Editor's Review

MP Yakub received backlash from Kenyans condemning his suggestion to scrap the presidential term limit.

Katiba Institute, since October 2019, has been implementing the Term Limits Initiative project to promote support for presidential term limits in East Africa specifically Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.     

The project was launched in the same year by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and targeted sub-Saharan Africa through high-level advocacy and citizen mobilisation.  

In a one-on-one interview with this journalist on Monday, January 15, the project leads Patriciah Joseph, Programs Manager, and Kevin Mabonga, Communications, and Liaison Officer at Katiba Institute expounded on the massive impact the project has had on the public since its implementation.  

The two noted that the initiative aimed to enhance knowledge and understanding among journalists, members of civil society organizations, students, academia, and members of the public.    

"The project, 'promoting democratic governance through control of power', aimed at enhancing knowledge and understanding on control of power through the limitation of presidential terms and increase appreciation by civil society organizations, the media, academia, and the public on control of power as the key to good governance in Africa, the East African region, with a specific focus on Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania," Mr. Mabonga stated. 

Katiba Institute(KI), Jukwaala Katiba Tanzania(JUKATA) teams and participants pose for a photo after a meeting on constitutional term limits with civil society representatives, journalists, political parties representatives and academia in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in December 2023

Katibe Institute implemented different initiatives in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda in their quest to enhance knowledge of term limits through community engagements, documentaries with experts on the topic, publication of research papers, and use of social media and digital websites to ensure every citizen had an opportunity to interact with the information.  

In addition, the Katiba team led by Mabonga and Patriciah had radio engagements and deployed infographics with targeted messaging, and short videos. 

"We have engaged over 400 people physically and over 10, 000 virtually through social media platforms. We held targeted engagements for specific groups, which culminated in joint meetings. This strategy worked well because participants shared and learnt their role in advocating for constitutionalism as specific groups and collectively," Patriciah said. 

To display the impact of the project in Kenya, in 2023, Fafi MP Salah Yakub proposed a plan to scrap the two-term-presidential term and set the age limit for contesting for the same seat at 75. 

"I, together with some of my fellow MPs, are planning to push a Bill in Parliament that contests the two terms of serving as president. We also want that no one should contest for the presidency once they are 75 years old," the Legislator said then. 

However, MP Yakub received backlash from Kenyans with CSOs, media, and leaders condemning his suggestion. Considering the MP was from the ruling party UDA, President William Ruto condemned his remarks. 

Katiba Institute notes that presidential term limits need to be a continuous discussion considering the challenges in Africa where some leaders are rejecting presidential term limits while others are changing the constitution to remove term limits. 

KI believes there is a need to further mainstream discussions that promote democratic governance in the region. Recent regional developments underscore the need to sustain the conversation and support regional efforts to guard against democratic drawbacks.

"A sustained campaign by stakeholders in West Africa and partners across the region, for example, under the Constitutional Term Limits Initiative in Africa, led Senegal President Macky Sall backtracking from seeking a third term in the 2024 elections. Advocacy on respect for term limits should go hand in hand with other aspects of good governance, such as promoting the credibility of elections, which has been a factor in some countries experiencing coups in West Africa," remarked Mabonga.  

As we conclude the interview, " Patriciah says, "Term limits are some of the various safeguards for promoting good governance. Therefore, its promotion should not be delinked from the overall goal of promoting a culture of constitutionalism."  

Katiba Institute hopes to continue building the success of the term limit project in 2024 through other governance-related projects in the region.  

The Term Limits Initiative to promote support for presidential term limits across sub-Saharan Africa was launched In 2019, NDI. From 2 October-4, 2019, former African heads of state, civil society activists, and journalists came together to participate in the Constitutional Term Limits Summit in Niamey, Niger.