President Uhuru’s pledge not to extend term welcome
Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza died as he was about to hand over after 15 years in power. Nkurunziza, a former rebel, had a mixed legacy.
His election by parliamentarians in 2005 was one of the final steps in a peace process intended to end years of fighting between Hutu rebels and the Tutsi-controlled army.
During his presidency, he was accused of gross violation of human rights, persecution of opponents and running down the country’s economy.
Nkurunziza’s decision to cling to power upon re-election to a third term in 2015 plunged the country into chaos as Burundi’s constitution limits presidents to a maximum of two terms.
The constitutional court ruled in favour of his argument that his first term did not count, as he was elected by Parliament and not by the entire electorate, and was thus eligible to stand again.
Nkurunziza has died an increasingly isolated man, since having alienated himself from regional leaders.
By single-handedly plunging his country into chaos because of his insatiable appetite for power, there is a sense in which his exit from power was disgraceful.
There has been a tendency by leaders, especially in Africa, to extend their stay in power by constitutional amendments removing term limits.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame are cases in point.
The general line is that there is no sufficient leadership talent in those countries other than the incumbents.
It will be remembered that Kenya was plunged into violence in 2007/8 over what was seen as an attempt by President Mwai Kibaki to extend his stay in power.
That is why it was gratifying to hear President Uhuru Kenyatta’s commitment last week that he has no intention to cling to the presidency or seek the position of prime minister proposed in the Building Bridges Initiative.
One of the most enduring tests of a democracy is the ability of its leaders to hand over power to a successor after a credible election.
Lack of healthy political competition has been blamed for instability in many nations.
That is why we also concerned about what we see as double standards in the conduct of political activities.
While some politicians have been allowed to hold public rallies in violation of protocols on social distancing, others have had their meetings disrupted by law enforcement. We appeal that the President’s democratic gesture be cascaded.