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List of the Longest Serving African Leaders – Dead and Alive

Aged 89, Paul Biya, marked his 40th year in power on November 6 1982 to became one of the world’s longest-serving leaders thanks to iron-fisted rule and the support of loyalists he appointed to key positions.

After seven years as the central African country’s prime minister, he entered the presidential palace , becoming only the second head of state since independence from France in 1960.

See below the list of longest serving African leaders who are still alive:

6. Isaias Afwerki – 30 years

In Eritrea, the 30th anniversary Looms.

Isaias Afwerki, 76, has ruled the Horn of Africa nation with an iron fist since independence in May 1993.

5. King Mswati III: 36 years

Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Africa’s last remaining absolute monarchy, has been ruled by King Mswati III for 36 years.

He ascended to the throne in April 1986 aged just 18.

4. Yoweri Museveni: 36 years and on a sixth term

In Uganda, Museveni, 78, has led his country for 36 years, since January 1986. He was re-elected in January 2021 for a sixth term after a contested campaign.

A Supreme Court ruling to abolish an age ceiling of 75 allowed him to stand once again and continue serving.

3. Denis Sassou Nguesso: 38 years

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In Congo-Brazzaville, Denis Sassou Nguesso, 78, has been in power for 38 years, albeit not uninterruptedly.

He was president from 1979 to 1992, then returned to office in 1997 after a civil war. He was re-elected in 2016 after the passing of a new constitution, then won a fourth mandate on March 21 this year.

2. Paul Biya

Cameroon has lived through 40 years of largely unchallenged and hardline rule under Biya.

The 89-year-old runs the country through a very small circle of aides, whom he appoints and banishes as he sees fit.

Openly talking about succession is taboo even for his closest supporters, and Biya has overseen a ruthless crackdown on dissent since his highly contested re-election in 2018.

The Cameroonian President is Africa’s second longest-serving leader after Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

1. Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo – 43 years: the longest serving

Obiang, who came to power in an August 3, 1979 coup and is Africa’s longest-serving leader, with 43 years at the helm.

Next month, at the age of 80, he will run for a sixth term lasting seven years.

Dead Longest Serving African Leaders

Other African leaders in recent history also notched up huge spells in office.

1. Emperor Haile Selassie – 44 years

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The record-breaker is Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, who ruled for 44 years before being overthrown in 1974.

The record-breaker is Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, who ruled for 44 years before being overthrown in 1974.

2. Muammar Gaddafi – 42 years

Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi held sway for almost 42 years. He was killed in 2011 as protests against his rule mushroomed into armed conflict.

3. Omar Bongo Ondimba – 41 years

Gabon’s Omar Bongo Ondimba had been at the helm for 41 years when he died in June 2009.

4. Jose Eduardo dos Santos – 38 years

Angolan leader Jose Eduardo dos Santos stepped down in September 2017 after 38 years in charge. Never democratically elected, the former Marxist rebel died in July 2022 aged 79.

5. Robert Mugabe – 37 years

Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, who died in September 2019 almost two years after being forced to step down, held office for more than 37 years.

6. Omar al-Bashir – 30 years

In Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, who came to power in a coup in June 1989, remained in charge for 30 years until the military overthrew him in 2019.

7. Idriss Deby Itno – 30 years

In Chad, Idriss Deby Itno ruled for 30 years from December 1990 until his death in April 2021. He was succeeded by his son, General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno.

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