Presidential term limit compliance: Policies of the United Nations and African Union in Burkina Faso and Burundi

Laura Ritter
This explorative research examines the policies of the United Nations and African Union in making African presidents comply with constitutionally guaranteed term limits.

Grondwet geldt minder voor machthebbers

In de jaren negentig namen Afrikaanse landen presidentiële termijnlimieten op in hun grondwet. Na (meestal) twee termijnen moeten presidenten daardoor het stokje doorgeven. Nu die deadline nadert proberen presidenten de wet te omzeilen, wat tot massaprotesten leidt. Volgens eerdere studies zouden internationale organisaties soelaas kunnen bieden. Laura Ritter (KU Leuven) ging op onderzoek uit. Zij concludeert dat presidenten met valsspelen kunnen wegkomen doordat er een gat is tussen wat internationale organisaties zeggen te doen en daadwerkelijk doen.

Gewiekste plannen
Een verplichte wissel van de macht is nuttig. In de woorden van filosoof Edmund Burke: hoe groter de macht, hoe gevaarlijker het misbruik. Termijnlimieten vergroten daarentegen de kans op levendige verkiezingen, frisse beleidsideeën en roulatie van macht. Zittende Afrikaanse presidenten geven hun privileges echter niet zomaar op.

Zo ontstonden in Burkina Faso in 2014 massaprotesten nadat president Blaise Compaoré bekend maakte de grondwet te willen wijzigen via een referendum. Zijn poging mislukte en Compaoré ontvluchtte het land. Zijn Burundese collega had meer succes. In 2015 besloot Pierre Nkurunziza een derde termijn te dienen, waarmee hij het luide protest van de bevolking negeerde. Volgens de president telt zijn eerste ambtsperiode niet mee, waardoor hij binnen het limiet valt. België beëindigde daarop zijn rechtstreekse steun aan het regime.

De masterproef focust op bovengenoemde twee landen, omdat die recente cases nog niet eerder zijn onderzocht. Bovendien kunnen de resultaten van pas komen voor buurlanden. In 2016 speelt het thema immers nog altijd. Zo stelde de Democratische Republiek Congo de verkiezingen uit, waardoor de president zijn tweede termijn kan rekken. Congo-Brazzaville en Rwanda hielden een referendum. Meer dan negentig procent van de bevolking sprak zich uit voor een derde termijn. Die uitslag strookt niet met de cijfers voor het gehele continent: in 2014 was 73 procent namelijk voorstander van een maximum van twee termijnen.

Practice what you preach
In theorie kunnen internationale organisaties helpen de gemoederen te bedaren in Burkina Faso en Burundi. Het is echter onduidelijk hoe zij dat kunnen regelen en of zij dat ook daadwerkelijk doen. Om daar achter te komen kijkt de masterproef naar twee organisaties: de Afrikaanse Unie (AU) en Verenigde Naties (VN). Die keus is logisch omdat beide landen lid zijn van de AU en VN, en dat tevens de enige organisaties zijn die zowel in Burkina Faso als Burundi maatregelen namen. Het doorgronden van de AU’s en VN’s werkwijze blijkt echter lastig, omdat er geen hapklare strategie klaarligt. Het thema goed bestuur, waar het naleven van de grondwet onder valt, wordt namelijk in vele akkoorden genoemd. Ritter bekijkt daarom per document de genoemde acties en uitvoerders, en bundelt dat tot één strategie. Dat stappenplan begint met de vaststelling dat de president het termijnlimiet aan zijn laars lapt, en eindigt bij het terugtrekken van de organisatie nadat het staatshoofd zich wel aan de grondwet houdt. Naast dit theoretische stappenplan maakt Ritter een empirisch versie aan de hand van persberichten van de AU en VN. De strategie heeft immers enkel nut als de organisaties het daadwerkelijk uitvoeren.

Dilemma’s
In Burkina Faso volgen de AU en VN hun beleid. Dat betekent dat zij de situatie in de gaten houden en nationale en regionale groepen aanmoedigen om tot een oplossing te komen. De AU schorst daarbovenop tijdelijk het Afrikaanse land. Burkina Faso hoort weer bij de AU-club nadat de termijnlimieten worden gerespecteerd. Burundi is een ingewikkelder verhaal. Naast aansporing om het conflict zelfstandig op te lossen, bekijkt de Veiligheidsraad van de VN interventievoorstellen, waaronder het sturen van een vredesmacht. Dit proces gaat langzaam, waardoor er nog weinig actie is ondernomen. De AU loopt ook tegen problemen aan. Die organisatie wil een missie opzetten, wat Burundi weigert. In plaats van het land te schorsen, dwaalt de AU af van haar theoretische strategie door een tweede diplomatieke ronde te starten. Burundi weigert opnieuw de geopperde maatregelen. De AU onderneemt geen nieuwe actie, en wijkt dus net als de VN af van de vastgelegde aanpak. Ondertussen gaan het geweld en de protesten in Burundi nog altijd door.

De masterproef noemt op basis van eerdere onderzoeken en persberichten van de organisaties mogelijke verklaringen voor die stagnatie. Zo kampt de VN met een rechtsstaatdilemma. Het Burundese constitutioneel hof is akkoord met een derde termijn voor president Nkurunziza. Door in te grijpen, ontkent de VN eigenlijk de legitimiteit van dat hof. Toch wil de organisatie niet bij de pakken neerzitten: de huidige chaos kan immers niet vijf jaar, oftewel een termijn, aanhouden. Om dit dilemma te omzeilen, focust de VN op een nationale dialoog in plaats van zelf in actie te komen. Ook de AU wijkt af van haar beleid. Die organisatie verklaart soevereiniteit te respecteren. Aangezien Burundi geen hulp wil, intervenieert de AU niet. Tegelijkertijd vrezen beide organisaties dat de Burundese onrust stabiliteit in de hele regio kan beïnvloeden. Een vervolgonderzoek naar het desondanks stoppen met toepassen van beleid is daarom op zijn plaats, meent Ritter.

Wereldwijd
Ook al focust de masterproef op Afrika, het VN-model is wereldwijd toepasbaar. Dat komt omdat de onderzochte documenten over goed bestuur door alle leden zijn ondertekend. Het stappenplan is daardoor bijvoorbeeld ook relevant voor het oplossen van huidige goed bestuur problemen in Latijns-Amerika. Uiteraard moet de VN haar strategie wel uitvoeren. Ritter hoopt dat die kans groter wordt nu zij als eerste onderzoeker alle verdragen heeft gebundeld tot één duidelijk beleidsplan.

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Universiteit of Hogeschool
Master in de vergelijkende en internationale politiek
Publicatiejaar
2016
Promotor(en)
Edith Drieskens
Kernwoorden
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