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Hollande warns African leaders at Francophone summit

Speaking at a summit of Francophone nations in Senegal on Saturday, French President François Hollande reiterated his warnings to African leaders who seek to remain in power past the term limits set by their countries’ constitutions.


Hollande was speaking to the 15th biennial summit of the International Organisation of Francophonie – a group of 77 mostly French-speaking countries – taking place this weekend in Dakar, Senegal.

Hollande issued a similar admonition earlier this week in an interview with FRANCE 24, RFI (Radio France Internationale) and TV5 Monde.

In his speech Hollande praised the people of Burkina Faso, who overthrew president Blaise Compaore in October in a mostly peaceful popular uprising. Compaore fled to the Ivory Coast after weeks of protest against his bid to amend the constitution to allow him to run for re-election in a move that would have extended his 27-year rule.

“What the Burkinabe people did should give pause to those who would like to stay in power in violation of constitutional rule,” Hollande said.

"I think this could serve as a lesson to many heads of state, and not only in Africa, not to change the constitutional order for personal gain," Hollande told FRANCE 24 on Thursday. He said that the Burkinabe revolt was “a sign that Africans are committed to democracy and to the constitutional order”.

Many African countries have established two-term limits in their constitutions. But several regional leaders have looked for ways around these restrictions in a bid to prolong their mandates.

Notably, several of the heads of state present at the Dakar summit have tried to do just that. Cameroonian President Paul Biya, who has been in power since 1982, persuaded legislators to remove all term limits from the constitution in 2008 – despite violent protests against the move – so that he could remain in power after serving two terms.

Also present at the summit was President Faure Gnassingbe of Togo, where term limits were removed from the constitution in 2002. Protesters and opposition activists – who want the limits reinstated to prevent Gnassingbe from running for a third term next year – clashed with security forces after his disputed re-election in 2010.

Hollande told those leaders who seek to flout their constitutions that the International Organisation of Francophonie would stand on the side of the people and the rule of law.

“Where constitutional rules are flouted, where liberty is trampled, where term limits are thwarted, I promise here that the citizens of those countries will always find support from the Francophonie,” he said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)


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