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Ex – Presidents Deliberate on Constitutional Term Limits in Africa

The Constitutional Term Limits Summit that was initiated by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to address one of the pressing challenges to democratic progress on the continent – the erosion of the constitutional rule of law by extending and amending presidential term limits, comes to a close this Friday, September 4 in Niamey.

The official ceremony was held under the auspices of the President of the Republic of Niger, Issoufou Mahamadou.

NDI in partnership with the Africa Forum; the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA); and the Kofi Annan Foundation jointly hosted the summit.

For the past two days, key stakeholders from across Africa addressed one of the pressing challenges to democratic progress on the continent – the erosion of the constitutional rule of law by extending and amending presidential term limits.

Special guests at the conference include former Presidents Goodluck Jonathan (Nigeria), Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Liberia, participating remotely), Nicéphore Soglo (Benin), Dr. Amos Sawyer (Liberia), Mahamane Ousmane (Niger), and Catherine Samba-Panza (Central African Republic).

In a bid to match actions to words, President Issoufou Mahamadou took the opportunity during the ceremony to reiterate his commitment to leave power in 2021, at the end of his two constitutional mandates.

“I will scrupulously respect the provisions of the Republic of Niger. I believe in the need for democratic alternation. My most ardent desire is to hand over power in 2021 to a democratically elected successor, it will be the first in our country since independence,” President Issoufou said.

At the opening of the Summit, NDI’s Africa Director, Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh explained the objective of the Niamey Summit, as well as the prospects it offers to support the consolidation of democracy in Africa.

«The Constitutional Term Limits Summit comes at a critical time when Africa’s democratic progress is facing new challenges, and democratic backsliding is becoming more prominent. The Summit will provide an opportunity for leaders and activists on the continent to ensure that progress made through renewal of political leadership through the ballot box is sustained and encouraged,” Dr. Fomunyoh explained.

Nigeria’s Former President Goodluck Jonathan Thursday said over praising sitting presidents makes them feel like a little god and makes it unthinkable for them to leave office.

The former president who is one of the speakers at the summit said the fear of persecution after office makes it difficult for a sitting president to relinquish power.

“Let’s create an environment where people will believe there’s life after office. That if you leave office you should not be persecuted,” he said.

“The way we manage ourselves as sitting presidents and former presidents matter. The first line is to reduce what will make a sitting president afraid to leave office.”

NDI says over the past two decades, Africa has made notable progress in achieving democratic and peaceful transitions of executive power. However, some leaders on the continent have and/or are planning to extend their tenure by altering or eliminating constitutional term limits.

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