January 18, 2016

WorldAware's Africa team has been investigating the fascinating third-term phenomenon within the wider context of a Pan-African Leadership Study.

Attempts by African national leaders to extend their tenure, often through constitutional amendments, has spurred WorldAware's Africa team to examine styled of leadership across the continent.  Having published reports on Eritrea, and Burundi, in our Monthly Intelligence Forecast, I’m pleased to share with you the third installment on South Africa. While not characterized by insidious one-man rule, the democratically elected leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) have maintained an almost unchecked hold on political power since the end of Apartheid. The ANC's nearly 22-year rule is now under threat from allegations of corruption, and from increasingly strong opposition parties on both ends of the political spectrum. Please enjoy the Africa team's dissection of these growing political tensions, and their potential consequences. We welcome your thoughts in response to this article and our broader coverage of Africa, unarguably the World's most dynamic new business frontier.

As a continent, Africa, and its institutions are facing a difficult 2016. Many parts of North Africa, so jubilant with the advent of the Arab Spring, are struggling to varying degrees with post-revolutionary political cooperation and potent Islamist militancy that has flourished in some former authoritarian strongholds. Sub-Saharan Africa, hopes for democracy began with earlier "spring" periods, first ushered in by independence from colonial powers starting in the late 1950s. A period of strong-man nationalist rule in during the 1970s and 1980s was countered by a second wave of liberalization in the 1990s. However, after arguably peaking with the peaceful transfer of power to Nelson Mandela in South Africa in 1994, democracy in Africa is being tested by a creeping trend toward altering constitutions to abolish term limits.

This emerging phenomenon of term extension, justified as a response to popular demand, is opposed by the African Union (AU), which inherited its mantle in 2002 from its independence-era predecessor, the Organization for African Unity (OAU). The AU has as its stated aim as the development of “democratic principles and institutions, popular participation, and good governance." By comparison, the OAU was dedicated from its inception in 1963 to supporting liberation movements across the continent; in this it was largely successful. Still, the OAU came to be known as “The Dictator’s Club,” as new leaders entrenched themselves in power or were overthrown and replaced by yet another unconstrained leader. The AU is under pressure to remain true to its mission, sustain political stability in Africa, and prevent the return of dictatorial governance.

The AU and others hope that Burkina Faso’s descent into violence in 2014, followed by the strife unleashed by Burundi’s President Nkurunziza’s run for a third term in 2015, will stand as cautionary tales for those considering moves to overturn constitutional term limits. Election results throughout 2016 in Benin, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Niger, Uganda, and Zambia will be a significant barometer for Sub-Saharan Africa’s trajectory. Not all the news coming from Sub-Saharan Africa is bad, by any means, nor will it be for 2016, but the way in which election results are handled this year, as well as the outcome of a planned third-term run by Rwanda’s Paul Kagame in 2017, will go far in determining the African Union’s longevity as a positive force for pan-African integration and development.

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