In its efforts to enhance civil society organisations, the media, and academia’s knowledge and understanding of the importance of advocating for constitutional term limits to promote good governance, Katiba Institute with support from the National Democratic Institute (NDI) convened meetings in November and December 2022 to discuss the concept of control of power and the role of key actors. The discussions couldn’t have come at a better time as Kenya held transitional general elections in August 2022.
Term Limits and peaceful transfer of power
Katiba Institute hosted a webinar on 30th November 2022 under the subject Term limits and
peaceful transition of power: The role of Civil Society Organizations, Media, and
Academia in advocating for constitutional term limits. The webinar focused on the context of
constitutional term limits in the region, how constitutional term limits contribute to good
governance and ways in which diverse groups can sustain conversations on the importance of
constitutional term limits.
Panellists from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania helped participants in breaking down the subject in the context of term limits in their respective countries.
In Kenya ,the issue of presidential term limits has never been in a problem with the 2022 general elections affirming this. 12th September 2022 marked the end of Uhuru Kenyatta’s two-term as President of Kenya, it was also the official beginning of Dr. William Ruto’s first term as President of Kenya. In his farewell address to Kenyans, outgoing president Uhuru Kenyatta affirmed Kenya’s culture of respect to term limits and the rule of law.
“Tomorrow (September 13), I will emulate that honoured tradition and hand over the mantle to my successor, The Hon. William Ruto. I am profoundly grateful for the honour and privilege you bestowed upon me to serve as the Fourth President of the Great Republic of Kenya.” – Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s 4th President
In Uganda on the other hand, the presidential term limits were removed.
In 2005, the Parliament of Uganda amended the Constitution to remove presidential term limits, allowing incumbents to run for re-election indefinitely (Observer, 2012). In 2017, lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to repeal the presidential age limit requiring that presidential candidates be less than 75 years of age (BBC, 2017). This allowed President Yoweri Museveni, age 76, to claim his sixth consecutive term in the recently concluded elections.
Tanzania presents a unique situation where although presidential term limits are respected as per the country’s constitution, there is too much dominance of the ruling party – Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM)
Despite the different contexts in the three countries, it was agreed that different actors- media, academia and CSOs should continue to advocate for the respect of presidential term limits and the rule of law to prevent any form of backsliding from countries that have already made some positive steps.
To follow-up with the discussion, Katiba Institute held a meeting on constitutional term limits on 7th December 2022 in Nairobi. The meeting sought to understand and
appreciate the role of Civil Society Organizations, Media, and Academia in advocating for
constitutional term limits and interrogate the gaps between academia, media, and the
community regarding information on term limits and how this can be addressed.
The meeting recommended the use of media to set the agenda and educate the public on the importance of presidential term limits. Participants also encouraged conversations about term limits using different spaces including social media, community radio and physical meetings to reach diverse groups.Theey called on civil society organizations (CSOs), political parties, academia, media, and
civilians to be more vigilant in protection of constitutional term limits.
By Kevin Mabonga