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Hanging on to power in Africa

29 October 2014, 14:32

Paris - Many African presidents have tried, and often succeeded, to stay in power by reforming their countries' constitutions to get rid of limits on the number of presidential terms.

On Tuesday in Burkina Faso, a massive rally took place against plans to let the long-serving president Blaise Compaore extend his rule beyond 30 years.

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Below are some precedents over the past 15 years:

- Djibouti: In April 2010, Djibouti's parliament approved a constitutional amendment allowing President Ismael Omar Guelleh, in power since 1999, to run for a third term.

- Algeria: In November 2008, the parliament quashed the limit on the number of presidential terms to two, voting for a revision of the constitution. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power since 1999, was then re-elected in 2009 and again in 2014.

- Cameroon: In April 2008, the parliament revised the constitution getting rid of the limit on the number of presidential terms. Paul Biya, who had been in power since 1982, was elected to a sixth term in October 2011.

- Uganda: In July 2005, a constitutional reform scrapped restrictions on the number of presidential terms. Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986, was re-elected in 2006, and again in 2011.

- Chad: In June 2005, a constitutional revision adopted following a controversial referendum scrapped the limit to two five-year presidential terms. Idriss Deby Itno, in power since 1990, was re-elected in 2006 and again in 2011.

- Togo: In December 2002, a constitutional amendement paved the way for Gnassingbe Eyadema, in power since 1967, to seek another term in 2003. In February 2005, after his death, a constitutional revision by parliament allowed his son, Faure Gnassingbe, favoured by the army, to be sworn in as president.

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However, under pressure from the international community, he was forced to step down, before being declared winner of the presidential election.

- In addition, in Zimbabwe, a new constitution adopted in 2013 allowed President Robert Mugabe, in power since 1980, to stand in the election, which he won.

- In Angola, the adoption in January 2010 of a constitutional amendment providing for the election of a president by indirect suffrage, by parliamentarians, allowed head of state Jose Eduardo dos Santos, in power since 1979, to be sworn in in 2012 after his party's victory in legislative elections.

- African leaders, including the presidents of Rwanda Paul Kagame, Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza, Congo Denis Sassou Nguesso and the Democratic Republic Of Congo Joseph Kabila are also suspected by their opposition parties of seeking to modify or get round their countries' constitutions to seek another term.

Some heads of state have modified the constitution to impose single round presidential votes, as in Gabon in 2003 or the Democratic Republic Of Congo in 2011.

Others, on the other hand, have tried unsuccessfully to impose constitutional modifications to remain in power: in Zambia, Frederick Chiluba was forced to throw in the towel in 2001 under popular presure, and in Malawi, the parliament in 2002 blocked Bakili Muluzi from seeking a third mandate in 2004.

- Finally, in Tunisia, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in power since 1987, engineered an amendment of the constitution in 2002 by referendum. which opened the way for him standing for a fourth term in October 2004. He then fled his country in January 2011 under popular pressure.



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