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9 African presidents who have stayed in power for a lifetime

By PETER ODUOR January 22nd, 2017 3 min read

There are African countries where a 37 year old man or woman has only known one president in their lifetime. Africa is infamous for leaders who never want to hand over power.

They will do anything to stay in office. They ban elections. They rule by dictatorship. They intimidate, kill or jail any serious opponent. And they isolate their countries from the world.

They clampdown on free speech and terrorize any individual with the stupid notion of democracy.

Some of these African leaders install themselves as rulers for life. In extreme circumstances they ordain themselves as God’s chosen rulers.

Gambia has just witnessed the rejection and forceful eviction from office and from the country of one such leader.

When Gambia went to the polls late last year, Yahya Jammeh was confident that by the end of the elections he would still be the president of Gambia where he ascended into power through a coup that installed him as its leader in July 22 1994.

The man has re-elected himself three times since and was planning to do so the fourth time. Currently, he is planning to leave the country after resigning on the Friday 19 2017 following pressure from international and regional blocs and leaders. The true winner, Adama Burrow was sworn in the Gambian Embassy in Senegal.

Here is a list of other strongmen who have refused to quit:

1. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (Equatorial Guinea) – in power for 37 years

President of Equatorial Guinea since August 1979. The man is 74 years old and shows no sign of letting go. Obiang staged a coup against the president, who happened to be his uncle. He took over office, accuse his uncle of various crimes and sentenced him to death 101 times. The uncle was executed by firing squad. Ruling by an iron fist and frustrating opposition in a country that has remained a one party state, he continues to hold on to power.

2. Jose Eduardo Dos Santos (Angola) – in power for 37 years

The Angolan president has been in office since September 1979. Dos Santos was democratically elected into office. There have been serious election related wars in Angola, with the worst being the 1992 war, during which Jonas Savimbi was his main opponent. In 2001, he announced that he would step down, but he vied anyway and in 2003, he was re-elected. The next three elections in that country were never held. He is still going strong.

3. Paul Biya (Cameroon) – in power for 34 years

The 84 year old leader of Cameroon has been in power since November 1982. As of 2016, Paul Biya was said to be one of the most highly paid, if not the most highly paid African president, earning $610,000 (Sh62million) a year. He got into office when the then president, Ahmadou Ahidjo, resigned. As he Prime Minister, he was the legally mandated successor. After that, everything went south. Paranoia and coup attempts turned him into a dictator. He once held an election where he was the only candidate and won by 99.98 percent.

4. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni (Uganda) – in power for 31 years

At the Kenya-Uganda border of Busia, on the Ugandan side, there used to be a billboard that read: Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, protecting you from rebels since 1986, with the photo of Museveni looking at you as you get in. 1986 was the year he got into office after toppling Milton Obote through concerted rebellion and guerrilla attacks. He has been protecting Uganda from rebels since. His main political challenger, Kiza Bessigye has repeatedly been thrown in jail and harassed by the police. He is known for being very generous with government posts to his family members.

5. Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe) – in power for 29 years

Robert Mugabe is the most notorious of African strongmen. The 92 year old has ruled over Zimbabwe for 29 years, during which Zimbabweans have carried their money in wheelbarrows when they go shopping. He has forcefully taken farms from white citizens of Zimbabwe (because it didn’t belong to them), has criticized Western leaders, hunted down his political opponents and it appears, that he is entertaining the idea of letting his wife take over the country.

6. Omar al-Bashir (Sudan) – in power for 27 years

The military leader of Sudan has presided over ethnic cleansing, the separation of South Sudan from Sudan and is currently walking with an ICC arrest warrant hanging over his head. He took over the running of the country in June 1987 through a military coup. At 73 years, he seem not to be in a hurry to leave.

7. General Idris Deby (Chad) – in office for 26 years

A graduate of Muommar Gaddafi’s World Revolutionary Center, the President of Chad has survived rebellions, won elections, had term limits on the presidential post removed and won the elections that came thereafter. Since taking office in December 1990, the 64 year old son of a herder has seen the country get crippled by poverty despite possessing oil reserves.

8. Isaias Afwerki (Eritrea) – in power for 23 years

The 70 year old leader of Eretria assumed power in May 1993 when the country attained independence. He stands accused of being very good at torturing those who disagree with him.

9. Yahya Jammeh (Gambia) – in power for 22 years.

Was forced out of office last week when ECOWAS and the international community put pressure on him and threatened military action. Jammeh is 70 years old and has been in office since July 1994.