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US: African Leaders Should Honor Constitutional Term Limits

FILE - U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield, right, accompanied by USAID Assistant Administrator for Bureau for Democracy Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance Nancy Lindborg, testifies on Capitol Hill.

The Obama administration says African leaders should honor constitutional term limits.

The U.S. assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said President Barack Obama's call for strong institutions in Africa includes respecting limits on power.

"If constitutions call for term limits, then those term limits need to be honored. And we have been very clear in discouraging African leaders from making changes in their constitution that will benefit one person, one party, to allow that person to stay in power longer than the constitution intended for them to stay in power."

Taking questions from reporters Wednesday, before next month's African leaders summit in Washington, Thomas-Greenfield was asked about prospects that Burkina Faso President Blaise Compare and Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila might change their constitutions to run again.

Upcoming summit

The diplomat said "there is absolutely no confusion" about Washington's position on rolling back term limits. She said the administration has made its views on the subject known "to all of the leaders where there are attempts to make changes in the constitution."

Fifty-one African leaders have been invited to next month's summit, every leader on the continent except Sudan's Omar al-Bashir, Eritrea's Isaias Afwerki, and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe.

Thomas-Greenfield said the summit will include talks on combating threats from the al-Qaida-linked groups al-Shabab and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, as well as the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram. U.S. officials are in Nigeria to help in the hunt for young women kidnapped by the group, which is blamed for thousands of deaths in recent years.

"It is still an ongoing battle. Our ultimate goal is to stop Boko Haram, to stop the kidnappings and to bring the girls home as well as others who have been kidnapped by Boko Haram."

Thomas-Greenfield also called for rival factions in South Sudan to honor the terms of a ceasefire, and prevent what she calls a "man-made famine" because farmers can not get to their fields.