By Irene Gaitirira
Published April 21, 2016
African Presidents should leave office when their mandated time is up to curb conflicts on the continent.
Kofi Annan, former UN secretary-general, says that while unconstitutional changes to government in Africa has reduced, exclusionary politics threatens to reverse the gains made.
The Nobel laureate, who spoke during the 5th Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa in Ethiopia, called on African leaders to respect ‘constitutions and the rules of the game’.
He says the military or public may be tempted into forcing out a leader who doesn’t want to leave office through coups and street demonstration: “if a leader stays on for too long; if elections are seen as being gamed to suit a leader; and if a leader stays term after term after term.”
Annan stresses that neither military coup nor street protest can be seen as an alternative to democracy, to elections or to parliamentary rule.
The keynote speaker at the 5th Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa, Annan says ‘winner-take-all’ approaches to elections on the continent leaves out citizens for holding an opposing view, raising tensions around elections.
Saying he had told the Organisation of African Unity during an OAU heads of state summit in Lusaka in 2001 not to accept coup leaders among their midst, Annan, who chairs the Africa Progress Panel and the Nelson Mandela-founded The Elders grouping, says the continent must not only build structures through which to tackle problems on the continent but must also build capacity and finance those institutions.
“We cannot always pass a hat around and insist we want to be sovereign; we want to be independent. We should lead and get others to support us; that support will be much more forthcoming when they see how serious and committed we are.”
The African Union has struggled to get members to pay their dues to allow it run its operations and programmes efficiently, a recurrent theme addressed by leaders at the forum in the Ethiopian city of Bahir Dar.
Annan says such budgetary concerns are constraining the work of the continent in strengthening stability and require creative ways of resourcing.
The Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa was inspired by the late Meles Zenawi, former Ethiopian Prime Minister. Chaired by General Olusegun Obasanjo, the forum is organised by the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) of Addis Ababa University. It seeks to provide a platform for current and former leaders to interact with key stakeholders in an informal setting to tackle contemporary issues facing the continent.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Togo’s Faure Gnassingbe, Somalia’s Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud and Sudan’s Omar al Bashir were among the heads of state and government present.
Former leaders Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Festus Mogae of Botswana, Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Pierre Buyoya of Burundi and Joyce Banda of Malawi were also in attendance.
“I think it is a very good idea that ex-leaders come together with current leaders to share experience and try to talk very frankly about the challenges facing the continent and also about our relations with the international community,” Annan, who attended the annual forum for the first time, says.