African Presidents And Term Elongation


Africa Presidents are notoriously known for their power ‘drunk’ and desperation to stick to power when given opportunities to rule. For most of the African countries, since the time of their independence, they have been ruled by men with authoritarian ideas. People of this character enjoy curious popularity and refuse to realize or recognize their stolen election victories. They do not even care to notice how their countries are growing under their rule.
Few African governments are peacefully voted out of office. This is because term limits were enshrined in several African constitutions in the 1980s, which helped to change the trend. In theory most Africans have the freedom to vote out their rulers, but in practice they find it difficult to do so.
This is why President Barrack Obama of the United States of America recently called on African President s to respect their constitutions and step down when their terms end. In a keynote address to the African union (AU) member-nations in July 2015, Obama said “I just don’t understand the phenomenon of leaders who refuse to step aside when their terms end. No one should be president for life.”
“There is still so much I want to get done to keep America moving forward, but the law is the law and no one is above it, not even presidents”, he said.
While reacting to Obama’s remarks during a joint news conference with his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta, Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni said Obama and other western leaders must respect the popular will of African people who ‘democratically’ vote their leaders to power through regular elections.
His words; “Those who focus, on term limits; we don’t think they are correct. Africa is not a back world because of term limits, but because of its lack of federation, common market, infrastructure and security. I don’t know what he meant. I don’t care, that is none of my business, for us in Uganda, we rejected this business of term limits”.
Museveni added “if I am in power because I am voted by the people, then  I am there by the will of the people. I have no apology to make to Obama. It’s only the US that has term limits. Look at Israel, UK and Germany, they don’t have term limits”.
“Look at Tunisia, with confusion from some western countries, they voted for a man of 88 years old. They were stuck, having made a lot of mistakes, he said. Museveni who has been in power since 1986, just recently picked his ruling National Resistance Movement Party nomination form to run as its presidential flag bearer for the fifth term in office in the 2016 polls.
President Kenyatta in his response told journalists that the popularity of a leader in a country is not determined by term limits. “If Ugandans have chosen no term limits, I don’t see the problem with it. If its people desire, you must abide by the will of the people. We need to respect the democratic will of the people in the country or region, Kenyatta stressed.
He insisted that what must be respected is the popular will of the people, adding that the popularity is all about how much peace, development, progress and stability you give to your people. “We must focus on prosperity for our people, infrastructure, federation and security”, he said.
A typical example of what President Obama said is clearly seen with Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe who has been in power since 1980 when the struggle for freedom from white rule ended. Mugabe is one of the last reigning members of the first generation of post-independence African leaders, and he rules in a way that suggests he has not learned much from his contemporaries mistakes.
Because of his high-handedness and bad governance, Zimbabweans are made poorer than they were at independence. Most of his people have made several attempts to oust him but could not because he rigs elections to keep himself in power. Mugabe rules like the guerrilla commander he once was and regards his opponents as enemies to be crushed.
Kwame Nkurumah of Ghana set the pace for term elongation, imposing a one-party system on the country. Other African leaders followed suit, declaring that their own irremovable governments would henceforth control everything of importance.
African governments pay no heed to democracy, hence the people are marginalized in the quest for their development. They pay less attention to the realities of their countries and the people, and tend to look at things not as they are but as they might be according to their values.
President such as Zambia’s Frederick Chiluba and Kenya’s Daniel arap Moi were forced out of office, just as Nigeria’s former President Olusegun Obasanjo when he wanted to rule beyond the stipulated two terms.
Sadly, rulers like Robert Mugabe fight fiercely and cunningly to resist the popular will of the people. Unchecked power is a swift route to wealth, especially in countries well endowed with abundant natural resources. When people can freely ditch their rulers, it gives those rulers an incentive to govern a bit better. In most African countries, the best chance of proper reform comes with a change of government, although new leaders are not always better.
In Rwanda, main opposition party, the Democratic Green Party recently opened a case in the Supreme Court seeking to prevent constitutional change that would allow President Paul Kagame to run for a third term seven-year in office. Senior members of the ruling party had urged the scrapping of the two-term limit and parliament said it would debate public petitions calling for Kagame to stay beyond 2017.
Kagame had said he opposes a change but is “open” to being convinced. The court was quickly adjourned after the lawyer for the Democratic Green party failed to appear. A party official said lawyers had been fearful about talking on the case. Rights groups say critics and free speech are stifled in that country.
Term limits can, however, be scrapped, as happened in Namibia but it must be noted that changing constitutions is harder than changing laws. Term limits act as a check on the big man’s power, so vampire governments must give up the very powers that enable them to feed on their fellow citizens. The African vampire country or state is hard to reform because most necessary reform would reduce the power and wealth of the people in power, and the people in charge do not, on the whole, want to loose their privileges.
In Mexico, for example, there is a tradition that presidents must step down after a single six-year term. For 6 years, a single person rules, the party chooses another person to serve the next six years.
Governments are supposed to represent the entire population of the country they rule. In some cases, it is perceived that authoritarian governments find it easier to get people out of poverty than democratic ones, but then there are many authoritarian countries, for example, Zimbabwe, Zaire and North Korea which have not done so well. In the actual sense, Africa cannot deal with the crisis of underdevelopment without embracing democracy at any rate and abandoning the legacy of authoritarianism.
Better governance is the primary requirement for economic recovery in Africa. The continent is not economically developed and none of the dependent or the independent variables currently prevails in Africa. It is still at the stage of transition, so the leaders must bother about the conditions of their people, and ensure that they step down at the end of their term to give others the opportunities to taste power.
The debate about term limits and challenges to veteran leaders has flared in several places in Africa and the United States and other Western nations have been pressing African leaders to stick to constitutional rules on presidential terms.