Veteran politician Vernon Johnson Mwaanga says it is disappointing that the insatiable appetite of African leaders to cling to power at all costs is never top of the agenda at the African Union.

In a statement, Sunday, VJ observed that the ruthless appetite for African leaders to overstay in office did not augur well for the future.

“African leaders have been meeting yet again in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia , under the umbrella of the African Union, to discuss many issues, which are of importance to the people of Africa. Sadly, one of the issues which is not high on their agenda, is the imperative need to strengthen the rule of law and good governance in Africa. It is undeniable that a lot has been happening in a number of African countries which give us hope for the future. Many african countries hold regular elections to enable the people to exercise their democratic right to choose leaders at various levels. There is growing evidence that not all these elections meet high international standards of free, fair and transparent. The ruthless appetite of some African leaders to overstay, even when their terms of office expire, remains a shameful negative, which does not augur well for the future,” VJ stated.

“It is equally important to remember that the mere holding of regular elections does not guarantee democracy or good governance. A lot more needs to be done to create and strengthen institutions of state and society, which are central to the process of democracy and rule of law. Rule of law has acquired additional meaning to the people of Africa, who must guard against the evil tendency by some of their leaders to resort to repressive means, just to stay in power at all costs. The legacy of such brutal regimes, who use instruments of state violence against their own people, is a violation of accepted principles of the rule of law and good governance. It also reveals a lack of trust in the constitutional, political and legal processes of their own countries.”

He stated that it was important for Africans to hold their leaders to higher governance standards.

“It is important for the people of Africa, to hold their leaders to higher governance standards and our cooperating partners abroad, must not be complicity in supporting African dictators, who oppress their people. The founding fathers of Africa must be turning in their graves, to see how this new crop of leaders, has severely distorted the values they stood for, such as integrity and anti-corruption. That crop of leaders went into leadership to serve their people and not to enrich themselves, their families and friends. The process of strengthening democracy, and rule of law, is still very fragile and some of the players – who at best can only be described as reluctant democrats- are still very confused about their respective roles. Learning their leadership roles is taking them a lot longer and sometime, it becomes necessary for them to be dragged into the 21st century, kicking and screaming. The rule of law provides formal rules by which societies must be governed. They forbid leaders and their cronies from amassing wealth, arbitrarily using using state power to silence or oppress their political opponents or tinkering with the constitutions of their countries, just for the sake of overstaying in power. Experience elsewhere in the world, has shown that where there is dialogue, political tolerance, inclusiveness and zero tolerance of all political players to violence, countries develop more rapidly economically,” VJ stated.

And VJ observed that the existence of constitutions did not guarantee the rue of law.

“Many constitutions in African countries, now embody the rights and freedoms contained in international charters, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Experience has shown that the existence of constitutions alone, no matter how good or comprehensive, do not necessarily guarantee the rule of law or good governance. The rule of law must always guarantee freedom of association, speech, assembly, a free media, freedom from arbitrary arrest, equality of all citizens before the law, equality of women and minorities . Rule of law also requires an independent judicial system, which should not bend to the dictates of its political masters . Many african countries claim to have independent judicial systems, at least in theory, but evidence on the ground suggests otherwise . A just legal system requires that individual citizens be subjected to as few constraints as possible and that the province of the law, should not extend beyond that which is absolutely necessary for the protection of citizens, maintenance of public security and protection of People’s rights. Although all these rights may be in the constitutions, the problem is that they are observed more in breach. Africa is now part of the global village which requires much higher standards of good governance, rule of law and strict observance of human, civil and political rights,” stated VJ.