Term limits

If you ask sit-tight politicians, they will tell you that Africans hate term limits. They actually want Presidents to contest in elections and rule for as long as they want.

You will hear as much from Zimbabwe’s Mugabe, Rwanda’s Kagame and a host of other Presidents who have in one way or the other found a way to skirt around constitutional term limits.

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Burundi is the latest country in the continent with this claim. Despite the fact that violence has uprooted about a quarter of a million Burundians, who have fled mostly to neighboring Tanzania and Uganda, in the wake of President Nkurunziza’s successful third term bid, Burundians allegedly want the president to have more than two terms.

Term limits

At least that is the conclusion that has been served up by a commission set up by the President last year to canvas public opinion on Burundi’s political system. On Wednesday the chairman, Justin Nzoyisaba, said that most Burundians wanted term limits abolished.

According to him, most of the people whom the commission met “want the president …to exercise more than two terms…people said they have to erase the term limits; it means that the president can run for any time he wants.”

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With this determination by the commission, there may be a repeat of Rwanda’s story where most of the population voted in a referendum last year to allow Paul Kagame, president since 2000, to rule possibly until 2034.

Nkurunziza and Kagame Term limits

The question that still lingers in the face of this report by the commission is; is the current violence in Burundi which has left at least 45o people dead, therefore, the work of only a few troublemakers? If the people are so resoundingly supportive of an abolishment of term limits, why do they seem so angry about Nkurunziza’s third term?

A referendum may be the only way to answer that question to any degree and even then if Rwanda is any example, there will be continued speculations of some degree behind the scene workings. At the end would it not just be easier if African presidents just respected term limits?