Biya, Obiang, dos Santos, Mugabe, Nguesso: Here's a list of the 5 longest serving dictators in Africa

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Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe (R) at age 93 says he plans to contest elections set to be held next year.

As protesters in Togo call for President's Gnassingbe's resignation, we look at the five African rulers who have held on to power for over 30 years.

Over the last week, tensions rose in neighbouring Togo as tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets to protest the reign of the ruling Gnassingbe dynasty.

The protesters called for the resignation of President Faure Gnassingbe who has ruled the country with a clenched iron fist since the death of his father, the infamous Gnassingbe Eyadema.

Eyadema ruled Togo for 38 years until death forced him off the seat of power.

Although the Togo protests are a welcome initiative, dictatorship in Africa is by no means, a novelty.

Since the end of colonialism, various anti-colonialists, monarchs and rebel leaders have ruled African countries like their personal fiefdoms. As always, it is the people who suffer the effect of this oppression and misrule.

Here are Africa’s longest serving dictators, arranged in order of their years in power.

(1) Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo: If you will believe the results of Equatorial Guinea’s 2016 Presidential elections, everyone in the country loves their president. After ruling the country for nearly 36 years, Mbasogo won last year’s elections with 93.7% of the vote.

 

Who says you can’t be loved by everyone? The 75-year-old came to power in 1979 when he ousted his uncle, Francisco MacĂ­as Nguema, in a military coup. Since then, Obiang has overseen the country’s emergence as a major oil exporter but this has come with a side dish of suppression.

The opposition is hardly tolerated in Equatorial Guinea; a 2013 article in Der Spiegel quoted the president as saying “What right does the opposition have to criticize the actions of a government?”.

In the spirit of other infamous dictators like Uganda’s Idi Amin, Obiang has also encouraged a cult of personality, granting himself various creative titles.

At the moment, Equatorial Guinea is a one party state, run by Obiang’s Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (DPGE).

(2) Jose Eduardo dos Santos: Some would say dos Santos has simply been the best beneficiary of Angola’s civil wars. Dos Santos has ruled Angola since 1979 when he was elected as president following the death of the country’s first leader, Agostinho Neto.

 

Since then, the country has been ravaged by a 27-year long civil war that precluded elections.

During this period, he is alleged to have accumulated massive wealth for his family. Despite promising that he would step down at the end of the war in 2003, dos Santos cancelled elections that year, in 2006, 2007 and 2009.

ALSO READ: Five hallmarks of an African dictator

After fiddling with the constitutions, dos Santos held elections in 2013, winning with up to two-thirds of the vote.

Even though he has improved the country’s bottom line through oil, tourism and diamonds, dos Santos is accused of running one of the most corrupt governments in Africa.

Nearly 70% of the population lives on less than two dollars a day.

(3) Robert Mugabe: The most popular person in Zimbabwe is its president. When you consider the insane levels of inflation and a 36-year long absolute hold on power, it is clear that, in Mugabe’s mind, he is the only person that matters.

 

The infamous Robert Mugabe came to power in April 1980, when he wrestled his country’s freedom from white colonial rulers and kept it for himself.

He was first prime minister, then elected President by the national assembly when a new constitution created the role. Since then, Mugabe has turned the country into an extension of his dreams, running public firms like a personal business.

Since the 1990s, the standard of living in Zimbabwe has steadily fallen, while inflation skyrockets. Mugabe is now 93, and the limitations of his age have begun to show.

Still, even with calls for him to hand over, Mugabe holds on the Zimbabwean seat of power.

(4) Paul Biya: Cameroon’s Paul Biya has ruled over his country for the better part of 37 years. The former bureaucrat came to power when he succeeded President Ahmadou Ahidjo after the latter shockingly resigned in 1982.

 

Barely years after, Biya consolidated his power through a fake attempted coup that gave him leeway to get rid of his opponents. Upon his succession, Biya immediately began laying the foundations for a one-party system.

ALSO READ: The real and imagined crimes of Gambia's Jammeh

International pressure forced him to return to a multi-party system in the 1990s. Biya has remained in power by winning elections in 1992, 1997, 2004 and 2011 elections. Each presidential term lasts four years and there are no term limits.

Biya came close to losing in 1992 with just 40% of the vote; all elections since then have been marred by rigging, election violence and fraud.

Recently, his administration cut off internet access in the English-speaking part of the country, a move many see as the unjust persecution of a minority.

(5) Dennis Sassou-Nguesso: Congo’s strongman has ruled the large central African nation for 32 years. Nguesso first ruled from 1979 to 1992, when he was head of the Congolese Party of Labor under a one-party system.

 

He introduced a multi-party system after international pressure and lost elections in 1992. However, Nguesso was not done with power and in 1997, his rebel forces ousted the sitting president.

After a transitional period, Nguesso was elected President in 2002. The country’s constitution prescribes a maximum three terms of five years each, but it contains terms that allow Nguesso stay in power for as long as he can continue to win elections where there is very little opposition.

Nguesso and his family have gained a reputation for lavish living and outlandish shopping sprees.



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