Rwanda’s Paul Kagame has finally yielded to his citizens’ pressure to run for a 3rd term of office as President.
Kagame announced his intention on Friday to seek a third term in 2017, confirming a decision that was widely expected after the approval of constitutional changes that could allow him to stay in office for years to come, Reuters News Agency reported early this morning.
“You requested me to lead the country again after 2017,” Mr. Kagame said in a televised address to the nation.
“You requested me to lead the country again after 2017. Given the importance and consideration you attach to this, I can only accept,” he said.
But,” he quickly cautioned, “I do not think our aim is to have a President for life, nor is it what I would want.”
The announcement comes on the heels of a massively supported referendum that sought to change the country’s constitution to allow a president serve more terms beyond 2017.
The ‘Yes’ vote garnered over 98%.
Several western countries, particularly the U.S, have urged Kagame to step down but he has told them to mind their business because Rwandans know what is good for them and have capacity to decide their destiny.
In a move to assuage critics, Kagame hinted on leaving office and peacefully transferring it to another person in an orderly way.
“Sooner rather than later, this office will be transferred from one person to another in a manner that will serve a purpose, not merely set an example, whether for ourselves or others.”
The end of year announcement is a new year gift to millions of Rwandans who a week earlier, during the National Council Dialogue (Umushyikirano ) urged him to give them a Christmas gift by accepting to run for a 3rd term.
Kagame who largely remained cagey about the issue, has been repeatedly arguing that Term Limits do not solve the fundamental problems of Africa and that even Countries with such limits were not performing optimally and were worse off.
Kagame who became President in 2000 is credited with stabilizing the country and promoting economic growth after the 1994 Genocide.
Rwanda under Kagame has regained its dignity and international reputation, winning eight international rankings last year, with a World Bank report saying Kigali City was among the top six countries in the world with a better business environment for its dwellers.
Critics however maintain that teetoteller president is an authoritarian ruler who does not tolerate dissent.
Below is the full speech!
President Kagame’s New Year’s Message
Kigali, 1 January 2016
Fellow Rwandans, Friends of Rwanda,
I would like to convey to you my best wishes for a happy New Year. May 2016 bring your aspirations closer, including for our nation’s progress.
The year that has just ended was eventful and positive for our country. The unity of our people is unshakeably strong, and the work of nation-building continues apace.
Against this background, in order to fortify the gains we have made, Rwandans asked for a revised Constitution, which they approved in the recent referendum.
You clearly expressed your choices for the future of our country.
The process allowed us the time to make certain that the proposed changes had merit and wisdom.
You requested me to lead the country again after 2017. Given the importance and consideration you attach to this, I can only accept.
What remains is to follow the normal laws and procedures when the time comes.
But I do not think our aim is to have a President for life, nor is it what I would want.
Sooner rather than later, this office will be transferred from one person to another in a manner that will serve a purpose, not merely set an example, whether for ourselves or others.
That is why we need to remain fully engaged on Rwanda’s journey of transformation.
After all, the conditions for maintaining political stability are actually the same as those needed to build the prosperity that we can already see on the horizon.
Rwandans are optimistic about the future and have confidence in the direction chosen. This should reassure Rwanda’s friends and partners as well.
Even misguided or deliberately harmful criticism can be the start of a conversation that leads to greater understanding on all sides.
What is important is that we respect each other.
If we stay the course, I have no doubt that we will reach our goals.
My family and I wish all Rwandans a Happy New Year