Although there are fewer and fewer outright dictatorships in Africa, the same faces have occupied the same elected presidential posts year after year, despite the fact that elections are held across the continent.
Elections are being used by African leaders to legitimize themselves and build up international support – or at the very least to ensure that the rest of the world tolerates them. These tyrants are tolerated with an uneasy but assured tolerance.
Despite election after election, the majority of opposition parties have been denied the opportunity to form governments. Although there are notable exceptions, such as Ghana and Zambia, several African leaders have resorted to political dynasties, with presidents grooming their sons for power.
Here are the top five first sons groomed to succeed their fathers and current presidents.
5. Denis Christel Sassou-Nguesso, the Son of Congo-Brazzaville president Denis Sassou-Nguesso.
President Denis Sassou-Nguesso has been the President of the Republic of the Congo since 1997, but it is critical to remember that He previously served as President from 1979 to 1992. He established multiparty politics in 1990, but was stripped of executive powers by the 1991 National Conference, leaving him as a ceremonial head of state. He stood as a candidate in the 1992 presidential election but was defeated.
Sassou Nguesso became an opposition leader for five years before returning to power during the Second Republic of the Congo Civil War, in which his rebel forces ousted President Pascal Lissouba.
Congo Republic does have elections, but they are merely symbolic, presidential elections have always been marred by vote-rigging.
After more than 40 years in power, there’s no sign of the 77-year-old president losing his appetite for wielding power himself. His son Denis Christel Sassou-Nguesso, on the other hand, is being groomed slowly but steadily.
Denis-Christel is a member of parliament in the family’s hometown of Oyo, his father appointed as a cabinet minister, sparking media speculation that he is planning a dynastic succession.
In 2018, Denis Christel released a 47-page book outlining his vision for the $7.8 billion economy’s future. In it, he advocates for increased access to education and training, healthcare, and higher living standards through policies that promote stronger growth and job creation.
Over the years Denis-Christel Sassou Nguesso has attracted some negative attention spending heavily on luxury goods and accommodations abroad. Global Witness reported that the Congolese President’s son apparently stole over $50 million of state funds for his personal gain and in 2016 his assets were seized in France and in the United States.
4. Franck Biya, Son of Cameroon’s President Paul Biya
Franck Biya has never run for public office and is not identified with any official organizational chart. However, he regularly appears on the front pages of Cameroonian newspapers, where he is viewed as a possible successor to his father, 88-year-old Paul Biya, who has served as Cameroon’s president since 1982.
As with most dictators, his father Paul Biya consolidated power through a staged coup attempt in 1983, in which he managed to eliminate all of his opponents.
Frank Biya has kept a relatively low profile. Most Cameroonians know him as a businessman and entrepreneur.
However last year A group of businessmen, politicians and government allies has even formed The Frankistes Citizen Movement for the Peace and Unity of Cameroon. Led by businessman Mohamed Rahim Noumeau, they are calling on Franck Biya to run for the presidency in the next general election in 2025.
The 50-year-old Biya is nevertheless careful not to reveal any of his intentions. He is very discreet as he avoids the media and has never given an interview. Biya’s entourage is also careful to deny any rumours about his political ambitions.
3. Mahamat ibn Idriss Déby, son of late Chadian President Idriss Déby
Mahamat ibn Idriss Déby Itno is a Chadian army general born in 1984. As Chad’s de facto president, he is the chairman of the Transitional Military Council. He is the late Chadian President Idriss Déby’s son. On 20 April 2021, he took over as acting President of Chad after his father, Idriss Déby, was killed in action while commanding troops in the Northern Chad offensive.
In 1991, Idriss Déby was elected President of Chad. He was re-elected every five years until his death in 2021, for a total of 30 years in power.
Mahamat now leads a 15-member Transitional Military Council (CMT) that will rule for the next 18 months.
Mahamat Déby began his military education at Chad’s Joint Grouping of Military Schools. He later received training in France, at the Aix-en-Provence Military School. Upon his return, he was enrolled in various army trainings, which led to his appointment as a deputy commander of the infenterie groupement.
Mahamat Déby was later promoted to the rank of major, laying the foundation for his current position.
2 Muhoozi Kainerugaba, son of Uganda’s President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
President Yoweri Museveni has ruled Uganda since capturing power in 1986.
In the mid-to-late 1990s, the West praised Museveni as part of a new generation of African leaders. Museveni’s presidency has been marred by his involvement in the Congo wars, the Rwandan Civil War, and other Great Lakes region conflicts; the Lord’s Resistance Army rebellion in Northern Uganda, which caused a humanitarian crisis; and constitutional amendments that abolished presidential term limits in 2005 and the presidential age limit in 2017.
Museveni’s rule has been labeled dictatorial. The press has always been subject to the authority of the government. In the last 30 years, no Ugandan election has been found to be free and transparent. On January 16, 2021, Museveni’s appointed Electoral Commission declared him the winner with 58.6 percent of the vote, despite numerous videos and reports of ballot box stuffing, over 400 polling stations with 100% voter turnout, and human rights violations.
At 77, it would be fair to say that Museveni is thinking about Uganda after him, and who better than his son, Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, would be the ideal successor.
In Uganda, a social media campaign is currently promoting General Muhoozi Kainerugaba as a potential governing party candidate for the next election in 2026.
In 2019, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni promoted his son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, to Lieutenant General, the country’s second highest rank in the army.
General Sejusa, Uganda’s then-coordinator of intelligence agencies, claimed in 2013 that individuals opposed to the alleged ‘Muhoozi Project’ were being targeted for assassination.
In a letter leaked to and published by private media outlets, Daily Monitor and Red Pepper, Sejusa claimed that President Museveni and his closest family members were plotting to install Muhoozi as president.
Let us take a quick look at Muhoozi’s progression through various ranks and positions within the army and state structures since 2012.
2012: Promoted to Brigadier, commanding Special Forces Command
2016: Promoted to Major General
2017: Appointed Senior Presidential Adviser for Special Operations
2019: Promoted to Lieutenant General.
Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba’s currently the Commander Land Forces ((UPDF)
1. Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, son of Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang.
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, has been the President of Equatorial Guinea since 1979, when he successfully staged a military coup.
In 1982, a new constitution was drafted under his leadership, and Obiang was elected President. The new constitution also granted and continues to grant Obiang broad powers, including the ability to rule by decree.
Equatorial Guinea’s Vice President, in office since 2012. He is Teodoro Obiang’s son, Teodorin Nguema Obiang well-known for his extravagant lifestyle. He has faced several international criminal charges and fines for alleged embezzlement and corruption.
Teodorin Nguema Obiang, 53, is now a possible successor to his father who has ruled Equatorial Guinea for the last 42 years.