Like father, like son: Africa’s longest-serving leadersThu, 02 May 2024 02:35:40 GMT

Chad’s junta leader Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno is hoping to sweep May 6 elections and extend the more than three-decade rule of his family over the central African country.The election comes a week after the west African nation of Togo held a vote which could prolong the Gnassingbe dynasty, in power for over half a century.Chad’s Deby Itno took over in April 2021 at the head of a military regime after his father, Idriss Deby Itno, who ruled with an iron fist, died while on his way to lead a battle against rebels.The elder Deby was one of a group of African strongmen who have clung onto power for decades.Here’s a look at the longest-serving of the continent’s current leaders:- Obiang: record-holder -Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo holds the longevity record with nearly 45 years in power in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea.Jimmy Carter was US president when Obiang came to power in a coup in August 1979 that saw him oust his uncle, who was then executed by firing squad.In November 2022, at the age of 80, Obiang won a sixth term with an official 94.9 percent of the vote, over which the US voiced “serious doubts”.He is believed to be preparing his son, Vice President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, usually called Teodorin, to be his successor. But the younger Obiang has made headlines internationally for all the wrong reasons.France, Britain and the US have seized millions of dollars of assets, from mansions to luxury cars, that he is believed to have acquired illicitly.- Biya: four decades and counting -Cameroon has lived through more than 41 years of largely unchallenged and hardline rule under President Paul Biya. The 91-year-old runs the country through a very small circle of aides, whom he appoints and banishes as he sees fit. He has overseen a ruthless crackdown on dissent since his highly contested re-election in 2018.Openly talking about succession is taboo but one of the names that has cropped up is that of his son Franck.- Sassou Nguesso: 40 years -In Congo-Brazzaville, Denis Sassou Nguesso, officially aged 80, has been in power for a combined 40 years.The former paratrooper was president from 1979 to 1992, then returned to office in 1997 after a civil war and has dominated politics ever since.The leader dubbed the “emperor” is widely expected to run for a fifth term in 2026.- Museveni: six terms -In Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, 79, has led his country for 38 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.In March, he appointed his son Muhoozi Kainerugaba to head the defence forces, leading one opposition lawmaker to accuse Museveni of treating the country as his “personal enterprise”.- Mswati: king since his teens -Eswatini, the former Swaziland and Africa’s last remaining absolute monarchy, has been ruled by 56-year-old King Mswati III for 38 years. He ascended to the throne in April 1986 aged just 18.In 2021, dozens of people were killed in a crackdown on pro-democracy protests.- Afwerki: over 30 years -Isaias Afwerki, 78, has ruled the Horn of Africa nation of Eritrea with an iron fist since independence in May 1993.Known as the North Korea of Africa, the country which has one of the world’s worst rights records, imposes indefinite military conscription that had led many young Eritrean men to flee abroad.In 2022, the UN counted 501,677 refugees and 76,071 Eritrean asylum-seekers around the world, equivalent to around half the population of Eritrea’s capital Asmara.