Category Archives: Africa

Uganda – President Museveni’s term of “no joking around” takes a dramatic turn

President Yoweri Museveni, recently re-elected for the fifth time, continues to pursue his term of “no joking around” in spectacular fashion. After adopting the new slogan, using the Swahili phrase kisanja hakuna mchezo, Museveni has remained unusually hyperactive, doing everything from transporting water on a bicycle in a demonstration of drip irrigation techniques to personally editing routine government communiques.

In recent weeks, though, Museveni upped the ante still more, taking a direct hand in snaring two civil servants and a minister in high-profile bribery cases. On March 28, the Police’s Flying Squad Unit encircled the Ministry of Finance and arrested two Ministry officials on suspicion of soliciting bribes of over Sh15b (£3.2m) from Chinese investors looking to establish a phosphate plant. This dramatic intervention came after said investors reportedly complained directly to the President, who in turn advised them to comply with the officials, the idea being to ensure the police could catch the wayward public officials  “red-handed”.

A second, strikingly similar incident occurred less than two weeks later. This time, the Minister of State for Labour, Herbert Kabafunzaki, was caught by security operatives from police and Special Forces Command allegedly in the act of receiving a Sh10m (£2.1k) bribe from the prominent Sudan-born businessman Mohammad Hamid. The exchange occurred during a meeting at Kampala’s five star Serena hotel while not only security but also the media—tipped off in advance—lay in wait. Again, the story was that Hamid had personally phoned the President after Kabafunzaki demanded a bribe to ignore complaints of sexual harassment from workers at the Pearl of Africa Hotel, owned by Hamid.

These two Hollywoodesque operations have fuelled a heated debate. Museveni insists both interventions were aimed at rooting out corruption in the civil service and Cabinet, which he likened to a den of “thieves”. Some observers accepted this narrative, arguing that anyone soliciting bribes should be punished. Others remained more sceptical, questioning the President’s personal involvement when Uganda has an alphabet soup of anti-corruption agencies. Still other commentators argued that the entire sequence of events was stage managed to provide an opportunity for the President to perform his role as anti-corruption crusader.

These more critical appraisals have considerable merit. We can take the analysis a step further, though. Indeed, kisanja hakuna mchezo not only appears superficial and performative. It is also being skilfully manipulated to further entrench—as opposed to challenge and uproot—the constellation of, yes, often corrupt interests upon which Museveni’s regime rests.

To understand this point, it is worth taking a step back and revisiting Museveni’s original speech, in which he introduced his new “no joking around” mantra. In June of last year, shortly after his re-election, Museveni delivered his address to a gathering of Cabinet ministers, Permanent Secretaries and top-level members of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM). He used the occasion to outline a 16-point plan aimed at “fast-tracking industrialization and socio-economic transformation”.

Despite the ambition of the title, the points themselves were familiar. They centred on the need for industrial expansion through foreign investment, which Museveni argued could be encouraged through special tax breaks, the installation of industrial parks, and the suppression of wages. It is a cocktail consistent with Museveni’s past embrace of IFI-backed policies. It is also a policy orientation that—perhaps contrary to the IFI’s own expectations—has helped sustain Museveni’s government in power.

Observer’s interested in the political economy of NRM rule have long noted the President’s cultivation of a pro-regime business constituency composed notably of foreign investors, who despite their wealth cannot themselves pose a political threat to the regime.[1] For Museveni, favouring foreign investors is thus both good politics and good economics.

The President’s characterization of corruption—its causes and would-be solutions—also speaks to this strategic interest. Of the myriad forms of corruption that have emerged in Uganda under his watch, Museveni chose to focus on a very narrow subset in his speech. He thus stressed the need to “banish corruption so that the parasites that increase the costs to our investors are eliminated.”

Fast-forward a few months and we see Museveni following through on his aim to flush out the “parasites.” But of more concern than the alleged efforts to solicit bribes is perhaps the ability of people like Hamid Mohammed to make a personal phone call to the President, and to get the assistance of the Special Forces Command by way of a response. Hamid is certainly not a struggling new investor just trying to make good. He was first introduced to Museveni in the mid-2000s, after which point the President allocated to the businessman 15 acres of prime land in Kampala to construct a grandiose Hilton hotel. The project is still unfinished despite being years overdu, but rather than distancing himself from Hamid, Museveni has issued warnings to media outlets following negative reporting of the businessman’s dealings.

Investors like Hamid are not the only regime-aligned individuals who are receiving renewed support during kisanja hakuna mchezo. The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kale Kayihura, is also among those whom the latest operations appear specially orchestrated to benefit. Kayihura has long served as one of Museveni’s closest lieutenants, yet he has come under increasing pressure amidst rising crime rates, allegations of police infiltration by organized gangs and, most recently, accusations of being complicit in the murder of the former police spokesman, Andrew Kaweesi. Museveni has nevertheless sought to shield Kayihura, tasking him with overseeing the arrest of the two Ministry of Finance officials and then praising him for the intervention. Earlier this week, the President reappointed Kayihura for another term as IGP.

For a President who has remained in power for over three decades, it is not surprising that Museveni should be doubling down, protecting the interests of his close allies. It is also not surprising to see the promise of renewal through “no joking around” come undone. What is perhaps new, though, is the somewhat more brazen effort to dress up as an anti-corruption crusade what is, in fact, the exact opposite, namely an attempt to protect insider interests.

In this business of “no joking around”, it may be that the joke is on us.

[1] See for instance Roger Tangri and Andrew Mwenda’s 2013 book, The Politics of elite corruption in Africa: Uganda in comparative African perspective.

Zambia – President Lungu sacrifices credibility to repress opposition

Zambian President Edgar Lungu finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place in both economic and political terms. As a result, he has begun to lash out, manipulating the law to intimidate the opposition, and in the process sacrificing what credibility he had left after deeply problematic general elections in 2016.

Let us start with the economy, where the president is stuck in something of a lose-lose position. On the one hand, his populace is growing increasingly frustrated at the absence of economic job and opportunities, while a number of experts have pointed out that the country is on the verge of a fresh debt crisis. Economic growth was just 2.9% in 2016, while the public debt is expected to hit 54% of GDP this year, and the government cannot afford to pay many of its domestic suppliers.

On the other, a proposed $1.2 billion rescue deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has the potential to increase opposition to the government for two reasons. First, it would mean significantly reducing government spending, including on some of Lungu’s more popular policies. Second, many Zambians are understandably suspicious of IMF and the World Bank, having suffered under previous adjustment programmes that delivered neither jobs nor sustainable growth.

