Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Gambia and Togo oppose presidential term limit at ECOWAS Summit

Togo's Faure Gnassingbe

GAMBIA's Jammeh 
The proposal to introduce term limits for presidents in the West Africa region fail to gather the necessary unanimous support from the 16 Member regional body of ECOWAS.

Gambia's Yaya Jammeh and Togo's Faure Gnassingbe were the only two presidents of the 16-member of ECOWAS who opposed the proposal.  Yaya Jammeh seized power illegally in 1994.  He transformed himself into a civilian president in 1996 and is currently serving his fourth 5-year term, in addition to the first two year in which he was head of the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council.  Twenty two years in the presidency, he's one of Africa's longest-serving leader.

By comparison, Faure Gnessingbe was reelected to his third 5-year term last April amid protest from the opposition.  He succeeds his father Gnassingbe Eyadema who died in office, extending the family dynasty to nearly a half-century.

The number of those supporting the proposal came as a surprise to many who thought that the west African region was, at one stage in its history, littered with dictators most of whose rule ended violently.

The proposal was tabled before the ECOWAS Summit held in Accra, Ghana chaired by John Mahama, president of Ghana and Chairman of the regional group.  Yaya Jammeh did not attend for reasons only known to him.  He was instead represented by his Vice President, Isatou Njie-Saidy and Foreign Minister Neneh Macdouall-Gaye.

Speaking to Reuters after the session,  Ghana's Foreign Minister, Hannah Tetteh, said that "this dissenting view (from Gambia and Togo) became the majority view at the end of the day."

Although the proposal failed to attract unanimous consent, it did show that 14 out of 16 of the Member States strongly support the proposal.  Benin's Yayi Boni, who briefly toyed with the idea of running for a third term quickly dropped the idea and joined the majority of the ECOWAS Heads of State in support of a well overdue idea of getting rid of perpetual presidency.  A Movement will grow out of the idea of term limits for all African presidents.