Clinging to power: Africa's longest serving leaders

Wednesday January 13 2021
museven pic

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. PHOTO | AFP


Nairobi. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986 and up for re-election on Thursday, is one of the longest serving leaders in Africa.

Here is a rundown of the continent's other "eternal" leaders, who often change the constitution, crush the opposition and turn to violence to maintain their grip on power.

- More than 35 years -

Equatorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang Nguema is Africa's longest-serving president, still in power after 41 years. Having come to power in a 1979 coup, he was re-elected in 2016.

Cameroonian President Paul Biya comes in second, having been in office more than 36 years. He was re-elected in 2018 for a seventh term.

Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso has been in power one year less, 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 2016 and he will run for a fourth term in March.

In southern Africa's tiny Eswatini, formerly Swaziland, King Mswati III is the continent's last absolute monarch. He took the throne in April 1986, more than 34 years ago.

- Even longer -

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 an armed rebellion that later turned into a civil war.

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 in September 2017, having led his oil-rich country for 38 years.

Zimbabwe's former president Robert Mugabe, who died in 2019, was in power for 37 years.