While some African countries have been lucky to have been governed by benevolent leaders who were interested solely in the genuine development of their countries — and respected constitutional term limits — other African countries have not been so fortunate with presidents who have ruled their respective countries as if it was their birthright…and usually without any serious development. Here, we look at presidents who have spent more than three decades in power.
Hosni El Sayed Mubarak is the former president of Egypt who served from 1981 to 2011. Initially, he served his country as an Air Force officer and rose through the ranks to become the Air Chief Marshal. His rule was the longest after Mohammed Ali Pasha who governed Egypt from 1805 to 1848. Mubarak was forced to relinquish power during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. He is currently recuperating at the military hospital in Egypt due to failing health.
Robert Mugabe is the current president of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). He has ruled from independence in 1980 to date, which adds up to about 36 years in power. The grapevine indicates that he will be contesting for the presidency once again in 2018 — even though he is 92 years of age. While Mugabe became a Marxist in Ghana after observing the government care for the downtrodden under the late-Pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah, his government has been criticized for human right’s abuses and deep corruption at the highest levels.
Muammar al-Qaddafi seized control of the government of Libya in 1969 and ruled for about 42 years before his government shut down during the Arab Spring Revolution that engulfed the Arab world in 2011. At first, Qaddafi joined the military and became the ruler of Libya after a coup at the young age of 27. Quaddafi was loved for his nationalist views and hatred for western policies in Africa but soon became a dictator who terrorized his enemies and committed countless human right’s abuses. His extravagant and lavish lifestyle as well as endemic corruption changed public perception of him. He was ultimately killed during the uprising.
President Theodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo is leading Jose Eduardo and Mugabe as the longest-serving president in Africa. In total, he has spent 37 years in office as the president of Equatorial Guinea and even doubles as the longest-serving president in the world. He is one of the wealthiest heads of state with a net worth of $600 million, according to Forbes. As of 2006, 78.8 percent of his nation’s population lived in poverty.
President Paul Biya of Cameroon, 83 years old, has also spent more than three decades in office since his assumption of office in 1982. To enjoy this longevity in government, he virtually removed term limits from the constitution. Apart from being one of the longest-serving leaders in Africa, he is also a ruthless leader. Biya studied International Relations in Sorbonne and Sciences Po in Paris and has maintained close relations with France. In 2009, he was ranked 19th in Parade Magazine’s Top 20 list of “The World’s Worst Dictators.”
Yoweri Museveni, the incumbent president of Uganda, belongs in this article since he has been president for 30 years. He was one of the people that fought against former presidents Idi Amin and Milton Obote in Uganda. Although he has been applauded for bringing prosperity and development to the people of Uganda, long years of civil wars and rebellion in the northern part of the country has somewhat marred his achievements. It should also be noted that in his latest re-election this year, his administration was accused of fraud, the suppression of press, intimidation, the rigging of polls, and more. Still, on May 12, 2016, he was sworn in — once again — as president.
Jose Eduardo dos Santos has ruled Angola as its president since 1979. During his tenure, he has guided Angola to becoming the third-largest economy in Africa and one of the leading producers of oil, although his government has been chastised for corruption and reckless spending by his immediate family and political allies. Santos recently announced that he will step down in 2018.
Although dead, General Gnassingbe Eyadema is one of the few African presidents that has ruled a country for more than 30 years. He assumed office as the president of Togo in 1967 and ruled until he was killed in 2005. Eyadema was a military officer in the French army and participated in the French-Indochina War, among others. After his death, his son Faure Eyadema assumed control of government and won election to succeed his father.
Emperor Haile Selassie was probably the longest-serving president in Africa when one considers the fact that his reign started in 1930 and closed in 1974. But during this period, he was exiled during World War II, after leading a resistance to Italian invasion. He was one of the greatest rulers in Africa who reformed Ethiopia and positioned his country as the international activity hub of Africa.