Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
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News around Africa - March 21, 2023

Longest Serving Presidents in Africa

Africa is a continent with a rich political history with distinct changes in leadership over the years. Some leaders have managed to stay in power for decades, becoming the longest-serving presidents in their respective countries. 

Some of these presidents have been criticized for their extended tenure which most people see as a hindrance to progress and democracy. With this criticism, these longest-serving presidents usually say they are still governing because it is the desire of the citizens.

Many of these presidents have experienced different political campaigns and elections ruined by brutalities and arrests of opponents and described to lack transparency. Here are some of Africa’s other longest-serving presidents, some of whom changed the laws, crushed their oppositions and maintained power through the use of fear and violence.

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo –  43 Years

The president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema is Africa’s longest serving president and currently holds this record on a global scale. He came into power in 1979 after he toppled his uncle Francisco Macías Nguema in a bloody coup d’état.

The former military officer who has been in office for 43 years was known for being a brutal dictator after he oversaw a government responsibility for the torture and killings of his political opponents.

However, he loosened his grip on the country and allowed multiparty elections in the1990s, but he has remained in power ever since.

Paul Biya – 40 Years

The second-longest-ruling president in Africa is the Cameroonian politician, Paul Biya. The 85 year old president came into power and has been governing the French West African country since 1982. He is currently the president of Cameroon as a result of his reelection in 2018 for another seven-year in 2018.

President Biya became president following the resignation of Ahmadou Ahidjo, the first president of Cameroon.

The 90 year old and the oldest head of state in the world came to power in a coup d’etat and has ruled the country ever since. President Biya was known for being a repressive leader having oversee government responsible for the torture and killings of political opponents. 

He however allowed a multiparty election in the 1990s, but still remained in power ever since. As a result, several human rights groups have attacked him for his continued repression of the people of Cameroon. 

Jose Eduardo dos Santos –  38 Years

Having been in power for 38 years, president Jose Eduardo dos Santos is one of the longest serving presidents in Africa. He came into power in 1979  as the president of Angola and after winning a second presidential term in the 2012 election, he retired from the presidency in 2017 and was succeeded by his party mate João Lourenço as president. He died in July 2022, following a cardiac arrest.

Angola is known as one of the most unequal countries in Africa with the majority of the population living in poverty. President  Dos Santos was accused of corruption and human rights abuses during his stay in office and has been criticized for using his position to enrich himself and his family. However, how his departure will impact the country of Angola positively remains to be seen.

Dennis Sassou  – 36 Years

One of Africa’s longest-serving presidents is the president of the Republic of  Congo. He first came to power in 1979 and served from 1979 t0 1992 at the end of a civil war. In 2016 and 2021, he was re-elected again for the second and third times respectively. 

The Congolese politician and former military officer has been attacked severally by critics as a result of poor governance and human right violations.He was estimated to have a personal fortune of $600 million, making him one of the richest presidents in Africa.

However, despite all these allegations, President Sassou never saw it as enough reason to call it quits.

Yoweri Museveni  – 36 Years

The President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni came into power in 1986 after he won the war that ousted dictator Idi Amin Dada and has remained in power ever since. The third oldest head of State in Africa has been re-elected three times since he resumed office.

Uganda economy is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world under President Museveni’s rule. He has managed to reduce poverty in the country and improve its healthcare and education.

He was criticized for being an authoritarian and there have been calls to limit presidential term in Uganda. However in 2017, he amended the constitution to remove the president’s age limits which would allow him to stay in power for life.

Idriss Deby –  31 Years

The president of Chad, Idriss Deby was president for 31 years till his death in 2021. He is also one of the longest serving presidents in Africa. After leading a rebellion against the military government, he came into power in 1990.

Prior to his assassination in April 2021, he had been re-elected five times. Chad became one of the world’s poorest and most corrupt countries under his regime with different rebel groups in a constant fight for governance.

In 2010, the International Criminal Court indicted Derby of war crimes and crimes against humanity as a result of different accusations of human rights abuses which included killings. As well as the conflict in Chad which has spilled over into neighbouring countries, such as Cameroon and the Central African Republic.

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