Mmegi Blogs :: Khama, presidential term limits in Africa
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Last Updated
Friday 16 November 2018, 13:42 pm.
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Khama, presidential term limits in Africa

Many presidentialisms in Africa are very unique. The uniqueness of African presidentialisms stretches back to the post-colonial era. When many African countries gained “independence” in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, many poor African people thought that the era of their political and socio-economic suffering endured for hundreds of years under European domination were finally over.
By Solly Rakgomo Fri 16 Mar 2018, 12:37 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Khama, presidential term limits in Africa








Leaders of the liberation struggles were celebrated throughout Africa as an air of optimism filled the atmosphere across the whole continent. Poor Africans who were brutally dispossessed of land and basic human rights, looked up to liberation struggle heroes as their only source of  hope to emancipate them from the life of dehumanising poverty and a horrifying culture of rightlessness.

Lo and behold, the so-called liberation struggle heroes turned their backs on the very same people they have professed to be liberating. Instead of making radical post-colonial emancipatory socio- economic and political reforms characterised by robust democratic institutions, many liberation struggle heroes dismantled any institution that showed any democratic characteristics.

All those Pan Africanist liberation slogans died a sudden death and in their place shrill songs of despair took centre stage. The brutal dictatorship and rampant corruption that characterised the post-colonial leadership in Africa was the beginning of the uniqueness that still characterises African polity to this day. Presidency in many parts of Africa is viewed by those who occupy positions of power as divinely ordained positions. Even some of those African leaders who came to power after the crop of post-colonial or liberation struggle heroes did not bring any meaningful democratic or socio- economic change to the people. Instead the sweet trappings of power motivated them to bastardise constitutions willy nilly and pushed for more undeserved shelf life in power.

Those who dared to challenge the utterly undemocratic system of pushing for more time in power are more than often demonised and satanised. The use of security apparatus to squelch any dissent has become  the norm. In countries such as Egypt, elections which are scheduled for next month will be nothing but a rubber stamp of the present dictatorship of President Fatah al Sisi. Strong political opponents such as Ahmed Shafik and Sami Anan as well as popular political movements like Muslim Brotherhood have been elbowed out of the race. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph  Kabila who was supposed to step down in 2016 is still clinging to power.

Other African presidents like Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi are contemplating on eliminating presidential term limits for good! This is truly a unique system of presidentialism that characterises many parts of Africa.

Now coming back to Botswana, despite its socio-economic and political challenges, Botswana is one of the few countries in Africa

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which have never experienced intra-state political violence due to a president refusing to step down. Current president General Ian Khama is stepping down in a few weeks’ time.

Despite his background in the rigid military structures, he has openly stated that he is going to step down. President Khama has also gone on record to condemn many African leaders who have shown unwillingness to step down despite the fact that their time is up. The list includes Robert Mugabe who was late last year deposed by his own military commandos, and Kabila of the DRC. I have observed that there is a divided opinion on President Khama’s condemnation of African leaders who do not want to step down. Some people feel it is not Botswana’s business to interfere into internal affairs of other states. People who share this view also posit that these condemnation risk Botswana becoming an enemy of some countries within the African continent.

Amidst all these, one might be forced to argue that Botswana being Africa’s oldest functioning democracy for the past 50 years is demonstrating true leadership by reminding other African leaders to adhere to sound democratic norms. Mind you conflicts over issues of presidentialisms and power struggles have impacted negatively by destabilising many African countries. Besides internal and external displacement, many innocent Africans have lost their lives due to power struggle influenced violence. So, to mitigate the challenges that are brought by these instabilities, President Khama strongly feels those leaders whose time is up should rightly pave the way for new crop of leadership.

Furthermore, another argument might be the fact that Botswana houses the headquarters of SADC. In diplomatic terms, this position places Botswana as a diplomatic capital of Southern Africa. In that sense, one might argue that President Khama, being a leader in that diplomatic capital is walking a moral high ground by condemning his peers to step down when their time is up.

By doing this President Khama is trying to demonstrate to Africa that despite the “ shithole” tag that have become synonymous with Africa, there can be some exceptions like Botswana where a democratic culture ( even though questionable in world standards) can still prevail and that other African countries can still turn the leaf.

Despite his flaws, I think President Khama is right by calling his peers to step down when their time is up.

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