Rwandans give Kagame another shot at extending his rule


Paul Kagame recently said he would run for a third time if the Rwandan people allowed him to, and they have. Rwandans are voting in favor of changing the constitution, thereby allowing President Paul Kagame to seek a third term in office and possibly remain in office until 2034. This comes despite criticism of such an amendment by Western donors.

BBC reports that people have been streaming into Rugunga polling station close to State House in Kigali. But while this latest development means he can run again after his tenure ends in 2017 under the changes, the Rwandan president is yet to disclose whether or not he would run again, but says he is ‘open to persuasion.’

Having commended Kagame for rebuilding the nation since the genocide, the United States said this month that Kagame should resist the lure of power and step down in 2017 to allow the next generation of leaders to emerge.

This is likely to become one of the most recent cases of a long-serving ruler in Africa seeking to extend rule.Similar moves like the subsequent re-election of President Pierre Nkurunziza to a third term mandate in Burundi has given rise to unrest and instability in the country. There have been no reports of violence or unrest in Rwanda so far.

“Rwanda is secure now and it’s thanks to him,” Musa Habimana, 60, a businessman, said after voting, echoing the views of many who back a leader credited with ending a massacre in which 800,000 mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

However not everyone appears to have jumped on the bandwagon. Rights groups have accused the government of stifling the media and political opposition, a charge it denies. Kagame clearly enjoys considerable public support across the country, but it is difficult to know what many Rwandans really think,” Carina Tertsakian of Human Rights Watch wrote giving examples of possible restrictions on free speech. Also Rwanda’s Chief Justice, Sam Rugege threw out the opposition party’s lawsuit to halt any change in the constitution that would support Paul Kagame’s bid for a third time in office, but this was rejected.

The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda said it was not given the opportunity to campaign. “It was not a level playing field,” said party leader Frank Habineza. The Rwandan government is disregarding recent criticism, stating the fact that this constitution and the decision to hold a referendum was taken after a public petition was presented to parliament with 3.7 million signatories in a nation of 11 million people.

Paul Kagame served as both Vice President and Minister of Defence of Rwanda from 1994 – 2000. He was then elected as President of Rwanda in 2000, and has held that post till now (attaining victory in elections both in 2003 and 2010).

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