ADDIS ABABA – Former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan has urged African leaders to leave when their time is up.
Annan said this was critical to “avoid excluding opposing voices if elections are to cease contributing to conflicts on the continent”.
Speaking at the fifth Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Ghanaian-born diplomat and Nobel laureate said: “I think Africa has done well, by and large the coups have more or less ended, generals are remaining in their barracks, but we are creating situations which may bring them back.
“If a leader doesn’t want to leave office, if a leader stays on for too long, and elections are seen as being gamed to suit a leader and he stays term after term after term, the tendency may be the only way to get him out is through a coup or people taking to the streets,” he said.
He emphasised that the “winner-take-all approach to elections” left out citizens who held opposing views and raised tensions around elections.
“Neither approach can be seen as an alternative to democracy, to elections or to parliamentary rule. Constitutions and the rules of the game have to be respected.”
The forum is chaired by former Nigeria president Olusegun Obasanjo and provides a platform for current and former leaders to interact informally with stakeholders to tackle contemporary issues that face the African continent.
Annan said he had warned the African Union in 2001 “not to accept coup leaders among their midst”. He said he firmly believed Africa had the capacity to solve her own problems and must “build up its ability to do so, including in financing its institutions”.
Obansanjo noted that the continent, even in the midst of “increasing security challenges”, was not isolated and was “well placed to provide innovative solutions to these security challenges”.
“We cannot always pass a hat around and insist we want to be sovereign, we want to be independent. We should lead and get others to support us — that support will be much more forthcoming when they see how serious and committed we are,” Annan said.