The Government of Botswana partnered with the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to co-host an Africa-wide Summit on Constitutionalism and Democratic Consolidation in Gaborone, from July 6 to 8, 2022. The Summit was part of Botswana’s commitments for the year of action, following the global 2021 Summit for Democracy. Additional partners associated with the Summit were: Open Society Foundations – Africa, Kofi Annan Foundation, Katiba Institute, Afrobarometer, Tournons la Page, Africtivistes, African Network of Constitutional Lawyers, Presidential Precinct, and the University of Botswana.
The vision for the Gaborone Summit was to promote democratic progress and resilience while countering democratic backsliding and the erosion of constitutionalism across the continent. The occasion also celebrated Botswana’s efforts to champion democracy in Africa.
His Excellency Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, President of the Republic of Botswana officially launched the summit, and Under Secretary Uzra Zeya provided recorded remarks, as did former President Mahamadou Issofou of Niger. Participants included sitting African Heads of State who shared virtual messages, former African Heads of State, civil society leaders, academics, influential thought leaders, university graduate students and media professionals. At the opening ceremony, President Masisi received a symbolic award of the “Term Limits Baton” from Tournons la Page (TLP), for his commitment to respect term limits and pass the baton of leadership to a successor in accordance with the country’s constitution. The elbow shake with David Dosseh of TLP is a powerful image of shared commitment among political leaders and civic actors to furthering constitutional norms and practices.
At the conclusion of two and a half days of very productive deliberations, participants issued the “Gaborone Declaration in Support of Constitutionalism and Democratic Consolidation” which commends the peaceful transfer of executive power through credible and inclusive elections and the strengthening of democratic practices in a number of African countries. However, participants also noted with concern that in recent years, the democratic trend across the continent has shifted from one of democratic expansion and consolidation to one of autocratic resurgence and democratic decline. The Declaration laments that the reluctance of some leaders to adhere to constitutional term limits denies the continent’s youth opportunities for their participation in the peaceful and orderly renewal of political leadership and alternation of power. Forward looking, it celebrates Africa’s youthful population which is eager to participate and contribute to democratic governance and development.
Some of the commitments made by the participants include:
- Promoting and defending principles of constitutionalism and enhancing democratic consolidation
- Supporting ethical leadership and thriving societies
- Facilitating inclusive democratic processes and the renewal of political leadership
- Promoting efforts to respect and restore presidential term limits
The Declaration urges former Heads of State with a commitment to democratic norms, to continue contributing to the strengthening of democracy on the continent through their good offices in collaboration with civil society.
The Gaborone Declaration builds on the Constitutional Term Limits Summit held in Niamey, Niger Republic in October 2019, and its Niamey Declaration of Principles.