[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] on Saturday urged [UN News Centre report] African leaders to avoid using loopholes and undemocratic constitutional changes to “cling to power.” In his address at the twenty-sixth African Union [official website] Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Ban stated, “Leaders should never use undemocratic constitutional changes and legal loopholes to cling to power. We have all seen the tragic consequences when they do. Leaders must protect their people, not themselves.” He also lauded those African leaders who have stepped down from their positions and respected constitutional term limits. A handful of the 54 states that attended the summit include [Reuters report] governments with leaders who have been in power for decades, some which have changed their countries’ constitutions so that they may remain in power longer, and others that have sought to remove term limits in other ways.
The extension of presidencies has been an issue in many African nations, most notably Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Violence in Burundi began in the wake of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s announcement that he would seek a third term of office, which he was voted into [JURIST report] in July. Earlier this month the UN High Commission for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, warned [JURIST report] of increasing violence in Burundi. Last month the UN Human Rights Council approved [JURIST report] a resolution to dispatch experts to investigate human rights violations in Burundi, condemning violence in the country, use of excessive force by officials and restrictions on freedoms. In October the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) electoral commission announced [JURIST report] that voters have approved an amendment to the constitution that would allow President Denis Sassou Nguesso to extend his term in office. In January protests and demonstrations [JURIST report] took place across the DRC to oppose the proposed changes in the law that would allow President Joseph Kabila to extend his presidential term past the allotted two-year limit.