On Friday March 11th, President of Angola Jose Eduardo de Santos announced that he will not be running for reelection in 2018. He did not elaborate on his decision to not run, but those who advocate for just governance in Africa were thrilled that he is setting an example for other long term presidents throughout Africa to step down from power. Eduardo de Santos has been in power for 37 years.
President Eduardo de Santos is following the footsteps of Thomas Boni Yayi, President of Benin who on June 9th 2015 on an official trip to Paris announced that he will not seek a third term. The people of Benin are scheduled to elect a new president on March 20th. Presidents Yayi and Eduardo de Santos have done what advocacy groups such as the Africa Faith and Justice Network in Washington D.C. have been pushing for and hope will continue.
Presidential term limits are essential to democracy as a form of government which many African countries claim to have embraced. Term limits are the only way to end dictatorships and allow the people’s voices to be heard and their needs to be met. The respect for presidential term limit is essential to a nation’s economic prosperity, political stability, social harmony and peace.
President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, is the epitome of what happens when the term limit is not respected or disputed. The Burundian constitution allows two five years presidential terms. However, the crisis in Burundi intensified when Nkurunziza stated that his first 5 years in office does not count because his election was not by popular vote. The Burundian crisis, for close to a year now, caused immense social and economic harm to a country that was slowly recovering from years of a civil war.
Presidents of the Republic of Congo and Rwanda are the latest on the guilty list of those who have changed the constitution to extend their presidential term limit. The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr. Joseph Kabila who has served two terms remains silent on whether he will run again when his term ends in December 2016 leaving the people on edge about the stability of their nation if decided to change the constitution and run again.
While it may seem as though the concept of democracy is slipping away in Africa, there are countries that are setting an example for the rest. Tanzania for example has been peacefully transferring power for a long time now in accordance with the constitution. President John Magufuli who was elected in November 2015 has become a symbol of hope and good governance in Africa. He has been nicknamed “bulldozer” because of his fight against corruption and his political will to deliver social services.
Africa’s lifetime presidents must realize that they are not the institution they represent. They need to respect the law. Advocacy organizations such as the Africa Faith and Justice Network based in Washington DC hope that the remaining Africa’s long term presidents will follow the lead of Presidents John Magufuli for good governance and Jose Eduardo de Santos and Thomas Boni Yayi on presidential term limits. To join the community of those who stand up against these long term presidents,visit http://afjn.org/ and click on join our enetwork.
By: Rebecca Short, Intern Spring 2016. Also Published on the Odyssey