Leaders: Africa’s 10 longest-serving leaders

Displayed with permission from dpa German Press Agency

Cape Town (dpa) – Officially, they run democracies. But they always win elections and usually with a landslide. Africa has a long list of long-term leaders. These are the continent’s top 10:

37 years: Teodoro Obiang Nguema rules the small Central African nation of Equatorial Guinea with an iron fist. A coup brought him to power in August 1979. Three years later, the 74-year-old officially became president.

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo

37 years: Angola’s Jose Eduardo dos Santos was elected only a month after Obiang took power. Also 74 years old, dos Santos has built himself a family business empire while leading the oil-rich Southern African nation.


36 years: Robert Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since the Southern African country’s independence in 1980. The 92-year-old first became prime minister in April 1980 and then president in 1987.

Robert Mugabe

34 years: Paul Biya has been the president of the former German colony of Cameroon since November 1982. Two coup attempts have not been able to weaken the 83-year-old’s grip on power.

Paul Biya

32 years: President Denis Sassou Nguesso first led the Central African nation of Congo-Brazzaville from 1979 to 1992. After a five-year break, the 73-year-old regained power in 1997.

Dennis Sassou_bis

30 years: Yoweri Museveni has ruled the East African nation of Uganda since January 1986. The 72-year-old, known for his beige safari hats, received strong international criticism for brutally persecuting homosexuals.

Yoweri Museveni

28 years: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir came to power in a bloodless military coup in 1989. In 2009, the 72-year-old became Africa’s first sitting president to be indicted by the International Criminal Court for directing mass killings, rape and torture in Darfur.

Omar al-Bashir

26 years: Chad’s President Idriss Deby took power in a coup in 1990. The 64-year-old is seen by Western governments as a bulwark against Islamist terror in the region.

Idriss Deby

23 years: Iasaias Afwerki has held Eritrea’s highest office since the East African nation’s independence in 1993. The 70-year-old turned Eritrea into a one-party state that clamps down on any form of opposition and the media.

Isaias Afwerki

22 years: Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh took power in a 1994 military coup. In 2015, the 51-year-old declared the West African nation an Islamic Republic. He lost an election this month, but has since said he plans to stay in power.

Yahya Jammeh



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