Another coup has struck in Africa. This time, it is Gabon where a group of army officers announced they had put an end to the combined 56-year reign of both Omar Bongo and his son, Ali, in the Central African country.
According to the putschists, they were annulling the results of Saturday’s election in which President Ali Bongo got an extension to his 14-year reign.
If successful, it will be the 10th coup de tat on the continent with the most recent being Niger Republic.
One reason many analysts have given for the now-frequent coups on the continent is the perpetuity of some African leaders in power. In number terms, there are seven African Presidents who have been in power for over 20 years.
In this, piece, PUNCH takes a look at these longest-serving presidents on the continent.
1. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (44 years)
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea has been in power since 1979, making him the longest-serving African president. In the early years of his rule, President Obiang was known for being a brutal dictator. He oversaw a government responsible for the torture and killings of political opponents.
In the past few years, President Obiang has come under fire from human rights groups for his continued repression of the people of Equatorial Guinea.
2. Paul Biya (42 years)
Cameroon’s Paul Biya reign is not ending anytime soon.
President Biya, who came to power in a coup d’etat in 1982, has ruled the country ever since. In the early years of his rule, he was known for being a repressive leader.
In the 1990s, he loosened his grip on the country and allowed multiparty elections. However, he has remained in power ever since.
President Biya has had his fair share of trouble with human rights groups for his continued repression of the people of Cameroon.
3. Denis Sassou (36 years)
Denis Sassou has been the president of the Republic of the Congo for 36 years. He first came to power in 1979 and has since been re-elected three times. Sassou is currently among the oldest heads of state in Africa, at 80.
His over three decades in power have attracted criticism and allegations, from corruption to poor governance and human rights violations. However, to him, that has never been any reason enough to call it quits.
4. King Mswati III (36-year rule)
Eswatini, 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
5. Yoweri Museveni (35 years)
Yoweri Museveni has been the president of Uganda for 35 years. He first came to power in 1986 and has since been re-elected three times. Museveni is the third oldest head of state in Africa, at 79.
Critics say Museveni has become increasingly authoritarian over the years, stifling dissent and curtailing civil liberties.
In recent years, there have been calls for term limits in Uganda, but Museveni has resisted these efforts. In 2017, he amended the constitution to remove the president’s age limit, effectively allowing him to stay in power for life.
6. Isaias Afwerki (30 years)
Isaias Afwerki has been the president of Eritrea for 30 years. He first came to power in 1993 after leading the country’s independence movement from Ethiopia. Afwerki has since been re-elected twice.
Eritrea is also one of the world’s most militarised countries, with all able-bodied citizens required to serve in the military. This has led to a mass exodus of Eritreans, with many fleeing the country for safety and opportunity elsewhere.
7. Paul Kagame (23 years)
Rwanda’s leader, Paul Kagame is standing for re-election in 2024. He has been in power since 2000.
In 2015 the constitution was changed, allowing him to stay until 2034.
In the last presidential election six years ago, official figures showed he won 99% of the vote, which many outside the country dismissed as a sham.
Asked if he would seek re-election, Kagame said: “I will consider running for another 20 years. I have no problem with that. Elections are about people choosing.”