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« Trends That Usurp A People's Will | Main | Mortuary Attendants Detained Over Missing Corpse »

Monday, 13 August 2007


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Barrister Mbi,
When you talk of party leaders refusing to step down for others what do you mean?
Like with the SDF, once its chairman becomes head of state he automatically will step down as party head or if he is defeated in an election. Don't you compare Mr Biya's party and the opposition.
Let me tell you that even in advanced democracy the party leader appoints his secretary.
So according to your observations there were no fraud and rigging. I doubt what legal mind you have or you are building the Cameroon type of mind were you can reap from the regime in power.
Well as rightly said Mr Biya has the right to extend his mandate but don't be surprise he will not live to stand the elections as it has happened to many African countries.

NKEA Jr Esq.

President for Life?
Peering at the extension of presidential mandates in Africa.
By Aleambong Emmanuel Nkea*
(Published in of October 2006)

Recent constitutional developments in Africa on the extension of presidential mandates have attracted heated debates. To talk of an extension of mandate pre-supposes that there is a constitutional term limit which the incumbent seeks to extend. To understand this better, we need to examine the types of presidential mandate systems in Africa.
The first is the post-colonial presidential mandate system which instituted the “President for Life” phenomenon, a system where the incumbents put in place self succession agendas which were sometimes halted by military juntas.
The vestiges of this brand of presidential mandate system are still very alive in the constitutional dispensation of some African countries, like The Gambia, today. This brand derives its foundation and inspiration from the French and British presidential and/or prime ministerial mandate systems. In France and Great Britain the incumbent president and/or prime minister can only be halted from serving another term in office by the Will of The People expressed in the ballot box.
Some of the most notorious regimes in Europe and Africa have been identified with this type. Classical examples are Adolph Hitler of Nazi Germany, Benito Mussolini of Italy and Idi Amin of Uganda. Some of the most successful regimes in Europe and Africa have also adhered to this type of presidential mandate system; Margaret Thatcher, François Mitterrand, Felix Houphuet Boigny and Muamar Ghadaffi are glaring examples.
The second type of presidential mandate is that following the wind of change in Africa in the 1990s, where incumbents were pushed into making constitutional provisions for a term limit. Most African countries today belong to this second group. This type is inspired by the presidential mandate system as obtains in the United States.

Mandate Extension Heat

However, while some incumbents have properly made their exit in obedience of this provision enshrined in their respective constitutions, many others have - successfully or unsuccessfully - tried to stay beyond their constitutional term limits. Much heat is generated each time there is an attempt at an elongation of mandate in Africa. The most recent is the Olusegun Obassanjo third term bid in Nigeria.
It is my humble submission that there is nothing wrong if, by seeking an elongation of his term limits, Obassanjo or any other African leader seeks to amend the constitution. The Nigerian constitution – like most other constitutions in Africa and the world over – makes provision for constitutional amendments. The issue should be whether the constitutional process is duly followed. If yes, then the act is absolutely right. At law no right can amount to a wrong, even if it does not please other quarters.
I am by no means an advocate of the “President for Life” syndrome. I submit that the issue rests squarely with the people. The thrust of constitutionalism is that the people should at any given time be consulted on issues of national importance within the confines of the constitution.

Perverting the Will of the People

To my mind, there is no major difference between the use of unconventional methods in seeking another constitutional mandate specifically provided for by the law, and an unorthodox attempt at elongation of term beyond the fixed constitutional limit.
The Florida election scandal of President George Bush II is a clear example of how some may want to obtain their mandate beyond the “constitutional” wish of the people. If it is bad to resort to fraudulent constitutional amendment to renew (extend) the constitutionally fixed term of an incumbent, then it is equally bad to resort to fraudulent electoral maneuvers to renew (extend) an incumbent’s tenure of office or obtain a mandate to serve. In both cases, the will of the people has been perverted.
Africa has successfully demonstrated that the decision on the extension of mandates rests squarely with the people. This was the case with Chiluba of Zambia and Bakili Muluzi of Malawi when their schemes for a constitutional amendment to make way for an elongation of their mandates were rejected by their people. The most recent case where the Nigerian people demonstrated their firm rejection of any constitutional amendments allowing Obassanjo to stay beyond his constitutionally fixed term lends more credence to this view.
Others, like Sam Nujoma of Namibia, and Blaise Campaore of Burkina Faso, successfully had their mandates extended by following the due process of the law. Whether these leaders succeeded or are succeeding to satisfy the wishes of their peoples is a different issue all together.
Thus, the point is not whether the elongation of presidential mandates in Africa is legal or constitutional; rather, one should look at whether the people are given their historic right to take their due place in such a process.

Way Forward

It is now established that both the self succession agenda and the constitutional term limit concept have failed to yield to popular acclamation. Term limits in African constitutionalism still remain a myth. Several reasons account for this. First, traditional political power in Africa is held in perpetuity and it has now become part of the African political tradition that incumbents handpick their successors. Examples include the succession of Gnasingbe Eyadema of Togo and Laurent Kabila of Congo by their sons. Secondly, African countries have adopted the modes of governance of former European colonial powers like Britain and France, which do not have term limits in their constitutional arrangement. Finally, the poor treatment of former African presidents by their successors scares current incumbents. The treatment of late Ahmadou Ahidjo by his handpicked successor, Paul Biya, is an apt example.
It is no guarantee that setting term limits enhances democracy and/or development. While it has stimulated development and democracy in some countries, it has stifled it in others.
I submit that the best way forward is for the people to be given the ability to make the final choice.

* Aleambong Emmanuel Nkea Esq is a Human Rights Jurist, Activist & Researcher; Barrister of the Cameroon Bar Association and of the Supreme Court of Cameroon; and member of the Genocide Intervention Network

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