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Continent tries to shake off old governance trait

By People Daily
Sunday, August 16th, 2020
Participants attend the 36th ordinary session of the executive council of the African union Commission which in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, Feb. 6, 2020. (Xinhua/Michael Tewelde)
In summary
    • Africa is a long way from burying the ugly era of presidents for life. The period, which followed immediately after independence and lasted until the end of the 1990s
    • Seven of the 10 longest serving presidents in the world are in Africa. They include Cameroon’s Paul Biya, in power since 1982, and Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, in power since 1979
    • But the AU has yet to successfully tackle the problem of imperial presidencies.

Johannesburg, Sunday

Ivorian president Alassane Ouattara (78) has finally confirmed he’ll seek a third term in office in October.

Within days of this, Guinea’s ruling party asked President Alpha Condé (82) to seek a third term.

The actions signal that Africa is a long way from burying the ugly era of presidents for life.

The period, which followed immediately after independence and lasted until the end of the 1990s, had a debilitating effect on stability, democracy and socio-economic development on the continent.

In the last two decades the continent, through the African Union (AU), has developed relatively effective ways of putting a halt to unconstitutional changes of government in the form of coups d’etat.

This policy effectively protects incumbent leaders. But the AU has yet to successfully tackle the problem of imperial presidencies.

This lack of action has triggered criticism that the organisation is a private club of incumbent leaders.

Africa has more than its fair share of presidents who have stayed longer than they should have. Seven of the 10 longest serving presidents in the world are in Africa.

They include Cameroon’s Paul Biya, in power since 1982, and Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, in power since 1979.

Their regimes are often characterised by instability, the absence of civil and political liberties as well as extensive patrimonialism and corruption.

Alpha Condé came to power in 2010 from the opposition ranks, following the first competitive elections in Guinean history after the death of Lansana Conté in 2008. Conté had come to power in a coup 24 years earlier.

A transitional government was established in 2010. This was followed by the adoption of a new constitution in 2010 and elections.

Condé had been an ardent opponent of Conté. Notably, he opposed a 2003 constitutional amendment that allowed Conté to run for a third term.

After coming to power in 2010, Condé quickly consolidated his power through the hegemony of his party, Rally of the Guinean People, and won a second term in 2015.

In 2019, his government announced that it would pursue the adoption of a new constitution.

It deliberately aimed at bypassing a provision prohibiting amendments to the two term limit.

The opposition criticised the move as defying the spirit of the 2010 constitution against unlimited terms.

Protests have been held in the capital, Conakry, and other parts of the country since October 2019.

They forced the postponement of the constitutional referendum, which was ultimately held on 31 March this year, and approved the new constitution.

The constitution retains the two-term limit, but is silent on time already served before it came into force, enabling Condé to seek two more terms. He could potentially rule until 2032. - Agencies

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