Rwan­dan se­nate clears Kagame for third term

Up­per house passes con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

KI­GALI: Rwanda’s up­per house of par­lia­ment passed yes­ter­day a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment al­low­ing Pres­i­dent Paul Kagame to run for a third con­sec­u­tive term in 2017, and po­ten­tially re­main in power for the next two decades. The vote was unan­i­mously passed, an AFP re­porter in the se­nate said. The changes to the con­sti­tu­tion will now be put to a na­tional ref­er­en­dum, widely ex­pected to be passed with lit­tle out­spo­ken op­po­si­tion.

“If I ran again, I would do more of what I am do­ing to im­prove the well be­ing of the cit­i­zens of Rwanda,” Kagame said yes­ter­day, in a mes­sage posted on the pres­i­den­tial Twit­ter ac­count. The lower house passed the amend­ments ear­lier this month. Law­mak­ers voted unan­i­mously to ap­prove cut­ting pres­i­den­tial terms from the cur­rent seven to five years, and main­tain a two-term limit. But an ex­cep­tion was made for Kagame, who would be al­lowed to run for an­other sev­enyear term af­ter his cur­rent man­date ends in 2017. Af­ter those seven years, he could then po­ten­tially run for an­other two terms of five years each, which would ex­tend his rule to 2034. Mi­nor changes made by sen­a­tors will now re­turn to the lower house for vot­ing, but those do not in­clude the key sec­tions re­lated to the pos­si­ble ex­ten­sion of Kagame’s rule. Kagame has run Rwanda since his rebel army ended the 1994 geno­cide and ousted Hutu ex­trem­ists. He won elec­tions in 2003 and 2010 and, un­der the cur­rent law, is due to step aside in 2017 at the end of his sec­ond term. Ear­lier this year, more than 60 per­cent of vot­ers signed a pe­ti­tion call­ing for con­sti­tu­tional changes to be drafted that would al­low Kagame to stand again.

Kagame’s aides have in­sisted that any bid for a third term would be in re­sponse to “pop­u­lar de­mand” that he stay in power. Supporters por­tray Kagame as a guar­an­tor of post-geno­cide sta­bil­ity and the eco­nomic growth that has trans­formed the coun­try over the past 20 years. But crit­ics say the move is or­ches­trated by a gov­ern­ment and leader with an iron grip on a coun­try where free­dom of ex­pres­sion is se­verely cur­tailed, and part of a wider trend of African lead­ers seek­ing to stay put. Rwanda is the north­ern neigh­bor of Bu­rundi, where this year Pres­i­dent Pierre Nku­run­z­iza gained a third con­sec­u­tive term de­spite months of protests and an at­tempted coup.— AFP

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