United States has announced that it will not support President Paul Kagame’s pursuit for a third term come 2017.
A State Department diplomat told AFP on Friday that US is “committed to support a peaceful, democratic transition in 2017 to a new leader elected by the Rwandan people”.
The official insisted that United States would not back any attempt to modify the constitution to keep its Kagame in office beyond the next scheduled election.
“The United States believes that democracy is best advanced through the development of strong institutions, not strongmen,” he said.
He added: “Changing constitutions to eliminate term limits in order to favor incumbents is inconsistent with democratic principles and reduces confidence in democratic institutions.”
Rwanda’s 2003 constitution limits the number of presidential terms to two and therefore bars Kagame — elected first in 2003 and again in 2010 — from standing for a third term.
The remarks come at a time Rwanda Parliament is expected to debate a change in the constitution following petitions from civilians allegedly “demanding” that term lifts be lifted and allow Kagame to rule on.
Critics (as opposed to Kagame aides) say the 57-year-old Tutsi and former rebel leader is behind move to review the constitution.
More than a million petitions have been served to Parliament, asking that Article 101 of the Constitution be amended, and most likely, that would end in a Referendum.
In April 2015, Kagame said that Rwandan lives and the future of a nation should not be defined by term limits.
“I am not in this office to serve my own interest,” he said, adding that he “will leave office depending on the future of the country”.
In his address to Rwandans, John V Karuranga, President Rwanda People’s Party, said if Kagame is a law abiding person and a man who loves his country and people, he will preserve the dignity of the Rwandan constitution.
On the other hand, the Social Democratic Party (PSD) president, Vincent Biruta, a minister in the Rwandan government, said that term limits should be lifted even for Kagame.
In Uganda, opposition is fighting hard to restore term limits through electoral reforms.
In Tanzania, President Jakaya Kikwete says he is satisfied with his two terms and will be leaving soon as they are done.
Meanwhile, term limits threw Burundi into civil unrest and a military coup against President Pierrre Nkurunziza that has displaced more than 100,000 people to Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
In South Sudan, President Salva Kiir’s term was extended from 2015 due to the ongoing civil war.
In Burkina Faso last year, supergluing in office led to the burning of the capital and key government offices including Parliament, climaxing with the overthrow of President Blaise Compoare.