The Rwandan Senate [official website] unanimously voted [press release] on Tuesday to allow President Paul Kagame [official website] to seek a third term in office. This vote is a step in the ongoing process to amend the 2003 Constitution [text, PDF] following a petition from the citizens. The Senate voted to restructure 16 articles and revise 32 others, specifically amending Article 101 that stipulated a presidential term is seven years with a two-term limit. Article 172 now seeks to amend Article 101, and could allow Kagame to hold the presidency [East African report] until 2034 because the amendment would reset the clock on the term limits at the end of his presidency in 2017. The Rwandan parliament used Article 193 to justify [statement] the changes to the constitution:
Parliamentarians came back convinced that the people of Rwanda have carefully and deliberately considered their supreme interest in requesting to amend the provision of Article 101. That was a very clear message of the people to the Senators and Deputies, and it was understood. In democracy, what other voices should the representatives of the people hear, other than the people of Rwanda? The Senate of Rwanda, bearing in mind the petitions of more than 3.7 million Rwandans, has today approved the relevance of the draft constitutional amendment, in recognition of the sovereign and democratic right of the people to exercise “national sovereignty.”
The Chamber of Deputies must vote on the final draft before the bill can be ratified.
Kagame has been highly revered among the international community and the people of Rwanda for how he has stabilized the region after the Rwanda genocide [JURIST news archive]. Kagame has not explicitly sought reelection [JURIST report], but he has expressed interest, and this proposed amendment would give him the vehicle to do so. 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.