Obama condemns African leaders who cling to power

President Obama

President Obama addressing the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Tuesday July 28

The President of the United States Barack has chided African leaders who manipulate laws and constitutions in order to hold on to extend their stay in power.

While addressing the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Tuesday, Obama, without mentioning names rebuked African leaders who find all kinds of justifications to cling on to power.

“The law is the law, and no one person is above the law, not even the president,” Obama said drawing wild applause and cheers “I don’t understand why people want to stay so long, especially when they have got a lot of money.”

Citing Burundi as an example Obama stressed “when a leader tries to change the rules in the middle of the game just to stay in office, it risks instability and strife.”

In his speech, Obama said Africa does not need strong men but rather it needs strong institutions.

He said changing the laws and constitutions to suit their ambitions of staying in power is often just the first step to a perilous path.

Obama said sometimes leaders say they are the only ones who can keep their countries together.

“If that’s true then that leader has failed to truly build their nation,” Obama noted.

President Obama underscored that leaders like South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and America’s George Washington have left lasting legacies not because of what they did while in office but because they were able to leave office and peacefully handover power.

He urged the African Union (AU) to use its strong voice and authority to speak out against leaders and countries who do not observe term limits, and who change constitutions.

President Obama reiterated “nobody should be president for life” and that African countries are better off have the infusion new blood, energy and insights in terms of new leaders taking over power.

Obama’s castigation of third terms and life presidency comes in handy as the President of Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza just won a controversial third term bid through an election the opposition and civil society, United States, and international community have labeled “not credible.”

Like in Burundi, in Rwanda the country’s parliament has already voted to change the constitution to allow President Paul Kagame to run for the third term.

In Rwanda’s neighbour, Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for 29 years is the favourite to win next year’s presidential election.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), President Joseph Kabila has tried to engineer a constitutional change to facilitate his third term run but the country’s parliament has halted the controversial bill due to strong protests by the people.

Obama’s message was also aimed at countries like Burkina Faso where at the end 0f 2014, Blaise Compaoré, the leader who had ruled the country for 27 years, was forced to flee his country after thousands of people protested his attempt to extend his stay in power.

Proponents third terms and “life presidency” have argued term limits are not suitable for Africans, leaders like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, and Paul Kagame of Rwanda are of the view that “term limits” is a Western idea that doesn’t apply to Africa and is not good for Africa.

These leaders say a leader should be allowed to lead as long as his or her people want him or to lead.

Obama also urged African leaders and countries to educate and employ women, both demographics that will no doubt propel Africa to prosperity.

He also appealed to leaders and countries to end the “cancer of corruption” that is hold back Africa.

The US leader ended his Africa tour in Ethiopia, after arriving in Kenya last Friday to attend the Sixth Global Entrepreneurship Summit.