Guests from Africa: Of colourful kings and long-serving presidents

New Delhi, Oct 27 (IANS) Africa, a continent as varied and multi-faceted as India, has some of the longest serving leaders in the world, monarchs who lead colourful lives and travel in style and presidents who have anointed themselves virtually for life, many of who are expected to attend the Third India-Africa Forum Summit on Thursday.

Among the interesting personalities expected at the summit are King Mswati III of Swaziland, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, who in August chose an 18-year-old beauty pageant contestant to be his 15th wife.

King Mswati III acceded to the throne in April 1986, four years after the death of his father. In August, the 45-year-old monarch spotted Sindiswa Dlamini, 18, as she and thousands of other topless Swazi maidens were doing the annual Reed Dance.

Located in southern Africa, between Mozambique and South Africa, and with a population of 14,35,613, Swaziland depends heavily on South Africa for more than 90 percent of its imports and for 60 percent of its exports.

Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso has been in office since 1997. He was previously president from 1979 to 1992. He was an opposition leader for five years before returning to power in 1997 when his rebel forces ousted President Pascal Lissouba.

Only last Sunday, the country, located in central Africa and with a population of 47,55,097, voted to amend the constitution in a referendum to allow President Nguesso to continue in power.

President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia has been president since October 1996. He took power in a July 1994 military coup and was elected president in 1996. Gambia, located in western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and Senegal, has a population of 19,67,709.

The president of Equitorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, has been in power since 1979. He ousted his uncle, Francisco Macías Nguema, in an August 1979 military coup and has overseen his country’s emergence as an important oil producer. He was officially named president on October 12, 1982.

Located in central Africa, between Cameroon and Gabon, Equitorial Guinea has 740,743 people. Besides oil and gas deposits, it also has mineral resources include gold, zinc, diamonds, columbite-tantalite, and other base metals.

Jose Eduardo dos Santos, the president of Angola, has been in office since September 1979. Located in southern Africa, Angola has a population of 19,625,353, with oil production and its supporting activities contributing about 50 percent of GDP. Angola is now India’s fourth largest oil supplier, the second largest in Africa after Nigeria.

Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, 91, has been in power as president since 1987. He became prime minister in April 1980 and president in 1987. Zimbabwe, located in southern Africa, has a population of over 14 million. Mugabe, known for his autocratic ways and anti-gay views, has been awarded this year’s Confucius Peace Prize, considered a Chinese rival to the Nobel peace prize, in an open challenge to the West that has imposed sanctions on the country and left it in dire economic distress.

Cameroon President Paul Biya has been in power since November 1982. Cameroon, in central Africa, between Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria, has a population of 23,739,218. The US has this month deployed hundreds of troops to fight the Boko Haram and other terror groups in western Africa.

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni has been in power since January 1986 after winning the war which ousted the brutal regime of Idi Amin, with help from neighbouring Tanzania. Located in east-Central Africa, with a population of 37,101,745, Uganda has substantial natural resources, including fertile soils, and deposits of copper, gold, and other minerals.

A recent poll suggests that 71 percent of Ugandans will vote for Museveni again for another term, which will move him up the ranking table of Africa’s longest serving leaders.

President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan has ruled since he seized power in a coup in June 1989 as a brigadier in the Sudanese Army. Since then, he has been elected three times as president. Sudan, located in northeast Africa, has a population of over 36,000. The oil sector has driven much of Sudan’s GDP growth since 1999.

Morocco King Mohammed VI ascended the throne in July 1999 after the death of his father, King Hassan II. A king with deep personal interest in India, he has travelled here with a 400-member delegation in four planes. He is known as a reformist monarch, who has made his country a model of liberal and moderate Islam, has encouraged women’s education, gender parity and even appointed women as religious instructors making Morocco an oasis of stability and moderation in a region roiled by religious extremism and political unrest.

Morocco, located in northern Africa, between Algeria and Western Sahara, has a population of 33,322,699. Morocco has capitalized on its proximity to Europe and relatively low labour costs to build a diverse, open and market-oriented economy.

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