Rwanda court to rule on Kagame legal challenge

Rwanda’s Supreme Court said Wednesday it would hear a challenge by the country’s main opposition party to counter moves allowing President Paul Kagame a third term.

“After thorough scrutiny, the Supreme Court found every reason to hear this case,” Judge Immaculee Nyirinkwaya said, dismissing government objections, and setting September 23 for the hearing.

The Democratic Green Party is opposing changes to Article 101 of the constitution, which limits the number of presidential terms to two.

Kagame was elected first in 2003 and again in 2010 and thus cannot stand for a third time.

“We are glad now that the Supreme Court has accepted our case,” party president Frank Habineza said.

Over 3.7 million people — over 60 percent of voters — have signed a petition calling for changes to Article 101.

Any change to the constitution would require approval by at least three-quarters of both parliamentary houses, followed by a national referendum.

The Democratic Green Party argues Article 101 is “intangible” and cannot be changed by a plebiscite.

Lawmakers in July began a national tour to gather opinions after both houses of parliament voted in support of constitutional change.

The move comes amid a wider controversy in Africa over efforts by leaders to change constitutions in order to stay in office.

Kagame, 57, has been at the helm since 1994, when an offensive by his ethnic Tutsi rebel force, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), put an end to a genocide by Hutu extremists in which an estimated 800,000 people were massacred, the vast majority of them Tutsis.

He first served as defence minister and vice president, and then took the presidency by winning 95 percent of the vote. He was re-elected with a similarly resounding mandate.

Kagame says the decision on a third term is for the “Rwandan people”.

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