Another African president breaks ranks with the club, says will not seek a third term


Mauritania leader surprises, saying he has no intention of changing the constitution, but he seemingly remains in the minority.

MAURITANIAN president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz says he has no intention of modifying the Constitution to remain in power after the end of his second mandate in June 2019.

“I never thought of changing the Constitution”, he told reporters in Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital, on Thursday. Abdel Aziz won re-election in June 2014 polls.

The country’s constitution stipulates non-renewable two presidential mandates of five years.

Abdel Aziz also expressed the support of his country for the Saudi attacks against Shiite rebels in Yemen.

He rose to the helm in 2008 when he became the leader of a junta that had deposed president Ould Sid’Ahemed Taya. 

He resigned in April 2009 and won a presidential election later in July. Seemingly a converted democrat in the mould of Nigeria’s Muhammad Buhari, he would join Senegal president Macky Sall in looking to build on democratic practices on the continent.

Sall is proposing a referendum in May next year that would see his term cut from seven to five years, in addition to “other aspects to strengthen our democracy”. 

“I was elected for seven years (but) next year, I will propose the organisation of a referendum for the reduction of my mandate,” he told a news conference with foreign media in Dakar two weeks ago.

“Have you ever seen presidents reduce their mandate? Well I’m going to do it,” Sall said, making good on a pledge which formed part of his election campaign in 2012.

“We have to understand, in Africa too, that we are able to offer an example, and that power is not an end in itself,” he added.

But leaning towards fidgeting with the constitution to run for a third term are the Democratic Republic of Congo president Joseph Kabila, and Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza.

As many as 42 people were killed in protests that erupted in the DRC in January against a bill seen as an attempt to extend Kabila’s hold on power in the nation he has led for 14 years.

The Congolese president appeared to back down, but many see it as only a tactical retreat, ahead of the elections set for 2016.

Nkurunziza is faced with a similar problem of popular opposition, and last week Tanzania president Jakaya Kikwete waded into the debate, urging Burundi to abide by a peace agreement that limits presidents to two terms in office.

“Anyone who wants to be elected must respect Arusha Accords, Burundi’s constitution and election law,” Kikwete told reporters last week in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, at the conclusion of a visit to the East African nation.

‘More time’
The accords, named after a city in northern Tanzania, were the result of talks initially facilitated by that country’s former president Julius Nyerere and brought an end to Burundi’s decade-long civil war.

 The fragile country holds elections in June.

The leaders of Benin, Rwanda and Congo-Brazzaville are also thought to be in this ‘more time’ group.

Congo-Brazzaville’s ruling party called for a change in the constitution ahead of elections next year in which opposition parties say President Denis Sassou-Nguesso will seek a third term in office.

“Changing the constitution is a necessity,” Pierre Ngolo, secretary-general of the Congolese Labour Party, told reporters in the capital, Brazzaville, earlier this month. The constitution of 2002, which limits the number of presidential terms to two and restricts candidates over 70 from competing, “has had its day,” Ngolo said. 

Sassou-Nguesso, 71, led the country from 1979 to 1992 and then returned to power at the end of a civil war in 1997. He was elected in 2002 and 2009 in elections whose results were disputed by the opposition. The term limits were set when the new constitution was introduced in 2002.

African nations where laws have been changed to the benefit of their incumbent leaders include Algeria, Angola, Chad, Djibouti and Uganda.

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