Breaking with Africa's power grab club, Central African Republic limits president to two terms under new law

The CAR becomes one of a handful of African nations that have adopted or respected term limits. In Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, they are being overturned.

CENTRAL African Republic’s transitional government on Sunday adopted a new constitution that would limit future presidents to two terms in office as the country seeks to end more than a year of sectarian violence.

The new charter would limit the president’s mandate to five years that can only be renewed once and cannot be prolonged for any reason, and would create a new senate to help govern.

The constitution, which will now be put to a public vote, also includes the creation of a special court to judge the most serious crimes.

“I urge the Central African people, when the time comes, to give strong backing to this new fundamental law to allow our country to get back on the path to a normal constitutional order,” said Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet, chairman of the National Transitional Council.

The Central African Republic (CAR) descended into bloodshed after a 2013 coup against longtime leader Francois Bozize unleashed a wave of violence, pitting Christian anti-Balaka militias against mostly Muslim Seleka rebels.

Its transitional leaders have planned a constitutional referendum before the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for October 18.

But the elections have already been delayed twice due to the logistical and security challenges of holding the vote in regions still gripped by violence.

In the latest incident, at least 20 people were killed last week and many others injured in days of sectarian clashes sparked by the death of a young Muslim, police sources said.

The CAR now becomes one of the very few countries in Africa in the last two years that has upheld the presidential term limit. Apart from Namibia, Mauritius, and Tanzania, to name a handful, most countries - especially in East and Central Africa - have moved to overturn presidential term limits.

Burundi descended into violence, that has crippled its economy and sent nearly 180,000 of its citizens fleeing to neighbouring countries as refugees, after President Pierre Nkurunziza pushed ahead and stood in elections that opponents said violated the peace agreement that ended the country’s deadly civil war over 10 years ago. 

The election, which was dismissed as not being free and fair by the UN, and was boycotted by the opposition, offered Nkurunziza a relatively easy, though bloody, path to a third term.

In Rwanda, both houses of Parliament voted by nearly 99% to approve a referendum to give President Paul Kagame the possibility to run for a third term in 2017, when his current seven-year second term ends.

In the Republic of Congo, President Denis Sassou Nguesso, is pushing through plans to change the law and give himself another term in office. In neighbouring DR Congo, anti-government protests early this year put on hold a scheme by President Joseph Kabila, that critics said was aimed at extending his stay in power.

It is widely believed that was only a tactical retreat, and in the next few months Kabila will have marshalled enough forces and political courage to push for a third term.

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