When African presidents’ learn to respect term limits, the continent will begin to witness good governance

There is a need to purge African leaders of the mentality that a political position is for life. This October, Guinea will begin drafting a new constitution and extension of presidential term limits is on the table. Guinea’s President Alpha Condé’s second and final five-year term expires in 2020, however, he has not confirmed that he will not seek another term.

Under the current constitution, a president can serve two five-year terms, however, if the term limits are struck out either by a referendum or consent of two-thirds of parliament, President Condé could remain president for life. Sadly Condé is not the only African President that has extended (or attempted to extend) his term limits.


Election holds every five years in Uganda and Yoweri Museveni has won every election since democratic rule began in 1996. Previously, the 1995 Ugandan constitution provided for a two-term limit on the tenure of the president. However, the constitution has been revised to suit the sitting president and now the members of parliament from Uganda’s ruling party are supporting Museveni’s re-election bid.

In 2017, Ugandan lawmakers agreed to table a bill to amend the constitution to remove the age limit for a presidential candidate over the age of 75 from running for the country’s highest office, a significant step towards securing a free run for Yoweri Museveni who has been president for more than 3 decades to run for another term in 2021.


This year, Egypt considered extending its presidential term limit from four to six years. The speaker of Egypt’s parliament, Ali Abdelaal received a motion from the Members of Parliament, proposing constitutional amendments that will be considered by the parliament after it is discussed in committee. This move could keep President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in power beyond 2022, the year in which his maximum two-term limit of four years each ends under the 2014 charter.


In February, Algeria’s former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said he would seek a fifth term in a presidential election. Despite being unable to stand, walk, talk, effectively carry out his duties as Algeria’s head of state, or even receive guest as a ceremonial President, 82-year-old Abdelaziz Bouteflika wanted to retain his position as Algeria’s President, a position he has occupied since 1999. Thankfully, Algerians refused and how bowed to pressure.


Early this year, a Zambian court granted President Edgar Lungu to stand for a third term in the presidential elections due in 2021 without breaching a constitutional two-term limit.


86-year-old Paul Biya became president of Cameroon in 1982 and has ruled Cameroon since then. The country ran a single-state party system and this made it easier for Biya to repeatedly win elections, however, in 1990 opposition parties were legalized but he still continued to win elections.

He lost his eligibility to run for another term in 2004 after he was re-elected. Sadly, the country’s 1996 Constitution was revised, removing the term limits, thereby allowing the president to contest as he wishes. With the revised constitution, Biya can enjoy immunity from prosecution after leaving the office.


José Eduardo dos Santos was elected as President of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), served as President of Angola from 1979 to 2017. Meanwhile, the office of the President is limited to two five-year terms. In January 2010 the National Assembly approved a new constitution, according to which the leader of the party with the most seats in the Assembly would become president, rather than a public vote taking place.

Equatorial Guinea

77-year-old President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has been president for 40 years. In August 1979, Mbasogo ousted his uncle, Francisco Macías Nguema, in a military coup. In 1982, the country returned to civilian rule in when a less authoritarian constitution was enacted and Mbasogo was elected president on a seven-year term. He was re-elected in 1989, 1996, 2002 and 2009 when “there were no opponents.” Currently, Equatorial Guinea is a one-party state and Mbasogo is the second-longest consecutively serving current non-royal national leader in the world. With the way things are going, it is expected to remain in power for life.


Late ex-president Robert Mugabe served as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe from 1980 to 1987 and then as President from 1987 to 2017. He attempted to extend his tenure but was ousted.


Prior to his ouster, former President Al Bashir planned to extend his term limits but Sudanese parliamentary committee postponed the meeting on amending the country’s constitution. After 30 years in power, the armed forces in Sudan overthrew the president, forcing him to step down and placing him under house arrest in a “safe place”.


Burundi recently amended its constitution to potentially allow President Pierre Nkurunziza to stay in office until 2034. Nkurunziza could now run for two more terms after vote decried by the opposition as a foregone conclusion.


Under the current constitutional changes recommended by a national conference that the opposition said aimed to create a monarchy, Chad’s President Idriss Deby who came to power in a rebellion in 1990 would be allowed to stay on until 2033 and be granted greater powers.

African leaders find ways to stay beyond their tenure using different ploys, including the amendment of the constitution or force to remain in power and there is a need to purge African leaders of the mentality that a political position is for life.

Instead of seeking longer tenures, African presidents’ should seek good governance. In terms of country assessment; quality of life, economic potential, most forward-looking economies and livable cities, African governments should start building systems that work and would outlive a person or a ruling party.