ANALYSIS – AFRICA’S LONGEST SERVING RULERS
By Paul Ndiho
November 02, 2011
The death of Moammar Gaddafi, one of Africa’s longest serving rulers, has put a spotlight on other African rulers who have been in power for decades. The way in which Mr. Gaddafi was brought down may have other dictators in sub-Saharan Africa wondering if they also might be the target of revolutionaries.
Three of the 10 longest serving rulers in Africa have fallen this year – Ben Ali of Tunisia, who ruled for 23 years, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, in power for 30 years, and Libya’s Col. Moammar Gaddafi who was in power 42-years
Now, Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea and Jose Eduardo Dos Santos of Angola take the number one spot as the longest serving Presidents with 32 years of ruling their countries respectively. There are other long serving leaders in Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Uganda, Swaziland and Burkina Fasso.
Guinea’s President has been in power for 32 years, after he seized power in a military coup in August of 1979.
In November 2009, he was re-elected for a seven-year term, winning over 95% of the vote.
In power for 32 years, Angola’s President Dos Santos assumed the presidency of the mineral-rich country also in 1979, four years into a civil war with UNITA rebels that ended only in 2002. His ruling party won a landslide 2008 victory, leaving rivals in tatters; dos Santos changed the constitution and boosted his powers.
Following independence, Robert Mugabe became Zimbabwe’s prime minister in April of 1980. He became president in 1987, an office he still holds today. In February 2009, Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change were forced into a coalition government.
Cameroon’s President Biya has been in power for 29 years. He was re-elected by almost 80% of the vote in October 2011 for another seven-year term. A 2008 constitutional amendment removed term limits in Cameroon.
The Congo’s president has ruled the West African nation for 26 years.
In power all but five of the last 32 years, Sassou Nguesso seized power in a 1979 coup but then lost the country’s first multi-party elections in 1992 to scientist Pascal Lissouba. Nguesso regained the presidency in 1997 after a civil war and was re-elected in 2004 for another seven-year term.
Uganda’s General Museveni has been in power now for 26 years.
He seized Kampala after a five-year guerrilla war in 1986, and Museveni banned multi-party politics until 1996. Museveni was re-elected 2011 with 68 percent of the vote, and his main rival Kizza Besigye received 26 percent.
Analysts watching sub-Saharan Africa say although recent rebellions have so far been limited to North Africa, increasingly there are protests against regimes in other parts of the continent, triggered by economic conditions – high food and fuel prices, poor job opportunities or service delivery. And they say that African leaders could be taking notice of this trend, as in Zambia, where ex-president Rupiah Banda graciously accepted defeat this year and made a voluntary exit from power.
It is interesting how regardless of GDP growth figures, growth in literacy levels and other good economic indicators when one stays in power for long, there is a feeling of disenfranchisement in the general masses.