President Obama delivered a blunt message to African leaders on Tuesday, saying democratic progress is damaged when leaders refuse to step aside at the end of their terms.
“I actually think I’m a pretty good president,” Obama said. “I think if I ran, I could win. But I can’t. … The law is the law.”
Obama’s comments came during the first-ever presidential speech to the African Union, which capped off his five-day trip to Kenya and Ethiopia.
The president said Africa cannot reach its full potential until nations fully embrace democracy.
He singled out the president of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, who won a third term this month in an election that the U.S. and other nations have said is not credible.
But Obama’s comments also raised intrigue in the United States, where he only has 18 months left in office and the 2016 presidential campaign is well underway.
Obama quipped “I do not understand” why leaders want to stay in office after their terms are up and said he’s looking forward to his post-presidency.
“I won’t have such a big security detail all the time,” he said. “It means I can go take a walk, I can spend more time with my family. I can find other ways to serve. I can visit Africa more often.”
The president’s address focused on politics in Africa, but he also spoke about the need for new blood, a remark that could have resonance in the 2016 presidential race.
"I’m still a pretty young man, but I know that someone with new insights and new energy will be good for my country,” he said.
“Old people think old ways; you can see my gray hair. I am getting old,” he added at the end of his speech. “Old thinking can be a stubborn thing. But I believe the human heart is stronger. And hearts can change. And then minds open."