Kagame dinks question on fourth term bid

Kagame dinks question on fourth term bid
Rwandan President Paul Kagame

Kagame has been at the helm of Rwandan leadership since stopping a genocide that killed more than a million people - the majority of them the Tutsi ethnic community - in July 1994.

President Paul Kagame has said his Rwandan electorate are there to decide whether he is the most qualified for the job - dinking the question on his fourth term bid and its implication on the tetchy succession issue that appears to plague most African leaders.

Kagame late last year announced year would run for a fourth term in office this July - potentially extending his grip on the central African nation to three decades.

But speaking in an interview during the plenary sessions at the World Governments Summit in Dubai on Monday, the Rwandan leader avoided committing on whether he believes he is the most qualified person for the job.

"The elections are for people to decide whether the people they're electing are qualified for the job," Kagame said.

"We will see, voting counts, and history counts.”

Most African leaders who have stayed in power for more than a decade avoid the succession question and refer instead to an election they organise as a benchmark for the people's confidence in their leadership.

Kagame has been at the helm of Rwandan leadership since stopping a genocide that killed more than a million people - the majority of them the Tutsi ethnic community - in July 1994.

He initially stayed in the shadows but stepped up to the light in 2000 following the resignation of Pasteur Bizimungu - whom he had deputised whilst holding the powerful defence docket.

Speaking to French magazine Jeune Afrique last September, Kagame said he was “happy with the confidence" that the Rwandans have in him.

“I will always serve them, as much as I can. Yes, I am indeed a candidate,” he said.

In 2003, Rwanda changed the constitution giving Kagame a seven-year tenure renewable only once.

But in 2015, Rwandan politicians led by Kagame’s dominant RPF-Inkotanyi party returned over 90 percent call for fresh amendments in which he was not only allowed to run for a third term in 2017 but also another two five-year terms starting in 2024.

Victoire Ingabire, leader of Opposition party Development and Liberty For All, told this reporter last year that Kagame has a chance to end Rwanda’s history of strongmen who cling to power by organising a free and fair transition instead.

“This is the only way to safeguard the achievement that he has brought about in Rwanda during his presidency,” Ingabire said.

She said the consensual democracy the RPF implemented has transformed into a political system that suppresses dissent, restricts pluralism and curbs liberty in Rwanda.

“The Rwandan government abuses its power, collaborating with the judicial system to criminalise its critics under the silent watch of the legislature,” Ingabire added.

Kagame has won every election by a landslide, the 2017 vote going his way 98.63 per cent.

But the Opposition always cited intimidation and lack of democracy. The last two women to attempt to go after Kagame’s seat, Ingabire and Diane Rwigara, have both ended in prison over various charges.

However, Kagame said he was no longer bothered by international criticism and that what the West thinks is “not our problem”.

“Personally, I no longer know what corresponds to Western values. What is democracy? The West dictating to others what they should do? But if they violate their own principles, how do we listen to them?

“Seeking to transplant democracy to someone else is already a violation of democracy in itself. People are supposed to be independent and should be allowed to organise themselves as they wish.”

But Ingabire said the past and present show that Rwanda has a democracy deficit and lack efficient rule of law.

'Africa must decide its future'

During the interview in Dubai, Kagame said it is up to Africa to decide its future, and that it must be powerful so it can decide its own fate.

Kagame reiterated his challenge to the continent to take responsibility in rejecting foreign influence by standing firm enough so that the world gets to see that Africa is not there for anybody’s taking.

“This is a responsibility we carry, this is something that is urgent, to make sure we are not there to take a certain line or the other line because it has been decided so by someone else," Kagame said.

“Africa must be that powerful to make sure we do what has determined by ourselves to be important to us and our people.”

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