Rwanda’s parliament to debate Kagame third term

Officials say there is popular demand for president to continue in office, which current constitution does not allow.

Paul Kagame
Paul Kagame, 57, won a second seven-year term in office in 2010 with more than 90 percent of the votes [EPA]

Rwanda’s parliament is to debate changing the country’s constitution in order to allow President Paul Kagame to stand for a third consecutive term in elections in 2017, according to an official.

Rwanda’s constitution does not allow for a third term, so it would need to be modified.

Officials have strongly denied that it is Kagame who is seeking a third term, insisting that there is popular demand for the president – regarded by his supporters as a guarantor of stability and economic development – to stay.

Talk to Al Jazeera: President Paul Kagame

The debate, set to take place over the next two months, was prompted by parliament being handed petitions signed by a total of two million people – or roughly 17 percent of the population – asking for the constitution to be changed, Donatilla Mukabalisa, head of the chamber, told AFP news agency on Wednesday.

“We have received two million requests,” she said.

Mukabalisa said parliament had been receiving a number of what she insisted were spontaneous letters and petitions from individuals, groups or associations.

Kagame, 57, has been at the top of Rwandan politics since 1994, when an offensive by his ethnic Tutsi rebel force, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), put an end to a genocide by Hutu fighters that left an estimated 800,000 of his community dead.

He first served as minister of defence and vice president, and then took the presidency in 2003, winning 95 percent of the vote.

He was re-elected in 2010 for a second seven-year term with a similarly resounding mandate.

Source: News Agencies