Sub-Saharan African Dictators Must Go


Following the demise of North African dictators in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, President Obama should now focus on greater democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa, where many have held office for more than 10 years, and well beyond the growing international standard of no more than two 5-year terms.

CAMEROON: Paul Biya has been in public office in Cameroon since the early 1960s. He became Prime Minister in 1975 and President in 1982. He seized control of his political party in 1983, drove his rival into exile, convicted him of plotting a coup, and sentenced him to death. Biya won 99% of the vote in 1984, because he had no opponent. He survived a coup, before being re-elected in 1988. In a multi-party contest in 1992, Biya claimed a plurality, despite cries of fraud. After a two-term constitutional limit was imposed in 1996, Biya won 92% of the vote in 1997, because his opponents boycotted the election. He won another 7-year term in 2004, again under a cloud of suspicion. Biya called term-limits undemocratic in 2008, and simply removed them. It’s now time for the people of Cameroon to remove Biya.

EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo seized power in 1979 in a bloody coup, sentenced the previous leader to death, and became president. After winning a full 7-year term in 1982, he was re-elected in 1989, as the only candidate on the ballot. He claimed nearly 100% of the vote in 1996, 2002 and 2009, in contests marred by fraud. He keeps control by denying a free press and an opposition party. Obiang considers himself a god. It is time for the Equatorial Guineas to end his 32-year rule.

ANGOLA: Jose Eduardo dos Santos, became Angola’s second president in 1979. He won a plurality in the 1992 election, under allegations of fraud, and caused the civil war to continue. He said in 2001 he would step down before the next presidential election, but remained by amending the constitution to allow his ruling party to pick the leader. After 32 years, Santos has to go.

ZIMBABWE: Robert Mugabe, age 87, has been president of Zimbabwe since 1980, when the white government collapsed. Media controls were created in 2002, to ensure ongoing election victories. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was arrested in 2003, as Mugabe was accused of running a dictatorship. When Tsvangirai claimed victory in 2008, Mugabe managed to stay in office by creating a power-sharing arrangement in 2009. After 31 years in power, it’s time for Mugabe to step aside.

UGANDA: Yoweri Museveni has been Ugandan President since the prior government was overthrown in 1986. He promised a return to democracy, but held no election for 10 years, and then claimed 75% of the vote in 1996. In 2001, he accumulated 69%, in a race that was not free or fair, according to the Ugandan Supreme Court. Afterward, he said he would not run again, but he then abolished term limits and took 59% of the vote in 2006. He was re-elected again in 2011, with 68%, a tally disputed by outsiders. After 25 years, it’s time for Museveni to leave.

BURKINA FASO: Blasise Compaore of Burkina Faso came to power in 1987 in a bloody coup, during which the incumbent was executed. His opponents boycotted the 1991 election. After he was “re-elected” in 1998, the constitution was amended in 2000 to reduce presidential terms from 7 to 5 years, and to limit presidents to a total of two terms. Compaore argued the changes did not applied retroactively, so he ran and won again in 2005, and was re-elected in 2010. After 24 years, it’s time Compaore left.

Three more Africans have ruled since the 1990s, including: Yahya Jammeh of Gambia (1994-); Denis Sassau Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville (1997-); and Pakalitha Mosisili of Lesotho (1998-).

President Obama is uniquely qualified to speak directly to the African people regarding the virtues of term limits. He should encourage the U.S. Congress and the EU to suspend all aid to any country ruled by leaders who have been in power more than 10 years, until they choose new leaders, and adopt term limits.

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