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Africa’s longest serving leaders: Mugabe, Biya and others


A dog lies next to a stand of daily newspapers on the streets of Nairobi on September 7, 2019, following the death of former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe, guerrilla hero turned despot who ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years. – Mugabe, 95, passed away on September 6, 2019 in Singapore, where he had been hospitalised in April. First heralded as a liberator who rid the former British colony Rhodesia of white minority rule, Mugabe used repression and fear to govern until he was finally ousted by his previously loyal generals in November 2017. (Photo by SIMON MAINA / AFP)

Zimbabwe’s former president Robert Mugabe, whose death was announced on Friday, was in power for 37 years but is far from the only African leader to have ruled for so long.

Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema is Africa’s longest-serving president currently in power after 40 years. Having come to power in a 1979 coup, he was re-elected in 2016 to a fifth seven-year term in his tiny, oil-rich country.

Here is a rundown of the continent’s leaders in longevity.


Previous records
Ethiopia’s late emperor Haile Selassie holds the record for the longest time in power on the African continent. After reigning for 44 years, he was ousted in 1974.

Libya’s Moamer Kadhafi, who ruled with an iron fist for nearly 42 years, was killed in 2011 after a protest movement turned into an armed conflict.

Omar Bongo Ondimba governed oil-rich Gabon for more than 41 years until his death from cancer in 2009.

Angola’s Jose Eduardo dos Santos stepped down on September 2017, having led his oil-rich country for 38 years.

More than 30 years
Among those still in power, Cameroon President Paul Biya is the second longest-serving leader in Africa with more than 36 years in office. He was re-elected in October 2018 to a seventh term.

In Congo-Brazzaville President Denis Sassou Nguesso has spent 35 years in office, but not in one go. He first served from 1979 to 1992 and returned in 1997 at the end of a civil war. Sassou Nguesso was re-elected in March 2016.

In Uganda, Yoweri Museveni has been in power for 33 years. He took office in January 1986 after winning the war that ousted brutal dictator Idi Amin Dada.

He was elected to a fifth term in February 2016.

In southern Africa’s tiny eSwatini, former Swaziland, King Mswati III is the continent’s last absolute monarch. He took the throne on April 1986, more than 33 years ago.

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