UN chief urges Africa leaders not to cling to power

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged African leaders not to use 'undemocratic' constitutional changes to cling to power.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged African leaders not to use 'undemocratic' constitutional changes to cling to power.

ADDIS ABABA – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged African leaders not to use "undemocratic" constitutional changes to cling to power.

"People around the world have expressed their concern about leaders who refuse to leave office when their terms end," Ban told the African leaders who gathered in Addis Ababa of Friday for the opening session of the African Union's summit.

"I share those concerns. Undemocratic constitutional changes and legal loopholes should never be used to cling to power," he said. "I urge all leaders in Africa and around the world to listen to your people. Modern leaders cannot afford to ignore the wishes of those they represent," he added.

In October,  Blaise Compaore, who ruled Burkina Faso for 27 years, was forced to step down following mass protests triggered by his plans to amend the constitution to allow him to seek a third term in office in next year's election.

Earlier this month, protests broke out in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), against a new electoral bill that would require a population census to be conducted before holding elections.

The DRC's opposition and civil society fear that the proposed bill might be used to allow President Joseph Kabila to seek a third term in office, even as the country's constitution allows him a two-term maximum.

Following deadly clashes between protesters and police, the DRC's Senate (the upper house of parliament) ratified an amended version of the country's electoral law that fulfilled opposition demands to hold 2016 parliamentary elections as scheduled.

-Conflict zones-

The UN chief also commented on the situation in several conflict zones in Africa, including South Sudan and Libya.

As for South Sudan, Ban called on the warring rivals to reach an immediate and inclusive power-sharing arrangement that entails a transitional government.

"They must make sure that the agreement is implemented in order to end this man-made tragedy," he said. "We must also redouble our joint efforts to secure peace and stability in South Sudan," he added.

He also warned that the insecurity in Libya is affecting regional stability. "The African Union’s International Contact Group and Special Envoy - and my own special representative – are pressing the parties to end the bloodshed and engage in political dialogue," he said.

He, meanwhile, hailed the joint efforts between the UN and African Union to bring about peace in Somalia, saying the endeavors are bearing fruits.

"Our two organizations together with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) worked as partners to support the political process [in Somalia]. We must continue this work to help consolidate these gains and to maintain momentum in 2015," he added.

With regard to the Boko Haram menace in Nigeria, Ban said the international community is "appalled by the brutality of Boko Haram, which poses a clear danger to national, regional and international security."

"The group continues to kill Christians and Muslims, kidnap women and children and destroy churches and mosques. We will never forget the girls kidnapped from Chibok last April, and I will never stop calling for their immediate and unconditional release," he added.

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