From Zimbabwe to Sudan, Equatorial Guinea to Gambia, there are still far too many strongmen and despots in power in Africa. The continent's crisis in leadership gets highlighted each year nobody is awarded the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, aimed at celebrating responsible, democratic African statesmen, as my colleague Adam Taylor noted earlier.
Some African leaders use the trappings of democracy to cloak their decades-long rule. Last year, we saw a military coup remove a sitting president in Burkina Faso who sought to extend his mandate through a constitutional amendment; this year, undeterred, rulers in four other African countries are considering similar constitutional reforms to win a third term in power.
Then there's Senegalese President Macky Sall. Earlier this week, Sall announced that he's considering holding a referendum in 2016 on the length of his term in power. But he doesn't want to extend it. Bucking the continental trend, Sall wants to curtail his seven-year term to five years in order to "strengthen" his country's democracy.
"Have you seen a president decrease their mandate? Me, I am going to do it," Sall said at a news conference. "People must see that in Africa, we are capable of setting an example and that power is not an end in itself."
Depending on the outcome of that vote, the next presidential election in Senegal could be in 2017 rather than 2019.
Sall came to power in 2012 after defeating Senegal's long-ruling President Abdoulaye Wade in a runoff vote. Sall had earlier served as prime minister under Wade, but joined in popular protests against his former boss once Wade made clear he wanted what would have been a third term in office after Senegal had passed a new constitution in 2001 capping presidential term limits at two.
Sall apparently did not answer reporters' questions on whether he would contest for the presidency again after his first term is up. If he doesn't, and helps ensure a peaceful democratic transfer of power, he would at least put himself in the running for that other prestigious prize.
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