The president faces similar challenges on the political front. Having won a presidential election in 2016 that the opposition believes was rigged, and which involved a number of major procedural flaws, Lungu desperately needs to relegitimate himself. However, this need clashes with another, more important, imperative – namely, the president’s desire to secure a third term in office when his current tenure ends in 2020.

The problem for Lungu is that while it looks like he will be able to use his influence over the Constitutional Court to ensure that it interprets the country’s new constitutional arrangements to imply that he should be allowed to stand for a third term – on the basis that his first period in office was filling in for the late Michael Sata after his untimely death in office, and so should not count – such a strategy is likely to generate considerable criticism from the opposition, civil society and international community.

Lacking viable opportunities to boost his support base and relegitimate his government, President Lungu has responded by pursuing another strategy altogether: the intimidation of the opposition and the repression of dissent. While in some ways represents a continuation of some of the tactics used ahead of the 2016 election, when the supporters and leaders of rival parties were harassed and in some cases detained, the recent actions of the Patriotic Front (PF) government represent a worrying gear-shift.

Most obviously, opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, who came so close to leading his United Party of National Development (UPND) to victory in the latest polls, has been arrested and his home raided. His crimes? There appear to be two sets of charges. One set is relatively mundane, and relates to an incident in which Hichilema is accused of refusing to give way to the president’s convoy. For this, the opposition leader has been charged with breaking the highway code and using insulting language.

The second charge – that of treason – is much more serious, but also much less clear. Court documents state that Hichilema “on unknown dates but between 10 October 2016 and 8 April 2017 and whilst acting together with other persons unknown did endeavour to overthrow by unlawful means the government of Edgar Lungu.” Although this charge has also been linked to the recent traffic incident, it seems more likely to be motivated by the president’s ongoing frustration that the UPND continues to contest his election and refuses to recognise him as a legitimately elected leader.

If this is the true motivation for the charges, it will only be the latest of a number of moves to cow the opposition. For example, in response to the refusal of UNPD legislators to listen to Lungu’s address to the National Assembly, Richard Mumba – a PF proxy close to State House – petitioned the Constitutional Court to declare vacant the seats of all MPs who were absent.

The opposition are not alone. Key elements of civil society have also come under fire. As a result of the waning influence of trade unions, professional associations now find themselves as one of the last lines of defence for the country’s fragile democracy, most notably the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ). It should therefore come as no surprise that a government MP, Kelvin Sampa, recent introduced legislation into the National Assembly that would effectively dissolve the LAZ and replace it with a number of smaller bodies, each of which would be far less influential.

The bills introduced by Mumba and Sampa may not succeed, but in some ways they don’t need to. Their cumulative effect has been to signal that those who seek to resist the governments are likely to find themselves the subject of the sharp end of the security forces and the PF’s manipulation of the rule of law. The nature of Hichilema’s arrest is a case in point. Despite numerous opportunities to detain him in broad daylight, armed police and paramilitaries planned a night attack in which they switched off the power to the house, blocked access to the main roads, and broke down the entrance gate. Inside the property, the security forces are accused of firing tear gas, torture, urinating on the opposition leader’s bed and looting the property.

It is therefore clear that the main aim of the operation was not an efficient and speedy arrest, but rather the humiliation and intimidation of an opponent.

Such abuses may help Lungu to secure the short-term goal of prolonging his stay in power, but they will threaten to undermine Zambia’s future. It will – or at least it should – be politically embarrassing for the IMF to conclude a deal with Zambia while the opposition leader is on trial on jumped up charges and civil society is decrying the slide towards authoritarian rule. Rumours now circulating in Lusaka suggest that President Lungu may be preparing to enhance his authority by declaring a State of Emergency in the near future, which would further complicate the country’s international standing.

Lungu’s blatant disregard for the rules of the democratic game also has important implications for the county’s political future. Many Zambian commentators reported that the 2016 election was the most violent in the country’s history, and forecast rising political instability if this trend was not reserved. Rather than heed this warning, President Lungu appears determined to put this prophecy to the test.

Nic Cheeseman (@fromagehomme) is the Professor of Democracy at the University of Birmingham

Mali – President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s new cabinet, preparing for 2018

On April 11, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (IBK) announced a new cabinet, headed by former Defense Minister Abdoulaye Idrissa Maiga whom he appointed on April 8 to replace former Prime Minister Modibo Keita. Maiga becomes IBK’s fourth prime minister (PM) in as many years and is the first to belong to the Rally for Mali (RPM), the president’s party. His three predecessors were all independents.

Newly appointed PM Maiga is one of the founding members of the RPM and served as campaign director for IBK in the 2013 presidential campaign — an indication of where the priorities of this new government are going to be, as preparations for the 2018 presidential election get underway. The perhaps most surprising appointment in the new cabinet is the come-back  of Tiéman Hubert Coulibaly as Minister for Territorial Administration. Coulibaly was dismissed as Minister of Defense less than 8 months ago, in September of last year, following the loss of territory to Jihadist fighters in central Mali. Seen as a close ally of President IBK, he is now back in the cabinet with a portfolio that will put him charge of organizing the 2018 presidential election.

The 36-member cabinet (including the PM), of which 8 are women, sees the entry of 11 new ministers who join 25 remaining from the former government. At 22 percent, women’s representation falls well short of the 30 gender quota for appointed and elected office that was adopted in 2015. Eight former cabinet members leave, including notably the ministers of health and education, two sectors that have seen protracted strikes over recent weeks. A high profile departure is that of Mountaga Tall, president of the Democratic Initiative National Congress of Mali (CNID) and a likely presidential contender in 2018, who was formerly minister of IT and communication. The presence and responsibilities of ruling-party members and of members of its key ally, the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (ADEMA) party, in the government appear to have been strengthened, overall. No opposition members are included. An overview of the new cabinet is provided in table 1 below.

The new government will have a busy and challenging agenda, in a context of social crisis and growing insecurity. An ongoing strike in the education sector will be one of the first priorities to address. PM Maiga met with labor union representatives within days of taking office. The 2015 peace accord with former rebel groups has struggled to get off the ground, resulting in weak state authority and presence in large swaths of the territory. Various Jihadist movements are taking advantage of this power vacuum, staging repeated deadly attacks. The UN mission to Mali – MINUSMA – is the deadliest in the UN’s history of peacekeeping. Without significant progress in the implementation of the peace accord, IBK’s ambition of winning a second term in 2018 could be similarly under threat.

