Africa's Top 10 Long-Serving Heads of State

On Tuesday June 16, 2009, in the 17944 issue of the Daily Graphic, a list of Africa's top 10 'old men' was published. This followed the demise of the longest serving African president, President Omar Bongo of Gabon, who had, until his (un)fortunate demise, been in power for 42 years. Already, I have discussed the issue of 'Dynasty-sation of Africa's Autocracies and Democracies' on this blog. So whilst waiting for another book review (the book I am currently reading is so surreal that I just don't know how to review it), I decided to reproduce this list whilst adding few details to them.

10. President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia (21 years): He was born on 3rd September 1936 and has been in power since 7th November 1987. He was appointed Prime Minister by President Habib Bourguiba on October 1, 1987. However, after being in power for 5 weeks he had the President declared unfit for the duties of the office and assumed the position of a president in what has been referred to as medico-legal coup.

9. President Blaise Campaore of Burkina Faso (21 years): Blaise Campaore was born on February 3, 1951 and has been in power since October 15, 1987. He took power in a bloody coup that led to the death of his predecessor Thomas Sankara. He described his death as an 'accident' but this claim has been widely disputed. In November 13, 2005 President Campaore was re-elected as president defeating other opposition candidates and winning over 80% of the total vote cast.

8. King Mswati III of Swaziland (23 years): King Mswati was introduced as Crown Prince in September 1983 and was crowned as King on April 25, 1986 at 18 years and 6 days old. He remains as Africa's last absolute monarch with the power to choose a Prime Minister and other governmental and traditional positions.

7. President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda (23 years): Yoweri Museveni was born c. 1944 and has been president since 29th January 1986. He was involved in a war that deposed Idi Amin, ending his rule in 1975 and in the rebellion that led to the demise of Milton Obote in 1985. After years in the bush fighting rebellion, ex-army officer Yoweri Museveni led his National Resistance Army into Kampala in January 1986 to seize power. He toppled Basilio Okello, who had himself overthrown Milton Obote in a military coup six months earlier. Museveni has won three elections but only last time, in 2006, were candidates allowed to run on party-political basis.

6. President Paul Biya of Cameroun (26 years): Paul Biya was born on 13th February 1933 and has been in power since 6th November 1982. In November 1982, Cameroun's first post-independence leader, Ahmadou Ahidjo, formally resigned due to ill-health, and handed the presidency to his Prime Minister, Paul Biya. Since then Paul Biya has won five elections.

5. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt (27 years): Hosni Mubarak was born on 4th May 1928. He was appointed vice president in 1975 and assumed the presidency on 14th October 1981 after the assassination of President Sadat by Islamist militants in a referendum. In the last election he won 88 percent of the vote.

4. President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe (29 years): Mugabe was born on 21st February 1924 and has been the head of government since 1980: as Prime Minister from 1980-1987; and as the first executive head of state since 1987. The world cheered when, after leading a long guerrilla war, Robert Mugabe led his Zanu Party to victory at the elections in February 1980, after Zimbabwe won its independence from Britain. He is no longer a favourite global figure and the opposition has accused him of destroying his country in a bid to stay in power. He is now sharing power, but remains the president.

3. President Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola (almost 30 years): Jose Eduardo dos Santos assumed power on the death of Angola's first president, Agostinho Neto, in September 1979. But for much of the time after that, he ruled only over half of the country, as his MPLA fought a civil war against UNITA. Now, with the war over, and UNITA crushed at last year's parliamentary elections, he is being called on to hold an election for the presidency. No firm date has been set yet.

2. President Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea (30 years): Obiang Nguema was born on June 5, 1942 and has been in power since August 3, 1979 after deposing Francisco Macias, his uncle, in a bloody coup. In the last election of 2002 he won 97 percent of the total vote cast.

1. President Muammar Al-Gaddafi of Libya (almost 40 years): Muammar Al-Gaddafi born on June 7, 1942 led a coup by young army officers in September 1, 1969; then set about establishing his own political system, as laid out in his Green Book. He deposed King Idris I and placed the King's nephew the Crowned Prince Sayyid Hasan ar-Rida al-Mahdi as-Sanussi under house arrest; they abolished the monarchy and claimed Libya an Arab Republic.


  1. Interesting, the list is quite diverse:
    North (3), West (1), East (1),Central (2), South (3). However, it does depend if you would put Angola in Southern or Central Africa. Clearly Mugabe is not the only one who has overstayed his welcome.

  2. yes Abena. Mugabe is not the only one. In fact he is the 3rd on the list. Funny enough some of them killed their uncles and besides he is one of three who did not come to power through a coup d'tat, bloody or bloodless. And to think that Omar Bongo married the daughter of Teodoro Obiang Nguema makes you wonder. Uniting all the resources of their individual countries into one family.

  3. At each African Union meeting, our leaders get infuriated when anybody calls them a club of dictators. These ten leaders are all, in one way or another, riddled with abusive pasts. And they are not alone. There are some, much younger, fresher, and more brutal.

    Clearly we have a very long way to go before we can begin to think of Africa as a place where leaders think of anything else other than themselves. Aben, of course Mugabe is not alone, but he has done his abuse more spectacularly than others. Museveni must go too.

  4. Pen Powder, let me say I have always been looking forward to reading your comments here. I agree with you, they are a bunch of blood-thirsty individuals and some of the young ones are on their way there. May be one of these days I would have to make a list showing how they all came to power but it would be so long that it would be boring to read. They really are a bunch of dictators.

  5. Disgrace. "Blood-thirsty individuals" is a good moniker. I can think of several more, but I wouldn't want to shock my kids.

  6. Hmm...there is no name to characterise their actions. It is just absurd. Someone said that 'absolute power does not corrupt absolutely. It rather dements.' These people are demented and have no power to reason. I hope we keep adding to the list.

  7. So how did that Swaziland guy move on from Crown Prince to King? His pa was king then? Or he just felt the itches for change. Gawd! Do these people think they are the only ones fit to rule?


Post a Comment

Help Improve the Blog with a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

10. Unexpected Joy at Dawn: My Reading

69. The Clothes of Nakedness by Benjamin Kwakye, A Review

Quotes for Friday from Ola Rotimi's The Gods Are not to Blame I