Thursday, July 16, 2015

Rwanda: US opposed to president Kagame's third term bid

The United States on Wednesday reiterated its opposition to a third term for Rwanda President Paul Kagame.

The US comment, made in response to a query from The EastAfrican, follows the Rwandan Parliament's vote to amend the country's constitution to remove a provision barring a president from serving more than two terms.

"The United States has consistently called for African leaders across the continent to respect term limits," said Rodney Ford, spokesman for the State Department's Africa Bureau.

"We do not support changing constitutions to benefit the personal or political interests of individuals or parties."

Washington said last month in regard to the move to enable Mr Kagame to run again that "democracy is best advanced through the development of strong institutions, not strongmen." The State Department added in June: "We are committed to support peaceful, democratic transition in 2017 to a new leader elected by the Rwandan people."

Despite apparently broad support in Rwanda for Mr Kagame remaining in office beyond 2017, the Obama administration's disapproval is likely to carry weight for the country dependent on development aid from the US.

State Department officials have also criticised Rwanda's human rights record under President Kagame, who first took office in 2003.

"Alongside Rwanda’s remarkable development progress, there have been equally consistent efforts to reduce space for independent voices and to diminish the ability of the media, opposition groups and civil society to operate," Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Steven Feldstein recently told the US Congress.

The Rwandan Parliament's move to change the constitution is the first step in a process that also must also involve a national referendum. But the outcome of such a vote would generate little suspense.

More than half the country's enrolled voters are reported to have signed a petition calling for revision of the article in the constitution limiting a president to two terms.

- The East African

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