Too young to retire: Presidential term limit not new debate, but MPs must prioritise Kenyans' problems

The proposal by Fafi's Salah Yakub to amend the Constitution to extend President William Ruto's tenure beyond two terms has generated a storm with the Opposition terming it as totally ridiculous.

"I, together with some of my fellow MPs, are planning to push a Bill in Parliament that contests the two terms of serving as president," he said while distributing relief food in Garissa.

COTU head Francis Atwoli.

The suggestion was greeted by sharp reactions from supporters of his deputy, now-President William Ruto. However, Uhuru declared he had no intention of extending his tenure at the House on the Hill.

"You are the ones saying that. I outlined my plan from the word go," he said in response to the debate during an address from State House Mombasa.

On another occasion, he said it was not his wish to break the tradition of presidents respecting term limits.

"I can tell you, if there is one thing that Kenyans are very, very clear about, very clear about, is the two-term limit. The two term-limit Kenyans are very clear about and they have been clear about since 1992 when we introduced multipartism. And there's been no single president that has broken that and I don't intend to be the first," he said in June 2020 during an interview with Reuters journalist Katrina Manson.

He was responding to claims the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) process was meant to change the Constitution to enable him become Prime Minister.

Atwoli was in the lead of those who had said Uhuru will serve as premier before seeking re-election as president after 10 years.

But just like Mwai Kibaki before him, Uhuru handed over power upon serving for two terms.

Under Article 255 (1) of the Constitution, an amendment to alter the term of the President is one of the provisions that must be subjected to a Constitution.

Africa's longterm problem

The others include the supremacy of the Constitution; the territory of Kenya; the sovereignty of the people; the national values and principles of governance referred to in Article 10 (2) (a) to (d); the Bill of Rights; the independence of the Judiciary and the commissions and independent offices to which Chapter Fifteen applies; the functions of Parliament and the objects, principles; and structure of devolved governments.

Yakub's call reminds Kenyans of Uganda President Yoweri Museveni who has served six terms having first came to power in 1986. This is after the Supreme Court abolished an age ceiling of 75 allowed him to stand once again and continue serving ahead of the January 2021 election.

Yoweri Museveni.

Equatorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has been in power since 1979, holds the record of the longest President in Africa.

But extending term limits is not an African problem. In the United States, touted as the world's leading democracy, they had to change the Constitution after Franklin Roosevelt served a third term.

This was after he defeated Republican nominee Wendell Willkie in the 1940 presidential election. It led to the Twenty-second Amendment.