NewsEast & Horn AfricaShould the AU give 'cling-on' presidents the red card?


Posted on Monday, 02 May 2016 15:38

Should the AU give 'cling-on' presidents the red card?

By The Africa Report

After condemning the violence in Burundi and voting to send in a peace- keeping force, in January the African Union caved in to Pierre Nkurunziza, whose third term as president is the cause of the country's unrest.


Yes The African Union (AU) should stop giving red carpets to cling-on presidents in Africa. Presidents who cling on to power after manipulating and changing their countries' constitutions in order to become life presidents should be given a red card and should not be invited by the AU to its assemblies. Their continued involvement in the AU promotes the culture of impunity and encourages other presidents to do similar evils. The AU should consider these cling-on presidents, in the same way it considers coup d'état leaders. This will help to promote democracy, peace and good governance in Africa. We have seen that when presidents cling on to power they are always removed violently, either by mass demonstrations like in Burkina Faso, Egypt and Tunisia, or coup d'état attempts like in Burundi. All these scenarios lead to loss of life among innocent people, especially young people, and disturb peace and stability, both in the country and all neighbouring countries, and the region at large. If the AU would give a red card to these presidents and the United Nations did the same, the situation would change for the better. These presidents would find no hideout and would be forced to respect their countries' constitutions and have peaceful transfers of power. ● Frank Habineza - President, Democratic Green Party of Rwanda


No From a narrow perspective of form, the question of African leaders clinging on to power is a legitimate concern. But seen in a wider context, the issue of longevity only distracts from a meaningful discussion of governance and democracy in fundamental ways. First, framing it that way puts out of the equation the very object of good governance: citizens. It is as if they don't exist or matter, or have no mind of their own. Yet citizens have a say and make choices about who governs them and how they are governed. Their choices matter and must be respected. Second, power is presented as an end in itself. The correct discussion should be about what power is used for. If it is taken to mean responsibility and used to transform societies, create prosperity and improve citizens' well-being, it is power put to the service of the nation and is defensible. But if it is for the enrichment of an individual or his family, whether a leader stays for one or 10 years it is wrong and must be condemned. Third, focus on longevity diverts attention from the important question of leadership. The crucial point is the quality of leaders: whether they possess the vision and ability to effect socio-economic transformation, not how long they stay in power. Finally, people make choices of governance based on what works for them and addresses their specific circumstances. Ultimately they are the judges of what is best for their country. ● Joseph Rwagatare - Rwandan writer

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