29 January 2013

East Africa: Leaders Must Respect Term Limits


PRESIDENT Mwai Kibaki is about to end his second term of office. He will soon retire in honour and dignity.

In Rwanda President Paul Kagame's second seven-year term of office expires in 2017.

Some RPF hardliners now want to change the constitution so he can stand for a third term. Wisely Kagame has indicated that he is not interested.

Events in neighbouring Uganda show that removing term limits is very risky.

President Yoweri Museveni led Uganda very successfully from 1986. He served as president for two terms under the 1996 constitution and was supposed to step down in 2006. Instead he allowed the constitution to be amended so that presidential term limits were removed.

Since then Uganda politics have become a quagmire for him. Last week he was reduced to threatening rebel MPs of his own NRM party that the army could take over again if they did not cooperate with him.

Without presidential term limits, there is no longer a clear handover mechanism. Sycophants fight to keep the incumbent president in power. Opposition is criminalised rather than institutionalised. The economy stagnates.

Kibaki and, hopefully, Kagame have done the right thing in standing down at the right time in the right way.

Quote of the day: "If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace." - American radical Thomas Paine was born on January 29, 1737

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