The leaders of two African nations, namely Chadian President Idriss Deby and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, have changed the constitutions of their countries in order to seek additional presidential terms. But yesterday Nigeria’s Parliament rejected a proposed amendment that would have allowed the current president to seek a third term. Charles Onyango-Obbo of the Monitor, Uganda’s only independent newspaper, spoke with English to Africa reporter James Butty about why term limit extensions passed in both Chad and Uganda, but failed in Nigeria.
“If you look across Africa, you can almost be sure that, one, if a country has a history of military rule, and two, if it had a history of a long-time one-party government, it seems that the president in those countries seek a third term. Most immediately one can see that the reason for that is that civil society and political society are not organized enough to be able to oppose those kinds of moves.”
Oyango-Obbo sees differences and similarities between the suggested term extension in Nigeria and that which took place in Uganda. He says President Obasanjo, who was previously a military leader, “should have been less cocky about wanting to amend the Constitution so that he could continue in power.” He says on the other hand, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda came as a new leader. Oyango-Obbo says both presidents Obasanjo and Museveni are using their records, not to build democracy, but to further their personal careers.
He says the people of Uganda and Nigeria handled the term change debates in a similar manner, but with some minor differences.
“Now what happened is because Museveni is much more entrenched, he was able to approach the critics from inside the government, and because Uganda was still basically a one-party state at that point, the traditional opposition wasn’t able to generate sufficient national outrage.”