Obama to Africa: ‘No One Person is Above the Law – Not Even The President’

By Patrick Goodenough | July 28, 2015 | 6:03 PM EDT

President Obama delivers a speech at African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Tuesday, July 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(CNSNews.com) – Scolding African leaders who refuse to step down when their constitutional terms end, President Obama said in Ethiopia Tuesday he reckoned he could win a third term if he was permitted to run.

“I love my work. But under our Constitution, I cannot run again,” he said in a speech in Addis Ababa. “I can’t run again. I actually think I’m a pretty good president. I think if I ran I could win. But I can’t.”

“There’s a lot that I’d like to do to keep America moving,” he continued. “But the law is the law. And, and no one person is above the law – not even the president.”

Obama said countries were better off with “new blood and new ideas.”

“I’m still a pretty young man, I’m still a pretty young man, but I know that somebody with new energy and new insights will be good for my country,” he said.

Obama is 53 years-old.  The leading Democrats in the race to succeed him as president are Hillary Clinton, 67, and Bernie Sanders, 73.

Of the crowded Republican field, contenders younger than Obama include Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz (both 44), Scott Walker (47), and Rand Paul and Chris Christie (both 52).

Those GOP aspirants who are older include Mike Huckabee (59), Jeb Bush (62), Ben Carson (63) and Donald Trump (69).

Obama drew applause from his audience at African Union (A.U.) headquarters as he warned that democratic progress on the continent was put at risk “when leaders refuse to step aside when their terms end.”

He said he looked forward to life after the White House – he would not need as large a security detail, would be able to go for walks, spend more time with his family, find new ways to serve, and “visit Africa more often.”

“The point is, I don't understand why people want to stay [in office] so long,” he added. “Especially when they’ve got a lot of money.”

Obama pointed to the situation in Burundi, where President Pierre Nkurunziza last week won a third term in an election boycotted by the opposition, which accused him of violating the constitution. The episode has raised fears of violence returning to a country which emerged from a deadly civil war a decade ago.

“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. “And this is often just a first step down a perilous path.”

He urged the A.U. to “ensure that their leaders abide by term-limits and their constitutions. Nobody should be president for life.”

The A.U. has 54 member states. According to data compiled by the Johannesburg Mail & Guardian in mid-2014, ten countries in Africa have no term-limit provisions in place – Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Lesotho, Libya, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Swaziland.

Another 11 have seen their term-limit laws repealed – Algerian, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Djibouti, Gabon, Guinea, Namibia, Niger, Togo and Uganda.

In 13 countries, leaders have relinquished power at the end of their constitutional terms, it said – Benin, Botswana, Cape Verde, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Sao Tome & Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Tanzania.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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