By Staff Reporter
- President Mugabe is currently Africa’s oldest leader and has been in office since 1980.
|Rank||Name||Country||Office||Tenure Began||Length of Tenure|
|1.||Paul Biya||Cameroon||Prime Minister, then President||30 June 1975||39 years, 48 days|
|2.||Mohamed Abdelaziz||Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic||General Secretary and President||30 August 1976||37 years, 352 days|
|3.||Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo||Equatorial Guinea||President||3 August 1979||35 years, 14 days|
|4.||José Eduardo dos Santos||Angola||President||10 September 1979||34 years, 341 days|
|5.||Robert Mugabe||Zimbabwe||Prime Minister, then President||18 April 1980||34 years, 121 days|
|6.||Ali Khamenei||Iran||President, then Supreme Leader||13 October 1981||32 years, 308 days|
|7.||Hun Sen||Cambodia||Prime Minister||14 January 1985||29 years, 215 days|
|8.||Yoweri Museveni||Uganda||President||29 January 1986||28 years, 200 days|
|9.||Blaise Compaoré||Burkina Faso||President||15 October 1987||26 years, 306 days|
|10.||Nursultan Nazarbayev||Kazakhstan||First Secretary, then President||22 June 1989||25 years, 56 days|
|11.||Islam Karimov||Uzbekistan||First Secretary, then President||23 June 1989||25 years, 55 days|
|12.||Omar al-Bashir||Sudan||President||30 June 1989||25 years, 48 days|
|13.||Idriss Déby||Chad||President||2 December 1990||23 years, 258 days|
|14.||Isaias Afwerki||Eritrea||President||27 April 1991||23 years, 112 days|
|15.||Emomalii Rahmon||Tajikistan||President||19 November 1992||21 years, 271 days|
|16.||Alexander Lukashenko||Belarus||President||20 July 1994||20 years, 28 days|
|17.||Yahya Jammeh||The Gambia||President||22 July 1994||20 years, 26 days|
|18.||Denzil Douglas||Saint Kitts and Nevis||Prime Minister||7 July 1995||19 years, 41 days|
|19.||Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson||Iceland||President||1 August 1996||18 years, 16 days|
|20.||Denis Sassou Nguesso||Republic of the Congo||President||25 October 1997||16 years, 296 days|
|21.||Kim Yong-nam||North Korea||Chairman of the Presidium
of the Supreme People’s Assembly
|5 September 1998||15 years, 346 days|
|22.||Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi||Samoa||Prime Minister||23 November 1998||15 years, 267 days|
|23.||Abdelaziz Bouteflika||Algeria||President||27 April 1999||15 years, 112 days|
|24.||Ismaïl Omar Guelleh||Djibouti||President||8 May 1999||15 years, 101 days|
|25.||Vladimir Putin||Russia||President||9 August 1999||15 years, 8 days|
|26.||Sam Hinds||Guyana||Prime Minister||11 August 1999||15 years, 6 days|
|27.||Paul Kagame||Rwanda||President||24 March 2000||14 years, 146 days|
|28.||Bashar al-Assad||Syria||President||17 July 2000||14 years, 31 days|
|29.||Joseph Kabila||Democratic Republic of the Congo||President||17 January 2001||13 years, 212 days|
|30.||José Maria Neves||Cabo Verde||Prime Minister||1 February 2001||13 years, 197 days|
|31.||Ralph Gonsalves||Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||Prime Minister||29 March 2001||13 years, 141 days|
|32.||Hamid Karzai||Afghanistan||President||22 December 2001||12 years, 238 days|
|33.||Recep Tayyip Erdoğan||Turkey||Prime Minister||14 March 2003||11 years, 156 days|
|34.||Filip Vujanović||Montenegro||President||22 May 2003||11 years, 87 days|
|35.||Anote Tong||Kiribati||President||10 July 2003||11 years, 38 days|
|36.||Ilham Aliyev||Azerbaijan||Prime Minister, then President||4 August 2003||11 years, 13 days|
|37.||Artur Rasizade||Azerbaijan||Prime Minister||6 August 2003||11 years, 11 days|
|38.||Abdelkader Taleb Omar||Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic||Prime Minister||29 October 2003||10 years, 292 days|
|39.||Shavkat Mirziyoyev||Uzbekistan||Prime Minister||11 December 2003||10 years, 249 days|
|40.||Roosevelt Skerrit||Dominica||Prime Minister||8 January 2004||10 years, 221 days|
|41.||Mahinda Rajapaksa||Sri Lanka||Prime Minister, then President||6 April 2004||10 years, 133 days|
|42.||James Michel||Seychelles||President||14 April 2004||10 years, 125 days|
|43.||Heinz Fischer||Austria||President||8 July 2004||10 years, 40 days|
|44.||Lee Hsien Loong||Singapore||Prime Minister||12 August 2004||10 years, 5 days|
|45.||Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono||Indonesia||President||20 October 2004||9 years, 301 days|
|46.||Traian Băsescu||Romania||President||20 December 2004||9 years, 240 days|
|47.||Mahmoud Abbas||Palestine||President||15 January 2005||9 years, 214 days|
|48.||Armando Guebuza||Mozambique||President||2 February 2005||9 years, 196 days|
|49.||Karolos Papoulias||Greece||President||12 March 2005||9 years, 158 days|
|50.||Hifikepunye Pohamba||Namibia||President||21 March 2005||9 years, 149 days|
(List credit- Wikipedia and Rulers.org)
In 1947, Congress passed the 22nd amendment limiting the number of elected terms a US president can serve to two. The legislation consolidated a tradition broken only once – by Franklyn D Roosevelt during the second world war – since George Washington had set the precedent by standing down in 1797.
