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Rwanda constitutional commission to consider Kagame third term

10 September 2015, 16:53

Kigali - Rwanda has appointed a seven-member commission to review possible constitutional changes to allow President Paul Kagame a third term in power, the justice minister said Thursday.

"This commission is looking at a review of the constitution," Johnston Busingye told reporters.

The move follows a national tour in July by lawmakers to gather opinions after both houses of parliament voted in support of constitutional change, backing a petition signed by millions of citizens.

Over 3.7 million people -- more than 60 percent of voters -- signed the petition calling for a change to Article 101 of the constitution, which limits the president to two terms, according to Rwandan media.

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

Any recommendations by the commission will be voted on in parliament, which if passed by a two-thirds majority, would pave the way for a national referendum.

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

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court said it would hear a challenge by the country's main opposition party, the tiny Democratic Green Party, opposing changes to the constitution, with a hearing due on September 23.

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.

The move comes amid a wider controversy in Africa over efforts by leaders to change constitutions in order to stay in office. The United States this month repeated its opposition to a possible third term.

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