Sit-Tight-Syndrome: List of Africa's Longest-serving Current Heads of State

Sit-Tight-Syndrome: List of Africa's Longest-serving Current Heads of State

Power is sweet and politicians who find it are never ready to let go too easily. They find ways to keep it and sit very tight on the throne.

This practice of clinging to power sometimes against the people's wishes is a common feature in many African countries. Africa is home to many Heads of State who have simply refused to let go of political power. has compiled a list of longest-serving current heads of state in Africa.

Sit-Tight-Syndrome: List of Africa's Longest-serving Current Heads of State
Presidents Denis Sassou of Congo Brazzaville and Paul Biya of Cameroon. Credit: Chesnot and Thomas Imo
Source: Getty Images

1. President Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea (42 years)

President Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea merits the first position on this list of sit-tight leaders. He first became president in August 1979. He has ruled the country for a record 42 years. He came to power through a bloody military coup in which he overthrew his uncle Francisco Macías Nguema whom he committed to a firing squad on September 29, 1979.

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2. President Paul Biya of Cameroon (39 years)

Next on this list is Paul Biya of Cameroon. He came to power in 1982 and has remained the leader of Cameroon 39-years after. Biya is the 2nd longest-serving president in Africa. At the age of 88, Paul Biya is the oldest head of state in Africa.

3. President Denis Sassou of Congo Brazzaville (36 years)

Denis Sassou first ruled the of Congo Brazzaville as President for 12 years from 1979 to 1992 when he was defeated in the presidential election by Pascal Lissouba. President Denis Sassou organised forces that rebelled against Lissouba in 1997, thereby taking power again. He has held on to the seat since then. Born in 1943, he has ruled Congo Brazzaville for a total of 36 years.

4. President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda (35 years)

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Yoweri Museveni captured power as a military leader in 1986 after the rebellious forces loyal to him ousted Milton Obote and Idi Amin. Museveni was first seen in a good light by Western powers who hailed him as part of the new generation of African leaders.

Born in 1944, Museveni has amended the constitution to abolish presidential term-limit and age-limit. He has ruled Uganda for 35 years.

5. King Mswati of Eswatini (35 years)

Also on this list is King Mswati of Eswatini. He is the head of the Eswatini Royal House. The 58-year-old was crowned king on April 25, 1986, at the age of 18. As a king, Mswati is not going to vacate his throne anytime soon. He has ruled his kingdom for 36 years. The king has 16 wives and 36 children.

6. President Idris Derby of Chad (30 years)

Another African leader who stayed long in power was President Idris Derby of Chad. He ruled Chad from 1990 to 2021 when he was killed by rebellious forces opposed to his rule. As a military man, he was commanding his troops on the war front when he was killed in May 2021. He was however succeeded by his son Mahamat Deby.

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7. President Isaias Afwerky of Eritrea (30 years)

75-year-old Isaias Afwerky has ruled Eritrea for 30 years. He first came to power in 1991 after he led the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) to victory. His victory ended the 30-year-old war for independence from Ethiopia. He has however clung to power since then. His government has been accused of totalitarianism and multiple cases of human rights abuse.

8. President Ismail Omar of Djibouti (22 years)

Ismail Omar was first elected as Djibouti president in 1999. As of then, he was the prefered successor of his uncle Hassan Gouled Aptidon who also ruled Djibouti as president from 1977 to 1999. Ismail Omar subsequently got re-elected into office in 2005, 2011, 2016 and in 2021 in elections that were heavily boycotted by the opposition. He has ruled Djibouti for 22 years.

9. King Mohammed VI of Morocco (22 years)

King Mohammed VI has ruled Morocco since July 23, 1999, when he was crowned. He belongs to the Alawi ruling dynasty. He won't be vacating the throne anytime soon since he is a monarch. Even if he decides to vacate the throne, his son and heir apparent, Moulay Hassan who is the crown prince will succeed him.

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Sit-Tight-Syndrome: List of Africa's Longest-serving Current Heads of State
President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and King Mswati of Eswatini. Credit: J. Countess and Chesnot
Source: Getty Images

10. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda (21 years)

President Paul Kagame carved a global image of a revolutionary and a reformer even though many have started seeing him as a sit-tight leader. Kagame commanded the Rwandan Patriotic Front which was a rebel army that helped end the Rwandan Genocide. He first served as vice president and minister of defence to Pasteur Bizimungu from 1994 to 2000. Kagame was elected president after the resignation of Bizimungu. He was sworn in as president in April 2000 and he has been in power since then.

7 most valuable currencies in Africa has also previously listed the 7 most valuable currencies in Africa. In the list, the Lybian Dinar came tops as the most valuable currency in Africa.

The Lybian Dinar was followed by the Tunisian Dinar and Ghana Cedi. Listed as number 4 is the Moroccan Dirham. Number 5 on the currency list is the Botswana Pula.

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The number 6 on the list of strongest currencies in Africa is the Eritrean Nafka while the Egyptian Pounds placed number 7.


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