Why Macky Sall is not different from African leaders after all, at least in principle

Senegal’s President, Macky Sall seems to have reneged on a promise to his country as he announced this week that the duration for presidential terms will not be reduced from seven to three. While speaking on National T.V, he told his countrymen that the decisions of Senegal’s constitutional court are binding, regardless of his best intentions. Macky Sall, before and after becoming President in 2012 promised to reduce presidential terms from 7 years to 5 years, to give democracy a chance to thrive in the country. However, ahead of a constitutional referendum scheduled for March, Senegal’s constitutional court has told him that he can’t change presidential terms until his tenure finishes in 2019.

Senegal has in the past been an example for other African countries to follow in terms of Democracy. Therefore This news is surely going to hamper his chances of being re-elected in 2019 . There is also an immediate danger in the form of legislative elections next year. “The mid-term risk is that he is seen as back-peddling on his promises and (voters) could punish him in legislative elections next year,” a source told Reuters. Considering the people feel betrayed by him, he is hypothetically not different from other African leaders.

Macky Sall has been commended by the international community as a good African leader. His decision to consider reducing presidential term limits, something rare among African leaders, has endeared him to democracy apologists all over the world. And when compared to his contemporaries on the African continent, this romance seems justified. Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame recently received a mandate to contest for another term in office via a referendum that lifted the cap on constitutional term limits. This move could potentially see him extend his rule over Rwanda with another 17 years, after he assumed the post of president in year 2000.

On the other hand is Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose reluctance to step down last year against his people’s wishes has caused a humanitarian crisis in his country. Other African countries that have changed their constitutions to benefit their presidents include Uganda, Angola, Chad, Djibouti etc.

March’s referendum in Senegal was supposed to address 15 issues which include giving more freedom to the media and the online press, and also the number of years in a presidential term. While the referendum could still reduce the years from seven to five, it might not kick off until Macky Sall’s tenure as president finishes.

Once again, questions of are being asked. Questions of whether sit-tight leadership is necessary in Africa, to ensure discipline and continuity, or whether African presidents need to learn the art of stepping down after their tenures are over. However, choosing any of those resolutions should not be accompanied with bloodshed or violence. In the words of Nigeria’s immediate former president, Goodluck Jonathan, nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of his fellow countrymen. If the people decide not to vote for Macky Sall in 2019, let’s hope he steps down without much resistance.

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