Following Nandi Senator, Samson Cherargei’s recent suggestion to extend presidential term limits to seven years, a great discourse on the topic of term limits unfolded. This proposal elicited a strong response from many Kenyans who voiced their opposition on various social media platforms.
I had the privilege of participating in a dialogue organized by the Katiba Institute, engaging university students in a discussion on governance and the control of power. But first, what are term limits? In many a democratic systems, there is a restriction on the duration an individual can hold office which is usually subject to the elections. In the African context, the issue of term limits is not a new phenomenon. Out of the 54 countries, 50 have implemented the presidential term limits. Among these, 40 have set a maximum number of terms with a few having an unlimited number.
Africa has witnessed prolonged tenures by leaders. In East Africa, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has held power since 1986. In addition, Africa has also witnessed instances of leaders manipulating the constitution to extend their terms such as President Alpha Conde in Guinea and President Paul Biya in Cameroon, who had referendum and Bills passed so as to extend their stay in office.
The leaders often justify term extensions with reasons ranging from the necessity to complete ongoing projects to a belief in their indispensability. However, the significance of term limits cannot be overstated. Term limits play a crucial term limit in facilitating the peaceful transfer of power, a cornerstone of democratic governance. In addition, they foster an environment where aspiring young leaders can emerge, injecting fresh ideas into the political landscape.
Countries that have extended their term limits often witness protests and political instability highlighting the potential consequences of such actions. The importance of term limits extend beyond governance, influencing the overall stability of a nation.
Senator Cherargei’s remarks not only raise questions on the question of term limits but also a lingering thought: Could the term limits pave the way for similar changes at lower levels of government? This question underscores the broader implications of altering term limits and the potential ripple effects.
By Belamy Boson, AMWIK Intern.