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Presidential Term Limit: The Way Forward for Democracy in Africa

Feb 5, 2016, 10:48 AM

The future of Africa lies in sound democratic policies and practices. This should not only be limited to a handful of African countries but the entire continent. Presidential term limit should be adopted in all African States including The Gambia.

In recent years, there is a growing movement among African countries towards the adoption of presidential term limits as part of constitutional reforms in line with a shift from authoritarian rule. The majority of African citizens are in support of presidential term limits in their countries and this is evident by some of the tensions that arise once their leaders move to amend their constitutions in order to get rid of term limit.

In recent years some incumbent African presidents have sought to extend their tenures of office by getting rid of term limits or alter them to allow more time in power. Such leaders undermine term limits through so-called parliamentary approval as a means of giving them an aura of democratic legitimacy.Prime examples of countries that have moved in 2015 to remove term limits were Benin, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, other countries such as The Gambia have in the past amended their constitutions to eliminate presidential term limits

Although such moves are often unpopular with the public, African leaders have not desist from the practice by respecting their constitutions and set  pping down after their terms of office. It shouldn’t take protests and civil unrest for African leaders to realise that the constitutions that govern their countries should be respected and not toyed with. Some nations have stood firm in the face of their leaders attempts to tamper with their constitutions in order to allow them more time in power and an example was in Burkina Faso in 2014 whereBlaise Compaore’sattempt to seek a third term in office was met with massive protests. The majority of Africans support term limits with evidence from Afrobarometer survey of 34 African countries showing that there is strong support for presidential term limit among citizens.

It is baffling to understand why most African leaders want to cling unto power at all costs. Some of the leaders point to their achievements while in power as a basis to rule for life. Yes, this may be right in some cases! However, what makes them think that incoming leaders won’t be able to match or even surpass their achievements? We have seen great world leaders with unparalleled political success and great legacies vacate power once their terms are up. Leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton and so many others. Why can’t all African leaders follow this path?

African leaders should be reminded that presidential offices are not royal thrones and even thrones are vacated at some point. We have in recent years seen scenarios where living monarchs abdicated their thrones and pass on power to the younger royals. An example is the Netherlands, where Queen Beatrix abdicated the throne and her son Willem-Alexander was crowned king in 2013. Is time that all African leaders embrace and respect presidential term limits.

The African Union should play a leading role in ensuring that term limits are instituted across Africa and respected. The Union should vote to introduce term limits across the continent and ensure it is fully enforced.

Author: Andrew Mendy

London (United Kingdom)