| HE Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the Africa Union Commission |
H.E. Dr Nkoszana Dlamini-Zuma
Chairperson, Africa Union Commission
Dear Dr. Dlamini-Zuma,
There is a discernible shift in attitude among ordinary citizens across our continent, specifically concerning the current state of African governance that relates to the new trend employed by some African Heads of State, of changing the rules midstream, in a blatant attempt at extending their stay in power for an indefinite period of time. Every effort must be made by the African Union in collaborations with regional political organizations to stop this trend from becoming a permanent and acceptable fixture in the African political landscape.
Surveys conducted by the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research [ICPSR] support the existence of a clear trend in, and a growing impatience with, African leaders who perpetuate themselves in power - a trend that can only threaten the peace and stability in those countries where the problem is more pronounced i.e. in countries where current leaders have already spent 10 years and more in power.
Generally, these countries are where there are no constitutional provisions to the effect. And in countries where term limits exist, it didn't prevent the immediate past president and the current president of Burkina Faso and Burundi respectively, from attempting to change the electoral provisions with varying degrees of success.
In both cases, a lesson learned in tampering with the Constitution or applying a convenient and self-serving interpretation of the Constitution is the idea is not a very good one, and as president Barack Obama said, "it risks instability and strife" not only nationally but regionally.
The American president's recent visit to the AU headquarters offered you, Your Excellency, the opportunity to take the lead, and set the tone, for a conversation with African Leaders in general and those category of leadership who have been in power for over twenty years and above, in particular, that will allow them to gracefully relinquish power.
As a Gambian, I am respectfully recommending that President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia be among those Heads of State who must not be encouraged to remain in power beyond their current mandate. In the case of the Gambian president that should be in October/November 2016.
We are pleased to note that ECOWAS has already taken the lead by proposing a presidential term limit for its Member States. Fourteen of sixteen of the regional organization's Members supported the proposal. The Gambia and Togo were the two Member State that opposed to the idea which, though unsuccessful, was a significant first step under the Chairmanship of President John Mahama of Ghana.
We would encourage the African Union to collaborate with the current Chairman of ECOWAS, president Macky Sall of Senegal, who, we hope, will try a second time, in an attempt to get a consensus on the issue.
Meanwhile, we trust, under your leadership, the African Union, will take the necessary steps to (i) lend support to the ECOWAS Initiative on term limits and (ii) start the conversation with countries that do not have presidential term limit provision with the view to embracing term limits as the new norms. Ordinary Africans are yearning for the change that is long overdue.
Please accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of our highest consideration.
Sidi M. Sanneh
On behalf of Gambian dissidents everywhere