"Let's Wait and See What Happens": Kagame Hints at 2017 Election Run
At a recent event, Rwanda's president Paul Kagame suggested he might change the constitution to allow him to run for a third term in 2017.
President Paul Kagame speaking at the World Economic Forum in 2013. Photograph by WEF/Sebastian Derungs.
Speaking at an event at Tufts University yesterday, Rwanda's President Paul Kagame gave one the biggest hints yet that he may alter the constitution in order to run for a third term in 2017.
Kagame's third term has been a subject of a lot of speculation Kagame himself has made it clear on several occasions he has no interest in a third term.
" President Paul Kagame has reiterated that he is not interested in third term in office and will respect the constitution or what Rwandans will decide in the interest of continued progress and stability in the country after 2017."I have taken that statement on face value and concluded if that is the case then Kagame must be looking for a third way the Russian tandemocracy model springs to mind.
" Kagame has become delusional, his inability separate his administration from the the nation state that is Rwanda. He assures all that he will not alter the constitution to extend his tenure as Rwanda's President but the reality is that he has created a situation where he will be forced to remain in office. Expect an African version of the Putin / Medvedev tandemocracy. There is very little available in the way of attractive retirement options available for autocratic dictators after they lose power. Ask Gaddafi. "
In response to a student’s question concerning what role he would play in the country after his current term ends, Kagame responded: "I have been asked when or whether I am going to leave office right from the time when I started. It is as if I am here just to leave. I'm here to do business on behalf of Rwandans…I don't know what else I can give you on that, but let's wait and see what happens as we go. Whatever will happen, we'll have an explanation."And that explanation it would seem is already in the process of being crafted.
And from the same article that has had the copy function disabled.
Kagame has led Rwanda since 1994 when the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) took control of the country and ended the genocide against the Tutsis. For the first six years, Kagame was a de facto head, but he officially took presidential office in 2000 after his predecessor resigned. He then won elections in 2003 and again in 2010.
Under Rwanda's constitution, presidents are limited to two seven-year terms, but ever since 2010, there has been speculation over whether Kagame would hand over the reins of power come 2017.Clearly there are many who view Kagame's ambitions extending far further than 2017. On the above evidence the tandemocracy option would not appear to be on the table. Radio Netherlands worldwide reports:
" Twagirimana said Kagame was determined to rule for as long as he could. He was responding to a pledge by Kagame that he will step down in 2017 after serving a second term in office.
"Maybe they will change the constitution so he can continue. I think he would like to rule for 20, 30, 50 years like Robert Mugabe," Twagiramana said."
Recently in Rwanda, the media, which is heavily monitored and censored by the government, has published a number of articles in support of a constitutional amendment that would allow Kagame to run again.
These articles tend to frame the issue as a matter of democracy. One letter to The New Times, for example, advised fellow citizens to remember that “a constitution isn’t a straitjacket but a living covenant with built-in rules for amendment as the polity requires. As long as the necessary minimum proportion of Rwandans required by the Constitution want a revision to that sacred document to cater to fundamental change in national need, then we should all be prepared to accept such change."Kagame spent his formative years as a refugee in Uganda and was part of the Ugandan President Museveni circle. Museveni has been very clear on the tendency of African leaders to cling on to power well after their used by date.
“The problem of Africa in general and Uganda in particular is not the people but leaders who want to overstay in power.” He promised Uganda a new constitution that would empower the people and limit the powers and the time a president can serve.
The new constitution came into effect in 1995. Under this constitution, elections for members of parliament and the president should be held every five years and a president can only serve for two terms each of five years."
That was some 27 years ago and Museveni remains in power. Kagame will be with us for somewhat longer than 3 more years it would seem.
Meanwhile, an article last year which followed Kagame’s annual Citizen Outreach programmes, in which he meets with communities across the country, described how “residents appealed to the Head of State to remain in office and pledged to vote for him.” The author, a legal scholar based in the capital, concluded: “In many democracies, it is totally justified to amend the constitution principally to advance the broad shared interests of the citizens or in response to nation’s exigencies at hand. It even befits more when the amendment is steered by the people themselves.”" The author, a legal scholar based in the capital,..." I assume it was published anonymously to save the so called legal scholar the derision of the rest of the international academic community .
Repression in and out of Rwanda
To critics of Kagame, such talk of democratic principles is disingenuous. They claim that Kagame's regime has long been characterised by repression, violence and human rights abuses, all sheltered by a silently complicit West.
In the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, for example, RPF forces are believed to have killed around 35,000 Hutus in reprisal attacks. These “military campaign style mass murders” were catalogued by the UN, but the report was never released, allegedly because of Kagame’s close relationship with the US and the guilt the international community felt for not intervening in the genocide.The Kigali regime has turned the 1994 genocide into its justification for some of the greatest human rights abuses the world has witnessed in the last 20 years, rivaled only by the Israelis and their appalling behaviour with regard to the Palestinians. Six million people have died in the the DR Congo. Genocide can never be forgiven but you can't justify a subsequent genocide on the grounds of a previous one and that it would seem has been the position of the west to date.
Kagame's army has also committed large-scale abuses in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The motivation for Rwanda's incursions into the DRC, the first in 1996, was to root out Hutu génocidaires who still posed a threat, but the RPF went well beyond this. According to 600-page UN report, the Rwandan army killed tens if not hundreds of thousands of Hutus, including women and children, in what some claimed could amount to genocide.Not just Hutus, anyone who stood between the Rwandan army and the mineral wealth of the eastern DR Congo was killed, somewhat unfortunate if the eastern DR Congo was your home.
Domestically, Kagame has also been accused of violence and repression. Although the country holds elections and claims to be democratic, Freedom House classifies Rwanda as 'Not Free'. Dissenting newspapers and journalists are not tolerated and claim to be harassed and intimidated. Opposition leader Victoire Ingabire is currently languishing in jail on what many believe to be trumped up charges. And there have reportedly been several cases of extrajudicial killings. This January, for example, the exiled former intelligence chief, Patrick Karageya, was found murdered in a hotel in South Africa. In the aftermath, Kagame did little to dispel suspicions that the Rwandan government was responsible when he commented, "You can't betray Rwanda and not get punished for it."The truth is you can't oppose Kagame and not get punished for it. The West is slowly waking up to that simple truth.
Over the last two decades, Western governments have largely turned a blind eye to Kagame's repressive tendencies. Many believe this partly because of a sense of guilt at their failure to prevent the 1994 genocide, though as Rwanda specialist Catharine Newbury has pointed out, Kagame is also “extremely adept in speaking a discourse that Westerners want to hear."
Recently, Rwanda's status as an aid darling has started to slip, especially after evidence emerged of its alleged support for the M23 rebels in the eastern DRC, but it remains to be seen how donor countries would respond if Kagame announces he will be running again in 2017. Similarly, while government-backed Rwandan media paint a picture of widespread support for the strongman, it also remains to be seen how the broader Rwandan population would feel about their president's twenty-year rule being extended by a further seven.
The broader Rwandan population will not get a say. We have created another Mugabe and as the economic screws start to tighten, as the West increasingly appalled by the brutality of the Kigali regime closes the aid tap, Kagame will brutalise any opposition within Rwanda. Expect more incursions into the eastern DR Congo, Rwanda has very little in the way of resources.