Gambia’s long-time leader Yahya Jammeh has lost the presidency after 22 years in power. Conceding defeat to his rival Adama Barrow, on live television, he told Barrow, “The Gambian people have chosen you and after 22 years I’m grateful to the almighty Allah for that.”
That’s one less on a long list of African leaders who have held on to power for 15 or more years. Eight out of 11 of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders have held their positions for more than 20 years.
Now, if Angola’s president Jose Eduardo dos Santos makes good on Friday’s promise to step down next year, after 37 years in power, there will be 10 leaders on left on this list, which for now looks like this:
Jammeh’s peaceful concession stands in contrast to leaders elsewhere on the continent intent on holding on to power, at the expense of their country’s constitution and in some cases stability. Rwandan president Paul Kagame and president Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo have both made moves to change term limits in order to remain in office longer. In Kagame’s case he could stay in power for another 17 years.
Given how long many of these leaders have been in power, it is perhaps unsurprising that only three are under 70 (Deby, 64; Kagame, 59; and Kabila, 45). The rest are septuagenarians, save Cameroon’s Paul Biya (83) and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe (92). This is worth noting because Africa is a particularly young continent with a median age of around 20 years (pdf), compared with 30 years in the rest of the world.
*The 19-year rule of Sassou-Ngueso in Congo Brazzaville is his second stint as leader of his country. He previously ruled between 1979 to 1992, so in total he has ruled for 32 years.
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