Table 1: Mali’s new cabinet

Position Name Previous position in cabinet  Affiliation
Prime Minister Abdoulaye Idrissa Maiga Defense minister RPM, vice-president
Defense Tiéna Coulibaly NEW Former amb. to US, former minister
Territorial Administration Tiéman Hubert Coulibaly NEW (was defense minister till 2016) UDD, president
Security Brigadier Gen. Salif Traoré Same Security sector
Foreign Affairs Abdoulaye Diop Same Career diplomat
Justice Mamadou Ismaïla Konaté Same Lawyer
Economy and Finance Boubou Cissé Same Former World Bank employee
Mines Tiémoko Sangaré Same ADEMA, president
Transportation Baber Gano NEW RPM, secretary general
Solidarity and Humanitarian  Action Hamadou Konaté Same Expert in social development
National Education Mohamed Ag Erlaf Decentralization and Government Reform RPM, member of leadership
Higher Education and Research Assétou Founé Samake Migan Same Public sector
Human Rights and Government Reform Kassoum Tapo NEW ADEMA
Decentralization and Local Taxation Alhassane Ag Hamed Moussa NEW Public sector
National Reconciliation Mohamed El Moctar Same Public sector, former minister
Malian Diaspora and African Integration Abdramane Sylla Same RPM
Investment Promotion and Private Sector Konimba Sidibé Same MODEC, president
Habitat and Urbanism Mohamed Ali Bathily Public Land Lawyer
Agriculture Nango Dembele Livestock and Fishery Public sector
Livestock and Fishery Ly Taher Drave NEW Private sector
IT and Communication Arouna Modibo Touré NEW Public sector
Equipment and Access Traoré Seynabou Diop Same Public sector
Industrial Development Mohamed Aly Ag Ibrahim Same Public sector
Employment and Professional Training Maouloud Ben Kattra NEW Labor union
Health Samba Ousmane Sow NEW Health sector
Labor Diarra Raky Talla Same Public sector
Trade, Government Spokesperson Abdel Karim Konaté Same (except new role as government spokesperson) ADEMA
Energy and Water Malick Alhousseini Same Public sector
Environment Keita Aïda M’Bo Same Former UNDP employee
Territorial Developm. and Population Adama Tiémoko Diarra NEW ADEMA
Culture N’Diaye Ramatoulaye Diallo Same Private sector
Crafts and Tourism Nina Walet Intallou Same CMA (rebel group coordination)
Women, Children and Families Traoré Oumou Touré NEW Civil society
Sports Housseïni Amion Guindo Same CODEM, president
Religion Thierno Amadou Omar Hass Diallo Same Teaching and consultancies
Youth Amadou Koita Same PS, president

Source: Author’s research.

South Africa – President Zuma triggers fresh outcry after cabinet reshuffle

Last Friday, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma kicked off a political firestorm after sacking his finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, along with nine other cabinet ministers. Gordhan was appointed following a similarly controversial reshuffle in December 2015 when Zuma was accused of appointing a relatively unknown backbencher Minister of Finance to clear the way for what many observers saw as his reckless and corrupt policy agenda. After markets sent the value of the South African rand plummeting, Zuma brought in the more experienced and well-respected Gordhan to restore confidence.

Gordhan went on to challenge the President, working to root out cronyism in state-owned companies, resisting Zuma’s calls for expensive new nuclear power plants and generally working to ensure fiscal discipline. He also intervened to curb the influence in government of the by now notorious Gupta business family, who are close friends and political allies of Zuma and are accused of meddling in political appointments, using their political ties to further their business interests.

Gordhan’s sudden removal shattered whatever confidence had been built, sending the rand into another tailspin and prompting the ratings agency Standard and Poor’s to downgrade South Africa’s credit to junk status. A political backlash also followed with criticism coming both from opposition parties and from within the ANC. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe, among other party heavyweights, were quick to condemn the President’s move while the ANC’s two coalition partners in the tripartite alliance, South Africa’s largest union Cosatu and the SA Communist Party, called for the President to step down.

The degree of dissent within the ANC is unprecedented, but it comes on the back of numerous corruption scandals, which dogged Zuma even before he became President. More generally, Zuma and the ANC now stand accused of facilitating a form of “state capture”, a term used notably in the wake of the 2015 cabinet reshuffle to denote the growing influence of the Gupta family and President Zuma’s reliance on cronyism and patronage to shore up his support. The Gupta’s engaged the London-based PR company, Bell Pottinger, to help drive a counter narrative that Zuma is in fact fighting “white monopoly capital”. But this diversion tactic mostly seems to have stirred up discontent amongst South Africa’s business elite—not to mention within Bell Pottinger—while fuelling a more radical, left-wing critique of business influence in South Africa. As one of the indefatigable MPs from the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters recently argued, refering to the latest reshuffle: “This is not an anti-white monopoly capital move, rather it is a kleptocratic and corrupt agenda that is trying to co-exist with the equally corrupt white monopoly capitalism.”

In general, South Africans are not interested in having the wool pulled over their eyes. While Zuma’s support remains strong in many rural areas, particularly his home province of KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC is struggling to maintain its hold over many of South Africa’s cities, as demonstrated during the last local elections. What’s more, the country has seen a rise in the number of protests as people decry deteriorating services and poor economic prospects in context of ever more endemic corruption.

After the initial furore, the ANC itself appears to have opted for a strategy of damage control. Earlier this week, the party’s National Working Committee (NWC)—a body dominated by Zuma supporters—simply resolved to “discuss” with Cosatu and SACP calls for Zuma to leave while ignoring pressure to call an extraordinary meeting of the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC), which could take action to remove Zuma. While there are still rumours of internal manoeuvring to convene the NEC, other observers argue that the likes of Deputy President Ramaphosa may be biding their time ahead of leadership elections at the next party conference in December. Ramaphosa is a top contender to go up against Zuma’s former wife and favoured candidate, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. The only other formal challenge to Zuma on the horizon is a no-confidence vote in Parliament scheduled for later this month. While a number of ANC MPs have resigned, presumably to avoid having to vote against Zuma and risk party disciplinary measures, the numerical strength of the ruling party in the legislature means the vote will almost surely fail.

Still, the dust is far from settled. It remains to be seen whether the SACP and Cosatu continue to support the ANC within the tripartite alliance, and what an eventual break would mean for the ANC electorally. Meanwhile, protests calling for Zuma to leave are scheduled to take place across South Africa today. These come amidst concerns that the ANC youth league plans to confront protesters while at least one Mayor has reportedly threatened to deploy “all security agencies including police” to arrest “anyone who marches against Zuma.”

