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Obama to African leaders: No one should be president for life

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Evan Vucci/AP

(Read caption) President Obama delivers a speech to the African Union, Tuesday, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Mr. Obama rebuked African leaders who refused to quit power.

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President Obama has called on African presidents to respect their constitutions and step down when their terms end.  

Speaking during a keynote address to the African Union, a member organization of 54 African nations, at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Mr. Obama urged the AU to use its authority to help make sure African leaders stick to their term limits and follow their constitutions.

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"No one should be president for life," Obama said.

"I just don't understand" the phenomenon of leaders who refuse to step aside when their terms end. "There's still so much I want to get done to keep America moving forward. But the law is the law and no one is above it, not even presidents," Obama said. "And, frankly, I'm looking forward to life after being president. It will mean more time with my family, new ways to serve, and more visits to Africa."

Refusal to step down from office has led to political strife in many African nations. In November 2014, Burkina Faso’s Blaise Campaore was forced to resign after his plans to extend his 27-year rule were met with massive protests. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni secured a change to the constitution in 2005 allowing himself a third term. He still holds the nation's highest post after first assuming office in 1986. More recently, Burundi's Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a third term despite controversy over whether he was eligible to run again. A United Nations observer mission said the elections were not inclusive free and credible. 

Obama's speech on Tuesday closed his five day Africa trip. The president first flew to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi to attend a US-sponsored business development summit. Throughout his visit, Obama spoke out against corruption.

While in Kenya, the president stressed the stifling effect of corruption on the country’s promise for prosperity and urged Kenya to hold "visible" trials to tackle corruption, the BBC reported. 

“Across the country, one study shows corruption costs Kenyans 250,000 jobs every year – because every shilling that’s paid as a bribe could be put into the pocket of somebody who’s actually doing an honest day’s work,” The Christian Science Monitor reported. “If someone in public office is taking a cut they don’t deserve, that’s taking away from the people who are paying their fair share...  It is important that not only low level corruption is punished but folks at the top if they are taking from the people."

This report includes material from the Associated Press.