10 Longest-Reigning African Dictators

By Becca Blond AFKI Original Published: June 15, 2015, 12:20 pm
Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Sudan. Photo: jfjustice.net

In Africa, good governance is growing in demand. Citizens are insisting that their leaders honor constitutionally mandated presidential terms. Philanthropic and business leader Mo Ibrahim and his foundation reward good governance with millions of dollars, incentivizing leaders in the process to step down once their terms are complete. In Nigeria’s recent election, former President Goodluck Jonathan received kudos for handing over power peacefully following his defeat by Muhammadu Buhari.

Of the world’s 30 dictators who have most successfully held onto power, 14 are in Africa. These are 10 of the longest-reigning African dictators.

This is an updated version of an article that originally appeared Nov. 21, 2013.



Idriss Déby Itno, president of Chad Photo: laregledujeu.org

10. Idriss Déby Itno, Chad, 24 years 3 months

Déby seized control of Chad during a rebellion against then-President Hissène Habré in December 1990. He has since managed to survive a number of attempts to overthrow him.



9. Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Sudan, 25 years, 11 months

In June 1989, Bashir overthrew the democratically elected civilian government and appointed himself president in a bloodless coup. Since he took office his country has been in a state of civil war with more than 1 million reported dead. In March 2009, the International Criminal Court in the Hague issued an arrest warrant for Bashir — a first for a sitting head of state — for genocide and crimes against humanity.

This morning, Bashir slipped out of South Africa, where he was attending the 25th Annual African Union Summit, dealing a blow to the International Criminal Court’s six-year campaign to bring him to justice. On Sunday the court issued an order for South African authorities to prevent Bashir from leaving.

Source: NYTimes

9035553866_0946798c4b_o Blaise Compaoré, Burkina Faso president, Photo: commons.wikimedia.org

Blaise Compaoré, Burkina Faso president, Photo: commons.wikimedia.org

8. Blaise Compaoré, Burkina Faso, 26 years, 1 month

Blaise Compaoré ran Burkina Faso after deposing his predecessor Thomas Sankara in an October 1987 coup. Subsequently he won “landslide victories” (contested by the opposition) in the presidential polls – taking 80 percent of the vote in 2010. Although a law in Burkino Faso was passed in 2005 prohibiting presidents from serving more than two terms, Compaoré said he didn’t have to abide by it as his country’s constitutional court ruled it could not be applied retroactively. Then he changed his mind, or had it changed for him. Compaoré resigned on Oct. 31, 2014.

Presidents Kenyatta (Kenya), Museveni (Uganda) and-Kagame (Rwanda)

Presidents Kenyatta (Kenya), Museveni (Uganda) and Kagame (Rwanda)

7. Yoweri Museveni, Uganda, 29 years, 4 months

Yoweri Museveni seized power in January 1986 following a five-year guerrilla war and declared himself Uganda’s president. Shortly after taking power he banned multiparty politics, although he re-introduced the system again in 1996. Not that it particularly mattered, as Museveni won a fourth term in office in 2011 despite third-time opponent Kizza Besigye’s cries of foul play.


King Mswati III, Swaziland. Photo: en.wikipedia.org

6. King Mswati III, Swaziland, 29 years, 1 month

Sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch has been ruling his landlocked country since he was crowed King in April 1986 at the age of 18. At the time he was the world’s youngest ruling monarch.



5. Denis Sassou Nguesso, Republic of the Congo, 31 years, 2 months

If he hadn’t lost control of the Congo for five years in 1992, Sassou Nguesso would be at the very top of this list. He first seized power of the country in a February 1979 coup, but lost the country’s first multi-party elections in 1992. After a 1997 civil war, however, he was back in control and was re-elected in 2004 for another seven-year term.

President Paul Biya Photo: Cameroon Tribune

President Paul Biya Photo: Cameroon Tribune

4. Paul Biya, Cameroon, 32 years, 7 months

Cameroon’s president took over from President Ahmadou Ahidjo in November 1982 and has been in power of the oil-rich nation in Central Africa ever since.