As Zuma tries to ride out the storm, clouds are gathering around the ANC. This crisis may die down, but the economic damage has been done and the factional battle lines within the ruling party have been forged even deeper. As the cost of living rises drastically and the country’s poor are worst affected, it’s unclear if the ANC will be able to retain the majority’s electoral support in the rapidly approaching 2019 elections. Zuma has promised ‘radical economic transformation’ and a turn to ‘appropriation without compensation’ in land reform – populist moves which might just be enough to retain control of the state, but will push the economy even further into dangerous territory. As noted in much political commentary of late, a famous line from Yeats suddenly seems very timely: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”

Zambia – President Lungu and the Third Term

In recent years, an increasing number of African presidents have sought a third term in office, despite operating in countries with a two term limit on the presidency. By and large, such efforts have been successful in countries in which leaders exercise effective control over both the security forces and a dominant ruling power. Thus, presidents in Rwanda and Uganda removed constitutional barriers to their tenure without significant difficulties.

By contrast, leaders who either lack effective control of their parties and security forces, or hold power in more open and democratic states, have tended to forced to respect the constitution. Examples of the former type of case include Burkina Faso and Nigeria, while Zambia is often cited as an example of the latter trend. Back in 2001, when the then-President Frederick Chiluba sought to seek a third term, an “Oasis Forum” of religious leaders, trade unionist and opposition activists defeated his plans.

It is looking increasingly likely that Zambia will now experience a second “third term crisis” as President Edgar Lungu looks to extend his time in office. Lungu is currently in his second spell in State House, and has argued that because he did not serve a full first term – he took over from the former President, Michael Sata, following his untimely death in office – he should be allowed to contest for power for a third term.

He appears confident that Constitutional Court judges will back his interpretation of the constitution. On the one hand, there are precedents in Africa of a leader serving three terms in such cases. On the other, the new Zambian constitution is ambiguous and can be interpreted both to support and prohibit Lungu’s ambitions. One clause of the 2016 constitution states that “a person who has twice been elected as President shall not be eligible for re-election to that office”, which seems to present a shut and dried case.

However, a further clause states that “If the Vice-President assumes the office of President … or a person is elected to the office of President as a result of an election [a presidential election held if the VP cannot assume the presidency for any reason] … the Vice-President or the President-elect shall serve for the unexpired term of office and be deemed

(a) to have served a full term as President if, at the date on which the President assumed office, at least three years remain before the date of the next general election; or

(b) not to have served a term of office as President if, at the date on which the President assumed office, less than three years remain before the date of the next general election.”

Although Lungu did not replace Sata from the position of Vice President, he did win power through a presidential by-election and only held office for a year before the next general elections. On this basis, his supporters claim that the most appropriate interpretation of the constitution would be to treat the president as if he had fallen under (a). If the Constitutional Court agrees, Lungu will be deemed not to have served a full term, and is eligible to stand again.

This, coupled with the fact that Lungu appointed the Constitutional Court last year, has encouraged the president to believe that he can carry the day. Indeed, while most leaders pretend not to be actively campaigning for a third term until they are sure that it is in the bag, the Zambian president has openly stated his desire to retain the top job, despite the next election not being until 2021.

However, recent analysis that has suggested that the president is now a shoe-in for a third term risks overstating the case. There are a number of important players who will seek to block Lungu’s third-term bid, both without and within his own political party. Despite its narrow election victory in 2016, the Patriotic Front remains deeply divided. Moreover, allegations of election rigging mean that the president’s mandate is questionable. At the same time, international donors are increasingly worried about Lungu’s poor record on both political and economic governance. Against this backdrop, efforts to force through a third term are likely to generate considerable opposition, both within the legislature and on the streets.

This is significant because it was precisely this combination that blocked Chiluba’s path back in 2001. While much of the academic and media coverage focussed on high-profile civil society protests, it was a revolt by Chiluba’s own MPs that denied him the votes he required to change the constitution through parliament. Lungu will be hoping that a combination of carrot and stick – patronage and intimidation – will be sufficient to marshal parliament to his side if the Constitutional Court does not rule in his favour. He may well be right, especially as Zambian civil society is significantly weaker today than it was in the past and his MPs have recently been falling over each other to express their loyalty in the media. However, it is worth keeping in mind that the last Zambian president to make such as assumption ended up profoundly disappointed.

Follow Nic Cheeseman on Twitter @fromagehomme

*This post was updated following particularly helpful comments and suggestions from Sishuwa Sishuwa. Any errors or mistakes remain my own.

Benin – Debating the benefits of a one-term presidency

With President Patrice Talon keen to keep his campaign pledge that he will not stand for reelection, debate is picking up in Benin over the benefits and drawbacks of a one-term presidency. Businessman and independent candidate Talon ran for president on a promise that he would serve only one term, and won in the second round with 65 percent of the votes. Talon, known as the “King of Cotton” for his fortune made in the cotton industry, repeated the promise at his swearing in ceremony on April 6, 2016. Though the 1990 constitution of Benin allows a president to serve a maximum of two five-year terms, Talon maintains he will only stay one term in the Palais de la Marina, the presidential palace in Cotonou.

President Talon is intent on ensuring that not only he, but also future presidents of Benin serve only one term in office, which according to him would reduce presidential “complacency.” Constitutional reform to improve the functioning of Benin’s political institutions and strengthen governance figured prominently in candidate Talon’s campaign platform. Once elected, he swiftly set up a constitutional review commission on May 6, 2016 which submitted its report on June 28. However, as Ulrike Rodgers writes, the commission deadlocked on whether to include one seven-year term or two five-year presidential terms among its recommended revisions to the constitution, and left the decision with the president. Other important proposed institutional changes include measures to increase the independence and the oversight capacity of the judiciary, and public financing for political parties to reduce the influence of economic interests on politicians.

Arguments for and against

There is far from consensus  on the benefits of reducing presidential term limits, however. This is by far the most controversial of the proposed constitutional changes. The chief advantage according to proponents of the change is that a single presidential mandate would give a sense of urgency and favor a greater concern for the public good; with only one term the president would not be distracted by having to secure support for his reelection. To back their argument, supporters point to Talon’s already significant achievements in  combating corruption – including the firing of public servants with false diplomas and clamping down on police corruption – and implementing decentralization reform that had been in limbo. A faster turn-over at the presidency would also give more political leaders the chance to be elected to the highest executive office, in other words it would favor a greater circulation of political elites.

