President Obama urges Africans to fight Corruption and lifetime Presidency

On July 28 in his remarks to the African people at the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia President Obama addressed many issues including corruption and presidential term limits. Below are some highlights.

1.On Corruption

Nothing will unlock Africa’s economic potential more than ending the cancer of corruption.  (Applause.)  And you are right that it is not just a problem of Africa, it is a problem of those who do business with Africa.  It is not unique to Africa — corruption exists all over the world, including in the United States.  But here in Africa, corruption drains billions of dollars from economies that can’t afford to lose billions of dollars — that’s money that could be used to create jobs and build hospitals and schools.  And when someone has to pay a bribe just to start a business or go to school, or get an official to do the job they’re supposed to be doing anyway — that’s not “the African way.”  (Applause.)  It undermines the dignity of the people you represent.

Only Africans can end corruption in their countries.  As African governments commit to taking action, the United States will work with you to combat illicit financing, and promote good governance and transparency and rule of law.  And we already have strong laws in place that say to U.S. companies, you can’t engage in bribery to try to get business — which not all countries have.  And we actually enforce it and police it.

And let me add that criminal networks are both fueling corruption and threatening Africa’s precious wildlife — and with it, the tourism that many African economies count on.  So America also stands with you in the fight against wildlife trafficking.  That’s something that has to be addressed.  (Applause.)

2. On Presidential Term Limits

I have to also say that Africa’s democratic progress is also at risk when leaders refuse to step aside when their terms end.  (Applause.)  Now, let me be honest with you — I do not understand this.  (Laughter.)  I am in my second term.  It has been an extraordinary privilege for me to serve as President of the United States.  I cannot imagine a greater honor or a more interesting job.  I love my work.  But under our Constitution, I cannot run again.  (Laughter and applause.)  I can’t run again.  I actually think I’m a pretty good President — I think if I ran I could win.  (Laughter and applause.)  But I can’t.

So there’s a lot that I’d like to do to keep America moving, but the law is the law.  (Applause.)  And no one person is above the law.  Not even the President.  (Applause.)  And I’ll be honest with you — I’m looking forward to life after being President.  (Laughter.)  I won’t have such a big security detail all the time.  (Laughter.)  It means I can go take a walk.  I can spend time with my family.  I can find other ways to serve.  I can visit Africa more often.  (Applause.)  The point is, I don’t understand why people want to stay so long.  (Laughter.)  Especially when they’ve got a lot of money.  (Laughter and applause.)

When a leader tries to change the rules in the middle of the game just to stay in office, it risks instability and strife — as we’ve seen in Burundi.  (Applause.)  And this is often just a first step down a perilous path.  And sometimes you’ll hear leaders say, well, I’m the only person who can hold this nation together.  (Laughter.)  If that’s true, then that leader has failed to truly build their nation.  (Applause.)

You look at Nelson Mandela — Madiba, like George Washington, forged a lasting legacy not only because of what they did in office, but because they were willing to leave office and transfer power peacefully.  (Applause.)  And just as the African Union has condemned coups and illegitimate transfers of power, the AU’s authority and strong voice can also help the people of Africa ensure that their leaders abide by term limits and their constitutions.  (Applause.)  Nobody should be president for life.

And your country is better off if you have new blood and new ideas.  (Applause.)  I’m still a pretty young man, but I know that somebody with new energy and new insights will be good for my country.  (Applause.)  It will be good for yours, too, in some cases.   Read the full speech here  

You can also read remarks by President President Obama to the Ghanaian Parliament, Accra International Conference Center Accra, Ghana

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