Rwanda: Paul Kagame One Step Closer to Third Term


Rwanda President Paul Kagame is one step closer to a third term in power, after the nation’s lower house of parliament passed the necessary constitutional amendment.

The decision means Kagame could be constitutionally eligible to run for a third term in the 2017 elections – and potentially remain in power until 2034. This would mark a total of four decades at the helm of Rwanda, since he became the de facto leader in 1994 (president in 2000).


Another step closer

The change still needs to be passed by the upper house, before moving to a national referendum, but the amendment is expected to pass through proceedings with little opposition.

Kagame’s government has claimed overwhelming support from the public to see the leader extend his stay in power. It had previously moved to cut presidential terms from the current seven years to five and limit each given president to a total of two terms.

However, lawmakers unanimously voted to make an exception for the acting president and a public vote says 60% of Rwandan voters support the move.


A response to ‘popular demand’

Kagame’s aides insist the campaign is nothing more than a response to popular demand from the people of Rwanda. Kagame is largely seen as the man responsible for ending the genocide in 1994 and bringing the country to economic stability.

However, critics say the move has been orchestrated by a leader with a quiet iron grip on the country, where freedom of expression is tightly controlled.

Opposition to the move has been eerily quiet too. Only the Democratic Green Pary of Rwanda has made a formal appeal to the Supreme Court over Kagame’s proposed third term.

“The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda takes on this opportunity to request the Rwandan Senate to scrutinize this draft, remove the inconsistency and make appropriate changes before submitting the final draft for the referendum,” the party said in a statement. The challenge was swiftly dismissed.

Rwanda’s northern neighbour Burundi has been plunged into national crisis since President Nkurunziza announced his plans to run for a third term in power. Fears that African democracy is being compromised and civil wars could escalate has become a major concern for African and international bodies.


Featured image:

Paul Kagame, 2009 World Economic Forum on Africa” by Copyright World Economic Forum / Matthew Jordaan – Africa as the World’s potential Breadbasket – World Economic Forum on Africa 2009. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.