Promising heaven on earth is an abhorrent rhetoric among, and from political leaders all over the world. Their manifestos are often imbued with promises they won’t keep. One common promise by African leaders is to nurture a democratic governance by setting a favorable precedence (say in the governance policies) for future leaders. A look at the democracy in countries like Uganda, Rwanda, Algeria, Chad, Djibouti and Angola clearly shows how defiant their leaders have been in sticking to the campaign promises, especially when it comes to retirement and transfer of power. The constitutions in these countries have been changed to sustain the eternal reign of the incumbency.
Just when Africans had learnt how to live in the deceptive arena of rhetorical politics, President Macky Sall of Senegal raised an awakening flag. He walked his talk! He fulfilled a promise!
Having defeated an incumbent Mr. Abdoulaye Wade (an event that is rare in Africa) in 2012, President Macky promised to shorten term limits in Senegal and revise the retirement age during his term in office. Later, Sall proposed 15 reforms in all, including limiting presidential terms to two five-year mandates and expanding the powers of the national assembly and the constitutional council. The current presidential term limit, architected by former president Mr. Abdoulaye’s government, lasts seven years but he proposed to reverse and trim it to five years.
I believe that President Macky’s act of reversion on term limits is not only poised to set a benchmark for Africa’s democracy but also holds the potential to challenge the self-imposed inerrancy of the current leaders who have overlooked the need to transfer power peacefully.
Much as his country’s top court rejected his proposal to shorten his currently running term in office, he proposed a referendum which was agreed upon and slated for March 20th 2016. Senegalese will be voting for or against the reduction of the duration of a president’s term in office from seven years to five years. On top of this reform, the new constitution would not allow a president to run for more than two consecutive terms in office. “such reforms are aimed at strengthening democracy in Senegal” said a source close to the presidency.
It is important to note that the constitutional court did not reject the whole idea. it was against the proposal of trimming his current seven-year term to five years. It recommended he finishes the original seven years, a recommendation which he agreed to abide by, after which the proposal of a five-year term takes effect if voted for in the referendum.
Right from when Adoulaye Wade, the then incumbent, accepted defeat in the 2012 elections, to the emergence of Macky’s governance reforms, democracy has been growing in Senegal. With the presence of other strong democracies like in Ghana and Tanzania, I believe the foundation for irrefutable democracy on the continent is being laid.