of the people of Cameroon. 

3.  Jose Eduardo dos Santos (Angola)

 

Africa's Longest Serving Presidents

Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Former Angola President. Photo/cbsnews.com

Jose Eduardo dos Santos also makes it to our list of the longest-serving African presidents, having been in power for 38 years. He was the president of Angola from 1979 to 2017. Dos Santos was accused of corruption and human rights abuses during his office.

Under his rule, Angola became one of the most unequal countries in the world, with much of the population living in poverty. Dos Santos has been criticized for using his position to enrich himself and his family. It remains to be seen how his departure will impact the country of Angola.

4.  Denis Sassou

Africa's Longest Serving Presidents

Denis Sassou. Photo/britannica.com

Denis Sassou is also one of Africa’s longest-serving presidents. He has been the president of the Republic of the Congo for 36 years. He first came to power in 1979 and has since been re-elected three times. Sassou is currently among the oldest head of state in Africa, at 79.

Sassou was accused of corruption and human rights abuses during his office. In 2016, they estimated him to have a personal fortune of $600 million, making him one of the richest presidents in Africa.

His over three decades in power have attracted criticism and allegations, from corruption to poor governance and human rights violations. However, to him, that has never been reason enough to call it quits. 

5. Yoweri Museveni

Africa's Longest Serving Presidents

Yoweri Museveni. Photo/ Rappler

Yoweri Museveni has been the president of Uganda for 34 years. He first came to power in 1986 and has since been re-elected three times. Museveni is the third oldest head of state in Africa, at 78.

Under Museveni’s rule, Uganda has become one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. The country has also made strides in reducing poverty and improving healthcare and education. However, critics say Museveni has become increasingly authoritarian over the years, stifling dissent and curtailing civil liberties.

In recent years, there have been calls for term limits in Uganda, but Museveni has resisted these efforts. In 2017, he amended the constitution to remove the president’s age limit, effectively allowing him to stay in power for life.

6. Idriss Deby

Africa's Longest Serving Presidents

Idriss Deby. Photo/www.dailymaverick.co.za

Idriss Deby has been the president of Chad for 31 years. He first came to power in 1990 after leading a rebellion against the military government. Deby has since been re-elected five times until his assassination in April 2021.

Under Deby’s rule, Chad became one of the world’s poorest and most corrupt countries. Violence also plagued the country, with rebel groups constantly fighting for government control. In recent years, the conflict in Chad has spilled over into neighbouring countries, such as Cameroon and the Central African Republic.

Deby was accused of human rights abuses, including the torture and killings of political opponents. In 2010, the International Criminal Court indicted him for war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

7. Isaias Afwerki

Africa's Longest Serving Presidents

Isaias Afwerki. Photo/allafrica.com

Isaias Afwerki has been the president of Eritrea for 27 years. He first came to power in 1991 after leading the country’s independence movement from Ethiopia. Afwerki has since been re-elected twice.

Under Afwerki’s rule, Eritrea has become one of the world’s most repressive and isolated countries. The government controls all aspects of society, and the country can be compared to a police state. Political opponents are routinely jailed or killed, and there is no freedom of the press.

Eritrea is also one of the world’s most militarised countries, with all able-bodied citizens required to serve in the military. This has led to a mass exodus of Eritreans, with many fleeing the country for safety and opportunity elsewhere.

Africa’s longest-serving presidents are a varied group, with some ruling for over three decades. While some have used their time in power to improve the lives of their citizens, others have become increasingly repressive and authoritarian. 

It will be interesting to see how power changes hands in Africa in the coming years. Will the continent’s current leaders step down peacefully, or will they cling to power until the end? Only time will tell.

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Jesca

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