Opponents counter that a single term would limit accountability as the president does not have to face the electorate again. This could, they argue, be an incentive for single-term presidents to favor their own interests over that of the public. By this logic, President Talon as a wealthy former businessman is in a unique position and constitutional reform cannot be modeled on his behavior. Successors not similarly above financial want are unlikely to be as virtuous. Moreover, opponents to the term reduction express concern that a single mandate is a short time for a political leader to fully exploit his or her leadership potential. A president could be tempted to favor the rise of a dominant party, to be able to continue to influence politics even after leaving office. Critics furthermore contend that changing presidential term limits will open the door for subsequent presidents to similarly tinker with term limit provisions.

Procedures and politics of reform

The full extent of the proposed constitutional changes will be known once they are submitted for approval to the legislature. According to the Minister of Justice, the government is now finalizing and intends to submit a constitutional reform bill to the National Assembly for consideration during an extraordinary session to be called before the end of March. This will not be a brand new fundamental text, but a series of revisions to the current constitution – which is vested with significant legitimacy given its origins in the 1990 National Conference.

President Talon, without his own party to rely on in the National Assembly, must cobble together an overwhelming legislative majority to see his reforms pass. While Talon had initially indicated he wanted to submit his constitutional reform ideas to a referendum, before going to the National Assembly, he was called to order by the Constitutional Court. According to Articles 154 and 155 of the constitution, constitutional revisions must be passed by three quarters (75 percent) of the members of the National Assembly before they can be submitted for final approval in a referendum; should four fifths (80 percent) of legislators approve the bill, a referendum is not needed. A previous ruling by the constitutional court in October 2011, when then President Yayi was exploring options to eliminate term limits as he was coming to the end of his second term, found that presidential terms are among those provisions of the constitution that cannot be changed through a referendum. This would indicate that indeed the president will have to secure an 80 percent legislative majority for his constitutional amendments to be enacted.

Talon has seemingly secured the support of the president of the National Assembly, Adrien Houngbédji. However, in the legislature elected in 2015, the Cauri Forces for an Emerging Benin coalition (FCBE), which supported former President Thomas Boni Yayi (who backed Talon’s opponent in the presidential run-off), remains the largest party with 33 out of 83 seats – enough to block the passage of constitutional reform if the coalition stays together. Some FCBE-leaders have been outspoken critics of the one-term limit initiative, but the FCBE is a fragile coalition, now that Yayi is no longer at the helm of the state. Thus, while Talon has some lobbying to do, he has a good chance that the National Assembly will back his constitutional reform. If it were to pass before April 6, he would have delivered on an important campaign promise during his first year in office – proving his principal argument that one-term presidents are likely to be highly effective.

Tanzania – Is parliament waking up?

It is now old news that, since taking office in November 2015, President Magufuli has sought to reign in political dissent in Tanzania, be it from his own ruling party, opposition parties, the legislature, the media or private citizens. While many have denounced this authoritarian turn, there has been little by way of effective pushback.

That is starting to change.

It began with a dramatic show of strength from one of Magufuli’s close lieutenants, the Regional Commissioner for Dar es Salaam, Paul Makonda. Speaking at a televised press conference, Makonda brandished a list of 65 individuals who he claimed were in some way implicated in the drug trade. The list included everyone from prominent businessmen to religious leaders to pop music celebrities to the Chairman of Tanzania’s largest opposition party. All the individuals named were ordered to report for questioning at the Dar es Salaam Central Police Station.

The order, and the highhanded way it was enforced, prompted an immediate outcry from those whose names appeared on the list. The denunciation did not stop there, however. For the first time since Magufuli took office, parliamentarians from both CCM and the opposition parties united, unanimously resolving to summon Makonda to appear before Parliament.

It seems Makonda had crossed a red line. First, he overreached by targeting—en masse—a group of well-connected individuals from both sides of the political spectrum. While the opposition has had to contend with systematic repression, and individual politicians have also come under fire, Makonda’s smear affected a large and diverse group of prominent individuals, which made a coordinated backlash that much easier.

Second, Makonda’s actions fed into growing tensions between parliamentarians and Regional and District Commissioners. While there have always been disputes over the respective powers of MPs versus Commissioners, these have grown more acute under Magufuli. This is because the President has relied on his administrative appointees to implement the government’s local development agenda, which has led to the political marginalization of parliamentarians. Given the opportunity to shift the balance, MPs were quick to pounce.

It is unclear what comes next. On the one hand, Makonda is in a bad way. Amidst a sustained outcry, rumours of forged academic qualifications, and allegations of ill-begot wealth, the Commissioner has lost some of his nerve. After breaking down sobbing during a church service, he is now rumoured to have left on a two-month vacation to South Africa.

But whereas Makonda could fade into the background, the real concern here is Magufuli. Many were—implicitly or not—critical of the President for his role in nurturing a political environment where an official of Makonda’s rank could issue such a seemingly outrageous order. At the same time, Makonda’s intervention stoked divisions within government and CCM, divisions which Magufuli appears at increasing pains to contain. Take, for instance, his recent appointment of the former First Lady, Salma Kikwete, to a parliamentary seat. This unprecedented move has fuelled a wave of speculation as commentators mull whether the no-nonsense President is making concessions to appease potential detractors within his own party.

Whatever the realty of this situation, things continue to move fast on the ground. This coming weekend, an extraordinary meeting of the CCM National Congress is set to approve sweeping reforms to the party constitution. These will see the elimination of more than half of National Executive Committee positions as well as new rules barring CCM and government leaders from holding more than one official post. The response to these reforms, and Magufuli’s ability to manage a situation where party patronage has been vastly reduced, remains to be seen.

Jo-Ansie van Wyk – The First Ladies of Southern Africa: Trophies or Trailblazers?

This is a guest post by Jo-Ansie van Wyk, Department of Political Sciences, University of South Africa (Unisa), Pretoria, South Africa. It is based on her forthcoming article in Politikon.

No longer simply trophy wives, First Ladies (i.e. the spouse of the President or Prime Minister, excluding monarchs) in Southern Africa are an increasingly influential political force in the inner circle of presidents and politics. From peace missions to summits, First Ladies play a leadership role in the sustainable development and politics of the sub-region. In Africa, studies on political leadership and presidential studies predominantly focus   on, amongst others, the role of so-called Big Men, Presidents, electoral authoritarianism, and coup d’états. The region’s First Ladies have always wielded political power due to their proximity to, and membership of the inner circle of the Executive in their country. Therefore, the study of First Ladies offers valuable insights into presidential leadership, democratic accountability, and the role and status of women in Southern Africa.

