Uncovered: 10 African leaders Addicted to Power
There’s no doubt about it. The human desire for authority and prestige makes power utterly addictive. And there’s nowhere where this is more apparent than Africa. Leaders of African countries commonly serve well beyond 20 or even 30 years. In their quest for continued power, some have even been known to abolish presidential term limits, giving themselves authority to lead for life.
What drives this desperate thirst for power?
In a continent where democracy is weak, the lack of constitutions means leaders often attain autocratic rule. They dominate law-making, have control of the national purse and total authority over national development programmes. At the same time, cultural traditions often regard a political leader as a chieftain or even ‘Father of the Nation’. Such devotion inevitably encourages egocentrism: simply no one else will do! But added to all this is the sad truth that many African leaders have corrupt practices that will be exposed if they leave power, making them vulnerable to imprisonment or worse. This accounts for why many African leaders are reluctant to leave office.
So who are the main culprits?
Here is our list of the longest serving African leaders reluctant to relinquish power…
1. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo – Equatorial Guinea, 38 years
Obiang is the longest-serving president in the world, coming to power in 1979 and officially sworn in during 1982 following a violent military coup where he ousted his uncle, Masie Nguema Biyongo Ndong. The new president relaxed some of the restrictions of his predecessor but kept absolute control. During his leadership he has promoted the nation as an important oil producer, but has also been accused of corruption and abuse of power.
2. José Eduardo dos Santos – Angola, 38 years
Dos Santos became President of Angola in 1979, one month after President Obiang, making him the second-longest-serving President in Africa. He is head of the armed forces and controls all aspects of his government. Abroad, he is recognized for transforming Angola’s oil sector, however, he is also criticised for his corrupt regimes.
3. Paul Biya – Cameroon, 34 years
Paul Biya attained the position on Prime Minister in 1975 and then President in 1982. During his presidency, he has been forced to introduce multi-party politics, has changed the country’s constitution to enable himself to run for a third term, and has won repeated elections, despite accusations of fraud.
4. Yoweri Museveni – Uganda, 31 years
Yoweri Museveni has been president of Uganda since the toppling of Idi Amin and Milton Obote in 1986. The country has achieved relative stability and economic growth during his office, although he has been criticized for suppression of political opposition and his elimination of presidential term limits.
5. Robert Mugabe – Zimbabwe, 29 years
At the age of 93, Robert Mugabe is Africa’s oldest president. He is a controversial figure, drawing praise for his role in freeing Zimbabwe from white minority rule yet also intense criticism for alleged widespread corruption and abuse of human rights. It is assumed that his wife, Grace, will be his successor.
6. Omar al-Bashir – Sudan, 28 years
President Omar al-Bashir came to power in a coup in 1989 following a 21-year civil war between north and south. He signed a deal to end the conflict, but has since been accused by the ICC of war crimes and crimes against humanity with regards to conflict in Darfur.
7. Idriss Déby – Chad, 26 years
A career army officer, Idriss Déby took over Chad’s presidency in 1990 heading the rebellion against President Hissène Habré. He has since survived several attempts to oust him from power, has removed presidential term limits and won repeated elections.
8. Isaias Afwerki – Eritrea, 24 years
Isaias Afwerki is Eritrea’s first president, taking power at the time of the country’s independence in 1993. Eritrea is a one-party state and hence Afwerki has been criticised for failing to introduce democratic reforms and his regime is accused of human rights violations.
9. Denis Sassou Nguesso – Republic of Congo, 19 years
Sassou Nguesso first became president of the Republic of Congo in 1979 and led a single-party regime until 1992. He returned to office in 1992 following a bloody conflict against Pascal Lissouba.
10. Paul Kagame – Rwanda, 17 years
Rwandan military leader and politician, Paul Kagame became president in 2000. He previously lead the rebel force that ended the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Addiction is never good
It’s clear from these profiles that prolonged, excessive power is a dangerous thing. It can blind perceptions of justice and honor, and lead to greed and corruption. Certainly many of these domineering characters have attained their absolute power to the detriment of democracy and the wealth of the populace. Many would say they have overstayed their welcome.
Written by jackie Writing Jackie <firstname.lastname@example.org>