The United States said on Saturday it is “deeply disappointed that President Paul Kagame has announced his intention to run for a third term in office”.
The spokesperson for that country’s Department of State, an equivalent of Nigeria’s foreign ministry, said with his decision to take a third shot at the Rwandan presidency, “President Kagame ignores an historic opportunity to reinforce and solidify the democratic institutions the Rwandan people have for more than twenty years laboured so hard to establish”.
The statement by John Kirby added, “The United States believes constitutional transitions of power are essential for strong democracies and that efforts by incumbents to change rules to stay in power weaken democratic institutions.
“We are particularly concerned by changes that favour one individual over the principle of democratic transitions.
“As Rwanda moves toward local elections this year, presidential elections next year, and parliamentary elections in 2018, we call upon the Government of Rwanda to ensure and respect the rights of its citizens to exercise their freedom of expression, conscience, and peaceful assembly — the hallmarks of true democracies.
“The United States remains committed to supporting the free and full participation of the Rwandan people in the electoral processes ahead.”
Mr. Kagame recently instigated a constitutional change in his country which cleared him to run for a third term of office.
The adjustment of the presidential term rules was done despite the unfolding political crisis in neighbouring Burundi.
At least 200 people have died and tens of thousands have left the country after months of violence and protests since President Pierre Nkurunziza declared he would seek a third term in office, which he then won in a contested vote in July.
Mr. Nkurunziza, a former Hutu rebel leader, became Burundi’s first democratically elected president after its civil war, but is now reluctant to leave power.
In a touch of irony, Mr. Kagame recently gave a speech pointedly critical of Mr. Nkurunziza, saying he was allowing his people to die.
“No one knows where he is, no one can talk to him, how he leads his people, people are dying every day, dead bodies are being dragged on the streets every day,’’ Mr. Kagame said.
In October, Congo Republic voted in a referendum which cleared its 72-year old President, Denis Sassou Nguesso, to legally stand for a third consecutive term in next year’s election.
In October 2014, Burkina Faso’s leader of 27 years was toppled, amid violent protests as he made to stay put in office.