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01 Jan 2016 10:12 Rwandan President Says He Will Seek to Extend His 15-Year Rule ©2016 Bloomberg News Paul Richardson (Bloomberg)—
RWANDAN President Paul Kagame said he will run for office again in elections in 2017 after voters approved a change to the constitution to allow him to seek a third term. “You requested me to lead the country again after 2017,” Kagame said in a New Year’s address e-mailed by the presidency in the capital, Kigali.
“Given the importance and consideration you attach to this, I can only accept.” Rwanda’s current constitution limits the president to two seven-year terms. More than 98% of the 6.28 million people who cast ballots in a referendum last month voted in favour of the constitutional amendment.
Kagame, 58, has governed the East African country since 2000, after he led a rebel army that ended the 1994 genocide in which 800,000 people were killed. The amendment would also enable him to stand in two subsequent elections for the future, with a reduced term limit of five years, potentially retaining the country’s top job until 2034.
After 15 years as president, Kagame is the second longest-serving leader of Rwanda after military dictator Juvénal Habyarimana, who clocked nearly 21 years between 1973 and 1994. Should he stay on to 2034, he would have notched up an unprecedented 34 years.
“I do not think our aim is to have a president for life, nor is it what I would want,” Kagame said. “Sooner rather than later, this office will be transferred from one person to another in a manner that will serve a purpose, not merely set an example, whether for ourselves or others.
Attempts by other African leaders to extend their stays in office have sparked protests in recent years. In Burkina Faso, mass demonstrations forced Blaise Compaore to quit in 2014, after almost three decades in power.
Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza’s disputed re-election in July spurred worsening violence in which at least 400 people have died.