Top 10 Longest Serving Presidents In Africa (2021)

Do you know the longest serving presidents in Africa and their countries? Currently, most African leaders have attempted, in some way, to stay in power longer than their respective constitutions allow. Have you ever asked why so many African leaders serve for such a long time? It’s as simple as this though: changes to the electoral laws.

While a few have managed to build a house of cards that has allowed them to stay in power, others, such as Zimbabwe’s Mugabe, have been uprooted in a terrible tug-of-war with the general population.

Unfortunately, their inability to stay in power for longer than necessary is not the most serious flaw; rather, their lacklustre achievements during these periods are.

In the majority of cases, these leaders leave the country’s economy in significantly worse shape than their neighbours’.

Top 10 Longest Serving Presidents In Africa

10. Yahya Jammeh, Gambia (1996 – 2017)

Yahya Jammeh was born on May 25, 1965, in New York City. He has been the president of The Gambia since 1994, first as chairman of the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) and then as president two years later, when he was 31 years old.

He has not shied away from controversy during his tenure. He has been a vocal opponent of homosexuality, announcing in 2008 that his administration would introduce anti-homosexual legislation “stricter than Iran’s”.

He has also claimed to be able to employ natural herbs to treat diseases including AIDS and asthma.

9. Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, Djibouti (1996-2017)

Djibouti’s president is Ismail Guelleh. His leadership began in 1999 when he was hand-picked to succeed his uncle Hassan Gouled Aptidon, who had controlled Djibouti since 1977 when the country gained independence.

His term has been marked by both good and bad aspects. Guelleh received the Padma Vibhushan award in January 2019. (which means the second-highest civilian award for safely evacuating Indians from Yemen).

In the way he handles day-to-day activity and policy administration, however, he has been called a dictator.

8. Omar al-Bashir, Sudan  (1999 – 2021)

As the country faced widespread starvation in 1989, Brigadier Omar al-Bashir launched a bloody and violent military coup that deposed Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi and his cabinet.

He’s been re-elected three times since then in dubious elections. In 2009, he was the first sitting African president to be accused by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for ordering mass killings, rape, and torture in Darfur.

7. Isaias Afwerki, Eritrea (1991 – 2021)

Isaias Afwerki was born on February 2, 1946, and has served as President of Eritrea since leading the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) to victory in May 1991, putting an end to Eritrea’s 30-year struggle for independence from Ethiopia.

Eritrea is a country with only one political party. The People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) is the sole political party permitted to operate in the country.

President Afewerki has been condemned for not putting democratic changes in place. His administration has punished opponents and shut down the private press.

6. Idris Deby, Chad (1990 – 2021)

Idris Deby is one of Africa’s longest serving presidents. After a conflict with ex-president Hissene Habré, Idriss Déby took over the presidency of Chad in 1990.

Déby was exiled to Libya as a result of this rift, where he gained backing from both Libya and Sudan. He took advantage of this support to mount an attack on President Habré.

Since “those who live by the gun also die by the gun,” his leadership has been marked by a succession of attacks from rebellious forces that believe he is not governing the country in accordance with the requirements of the people.

Despite the obstacles, he was elected between 1996 and 2001 and was re-elected in 2006, 2011, and 2016.

Changes in the constitution that lifted the presidential term limit are one of the main reasons for his staying in power for so long.

5. Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe (1987 – 2021)

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is arguably the best politician on the list and one of Africa’s longest serving head of state.

While the West has harshly criticized him, he has strong support from Africans both inside and outside the continent for his outspoken defiance of Western control and influence.

Mugabe was a good politician in Zimbabwean politics, having ruled for nearly four decades. He was hailed as an African liberation hero who assisted in the liberation of Zimbabwe from British colonialism, imperialism, and white minority control.

4. Dennis Sassou Nguesso, Congo (1979-1992, 1997-2021)

President of the Republic of Congo, Dennis Sassou. After being defeated in 1992, he is now in his second term. He previously served as the leader of the Congolese Party of Labor from 1979 until 1992, when he led the country under a single-party system (PCT).

Under international pressure, he was obliged to establish a multiparty political system in Congo.

In 1990, he agreed to this, opening the door for Congo’s multiparty democracy. However, he was deposed from power, and this was his first detour.

He was out of the executive for five years, serving as the opposition leader before running for office again in 1997.

Following limited opposition attendance, he won the 2002 elections with ease. In 2009, he was re-elected, and after the adoption of a new constitution in 2015, he received yet another benefit pass. In 2016, he was re-elected by a large majority in the first round.

3. José Eduardo dos Santos, Angola (1979-2017)

President Dos Santos has served as the President of Angola since 1979, four years after the country’s independence. While he has been commended for his role in reforming the country’s oil sector, he has also been condemned for leading one of Africa’s most corrupt regimes.

While 70% of Angola’s population survives on less than $2 a day, his daughter Isabel has become one of Africa’s wealthiest in Africa, if not the youngest millionaire, thanks to her political relations.

2. Paul Biya, Cameroon (1982 – 2021)

Paul Biya, who was born on February 13, 1933, has served from 1975 to 1982. He is second on the list of the top 10 longest serving presidents in Africa.

He served as Cameroon’s first prime minister before ascending to the presidency. Under the leadership of Ahmadou Ahidjo, the former President of Cameroon, he rose quickly.

He went on to become Cameroon’s longest-serving president after succeeding Ahidjo.

His presidency has been characterized by-election violations, which have tarnished his legacy.

 Following pressure from both international investors and the opposition, Biya was compelled to incorporate multiparty democracy into the country’s political system in the 1980s.

Despite successive election violations all designed to help Biya stay in power, most opposition leaders have been forced to surrender to pressure out of fear of his authoritarian rule. 

1. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Guinea (1979 – 2021)

Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the president of Equatorial Guinea, is the longest-serving president in Africa and the unchallenged ruler of the continent’s west.

In the same year that his uncle was convicted and executed for crimes such as mass murder, genocide, misappropriation of public funds, and treason, he served as Chairman of the Council.

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has been the president of Equatorial Guinea since 1979 when he removed his uncle from power. 

Equatorial Guinea’s elevation as a renowned oil-producing country in Africa is one of his most notable achievements during his rule.

However, During his reign, Teodoro has also been accused of huge corruption, as well as constant abuse of authority and undermining the opposition.

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