Whiles in some African countries, democratic transitions are expected every now and then; in other places it has more to do with maintaining the status quo with some leaders who have ruled for over three decades motivated enough to carry on.
In this year, the Republic of Congo and Uganda swore-in long serving leaders Denis Sassou Nguesso and Yoweri Museveni for fresh terms after polls that were contested by a section of the opposition.
Equatorial Guineans also went to the polls and confirmed the mandate of Africa’s longest serving president – Monsieur Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. Chad’s Idris Deby Itno also got a mandate extension this year after 25 years in charge.
Africa as at 2015 has about 6 leaders who have been in power for three decades or more, The six leaders as at 2015 had amassed a combined tenure of 201 years in power. This piece looks back at some of the longest serving presidents.
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea
He took power in a coup in August 1979, till date he has been in charge of the Central African country for 36 years, the election which he is widely expected to win would extend his mandate for a further seven years till the next elections in 2022.
Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola
He assumed the presidency after the death of the country’s first president in September 1979, four years after Angola’s independence.
Whiles he has often earned praise for revolutionalizing the country’s most important natural resource, oil; it is widely believed that the proceeds of the corruption are not reflecting on the life of the ordinary Angolan.
He recently announced that after 36 years as President he would step down in 2017. His party has nominated a new candidate in polls expected to be held in 2017.
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Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe
The 91-year-old won the country’s independence elections in April 1980 and has since served as president of the country which is now suffering from economic squeeze after years of isolation by international lenders.
The veteran leader has in the past shared power with the opposition but his grip on the top post has never waned. Despite health concerns due to ageing Mugabe has said in different fora that he will carry on as President.
With the unflinching support of the ruling ZANU-PF party, the influential war veterans and the army, Mugabe’s only potential replacement seems to be his wife Grace Mugabe.
Grace is quoted to have said that, “I know that President Robert Mugabe is 91 years old, but he is the best leader we have, I am going to be learning from him.”
35 years and still counting Zimbabwe goes to the polls in 2018 and Mugabe is expected to seek reelection all things being equal.
Paul Biya of Cameroon
Biya before becoming president served as Prime Minister under President Ahmadou Ahidjo. Like Dos Santos, he took over after resignation of Ahidjo in November 1982.
There were calls by party members during the 31st anniversary of ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement demanding that Biya should be the ruling party’s candidate when next Cameroon goes to the polls despite his 33 year in charge.
He has remained in 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.
Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo
He was installed by the military in October 1979, but had a five year period out f power between August 1992 and October 1997 before staging a comeback to take over the reigns of political authority.
Sassou in 2015 introduced a referendum that allowed him to extend his stay in power, the opposition described the heated referendum voting as a constitutional coup.
Sassou won contested polls of March 20, a poll that was more famed for the communication blackout that characterized it and also the pockets of violence that erupted after the announcement of results. With five years on his 31 year rule, Sassou will clock 36 years in power before the 2021 polls.
Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda
He became president after his rebel group took power in January 1986 and for the next three decades he has been in charge of Uganda.
He recently won the country’s very heated poll to extend his 30 years for a further five years before the next elections in 2021.
Arab Spring and how it ousted long serving rulers up north
It is instructive to note that the long serving rulers in north Africa became victims of the Arab Spring which spread through the maghreb region in 2012/2011.
Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Tunisian leader Zine al Abideen Ben Ali and Muammar al Gaddafi of libya, long time rulers were deposed after 23, 29 and 42 years in power respectively.
Other African leaders who have passed the two decade in power mark are Sudan’s Omar al Bashir, Chad’s Idriss deby Itno, who won a reelection recently, Eritrea’s Isaias Afwerki and Gambia’s Yaya Jammeh.