Robert Mugabe. Photo: sabc.co.za

3. Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe, 34 years, 5 months

Mugabe has been running Zimbabwe since the country gained independence in 1980 – first as prime minister and then from 1987 as president. Despite his age -nearly 90 – Mugabe has vowed he will not step down from his post.


Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, Angola. Photo: en.wikipedia.org

2. Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, Angola, 35 years, 8 months

Seizing power after the natural death of his predecessor, Jose Eduardo Dos Santos lags just one month behind the No. 1 dictator on this list, and he comes with an equally unsavory human rights record. According the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), for instance, Angola is sub-Saharan Africa’s second-largest oil producer and the seventh-largest supplier to the U.S.. The country is also the world’s fourth-largest producer of rough diamonds. Yet despite these plentiful resources, the people of Angola not directly related to the president remain desperately poor with 68 percent of the population living below the poverty line and life expectancy topping out at 41 years.



1. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Equatorial Guinea, 35 years, 8 months

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has been ruling the tiny, oil-rich West African nation since overthrowing his uncle Marcias in August, 1979, in a bloody palace coup. And While Equatorial Guinea has one of the world’s highest per capita incomes, it ranks quite poorly on the U.N. Human Development Index with the majority of the population lacking basic necessities like clean drinking water.



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  • Oicnanev Siarom

    Does not mater who they are, we can not afford to have another Idiamin in Africa. It is time for this dictator to be removed. This guy don’t have the brains to govern, how do I know? Just look to the country, are there any but any improvement since independence? Are the people any better, why continue to support a man that is there only for his own benefit? Is a shame of a leader if I can call him a leader.

  • president

    If look critically most of these countries are very rich in natural resources and Europe support their long stay in power to benefit from the natural resources.

    • joe

      Its true they are thieves and they are the ones who are causing mayhem in most countries may God deal with them.

      • langton

        God has already blessed them by putting them into power ,no man can undo what God has done, like in Egypt ,God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that both parties can experience God’s power and purpose .

  • Errol Botha

    Why do we Africans always blame Europe or America to keep dictators in power,we must take the bold step to remove them by force sadly its the only way to remove them.

    • fuko

      it is not possible to stop blaming the europeans. they are the ones who help them stay in power for their known interests.
      Only start calling them dictators when they stop being their puppets

  • tsaga rana

    Paul Biya is one of them

  • Guvnor

    I think Europe and the media in general need to be objective when “analysing” these sort of stories. Whilst I admit Mugabe has his faults, I believe he also is not 100% the man that the media has sought to portray. I am Zimbabwean, living in Zimbabwe and not in any way connected to the ruling elite but not everything that Mugabe says is garbage. One thing that certainly irked the powers that be in the Western countries mainly was his policy to uplift the indigenous black Zimbabwean. Granted, the policy has not been implemented in the most efficient and fair manner and I certainly won’t make that an excuse, but very few dispute the fact that the underlying notion is wrong. I personally don’t believe it’s right to walk into someone else’s farm and “take it over” based on race but I also feel it’s wrong that a previously (or even currently) advantaged minority would own upwards of 80% of arable land in a country. It was wrong and dare I say the white minority was also complicit in this anomaly as they refused to let go of some of the land to black Zimbabweans. We still have some (albeit very few) whites farming but ask yourselves, why is it that few did not lose their farms? Most of them was because they were and maybe still are good neighbours in the communities they lived in ( and some obviously weren’t very successful farmers hence the big wigs did not see any point in taking over a near derelict farm). So does one wrong justify another? Not in my book! BUT, fact of the matter was the white minority was intransigent in as far as giving up land was concerned and they had it in their mind that Mugabe won’t go ahead and push them off their farms for fear of economic collapse and needless to say, both happened so who’s suffering now? Both black AND WHITE. Not every ex-farmer became a success where they relocated to, and a lot of them have tracked back to the land they know as HOME. Why if there’s nothing left for them here? Some have started other businesses and have become successes in their own right and fairly and rightly so.. In a strange sort of way, I feel and I believe that in as much as they were pushed off their land based on policies that were based on RACE (in violation of the constitution as SOME of these are Zimbabweans, surprised? tell me why, if you are 100% local you chose to keep or hold on to your Brittish passport after living in a country for 50 – 60 years? if Zimbabwe is good enough then be Zimbabwean if not, then…. ) the very people that cried RACE(ism) where racist themselves in refusing to share or maybe rather let go some of that privilege that RACE had given them before and I’m not talking racism before majority rule, no! I mean 20 years after Independence when this issue “started” and they got pushed off their land and Mugabe stopped being their blue eyed boy that they sipped tea with at No. 20 Downing (correct me if I am wrong on the address) to being a despot. They conferred degree after degree on him for as long as he didn’t bring up THAT issue. To cut a long story short, the West should not call some a dictator only where it suits them. I am Zimbabwean, black, empowered (not through state handouts) and comfortable in my black sking and I see no race, where no race is used to let me have, or deny access to a resource.

