[JURIST] Rwanda’s lower house of Parliament [official website] on Thursday voted to extend the term of President Paul Kagame [official website] beyond 2017, a move opposed by the UN and other aid providers. Already in his second term, Kagame may soon be provided an exception to the nation’s constitutional rule limiting presidents to two seven-year terms. Although he has not explicitly sought reelection, Kagame has expressed interest in doing so. If the Chamber of Deputies initiative is able to pass both the Senate [official website] and a referendum, Kagame’s allies in Parliament will have provided him a vehicle to be president until 2034. The initiative to extend Kagame’s reign started as a petition signed by 3.7 million people and has snowballed into a legitimate effort to keep a president that many Rwandans credit for rebuilding the nation after the 1994 genocide. The Chamber of Deputies also passed [Parliament report] an amendment to the constitution shortening future presidencies to two five-year terms.
Kagame has been highly revered among the international community for his role in rebuilding Rwanda after the 1994 genocide, which left 800,000 people dead. Amid international condemnation [State Department press release], Rwanda’s Supreme Court in September agreed to hear [JURIST report] a case challenging the constitutionality of extending Kagame’s reign. Such challenges may be futile, however, as Kagame’s popularity is fueled by continued prosecution of individuals responsible for the 1994 genocide. Last July the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) unanimously affirmed [JURIST report] a 30-year jail sentence for former army chief Augustin Bizimungu for the role he played in the genocide. In December 2012 the ICTR convicted [JURIST report] former Rwandan minister Augustin Ngirabatware, sentencing him to 35 years in prison on charges of genocide, incitement to commit genocide and rape as a crime against humanity.