13 Female Political Leaders in Africa You Need to Know

I have this crazy belief: that at every time, in every place, women have always mattered. We have always shaped our societies; we have always challenged authority; we have always though great thoughts. Because the lives of women were rarely documented, a lot of times this crazy belief of mine amounts to an article of faith rather than a provable fact.

Every now and then, I find little facts which remind me: women have always been important. Below are some of those little facts, in what I think is a comprehensive list of all of the female Presidents, Vice Presidents, and Prime Ministers in Africa to date. Enjoy!

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia (16 January 2006-Present)

Did you know? The documentary “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” tells story of President Sirleaf’s run for the presidency, and the movement (the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace) that supported her.

Ruth Perry, Chairwoman of the Council of State of Liberia (3 September 1996 to 2 August 1997)

Did you know? Chairwoman Perry was Africa’s first (or second, depending on how you count) modern female head of state.

Agathe Uwilingiyimana, Prime Minister of Rwanda (18 July 1993 to 7 April 1994 (murdered in the genocide))

Did you know? Minister Uwilingiyimana allowed herself to be brutally murdered to save her children after her 15 guards were slaughtered during the genocide.

Elisabeth Domitien, Prime Minister of the Central African Republic (3 January 1975 to 7 April 76)

Did you know? Minister Domitien publicly opposed the president (Jean-Bedel Bokassa)’s plans to name himself emperor, and was dismissed for that position. She was later tried in Central African Republic and convicted of covering up extortion during Bokassa administration.

Sylvie Kinigi, Prime Minister of Burundi (10 July 1993 to 7 February 1994)

Did you know? Minister Kinigi acted as president with support of previous presidents during Burundi Civil War, after surviving the start of the civil war by taking refuge in the French embassy.

Mame Madior Boye, Prime Minister of Senegal (3 March 2001 to 4 November 2002)

Did you know? A French court issued an arrest warrant for her role in the MV Le Joola disaster (the second worst civil ship failure, costing at least 1800 lives); it was nullified in mid June 2009.

Maria das Neves Ceita Baptista de Sousa, Prime Minister of São Tomé and Príncipe (7 October 2002 to 18 September 2004)

Did you know? Minister Sousa continued as Prime Minster through week-long coup starting on 16 July 2003. She was dismissed in 2004 on charges of corruption against her and her administration.

Luísa Dias Diogo, Prime Minister of Mozambique (17 February 2004 to 18 January 2010)

Did you know? In 2005, she was ranked 95 in Forbes’s list of The Most Powerful Women.

Rose Francine Rogombé, Acting President of Gabon (June 2009-October 2009)

Did you know? Former Acting President Rogombé shepherded her country to peaceful elections after the death of President Omar Bongo.

Maria do Carmo Trovoada Pires de Carvalho Silveira, Prime Minister of São Tomé and Príncipe (8 June 2005 to 21 April 2006)

Did you know? Minister Silveira was the governor of the São Tomé and Príncipe Central Bank from 1999-2005.

Specioza Kazibwe, Vice President of Uganda (1994-2003)

Did you know? Former Vice President Kazibwe made a strong public stand against spousal abuse while, as Vice President, she initiated a divorce with her husband because he beat her.

Joice Mujuru, Vice President of Zimbabwe (December 2004 to Present)

Did you know? Vice President Mujuru “is said to have downed a helicopter with a machine gun on February 17, 1974 after refusing to flee.”–Wikipedia, her entry. Her nome de guerre (Teurai Ropa) translates as “the bloodspiller”. She is under personal sanctions by the United States.

Please comment here if I missed someone.

Inspirational Quote:

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” Alice Walker


  1. Yes, I have two questions that I was hoping u could give me your opinion on. Were the first known “Social Workers” in the United States lovers? Also wanted to know if you have heard a myth about an ancient lesbian ruler who was adventually murdered, but held her throne for several years.

  2. despite the oppression meted on women they have always had an important role to play in the development of our current societies…especially those from africa, a great read!!

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