The Struggle Over Term Limits in Africa: The Power of Protest

Issue Date July 2016
Volume 27
Issue 3
Page Numbers 51-60
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Increasingly, the constitutional coup d’état has become the favored tactic for leaders and ruling parties to secure their grip on power by overturning limits on presidential terms. The threat to term limits seemingly indicate that democratization on the African continent has stalled or is reversing. Yet African populations have responded to these efforts by mobilizing en masse in order to voice their opposition and to defend their constitutions—in some cases facing violent crackdown by the police or military. Ultimately, there is hope from below as opposition leaders, social activists, and ordinary citizens demand that their leaders adhere to democratic institutions—suggesting that the democratization process across Africa continues even as term limits come under threat.

About the Author

Janette Yarwood is chair of the Sub-Saharan Africa Area Studies Program at the U.S. Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Virginia, and previously worked in the Africa Program at the Institute for Defense Analysis. She is coauthor (with Alexander Noyes) of “The AU Continental Early Warning System: From Conceptual to Operational?” (2013). The opinions expressed here are those of the author and should not be viewed as representing the official position of the U.S. government.

View all work by Janette Yarwood