Rwandan senate debates constitutional change for Kagame 3rd term



Rwanda’s upper house of parliament debated Thursday a constitutional amendment enabling President Paul Kagame to run for a third consecutive term in 2017 and potentially paving the way for the strongman to remain in power till 2034.

Senate president Bernard Makuza said the proposals would now be considered by a senate committee on politics and good governance, before returning to the upper house for voting.

The proposed constitutional changes were passed last week by lawmakers in the lower house. If, as is widely expected, it is passed by the senate, the changes will then be put to a national referendum — also expected to pass with little outspoken opposition.

If approved, it could see Kagame potentially rule until 2034, four decades since he effectively took power.

Rwanda’s lower house voted unanimously to approve cutting presidential terms from the current seven to five years, and maintain a two-term limit.

But an exception was made for Kagame, who would be allowed to run for another seven-year term after his current mandate ends in 2017.

After those seven years, he could then potentially run for another two terms of five years each.

Kagame has run Rwanda since his rebel army ended the 1994 genocide and ousted Hutu extremists.

He won elections in 2003 and 2010 and, under the current law, is due to step aside in 2017 at the end of his second term.

But earlier this year, more than 60 percent of voters signed a petition calling for constitutional changes to be drafted that would allow Kagame to stand again.

Supporters portray Kagame as a guarantor of post-genocide stability and the economic growth that has transformed the country over the past 20 years.

But critics say the move is orchestrated by a government and leader with an iron grip on a country where freedom of expression is severely curtailed, and is merely part of a wider trend of African leaders seeking to stay put.

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