Presidents who removed term limits to rule for life

By The Standard

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Kenya could be moving against the grain on the continent in diluting the powers of the president. This is amid heavy jostling for consolidation and removal of age limits among neighbours.

In the new proposal tabled before the National Assembly, Kenya could have a ceremonial president serving a single seven-year term while the executive power would be vested in a prime minister.

Such a PM would be an elected legislator, essentially opening the doors wide for any of the representatives in the majority party to be handed real power by the president – a slight variation of the parliamentary system of government.

But the current discussion elsewhere, including among immediate neighbours, is on removing term limits to allow the ever more powerful president to remain in office, possibly for life.

In Uganda, strongman Yoweri Museveni has marshalled his backers in Parliament to amend the law to remove age limits, amid resistance from opposition. Already, Ugandan MPs have passed amendments that extend their terms from five to seven years as the first step in the grand scheme of things to ensure President Museveni rules till 2035.

The argument among backers of the National Resistance Movement is to allow their leader since 1986 serve the constitutional two terms which, however, count from the next elections slated for 2021. Museveni’s westerly neighbour Paul Kagame, who also came to power, first, through a coup, could rule till 2034 if he wished after a referendum in Rwanda lifted the previous term and age limits.

President Kagame, who is widely praised for the stability and deep reforms he has introduced in Rwanda, also faces accusations of running the tiny country under an authoritarian regime where dissent is crushed promptly.

But he has defended himself previously telling a past global forum he hosted in Kigali it was not his wish to run in the 2017 presidential polls, which he eventually won by 99 per cent, but that of the Rwandan people.

Further West, the story has been bloodier in the Democratic Republic of Congo where President Joseph Kabila is facing strong opposition on his continued stay in office, despite the expiry of his term on November 2016 and refusal to hold a poll.

But it is in Zimbabwe where newly-deposed leader Robert Mugabe held the record as the oldest and longest-serving president in Africa, until the army removed him in a bloodless coup and handed over power to Emmerson Mnangagwa in November 2017.