Rwanda’s Supreme Court may block Kagame’s path to a third term

People power.
People power.
Image: Reuters/Finbarr O'Reilly
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Rwanda’s Supreme Court has ruled that it will hear arguments against a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow presidents to serve more than two terms in office.

Analysts claim that the proposed amendment opens up the possibility for president Paul Kagame to run for office again in 2017, Reuters reports. A hearing has been scheduled for September 23rd.

Before the Rwandan parliament passed the amendment in July, the constitution permitted only two terms in office per president. A popular petition backed by almost 4 million voters called for the change.

“The people have clearly spoken,” one member of parliament who supported the amendment said at the time to New Times, a local publication.

One senator indicated that the change was made so that Kagame could stay in power. “He is the kind of leader we need for the continued development of our country,” Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo, a former president of the Senate, also told New Times.

The US government has criticized these efforts. “We do not support those in positions of power changing constitutions solely for their political self-interest,” US state department spokesman John Kirby told the UK’s Telegraph. This follows president Barack Obama’s comment in August that “nobody should be president for life,” during his visit to east Africa.

Kagame, who led Rwanda out of a brutal genocide that killed an estimated 800,000 of his countrymen, has been in office since 2003. He has not declared that he will run again in 2017; in fact, he has said before that he is not interested in seeking another term.

Nevertheless, Kagame has also suggested that he will adhere to the people’s demands, if they ask him to stay on. ”I think at some point we need to leave countries and people to decide their own affairs,” Kagame told students in Boston last year.

If Kagame runs again, he is likely to win a third term. He won re-election in 2010 with 93% of the vote. Meanwhile, the opposition has never really established itself in Rwanda, with critics suggesting this is by the design of the Kagame leadership. “Opposition political parties and independent newspapers have been suppressed,” a former aide to Kagame wrote earlier this year.