About me.

Andrew M. Mwenda is the founding Managing Editor of The Independent, Uganda’s premier current affairs newsmagazine. One of Foreign Policy magazine 's top 100 Global Thinkers, TED Speaker and Foreign aid Critic



Monday, May 3, 2010

Will Paul Kagame Retire in 2017 ?

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had promised not to run for a second term. However, she recently changed her mind. In 2002, Mwai Kibaki of Kenya had made a similar promise only to renege on it immediately after his election. Now, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, has abandoned plans to retire and will run for re-election – after 20 years in power.

Across Africa, there are very few countries where presidents respect term limits – Tanzania, Benin, Mozambique, Botswana, Mali and Ghana are among the few examples. In Namibia, Cameroun, Gabon, Togo, Angola, Congo Brazzaville, Chad, CAR, Zimbabwe, Niger, Mauritania, Djibouti, Algeria, Burkina Faso and Uganda, term limits have been removed. In Zambia, Nigeria, Malawi and Senegal, presidents have tried but failed.

If the anti-term limits trend was limited to a few countries, we would seek the explanation from the character traits of individual presidents. But when the tendency is so widely spread, then it means that the fundamentals of the answer lie in something bigger and structural within our societies and their politics.

Take the example of Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. No president in Africa has ever spoken more grandiloquently against presidential longevity than he has. In 1986, he promised to be in office for only four years. In 1989, he extended this period for five years in order to finish writing a new constitution. In 1996, he promised he was running for only one term. In 2001, he promised he would retire after his second term.

In 2005, Museveni amended the constitution and removed term limits. Now we know he is not only in it for life but even beyond i.e. through his son. Many other African leaders have already begun to build family dynasties – in Togo, DRC and Gabon, family succession has worked. In Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, it is underway.

The case of Sirleaf’s betrayal of her promise is more intriguing because she is a female (women have so far not come across as power hungry as men). Further, she does not come from a background of deprivation having had a good international career working with the World Bank. Why did she promise something that she has found so easy to abandon?

To put it broadly, why did Kibaki, Museveni, Nujoma, Zenawi, Idris Debby etc change their mind? What incentives sustain this tendency across Africa? If the problem was one of individual presidents and their immediate praise singers, then we would see an assembly of wider societal forces resisting them. Yet we have seen few caseslike those of Nigeria, Malawi and Zambia. But it seems these were possible because the presidents of these nations had not been in power long enough to develop powerful constituencies with a vested interest in perpetuating their time in office.

Daniel arap Moi in Kenya, Jerry Rawlings in Ghana and Joachim Chisano in Mozambique are the rare examples of presidents who had served for more than 15 years and respected term limits. But close observers say there were limited possibilities for these presidents to succeed in removing term limits and therefore had to retire. Their colleagues like Omar Bongo in Gabon, Gnanssingbe Eyadema in Togo, Paul Biya in Cameroon and Museveni in Uganda removed term limits because they could.

From this perspective therefore, it seems that the longer a president stays in power, the harder it becomes to respect term limits. This is partly because longevity may create many constituencies of hostility, but it also entrenches powerful interests in the body politic. In a 2008 Afro Barometer survey, most Africans said they want term limits. Yet this popular feeling does not find much currency in politics because the powerful can still manipulate electoral politics to remain in power.

The evidence from these countries therefore is a major challenge to Rwanda’s Paul Kagame. Like Museveni before him, he has made categorical statements denouncing the removal of term limits. Critics say that when recently asked by Christiane Amanpour on CNN, Kagame seemed to hesitate. There is nothing in Rwanda’s social structure, history and politics to stop him from removing term limits if he wished.

I do not know a leader of an insurgent army that captured power as RPF did and left power voluntarily – in Zimbabwe, Uganda, North Korea, Cuba, etc. If Kagame respects term limits and retires in 2017, it will be an act with few precedents, if any. Many in RPF will want him to stay. How can we tell whether he will resist or yield?

I believe Kagame may actually leave power voluntarily like Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere because he has a strong interest in his legacy. And if precedent is a guide, his personal role in the history of RPF and Rwanda gives an indication that he will.

When the RPF captured power in 1994, its politburo met to elect a president for the country. Its chairman, Alex Kanyarwengwe, was unanimously rejected. Everyone in the meeting chose Kagame. He refused. Faustine Twagiramungu, then Prime Minister Designate under the Arusha accords led a delegation of all opposition parties to ask him to be president. Kagame still refused.

Interestingly, the Twagiramungu delegation was against the idea of Seth Sendashonga and Pastuer Bizimungu (both Hutu) becoming president. Instead Kagame proposed Bizimungu and as compromise accepted to become vice president and minister of defence. Few people who have fought as Kagame did to capture power can resist the temptation to become president. So Kagame exhibited extraordinary restraint.

