Rwanda: Green Light for Kagame
Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 20th December, 2015
Rwandans this week voted in a referendum in favour of changing the country’s constitution by a provisionally announced margin of 98.4% to 1.6%. The changes were notably to remove the current limitation of the president’s terms of office. The incumbent, Paul Kagame, 58, took power in 1994 in the turmoil after the country’s genocide and was subsequently elected twice as President. Under the constitution (before amendment) he would have been precluded from standing for a third term, but with the changes that the voters have approved he could in theory keep getting elected until 2034, though he has given no indication he wants to stay that long. The United States and the EU, which are major aid donors to this landlocked East African country, had urged the government in Kigali not to proceed with the term limit changes as they believe that the era of African rulers staying in power for decades without allowing alternative leaders to emerge has long passed. Moreover, attempts by the sitting presidents in neighbouring Burundi and DR Congo to run for an unconstitutional third term have caused massive unrest there. But that has not been the case in Rwanda, where Mr Kagame has overseen a remarkable period of national reconciliation and economic growth. To outside observers, the figure of 98.4% in favour of constitutional changes might seem fishy, but some individuals who are not happy with the changes told foreign journalists it was not worth voting in the referendum as everyone knew what the result would be and there was blanket coverage in the local media urging a Yes vote.