The First Lady is more than often the symbolic representation of women’s role in a particular society. Closely related to this is her relation with the media, and vice versa. The representation of the First Lady in the media (often reinforcing certain gender stereotypes), and her involvement in her spouse’s political agenda contributes to her role as a political symbol. Therefore, her task, like that of her counterparts elsewhere, has developed from mere a State House hostess or beauty queen to a spokesperson of her husband’s political agenda. Despite this, the media often, perhaps due to gender stereotyping in a society, downplays the First Lady’s importance.

Several First Ladies are or have been married to liberation leaders-turned-Presidents; often bestowing on these women the title, Mother of the Nation, Mama or Founding First Lady. In several cases, the first post-independence First Lady was also referred to as the Mother of the Nation; thus acting as the symbol of the nation. This title was bestowed on, for example, Winnie Mandela (South Africa), Kovambo Theopoldine Katjimune, wife of Sam Nujoma (Namibia), Janet Museveni (Uganda), and Sally Mugabe of Zimbabwe whose political activism prior to entering State House and subsequent to it was indicative of the influence of her person. Some former First Ladies made a political comeback as either elected Members of Parliament (MPs) or presidential candidates. Miria Obote, widow of the late President Milton Obote of Uganda was a candidate for her husband’s political party, the Uganda People’s Congress, which ran the country from 1962 to 1971, and again from 1980 to 1985. President Obote was ousted in a coup by Yoweri Museveni. In 2014, after the death of her husband, Michael Sata (Zambia), while still in office, Christine Kaseba, Sata’s wife, joined the elections as a presidential candidate.

Apart from her influence derived from her close intimate relations with the President, two other factors determine the political and policy potency of a First Lady in a particular state, namely political institutions (the constitution and constitutional powers of the President; presidential campaigns and practices related to political parties and the media; legal and constitutional provisions related to the First Lady and her Office; the physical location of the Office of the First Lady) and socio-cultural factors (the role of women, gender and family in a society history; and culture).

A further illustration of the political influence of a First Lady is Agathe Habyarimana, wife of the late Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana. A Hutu by birth, Agathe Habyarimana has been described as the power behind her husband’s tenure and one of the masterminds behind the Rwanda Genocide of 1994. Juvenal Habyarimana’s inner circle – akazu (Kinyarwanda for ‘small house’), sometimes referred to as Le Réseau Zéro (Network Zero) – was also referred to a le clan de Madame (the First Lady’s clique). The akazu consisted of Agathe Habyarimana, her three brothers and husband (the President) and established their own death squad to eliminate political opponents; and had representatives in embassies and local governments; basically an oligarchy that infiltrated all layers of Rwandan society. More recently, reports of G40’s (Generation 40), a ruling party faction led by Grace Mugabe (Zimbabwe), involvement in succession matters in Zimbabwe emerged.

The First Lady is typically not a democratically elected, and thus not a publically accountable public official. However, Winnie Madikazela-Mandela (South Africa), for example, was both a publicly-elected official (an MP) and a First Lady as the wife of Nelson Mandela. Another example is Janet Museveni (Uganda) who is also a member of her husband’s Cabinet. The First Lady is also important to her husband in other respects. Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), for example, appointed his wife, Janet, in 2009 as Minister of State for Karamoja in an effort to achieve national unity. The Karamojong saw this as a positive development as Museveni has shown affection by sending his own wife to live and work among them.

For Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, his wife, Grace’s entry into politics has been meteoric but also acting as his surrogate. Since her appointment as Secretary for Women Affairs of the ruling party, ZANU-PF, in December 2014, she is a member of ZANU’s Politburo, the party’s highest decision-making body.

First Ladies have developed a public policy agenda independent of and/or parallel to of that of her husband’s government, giving rise to the notion of the First Lady as the ‘Social worker-in-Chief’. Africa is by far one of the most under-developed continents. Evidence of First Ladies’ response to this is the number of social foundations (aiming to achieve the Millennium Development Goals established by several African First Ladies. Amongst others are Ether Lungu’s (wife of Zambian President) Esther Lungu Trust Foundation; Burundian First Lady Denise Nkurunziza’s Buntu Foundation, with established partnerships with the United Nations Population Fund, aims to ‘create and build various ways of helping, supporting, teaching and coaching vulnerable and helpless people in the Burundian society like widows, elderly people, the orphans of HIV/AIDS and war, the disabled and the poor’. HIV/AIDS seems to be a major social concern for some Southern African First Ladies, including Marie Olive Lembé Kabila (DRC), and Janet Museveni (Uganda) who founded the organization, Uganda Women’s Effort to Save Orphans (UWESO) that, amongst others, tend to HIV/AIDS affected orphans. Salma Kikwete (Tanzania) is another First Lady that has established a social foundation, the Wanawake Na Maendeleo (WAMA) Foundation that aims to improve the life standards of women, girls and children. Despite their low public profile, Mmes Zuma have also established various Foundations: Nompumelelo MaNtuli-Zuma Foundation and the Tobeka Madiba-Zuma Foundation. The former has, for example, provided assistance to women in the Eastern Cape, whereas the Madiba-Zuma Foundation focuses on health with First Lady Madiba-Zuma currently serving as the chairperson of the Forum of African First Ladies against Breast and Cervical Cancer.

Margaret Kenyatta (Kenya) is also leading several social campaigns in her country. The Kenyan Ministry of Health has published a Strategic Framework for the engagement of the First Lady in HIV Control and Promotion of Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in Kenya. Her Beyond Zero Campaign focuses on maternal and child health for which she was recognised by the United Nations. Breaking ranks with her counterparts, Margaret Kenyatta (Kenya) is the first African First Lady to focus on animal rights. She is the patron of Hands off our Elephants Campaign and is cooperating with the United Nations Development Programme to combat poaching in Kenya and promote the welfare of wildlife.

Mozambique, Namibia, and South Africa define the role and purpose of the First Lady. Mozambique, for example, refers to ‘Primera Dama’ supported by the ‘Gabinete da Esposa do Presidente’ who has ‘official duties’ and a role in ‘achieving social and cultural initiatives she decides to develop’ Namibia defines the purpose of the Office of the First Lady as too effectively use the First Lady’s unique role to contribute to and compliment the efforts of the Government of Namibia. The Namibian government goes further and also identifies the relevant stakeholders engaging with the Office of the First Lady and includes, inter alia, the Office of the President; Government Ministries; the Namibian National Planning Commission; UN agencies and the World Bank; international organizations such as RAND Corporation and the African First Ladies’ Fellowship Programme; local NGOs and business communities; and the diplomatic community.

