Development is one of the true blueprints of good governance. For a constitutional nation to optimally perform and democracy to have life, adherence and strict following of the law without circumventing it is paramount. When the supreme laws of the land are trampled on, governance and collective development is put on limbo. Equally democracy is eroded, crises allowed to flourish and the will of people shattered.
Power struggle that threaten to trash uncompromised plebiscite and situations where leaders are hellbent on subverting the constitution to get their ways seem to be defining the modus operandi of politics in some African countries. Leaders sanction “studies” to serve as guiding grounds for commissioning constitutional changes. But in reality, it’s their insatiable appetites to be there forever that makes them want a change. What’s clearer is that the thirst for “extension” deepens bad governance and stagnates development. Sadly, bad governance has an entitlement of wanting to stay in power past the welcome date and pioneers of rooted evil never want an end to their reign prefering a third “unconstitutional” term.
Third termism is a cancerous tumor that was coined in reference to world “dictators”, mostly Africans, who after serving their terms tend to use the system to compromise independent institutions, get a third/extended term or influence the composition of next regimes. When a leader nears his last term, ‘he’ orchestrates constitutional amendment through their incumbency advantage to maintain a firm grip on power.
He tries to tilt things and be a centre of authority for life.
Studies have shown that third termism weakens leadership transition that goes past the incumbents’ power life thereby stifling democracy in the long run. It raises tension, diverts foreign direct investment, promotes graft, cements toxic identity polarization etc.
Fundamentally, it brings about poor economic growth- reduced per capita income resulting from interrupted economic activities. Still, a crop of inconsiderate leaders want to stay past sell by dates and hope that their inputs will somehow dictate the operations of next administration. And every African region has prints of third termism.
In 2020, Africa Centre reported that between 2019 and 2021, Africa ‘has 34 presidential elections scheduled’. About 30% of these elections have term limits being challenged by incumbents or their proxies.
If not being challenged, incumbents want their voices to have life after “end date” and the illusionary possibility of being called back to serve their nations hangs over their hands.
The desire to stay in power and probably die in it has been killing democracy, shunning progress and taking countries to days where development settled nowhere. And most African leaders hide under democracy but truly want to undemocratically be there untill death do them part.
They tinker laws of the land to seek third terms, not only putting people’s voices at risk but cementing bad governance that has made countries not be able to develop at a rate recommended by technocrats. While third termism could result to sanctions, it is a recipe for violence and civil unrest which could destabilise a region.
It’s done by manipulating laws orchestrated through referendum to expand governments, introduce posts that would give incumbents a back door into the future administration. Sometimes the constitutional coup is achieved by paying off the naysayers.
And while these happen, African Union only condemns change of regime by unconstitutional means but distantly says nothing about its members who use “legal” means to extend their incumbency. It’s not so much concerned with roadside rules that pauses the wellbeing of nations.
Take for example Kenya. It can easily be concluded that the incumbent want to be part of the next administration.
He’s therefore preparing the ground for “citizens” to accept his wish. To counter resistance, he’s buying elected grassroot leaders who could shoot down his plan of amending the constitution. He doesn’t want to take a home run even after plunging the country into a debt hole. It’s typical of selfish leaders whose paths are littered with bad rule and diminished development. Kenya’s is afraid of the outside after annihilating what was a thriving empire. Instead of focusing on his manifesto and promises he made to Kenyans, he’s preoccupied with succession politics and plotting his own form of third term. His efforts for an extension should be rejected and curtailed at its roots.
Leaders like him should run their last laps and go without putting up sideshows. They shouldn’t have mandates to meddle and try to influence the future of a nation they’ve somehow destroyed.
Not surprising, third term crusaders don’t fully submit to constitutions they swore to protect.
Our neighbor Uganda is also a good classical case. It’s leader, Museveni, came to power as an idealistic person who denounced power-hungry African leaders. Then, he spoke the language ordinary folks spoke. When he finally got to occupy the big seat, expectations were that he’d be different and walk the painful talk authoritarians detest. Museveni was recently re-elected as president, a familiar occurrence since 1986.
In 2005 he “scrapped” term limits, bypassing the mandate the constitution sought to regulate.
And in 2019 he did the same thing with age limits. In two occasions he submitted constitutional amendments to parliamentary votes and got his way. Democracy was assaulted.
About 6years ago when asked about the possibility of stepping down, the Ugandan forever president downplayed it by asking “How can I go out of a banana plantation I have planted that has started bearing fruits?”.
USA Today once best described Museveni as a “21st century gold-standard example of an entrenched Big Man skilled at manipulating the appearance of democracy without the crude violence of his brutal predecessor, Idi Amin”.
According to Transparency International’s annual corruption perception, nations that have modified or done away with term limits have an average ranking of 145 out of 180 countries. You can guess the place of Uganda in the ranking.
As things stand Museveni is the ambassador of third termism who cleanses himself in his own showers of democratic praises.
Third termism which is a pillar of bad governance and dwarfed development should consciously be criminalised. Proponents of the agenda should be tamed and thrown out of power by whatever means available. The scourge negatively affects progress, accountability and weakens governance structures through power monopoly.