East Africa

Paul Kagame wants a third term as Rwanda president

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Kigali Rwandan President Paul Kagame has brushed off speculation that he will run for a third term — a move that would require a change to the constitution — and said he does not need to stay in office beyond 2017.

However, Kagame did not clearly rule out the possibility of extending his time at the helm if it was what Rwandans wanted.

He has won international praise for Rwanda’s economic development since the 1994 genocide that tore the east African country apart along its ethnic seams. But political opponents and foreign critics accuse Kagame of being authoritarian.

Kagame won a second term by a huge margin in 2010 but has effectively been at the helm since his Rwandan Patriotic Rebels seized power in July 1994, ending the three-month genocide that left more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead. Then, the UN, under the leadership of Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Gali, failed to act in the early days of the massacre. A small force of UN peacekeepers from Belgium were woefully inadequate and unable to act.

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Boutros-Gali, it later emerged, had agreed to a secret arms-supply deal between Cairo and Kigali while he was Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in the Egyptian government.

Rwanda’s constitution limits presidents to two seven-year terms. Kagame’s opponents say they will oppose any changes to the two-term cap and some want the term shortened to five years.

Rwanda and ten other African countries signed a deal last month aimed at ending two decades of violence in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a mineral-rich region where Rwanda has a history of meddling.

Rwanda has repeatedly denied accusations made by UN experts that it backed the latest significant rebellion to flare up in eastern Congo. Kigali has rebuffed allegations that senior Rwandan military officials have created, equipped, trained and directly commanded the Congolese M23 rebel movement.

Front-runner

The former President of Ireland Mary Robinson is the top candidate for the post of UN special envoy to Africa’s Great Lakes region, where she would help implement a peace deal to end the conflict in eastern Congo, UN sources said

“She is the front-runner and is very likely to get the job, but it’s not a done deal yet,” a UN official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

A UN Security Council diplomat also told Reuters about Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s desire to name Robinson to the post.

In addition to having been Ireland’s president from 1990-97, Robinson, 68, was the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997-2002.

M23 began taking parts of eastern Congo early last year, accusing the government of failing to honour a 2009 peace deal. That deal ended a previous rebellion and led to the rebels’ integration into the army, but they have since deserted.

African leaders signed a UN-mediated regional accord late last month aimed at ending two decades of conflict in eastern Congo and paving the way for the intervention force.

Western donors, including the European Union, reacted to the accusations of Rwandan support for the rebels by suspending budgetary support to Kigali, forcing the finance ministry to revise its growth forecasts downwards.

Germany and Britain have since released about $30 million (Dh110 million) but are not channelling the funds as general budget support.

Critics have accused Kagame of being authoritarian and stifling media and political freedoms. He rejects the accusations, and points to his record of leading his country’s recovery from the 1994 genocide.

Although there are a small number of opposition parties, critics of Kagame say they have ties to the ruling RPF party and do not constitute a true opposition.

Opponents of Kagame say independent opposition groups have been barred from registering, citing the case of the unregistered Democratic Green party and the FDU-Inkingi party of jailed opposition figure Victoire Ingabire.

submitted by Joshua Rukudo

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