• Sunday, May 26, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

9 African leaders who extended their terms in office

9 African leaders who extended their terms in office

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has announced that he will run for a fourth term in office in 2024.

In recent years, there has been a trend towards authoritarianism in Africa, with several African leaders extending their terms in office. This is a concerning development, as it undermines democracy and good governance, experts have said.

Here are 9 African leaders who have extended their terms in office – to the chagrin of citizens of their countries – in recent years:

Paul Kagame of Rwanda (since 2000)

Kagame has faced three presidential elections since taking office in 2000: in 2003, 2010 and 2017. He received more than 90% of the vote on each time and was re-elected with an overwhelming majority. Similar margins were used to approve a referendum in 2015 on a constitutional revision that allowed Kagame to run for reelection. Kagame has announced that he will run for a fourth term in office in 2024.

Yoweri Museveni of Uganda (since 1986)

The Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency in Northern Uganda, which created a humanitarian crisis, the increase in involvement in the First Congo War, the Rwandan Civil War, and other conflicts in the African Great Lakes, as well as constitutional amendments that eliminated presidential term limits in 2005 and the presidential age limit in 2017, have all been hallmarks of Museveni’s presidency. Museveni won a sixth term on January 16, 2021, with 58.6% of the vote, despite numerous videos and reports that depict ballot box stuffing, over 400 voting places with 100% turnout, and human rights abuses.

Read also: Paul Kagame of Rwanda declares bid for fourth presidential term

Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo (since 1997)

Sassou Nguesso declared on March 27, 2015, that his government would put the 2002 constitution to a vote in order to allow him to seek reelection a third time. Voters overwhelmingly backed the idea, with 92.96% voting in favour. Official figures put the turnout at 72.44%. The opposition, however, claimed that the results should be thrown out because of the poor turnout. On March 20, 2016, Sassou Nguesso ran for reelection to a third consecutive five-year term and won with 60% of the vote.

Paul Biya of Cameroon (since 1982)

Biya is the longest consecutively-serving current non-royal national leader in the world. He attempted to change the 1996 Constitution’s two-term restriction, which prevented him from competing for president again in 2011 after being re-elected in 2004. Biya supported the Constitution’s revision in his 2008 New Year’s message, arguing that it was undemocratic to restrict people’s freedom of choice. During violent protests in late February 2008, one of the issues raised was the proposed elimination of term limits. However, the National Assembly agreed on April 10 to amend the Constitution to eliminate term restrictions. The move was overwhelmingly adopted with 157 votes in favour and 5 votes against.

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea (since 1979)

Teodoro is the second-longest consecutively-serving current non-royal national leader in the world. With the adoption of a marginally less authoritarian constitution, the nation formally restored to civilian administration in 1982. Obiang, the sole contender, won a seven-year term as president at the same time. In 1989, he won reelection as the sole contender. He was reelected in 1996 and 2002 with 98 percent of the vote in elections that international observers deemed fraudulent after other parties were ostensibly permitted to organise in 1992. For example, in at least one voting district in 2002, Obiang received 103 percent of the vote. In spite of new allegations of voter fraud and intimidation, he won reelection for a fourth term in 2009 with 97% of the vote, defeating opposition leader Plácido Micó Abogo.

Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea (since 1993)

Isaias has served as the nation’s first head of state following the end of the country’s independence war after being chosen as its president by the National Assembly. Isaias was praised during his early years as an innovative African leader. Elections were cancelled and a new constitution was drafted in 1997, but it was never adopted. In an open letter he received in 2000, 15 ministers—among them his vice president—asked him to resign. He shut down the national press on September 18, 2001, and significant opposition figures were detained.

Read also: Why African leaders must plan along the 2050 clean energy target, by Okoye

Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire (Since 2010)

Ouattara declared his intention to seek a third term in government in July 2020. Given that the Ivorian constitution only allows for two presidential mandates, his candidature was divisive. The Constitutional Court approved Ouattara’s candidature by ruling that the first term served under a previous constitution did not count towards the two-term limit of the present constitution. This decision sparked violent riots in Abidjan and across the nation. Thus, a significant portion of the opposition abstained from the election in October 2020, which resulted in Alassane Ouattara’s reelection with 95.31% of the vote and a 53.90% turnout.

Azali Assoumani of the Comoros (2002-2006 and 2016-present)

In the 2016 Comorian presidential election, Assoumani received 41.43% of the vote, according to the Constitutional Court, and he assumed office on May 26 for a five-year tenure. The opposition claimed that Assoumani changed the constitution while he was in office in order to extend his rule until 2029. In addition, the European Union suspended all collaboration with the Comoros in protest over his closing of the Constitutional Court and Anti-Corruption Court. In order to run for reelection in the Comorian presidential election on 24 March 2019, Assoumani resigned as president on February 13. He was re-elected on April 3 after winning the first round of voting.

Ismail Guelleh of Djibouti (1999-present)

Guelleh was elected in 1999 and 2005, then in 2010 he persuaded the Djiboutian National Assembly to modify the Constitution to give him the right to run for reelection a third time. This made it possible for him to officially put his name on the 2011 Djiboutian election ballot, in which he won. With roughly 87% of the vote, Guelleh also prevailed in the 2016 election. The opposition, as in past elections, has called for a nationwide boycott and urged Guelleh to hold “transparent, free, fair, and just elections.” In a resounding victory in the 2021 election, he was returned for a fifth term.

Some of these leaders have changed term limits through referendums, while others have done it through constitutional amendments.