African Leaders Who Refused to Leave Power After Years of Dictatorship

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African Leaders Who Refused to Leave Power After Years of Dictatorship

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Africa had experienced political crisis since most of its countries began to gain independence from foreign colonizers in the 20th century. These political tussles include but not limited to authoritarianism, corruption, and coups.

There had been a rising stream of coups in the continent in recent times. The most recent been the coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and now Gabon. Africa had seen 214 coups since 1950 and out of this, over 106 coup d'├ętat had been successful. What causes coups in Africa is complicated but one of the causes is authoritarianism.


Africa is a continent with a long history of authoritarian rule. Many African leaders have refused to step down after their terms have expired, consolidating their power and suppressing dissent. This has led to widespread human rights abuses, economic stagnation, and political instability.


These leaders have all used a variety of methods to stay in power, including changing the constitution, rigging elections, and suppressing the opposition. They have also been accused of human rights abuses, including torture, arbitrary detention, and extrajudicial killings. So even go far as to passing power to their children just to place the fate of an entire country in their family bondage.


African Dictators Who Rules for Years and Refused to Quit

These are Lists of African Rulers who have refused to leave power and had ruled their countries for so many years and decades. In this list, we categorize them based on the African sub-regions:


East Africa

  • Yoweri Museveni of Uganda (37 years)

Yoweri Museveni of Uganda

Museveni has been in power since 1986, when he led a rebel army to overthrow the government of Milton Obote. He has since won five consecutive elections, but his rule has been marred by accusations of corruption, ethnic oppression and human rights abuses. As of 2023, Museveni still holds Ugandans as captives.


  • Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea (30 years)

Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea

Afwerki has been in power since 1991. His story began as one of a victor, having led the Eritrean People's Liberation Front to victory in the 30-year Eritrean War of Independence from Ethiopia in 1991. He has since ruled the country as a one-party state, with no elections or freedom of speech.


When it comes to oppression, authoritarianism, dictatorship kind of leadership and imprisonment of its citizens, Afwerki is a good representation. He had led Eritrea into famine, war and starvation and remains one of Africa’s worst dictators in recent times. He had ruled the East African country from May, 1991, to date making it 32 years in power. Unfortunately, there is no hope Eritrea will soon be free from this tactical ruler.


  • Paul Kagame of Rwanda (23 years)

Paul Kagame of Rwanda

Kagame has been in power since 1994, when he led the Rwandan Patriotic Front to victory in the Rwandan genocide. He has since been credited with rebuilding the country, but his rule has also been criticized for its authoritarian nature. He is one of the rulers in this list we can give an air to breath.


He had accomplished a lot for Rwanda, according to reports; but his long-lasting rulership and his refusal to rotate power makes him one of the great dictators of the African continent.


Central Africa 

  • Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo (38 years)

Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo

Sassou Nguesso has been in power since 1979, when he seized power in a coup. He was overthrown in 1992, but returned to power in October, 1997. He has since won two elections, but both have been marred by allegations of fraud. The story of Congo is a very sad one. A country full with dark history of colonization and instead of being free in this modern time, her people are held in chains manufactured by Nguesso and his dictatorial cabal.


  • Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea (44 years)

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo

Obiang Nguema Mbasogo began to rule Equatorial Guinea since 1979, when he overthrew his uncle, Francisco Macias Nguema. He is one of the world's longest-serving autocrats and has been accused of widespread corruption and human rights abuses. He had not only made Equatoria Guinea a political bondage but an economic hell. Most of the country’s wealth is consumed by Mbasogo and his family and he might likely be in power beyond his death.

 

North Africa

  • Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria (20 years)

Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria

Bouteflika was elected president in 1999 and won two more terms in office. He was forced to resign in 2019 due to ill health. His rule was marked by a civil war and a period of political instability in the North African country. The memory of his autocratic rule will remain in the hearts of Algerians who experienced his iron rule, but for those who perished, their soul shall bear witness to Bouteflika’s brutality.


  • Muammar Gaddafi of Libya (42 years rule)


Gaddafi is a big name both in Africa and globally and one of the most important North African figures of modern time. How his name sounds to you depends on who you are, either his supporter, a neutral individual or his critic.