The Offices of First Ladies in Southern Africa are typically located in the Office of the President; thus centralizing the political affairs of the First Couple and allowing for the careful orchestration of the First Lady’s programme and image. A subservient First Lady implies a more traditional society in respect of the rights and status of women; implying Presidential preference in this regard. In contrast, a politically-ambitious First Lady such as Grace Mugabe and Janet Museveni has strengthened their husband’s position and power base. It should be noted, however, that First Ladies are more likely to play a number of these roles than to play one in particular.

So far, the emphasis here has been predominantly on the domestic role of the First Lady. For completeness’ sake and in the absence of scholarly work on the topic, the next section turn to one particularly externally-related function and role of the First Lady, namely diplomacy. The diplomatic role of First Ladies in Southern Africa is not limited to photo opportunities with foreign Heads of State and Government or state banquets contributing to a state’s foreign policy architecture; promoting the President’s image, agenda; and a state’s bi- and multilateral relations. Therefore, the First Lady intends not to embarrass her husband and his government; contravene diplomatic protocol; and contradict her country’s position on a particular issue. However, this diminishes, the agentic’ role of the First Lady, and entrenches male dominance in a state’s diplomatic relations and foreign policy-making.

Despite these diplomatic activities, the diplomatic role of First Ladies is constrained by several factors. She is, for example, not a publically elected or appointed foreign policy decision maker. A First Lady may also be constrained by cultural factors restricting the independence of women. A third factor is her husband’s political agenda and audience, and his intention to remain the single most important player in this arena.

The First Lady in a diplomatic context is typically her husband’s escort, fulfill an aesthetic role and act as a surrogate for her husband. Southern African First Ladies manage their husband’s credibility by ‘seducing’ foreign audiences and promoting their husbands’ political agenda. As an example of managing or contributing to her husband’s international credibility is the State House of Uganda’s report on the Global Decency Index that found Janet Museveni in 2014 as ‘the most decent African First Lady’.

The surrogate role of the Southern African First Lady is evident in Maria Guebuza’s (Mozambique) six day visit to India in 2011 on behalf of her husband and the Final Communique of the Seventh Roundtable of the Spouses of the COMESA Heads of State and Government. Herein, COMESA First Ladies referred to some of their husbands’ achievements and roles in the region.

Managing social issues and social advocacy are other rhetorical functions of First Lady Diplomacy. In May 2001, Jeanette Kagame (Rwanda), for example, hosted the first African First Ladies’ Summit on Children and HIV/AIDS Prevention in Kigali, Rwanda. Another example is the establishment of the Organisation of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OFLA) in 2002 by 24 African First Ladies. With currently more than 40 members with each First Lady leading the national chapter of OFLA, the Organisation has established a Permanent Secretariat in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2012 to coordinate their activities. By 2015, OFLA has not only made a commitment to eradicate polio on the continent, but is also in the process of signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to cooperate on eradicating polio.

The First Ladies of regional economic communities (RECs) often meet parallel to the Heads of State and Government of these RECs such as the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Francophonie to discuss matters of mutual social concern. Another example of African First Ladies’ social advocacy is their establishment of the African Network of Women Peace Negotiators, at the sixth conference of the African First Ladies Peace Mission in 1997 in Nigeria. First Ladies play a particular international role during their husbands’ tenure and are thus a considerable diplomatic asset to their husbands. Their involvement in bi- and multilateral diplomacy fulfil certain rhetoric functions advancing the national interests of their respective countries.

Generally, the accountability of a First Lady remains ambiguous as she is not a publicly-elected official and has no constitutionally-prescribed role. Yet, some First Ladies in the sub-region are perceived to be entrenching a culture of no accountability which undermines the socio-economic development of the countries. Serving as a formal or informal advisor to her husband has raised concerns about the accountability of First Ladies in respect of their husbands’ policy and political decisions. This is a particular concern in, for example, brutal regimes. Some First Ladies in Southern Africa such as Denise Nkurunziza (Burundi) and Grace Mugabe (Zimbabwe) have been accused of supporting their husbands’ uninterrupted and undemocratic regimes. Southern African Presidents Sassou Nguesso (1979-1992, and since 1997), Robert Mugabe (since 1980), José dos Santos (since 1979), and Yoweri Museveni (since 1986) are among African longest serving presidents; a position the First Ladies have undoubtedly supported. Some African constitutions grant Executive immunity. Whether this is extended to the First Lady remains uncertain. The recent International Criminal Court’s (ICC) sentencing of Simone Ggagbo, former Ivorian First Lady, to a 20-year jail term for her role in the 2011 post-election crisis in Côte d’Ivoire – after her husband Laurent’s refusal to accept election defeat to the incumbent Alassane Ouattara in the 2010 elections triggered a transitory civil war that led to the death of 3 000 people – has renewed questions about the political ambitions and neutrality of First Ladies.

First Ladies in Southern Africa are influential political actors. Despite this, the region’s First Ladies are under-researched political actors; hence this exploratory study. I have shown that the Office of the First Lady is formally and informally institutionalized in the region by providing a new typology of the functions and role of Southern Africa’s First Ladies, as well as the implications thereof.

Besides focusing on the domestic arena, I have also focused on First Lady Diplomacy; another neglected academic area. Based on these, it is possible to deduce that First Ladies have personal, political and structural abilities to penetrate domestic, regional and international politics.  These abilities empower her to regulate societal relations; extract resources such as political support, tenders and government funding; and to appropriate and use material (funds, tenders) and immaterial (influence, status, prestige) public and private resources; abilities that, amongst others, raise questions about First Ladies’ accountability in respect to several identified matters, and the transparency of her public duties and private interests.

Besides these empirical findings, I also contend that, despite their own political experience, ambitions and influence, Southern African First Ladies remain subordinate to the patriarchy in their societies. A gender bias is evident in the position of First Ladies as the region had predominantly had male Executives; a situation likely to remain for some time. A second gender bias is evident in each Southern African states’ Constitution as none refers to this position; an aspect which undermines democratic accountability. Third, a gender bias is evident in the expectations of the role of the First Lady, i.e. spouse; mother; care-giver and nurturer of the sick, young, elderly etc.). Another gender bias is evident in the fact that the Office of the First Lady is fully directed from within the President’s office that often controls media flows and information that portrays the First Lady in patriarchal terms as a national symbol; the Ideal Woman; a trophy; and a trailblazer for issues stereotyped and associated with women.