In a growing number of sub-Saharan African nations, the reverse trend is in danger of taking root, posing a quandary for Washington.
The US, alongside African pro-democracy activists, played a significant part in securing the inclusion of term limits in African constitutions in the aftermath of the cold war, when the west started abandoning its client regimes. Term limits, together with the reinstatement of multi-party politics, proved central to the political reforms that brought a dark period of dictatorship to a close.
Two decades on, there are signs of constitutional tinkering to allow a host of African heads of state to prolong their rule.
The danger is that the US, and other western powers, will address this potentially destabilising trend in a selective way, defending the principle in countries with less favoured leaders, and keeping quiet when it comes to preferred African allies – particularly those who have proved reliable on the security front.
At the same time, the phenomenon risks exposing the limits of US leverage. On a continent as orientated towards Beijing and other emerging powers as it is to western democracies, some African leaders may no longer feel the need for Washington’s endorsement.
Yoweri Museveni of Uganda blazed the trail. Shortly after taking power in 1986 he wrote that “the problem of Africa in general, and Uganda in particular, is not the people but leaders who want to overstay in power”. In an infamous volte face in 2005, he secured a change to the constitution allowing himself a third term. He is now, at the age of 71, serving a fourth.
Mr Museveni continues to enjoy US support as a linchpin of east African stability. But his continued stay in power has otherwise been marked by creeping authoritarianism and corruption.
Cameroon’s octogenarian autocrat, Paul Biya, in power since 1982, has followed a similar route. Now there is speculation that the presidents of Burkina Faso, Burundi, and Togo are also preparing to.
But it is in Rwanda and its giant neighbour, the Democratic Republic of Congo that the quandary is likely to be most pronounced. The US has been vocally pressing Congo’s President Joseph Kabila to adhere to the law and step down at elections in 2016 amid talk of a referendum on the issue.
If one or two African leaders are able to alter their constitutions in order to give themselves unlimited terms of office it will set a precedent– Johnny Carson, former US assistant secretary of state for Africa
“We’re a country with term limits. We live by them . . . and we encourage other countries to adhere to their constitution,” US secretary of state John Kerry said after failing to win any assurances from Mr Kabila on the matter at the US-Africa summit earlier this month.
Mr Kabila has struggled to stamp his authority on the vast failing state he presides over and has few international allies who see the continuation of his rule as a recipe for peace.
Attitudes to Paul Kagame of Rwanda are far more mixed. He has been the dominant political force in his country since the genocide in 1994 and has strong backing from a highly influential group of US and European business and political leaders – known as the Friends of Rwanda. They laud the role he has played in stabilising his tiny state and fostering development and tend to overlook the darker sides.
In recent months, Mr Kagame has become increasingly ambivalent about his plans post-2017 when his second seven-year term ends. Were he to change the constitution and stand again, he would almost certainly enjoy some international support.
Some African political institutions have proved sufficiently robust to see off third-term ambitions – notably in Nigeria and Mozambique. The risk of the dominoes beginning to fall is, however, rising.
“If one or two African leaders are able to alter their constitutions in order to give themselves unlimited terms of office it will set a precedent,” says Johnny Carson, US assistant secretary of state for Africa until last year. “[This will] effectively undermine the continuing growth of democracy and constitutionalism across Africa and probably usher in a new era of the big man.”