Muammar Gaddafi ruled Libya in a dictatorship style for 49 years having been in power from 1969. No one could rise to his power as he ensured that he suppressed his opponent. His supporters claim he the oil rich country well by providing good healthcare and other basic amenities to his people. For critics, his rule was a reign of political terror, oppression and authoritarianism. His life was controversial and marred with accusations of global terrorism sponsorship.


Gaddafi was outspoken against Western polities but pushed heavily for global Islamic agenda and Pan-Africanism. Following political tussle and his moves to turn all key government parastatals under the control of his sons, his people rose against him. Despite all pressure from the western-backed opposition,  Gaddafi refused to step down as Libyan leader, a decision that led to a major armed conflict in the country. He lost his life to that Libyan crisis through assassination by a bullet shot on October 20, 2011.


West Africa

  • Paul Biya of Cameroon (48 years)

Paul Biya of Cameroon

Biya has been in power since 1982, when he won a disputed election. He has since won six more elections and he is already winning the future elections in Cameroun. His oppression of his people is well pronounced globally, especially over the killings and the pains he had caused the Anglophone region of the country.


Paul Biya is ready to go along way in order to remain in power, and his country’s military is in his own fingertip. That makes it hard for anyone to overthrow him either through vote or coup. In this list, Biya remains one of the most crafty and tactical African rulers who had refused to allow fairness and democratic growth in the continent.


  • Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia (22 years)

Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia

Jammeh was elected president in 1996 and won two more terms in office. He was forced to step down in 2017 after losing an election to Adama Barrow but refused to accept defeat. His rule was marked by human rights abuses and economic mismanagement. Unfortunately for Jammeh, this time around his faced the greatest humiliation of his life as his previous political games failed. Foreign forces from the West African blog, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), had to step him and forced him down. He was sent to exile, leading to a new dawn of political freedom in The Gambia.

 

  • Idriss Deby of Chad (31 years)

Idriss Deby of Chad

Deby was elected president in 1990 and won five more terms in office. Under his rule, jihadists began oppression in his country and destabilized Chad and neighboring countries. He was very lively in the fight against terrorism in the country that he had to be join his troop to the war front. He was killed in battle against terrorists in 2021. His rule was marked by a civil war and a period of political instability.

 

Southern Africa

  • Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe (37 years)

Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe

Mugabe was elected prime minister in 1980 and became president in 1987. Mugabe was a great name in African politics. Besides been a pan-Africanist, Mugabe was well known as the most educated African leader of his time and an anti-western policy in Africa. He planned to handover power to his son, but was forced to resign in 2017 after a bloodless military coup.

Due to old age and pressure resulting from political turmoil, the great Gushungo or Uncle Bob, as he was fondly called surrendered to the cold hands of death on September 6, 2019. He was offered a befitting burial and honored throughout Africa, even by his critics. His rule was marked by economic crisis following Western sanctions against Zimbabwe.


The story of Mugabe is that of a hero and a villain, a mix of success and failure, making him a unique leader among those in this list.

 

The Impact of Authoritarian Rule

The long-term impact of authoritarian rule in Africa has been devastating. It has led to widespread poverty, hunger, and disease. It has also stunted economic growth and development. In addition, authoritarian rule has eroded trust in government and institutions, making it difficult to address the continent's many challenges.

 

The Need for Change

The rise in coup d'├ętat in the continent shows that the African people are demanding change. They are tired of living under authoritarian rule. They want leaders who will respect their rights and improve their lives. There are a number of African leaders who have stepped down peacefully in recent years, including Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria. These examples show that it is possible for African leaders to leave power without violence.

 

The Way Forward in African Leadership

The way forward for Africa is to promote democracy and good governance. This means holding regular and free elections, respecting the rule of law, and protecting human rights. It also means strengthening institutions such as the judiciary and the media. Only by doing this can Africa break the cycle of authoritarian rule and build a better future for its people.

 

Conclusion

These are just a few of the African leaders who have refused to step down after their terms have expired. Their continued rule is had been a major obstacle to democracy and development on the continent. For those who are still alive on this list, they must be held accountable for their actions and forced to relinquish power. The African people deserve to live in free and democratic societies which peace, equity and justice shall reign.


Do you have any African leader you think we should add here which we didn't? Leave it in the comment.

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