Jo-Ansie van Wyk is Professor of International Relations in the Department of Political Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa. She has published on political leadership in Africa, and South Africa’s foreign policy, and diplomacy.

South Africa – Anti-Zuma protests lead to legislative brawl

The pressure on President Jacob Zuma remains intense as South Africa as he enters the last two years of his tenure ahead of general elections in 2019. Accusations of corruption, economic downturn and an increasing heated secession battle within the African National Congress (ANC) have all combined to keep the spotlight on Zuma’s performance.

One of the president’s most vociferous opponents is Julius Malema, the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). Although Malema rose to political prominence as the leader of the ANC Youth League, he subsequently fell out with Zuma and was expelled from the ruling party. In opposition, he has effectively utilised populist strategies and political grandstanding to capture the headlines – if not always the votes – much to the chagrin of the ANC establishment.

Among the tactics used by the EFF, one of the most high profile has been to use its presence within parliament – where it holds 25 seats – to frustrate and anger the president by interrupting him during his legislative addresses. In the past, this has led to confrontations between EFF and ANC legislators on the floor of the house, and the forced removal of opposition MPs who refuse to back down.

In turn, these developments have positioned the National Assembly as a key battleground in contemporary South African politics in the in more ways that one. The political atmosphere within parliament deteriorated further on Thursday 9 February, as EFF leaders fired so many questions and challenges at President Zuma that he was forced to halt his keynote address, with Malema charging that he was “rotten to the core”.

When Speaker Baleka Mbete ordered EFF MPs to leave, scuffles broke out on the floor of the house as legislative security officials – dressed in white – sought to physically remove EFF leaders, dressed in red. The extent of the disruption, combined with the striking colour coordination of the two sides, has ensured that the episode, which was broadcast live across the country, has captured headlines worldwide.

While many aspects of the confrontation repeated previous incidents, there were also worrying signs of escalation. According to Reuters journalists, the scuffles continued into the parliamentary precinct – the first time that this has been reported. At the same time, police fired stun grenades to disperse rival groups of ANC and EFF supporters that had gathered outside of the building.

Perhaps more problematically, anticipating opposition Zuma had earlier authorised 400 soldiers to join the security team outside of the building, leading to accusations that he was militarizing parliament. This decision united opposition parties in condemnation, with the Mmusi Maimane, the leader of the Democratic Alliance, announcing that his party would seek a court ruling to ascertain whether the president had acted illegally.

More broadly, the willingness of the ANC to bring the security forces in to a political dispute has generated further concern about the party’s commitment to open and transparent politics in the run up to what are likely to be the most challenging general elections it has had to contest since 1994.

Burkina Faso – Interesting constitutional innovations

It’s here – Burkina Faso’s new draft constitution. The constitutional review commission presented the results of its deliberations on January 10th. The 92-member commission — with representation from the ruling MPP-party, opposition parties (including the CDP of former President Blaise Compaoré) and civil society (including labor unions and traditional authorities) — was officially seated on September 29, 2016 by President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré. The commission is charged with proposing a new constitution that will institute the country’s Fourth Republic.

So what is in this proposed new constitutional text? What are its key provisions in terms of presidential power, executive-legislative relations and term limits?

First of all, the intent is to keep a semi-presidential regime, with a directly elected president and a prime minister accountable to the legislature. The president must appoint a prime minister “from within the legislative majority,” after consulting with that majority (Article 66). Those provisions are the same as in the current constitution from 1991, last amended in November 2015 by the National Transition Council.

Interestingly, Article 56 of the new draft constitution specifies that in the event that the prime minister is backed by a legislative majority which does not support the president, “both have to determine by consensus major policy orientations in the greater interest of the Nation.” Article 56 continues: “In the absence of consensus, it is the Government [i.e. the prime minister and cabinet] that determines and conducts the policy of the Nation.” This is an innovation compared to the current constitution.

In other words, in the event of a conflictual cohabitation between a president and a prime minister from opposing parties, executive power would swing to the prime minister. On the other hand, the president would retain the power to dismiss the prime minister “in the higher interest of the Nation” (Article 66), as is also currently the case. As in the present constitution, a new prime minister and cabinet would require legislative approval within 30 days of being appointed (Article 87), through a vote on the government’s policy statement.

The president’s power of initiative to dismiss the prime minister would keep Burkina Faso in the camp of president-parliamentary regimes, per Shugart and Carey’s (1992) definition. The president may also dissolve the legislature and call for new elections (Article 70), but cannot do so again till 12 months have passed since the last dissolution (same as today’s constitution). Conversely, it would only take 25 percent of legislators to initiate a censure vote against the government (Article 115), as opposed to 30 percent in the current constitution.

The president would keep his reserved policy domain, in the area of defense policy. The head of state is the commander in chief and appoints the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces. The president is thus responsible for determining the strategic orientations of the national defense policy and for chairing the National Defense Council (Article 72). This would be a significant power to retain, in the event of cohabitation.

The proposed constitution maintains presidential term limits at two 5-year terms. It was the attempted removal of this term-limit provision which brought about a popular uprising that led to the fall of former President Compaoré in October 2014. An absolute majority of votes is required to win the election, with a run-off if no candidate is able to secure such a majority in the first round (Article 57). An important innovation is the “locking” (‘verrouillage’) of presidential term limits by including them among those intrinsic democratic elements of the constitution (listed in Article 192) that cannot be changed (along with the republican and lay nature of the state, multipartism, and the integrity of the national territory). Another interesting novelty is the introduction of term limits also for legislators (a maximum of three 5-year terms, Article 101). Furthermore, a deputy may serve a maximum of two terms as president of the national assembly (Article 107).

Finally, changing the constitution without recourse to a referendum would become more challenging: it would require a 4/5 legislative majority of members of parliament (Article 190) to pass changes without the need for a popular vote, compared to 3/4 of the members of the legislature as is currently the case.

Next steps: the draft constitution will be discussed in popular forums to be held in all 13 regions of the country and also shared with the diaspora in countries with a significant concentration of Burkinabe immigrants.  The text will thereafter be given to the president for comment and then finalized by the commission before submission to a popular referendum. It will be interesting to see if the proposed innovations – notably with regards to the division of executive powers in the event of disagreements between president and prime minister from opposing parties – will survive in the final version.