The rise of Africa’s political dynasties

By Issa Sikiti da Silva April 05, 2022
The Ugandan president's son and heir Muhoozi Kainerugaba. The Ugandan president's son and heir Muhoozi Kainerugaba.

As the Ugandan president’s son flexes his diplomatic muscles in Rwanda, could a wave of father-son handovers be on the cards in Africa? By Issa Sikiti da Silva in Kampala.

It started in 2001 when former president Joseph Kabila replaced his assassinated father Laurent Kabila in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Togo’s Faure Gnassingbe followed suit, replacing his deceased father Gnassingbe Eyadema in 2005.

Gabon’s Ali Bongo came along in 2009, taking over his late father Omar Bongo, after the latter stayed in power for 42 years.

Last year, the late Chadian president Idriss Déby was replaced by his son, General Mahamat Déby, as president.

Now, speculation is rife that fathers could be replaced by sons at the top of the social ladder across much of Central and West Africa. 

Equatorial Guinea president Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who in 2016 appointed his son Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue as the country’s vice-president, is grooming him to take over the oil-rich former Spanish colony.

Congo-Brazzaville’s Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso – recently appointed cooperation minister – is set to take over from his father Denis Sassou Nguesso, while General Muhoozi Kainerugaba is being prepared to replace his father Yoweri Museveni as president of Uganda.

In the Ugandan capital, Kampala, posters of the lieutenant general marked ‘Muhoozi 2026’ can be seen stuck in vehicles belonging to the ruling National Resistance Movement's (NRM) supporters.

‘The evidence is there for everyone to see. The MuhooziProject/MK2026, which has been on the cards for years, is almost a done deal,’ an NRM official said in February last year, one month after the disputed, deadly general elections.

A Facebook page called Muhoozi For Presidency 2026’ is also trending, having been liked by more than 14,000 people and followed by more than 60,000.

Early in March this year, Kainerugaba, Museveni’s eldest son, who doubled up as a presidential adviser and commander of the land forces of the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF), officially announced his resignation from the army after 28 years.

Lately, President Museveni has been putting his son through his paces by assigning him to take on almost impossible diplomatic missions.

>The 47-year-old visited Rwanda in January and March this year to discuss his father’s unending feud with the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame.

The fallout had led to the border between the two countries being closed for two years. 

Uganda's heir-apparent has also been wading into diplomatic disputes throughout March and April, publicly defending Rwanda’s role in the conflict in eastern Congo and President Kagame's deportation of Rwandan opposition leader Robert Mukombozi.     

In Central Africa, one of the continent’s most problematic regions, ailing Cameroonian dictator Paul Biya, 89, is reportedly making way for his son, businessman and entrepreneur Franck Biya to succeed him.

Noureddin Bongo Valentin the eldest son of the Gabonese president speaks to Minister of Culture and Sport Frank Nguema

Noureddin Bongo Valentin (above left), the eldest son of the Gabonese president, speaks to Minister of Culture and Sport Frank Nguema as they attend the Gabon Marathon in Libreville in December 2019.

In Gabon, the opposition has accused President Ali Bongo Ondimba of positioning his 30-year-old son, Noureddin Bongo Valentin, to take control of the oil-rich state.

Though he seemed to have recovered from a 2018 stroke, reports from the capital Libreville claim Bongo Ondimba appears to be not fully fit to lead.

Among the signs that show that Noureddin is being prepared to take over are his appointment in March as Strategic Adviser to the president of the party, who is none other than his father.

The ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) recently celebrated its 54th anniversary in power.

Removed from his position in September last year as general coordinator of presidential affairs, Noureddin seemed to have disappeared from the spotlight, until his appointment to the aforementioned post in March.

A reliable source told NewsAfrica it was a tactical move to cut short all the speculation flying all over that he was being positioned to take over the presidency.

Despite his father telling the nation in March that he would seek re-election, many Gabonese still believe that in the end Noureddin will take over when his father steps down both as the head of state and the ruling party’s head.

The source said: ‘Noureddin is our next president. Whether you believe it or not, it is going to happen because the negotiations are being conducted in secret. It’s frustrating but what can we do? It looks like Gabon will forever be ruled by one family.'

‘Africa is doomed, everywhere presidents are appointing presidential advisers and preparing their sons to take over when they die or [become] incapacitated. Where is this continent going?’

A source in Conakry, Guinea’s capital, meanwhile told NewsAfrica that had it not been for the military coup d’état, disgraced president Alpha Conde was planning to have his only son and presidential adviser, Alpha Mohamed Condé, replace him when he died or got very sick.

‘It's a blessing in disguise. Though I don't like the military taking over and hanging on forever, I wouldn't have stood the Conde's show consisting of appointing his son as president.'

'We don't want another Togo in West Africa.’