    • Mwana Wevhu

      Dictator is a dictator in the eyes of those dictated to,But those liberated by that Dictator the call him Liberator.Those given land will call him Land distributor.Those given Economic freedom call him Economic freedom fighter.Vhivha Zim VhiVHa

    • private letter

      yes uplifted them and dropped them in south Africa; good point guv

    • joe

      its true you cant have those gestures in countries like America.Zimbabwe is the only country where people are free for sure in the whole world and them who say they control everything are the ones killing Zimbabweans instead of them helping they put more disturbing;desroying;bad weight on it.They talk of how good Mandela was why cant they set that examble by doing that to Zim than always critisising it that’s the will of good people like me thank you.

    • riley freeman

      The US governmant bombed the WTC in full view of the whole world. Who’s the real dictator here….?????

    • CMF

      I’m in Zambia and I’m appalled at this “the west” thing you guys in Zim have. Some Zambians have started adopting it but it has largely not been in our vocabulary here..

  • private letter

    where is kagame on the list?

  • joe

    If you go after something that is not yours you are a dictator

  • fuko

    Brain wash!!!
    How long before the europeans stop deciding for Africans who is a dictator?
    Just hypocrity. Not all african leaders are the ones potrayed in the so called western media.
    But we must accept that every country has its own system of governing themselves, including how the leaders are brought into power.

    IF Dictatorship means staying in power for a long period, what about QUEEN ELIZABETH? and others so called constitutional monarchs? does it mean that all of their citizens like them to remain in power or they are only the ones with leadership insticts?

    One thing i can agree with that most western media and their leaders praised MANDELA as the greatest just because he allowed them to continue exploiting south africans, otherwise they could have labelled him alll possible names …….Mugabes’ regime.

    • Wevhu

      Yes I agree. He is sure a dictator simply because he dictated to the British that ; ‘Enough is enough’ land to the people. The African eye sees nothing wrong with such empowerment dictatorship

  • danny

    danny if you are to look critically those leaders in their respectively countries as mention apart from a few were the percentage rater is about 0.001% , most of them have disintegration of the economy that is in terms of economic development and many other like inflation is at 1000% actually tripling everyday that means the currency of those states is nothing eless but papers if they donot step down young generation will digital mind then the country will be like hell on earth

  • Mpofu

    Being A Zimbabwean the Mugabe I know is different from the one portrayed in the Western media

    • Zak

      Being an Eritrean!!! I wonder how the world is forgetting about our Dictator Issayas Afeworki!!! How much we are suffering!!! I love my country and I have fought for it but what is happening to us is….. how can the so called world,doesn’t even take a glance at us..


    those who are saying mugabe is correct i tthink they are not zimbabweans. mugabe is beating people all over zimbabwe. 100 ordinary people were given 1 farm while top guys took multiple farms each and resources from other farms.mugabe is cruel we are beaten to support him. he is stilling from us

    • Timothy Katerere

      read books stealing, not stlling

  • Grace

    Who is Museveni in the image? You write about Museveni but put a picture of three people. Are they all Museveni images at different times or something?

  • Nabaasa Muhandiiki

    And where is the list of Europe and America`s shortest serving dictators?.