Addis Ababa: US President Barack Obama on Tuesday stressed that no president should remain in office for life, as it violates important constitutional provisions which in turn “risks instability and strife” as has happened in Burundi.
“Let me be honest with you, I do not understand this. I am in my second term, it’s been an extraordinary privilege for me to serve as president of the United States, I love my work, but under our constitution I cannot run again.
“I actually think I am a pretty good president, I think if I ran I could win,” Obama said in a speech at the headquarters of the African Union, which is hosting for the first time an active US president.
“Africa’s democratic progress is also at risk when leaders refuse to step aside when their terms end,” Obama added at the conclusion of his first official visit to Ethiopia.
“When a leader tries to change the rules in the middle of the game just to stay in office, it risks instability and strife, as we’ve seen in Burundi,” Obama said.
Obama was referring to his Burundian counterpart Pierre Nkurunziza, who has just been re-elected for a third presidential term, in violation of the constitutional two-term limit, which provoked a wave of violence that has claimed dozens of victims and forced more than 160,000 people to flee their homes.
“I don’t understand why people want to stay so long, especially when they’ve got a lot of money,” he jested, adding that when a leader acts like the only one capable of holding the nation together, it indicates failure.
“There is a lot that I like to do to keep America moving, but the law is the law, and no one person is above the law,” Obama added.
In fact, Obama said he was “looking for the life after being president… I can spend time with my family, I can find other ways to serve, I can visit Africa more often”.
Obama called on African leaders to draw inspiration from late former South African president Nelson Mandela who “forged a lasting legacy by being willing to leave office and transfer power peacefully”.
“Just as the African Union has condemned coups and illegitimate transfers of power, the AU’s authority and strong voice can also help the people of Africa ensure that their leaders abide by term limits and their constitutions,” Obama added, later clearly stating that “nobody should be president for life”.