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Rwanda's Kagame keeps options open

03 April 2015, 10:24

Kigali - Rwandan President Paul Kagame said on Thursday he opposed a limit being lifted on how many terms a leader can serve, but he was open to staying on if people wanted to convince him to run.

The constitution limits presidents to two seven-year terms. Kagame, who was re-elected with a landslide in 2010, said the constitution had been drawn up by the people and they would determine any changes to the charter.

Critics accuse Kagame of trampling on media and political freedoms. But he has also won international praise for the progress made since the 1994 genocide in his bid to transform Rwanda into a middle-income country by 2020.

Several long-standing African leaders are approaching term limits, thrusting the issue into the spotlight on the continent.

In Democratic Republic of Congo, President Joseph Kabila has failed to win support for legal reforms to extend his rule, while in neighbouring Congo Republic, the ruling coalition is calling for constitutional change to scrap a two-term limit.

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza is also considering running for a third term in a vote due on June 26.

Kagame said there were two strands of thinking on term limits in Rwanda. One was against their removal, and the other supported it, he told a rare news conference, called to take questions on a range of subjects.

Yes or no

"These are the two schools of thought. Do you want to know where I belong? I belong to the first one," he said, adding that it was up to those who want him to stay to convince him.

"I am open to going, I'm open to not going," he said.

"Those who think the president should continue, they should convince me," Kagame said. "I'm not asking anybody to change the constitution."

Members of Kagame's Rwanda Patriotic Front, which has an absolute majority in parliament, have called for the president to stay on after the next election in 2017.

Other small parties have also expressed their support for the removal of term limits. The opposition Democratic Green party rejects any moves to extend Kagame's rule.

Kagame's reputation was dented by a UN report in 2013 saying his army with committing war crimes in Democratic Republic of Congo, which he rejected. However, he has been praised for restoring stability after the genocide and engineering Rwanda's rapid economic recovery.

Rwanda's economy is expected to grow by 6.5% this year from 7.0% in 2014, the International Monetary Fund has said.

- Reuters


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