One could say that times have changed; in 1994, Kagame had never been president and did not know the pleasures of the office. Now recognised as statesman all over the world for reconstructing Rwanda, he may become convinced that Rwanda’s destiny and his are intertwined. If you add the pressure from vested interests, Kagame of 2017 may look at things differently from the one of 1994.

Will Kagame prove the cynics right or wrong? Zenawi in Ethiopia and Sirleaf in Liberia have already fallen on this hurdle. Even those presidents who failed to remove term limits rigged elections for a chosen successor – Nigeria, Malawi, Zambia and Sierra Leone. It is tempting to remove term limits; difficult to restrain oneself fr-om doing so. Put differently, it is very difficult to leave power but good to do so.
amwenda@independent.co.ug

31 comments:

品華yur1095is_newson1 said...

may the blessing be with you.........................................

韋于倫成 said...

不要把生命看得太嚴肅,反正我們不會活著離開。......................................................

P.O.V. said...

Dear Mr. Mwenda, I'm trying to reach you for a request from American public television's POV, an independent documentary series. We're airing a film that focuses on how international aid may undermine the very communities they aim to help, and we'd love to get a response from you. The film's trailer is here: http://www.pbs.org/pov/goodfortune/

Please contact me at xu [at] pov.org. Thanks so much. -Ruiyan, POV

伯臻伯臻 said...

人若賺得全世界,賠上自己的靈魂,有什麼益處? ..................................................

雲亨Ab9雲亨 said...

Knowledge is power.............................................................

Nikhil Mahen said...

I really respect the work you are trying to do. I saw your TED talk and as someone who has just recently become interested in the field of Economic/ sustainable development, your talk has given me a new path of thinking and tons of ideas of which even if one takes fruit I will remember your talk as a major inspiration for this.

I hope your work is more looked at and at least discussed. Might inspire some people to do something over and above nothing.

tgibson said...

先將一個人的生活過好,才有能力過好兩個人的生活 ..................................................

SadeRa盈君iford0412 said...

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慶天慶天 said...

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江婷 said...

生存乃是不斷地在內心與靈魂交戰;寫作是坐著審判自己。.................................................................                           

志穎志穎 said...

人不能像動物一樣活著,而應該追求知識和美德....................................................................

靜宸靜宸 said...

人有兩眼一舌,是為了觀察倍於說話的緣故。............................................................

佐蓁 said...

安一估~你也安一估哦~............................................................

許紀廷 said...

好看耶~一定每天有空給你支持..................................................................

趙筱婷terrifields汪華昕 said...

唯有穿鞋的人,才知道鞋的哪一處擠腳............................................................

陳佑發 said...

If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.............................................................

Simba News said...

I think one has to go deeper into the root of the problem why African leaders are clinging to their jobs.Power in societies which are highly male dominated and poor has to be looked at on every level from bottom to top.
One female president makes no difference and only proves that when women get power in such societies they behave like men.

楊儀卉 said...

累死了…來去看看文章轉換心情~..................................................................

家榮家榮 said...

好的blog值得一推再推,要愈來愈好哦!!!!.................................................................

承蘋承蘋 said...

人應該做自己認為對的事,而不是一味跟著群眾的建議走。..................................................

敬周喜 said...

人們不缺少力量,他們缺少意志。..................................................

承王蓁 said...

人生中最好的禮物就是屬於自己的一部份............................................................

邱思吳佳順翰 said...

時時刻刻抵抗誘惑,就是一種勝利。............................................................

高黃吉軍向婷 said...

天下攘攘,皆為利往;天下熙熙,皆為利來.............................................................

凱v胡倫 said...

在莫非定律中有項笨蛋定律:「一個組織中的笨蛋,恆大於等於三分之二。」. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

冠陳儒 said...

認清問題就等於已經解決了一半的問題。..................................................

凡柯柯豐柯柯柯 said...

百發百中不是一試就成的。..................................................

瑰潼 said...

令人心動的好文章~~............................................................

惠邱邱邱邱雯 said...

你不能左右天氣,但你可以改變心情............................................................

偉DimpleHolloway043昀 said...

每次看完你的文章,總是回味許久,要經常發表喔。..................................................

FavaBeansNiceChianti said...

Mr. Mwenda, thank you for appearing on the Stossel show. You know exactly what creates wealth and opportunity across the globe. Please keep doing what you are doing and you can have a miraculous effect on the world. You are a saint. Charity does not lead to prosperity. Opportunity and free enterprise are what brings prosperity.