Political Term Limits

Political term limits have caused quite a number of problems in various African countries. Those we have come to know as sit-tight leaders have changed the constitutions of their countries to allow them to rule for a longer number of years.

Some other leaders have tried and failed to subvert the political term limits in their countries so they can rule longer. In Nigeria, for instance, a constitutional review panel in 2009, recommended allowing the then sitting president, Olusegun Obasanjo, to run for a third term. However, the Senate refused to change the country’s constitution – in order that former president Obasanjo could stay in power, instead of stepping down at the expiration of his term. The move, if approved, would have altered Nigeria’s charter, which at the moment, limits presidents to two four-year terms.

Political term limits can be a serious powder keg issue in African politics. Just as it once caused a bitter divide in Nigeria, Zimbabwe also experienced the brunt of having one leader for about thirty-seven years. Robert Mugabe, who was one of the oldest leaders in the world, became the leader of Zimbabwe, then called Rhodesia, when the country gained independence from Britain in 1980. In 2013, there was a constitutional referendum which made provision for the nation’s presidents to be in power for two 5-year terms.

Mugabe still continued as the head of state despite having spent 33 years and in 2017, he announced his intention to seek another five-year term at elections due in 2018. The aged former president who had no plans of letting go of power, in total disregard for the rule of law, boldly declared that Zimbabwe belonged to him. But citizens who were fed up with his autocratic rule took to the streets demanding his resignation. With the intervention of the military, Mugabe finally left office on November 21, 2017, ending his 37-year rule that started off with the optimism of independence but ended up taking the country to the brink of economic meltdown.

For reasons which I cannot explain, African leaders always have a tendency of clinging to power as if their life depends on it. It is, therefore, good for citizens to know the political limit of their country in order to know when to lend their voices if things begin to go wrong.

Read More: Who Is Joseph Kony: Why Africa Weeps As The Hunt For This Man Ends

The Political Term Limits For African Countries

CountryHead of state/governmentPolitical Term Limits
AlgeriaPresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 2016 Constitutional Reform
AngolaPresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 2010 Constitutional Reform
BeninPresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 1990 Constitution
BotswanaPresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 1966 Constitution
Burkina FasoPresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 2002 Constitutional Reform
BurundiPresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 2005 Constitutional Reform
ChadPresidentUnlimited 5-year terms, since 2005 Constitutional Reform
CameroonPresidentUnlimited 7-year terms, from 2008 Constitutional Reform
Cape VerdePresidentTwo 5-year terms, the third term only after 5 years
Central African RepublicPresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 2015 Constitutional Reform
ComorosPresidentUnlimited 5-year non-consecutive terms, since 2009 Constitutional Reform
Côte d’IvoirePresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 2000 Constitutional Referendum
The Democratic Republic of the CongoPresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 2005 Constitutional Referendum
Republic of the CongoPresidentThree 5-year terms, since 2015 Constitutional Referendum
DjiboutiPresidentUnlimited 5-year terms, since 2010 Constitutional Reform
EgyptPresidentTwo 4-year terms, since 2011 Constitutional Referendum
Equatorial GuineaPresidentTwo 7-year terms, starting from 2011 Constitutional Reform
EthiopiaPresidentTwo 6-year terms, since 1987 Constitutional Reform
EritreaPresidentTwo 5-Year terms, since 1993 Constitutional Reform
GabonPresidentUnlimited 7-year terms, since 1991 Constitutional Reform
GhanaPresidentTwo 4-year terms, since 1992 Constitutional Referendum
GambiaPresidentUnlimited 5-year terms, since 1996 Constitutional Reform
GuineaPresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 1996 Constitutional Reform
Guinea-BissauPresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 1991 Constitutional Reform
KenyaPresident Two 5-year terms, since 1991 Constitutional Reform
LiberiaPresidentTwo 6-year terms, since 1986 Constitutional Referendum
LesothoKingNo set terms (Hereditary succession)
LibyaPresidential CouncilNo set terms (Transitional)
MadagascarPresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 1992 Constitutional Referendum
MalawiPresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 1995 Constitutional Referendum
MaliPresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 1992 Constitutional Referendum
MauritaniaPresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 1991 Constitutional Referendum
MauritiusPresidentUnlimited 5-year terms, since 1991 Constitutional Reform
MoroccoKingNo set terms (Hereditary succession)
MozambiquePresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 2004 Constitutional Reforms
NamibiaPresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 1999 Constitutional Reforms
NigerPresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 2010 Constitutional Referendum
NigeriaPresidentTwo 4-year terms, since 1999 Constitutional Reforms
RwandaPresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 2015 Constitutional Reform (from 2024)
São Tomé and PríncipePresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 2003 Constitution Reforms
SenegalPresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 2016 Constitutional Reform
SeychellesPresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 2016 Constitutional Reforms
Sierra LeonePresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 1991 Constitutional Referendum
SomaliaPresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 1991 Constitutional Referendum
South AfricaPresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 1996 Constitutional Referendum
South SudanPresidentTwo 5-year terms, proposed
SudanPresidentUnlimited 5-year terms, since 2015 Constitutional Reform
SwazilandKingNo set terms (Hereditary succession)
TanzaniaPresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 1977 Constitutional Reform
TogoPresidentUnlimited 5-year terms, since 2002 Constitutional Reform
TunisiaPresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 2014 Constitutional Referendum
UgandaPresidentUnlimited 5-year terms, since 2005 Constitutional Reform
ZambiaPresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 2006 Constitutional Reform
ZimbabwePresidentTwo 5-year terms, since 2013 Constitutional Referendum

 

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