Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

IN THE PAPERS

A piece of history: Five former US presidents gather for Puerto Rico benefit

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Chic hotels and horse races: Calais tries to shed its 'Jungle' image

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Kenyatta and Odinga call for peace before Kenya's election rerun

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Kurdish referendum a ‘colossal mistake’, says son of late president Talabani

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

The new 30s club: NZ's Jacinda Ardern joins list of maverick leaders

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

After Raqqa; Xi's the boss; and Spain enters unchartered waters

Read more

REPORTERS

The Dictator's Games: A rare look inside Turkmenistan

Read more

#TECH 24

Teaching maths with holograms

Read more

DOWN TO EARTH

Is China exporting its pollution?

Read more

Africa

Rwandans vote to lift limits on President Kagame's rule

© AFP file photo | Rwandan voters support President Paul Kagame's right to rule until 2034

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2015-12-19

Rwandans voted overwhelmingly on Friday in support of changing the constitution to allow President Paul Kagame to extend his term in office, possibly until 2034, partial results released by the electoral commission showed.

Kagame would be able to run again in 2017 after his second mandate ends if the changes are passed as expected. Kagame, 58, has been president since 2000 but effectively in control since his rebel force marched into Kigali in 1994 to end a genocide.

"The tendency is that a Yes vote shall win by 98.1 percent and the No vote will be at 1.9 percent. But this is the provisional results from 21 districts which represents 70
percent of the 30 districts that voted," National Electoral Commission chairman Kalisa Mbanda said in a televised announcement of the provisional results.

Charles Munyaneza, the commission's executive secretary, said the rest of the results would be released on Saturday at 1100 a.m. (0900 GMT).

The vote took place despite criticism of such an amendment by the United States and other Western donors.

Kagame has not said if he would run again, but is widely expected to. Asked at the polling station if he would stay on, he told reporters: "What is happening is the people's choice. Ask people why they want me."

Under the constitutional changes, Kagame could seek another seven-year term and two five-year terms after that.

The United States, a major donor that has praised Kagame for rebuilding the nation since the genocide, said this month Kagame should resist the lure of power and step down in 2017 to allow a new generation of leaders to come through.

The debate about extending presidential terms has swept other African nations. It has triggered violence and instability in Burundi and Congo Republic, but not in Rwanda.

"Rwanda is secure now and it's thanks to him," Musa Habimana, 60, a businessman, said after voting, echoing the views of many who back a leader credited with ending a massacre in which 800,000 mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

Nationalist songs blared in some polling stations. The lyrics of one included the words: "We shall protect the country. We shall protect its leaders."

Despite Kagame's success in delivering economic and social change, rights groups accuse the government of stifling the media and political opposition, a charge it denies.

"Elections in Rwanda have never been transparent, so even if I could go, my 'no' vote would not be counted," said one woman who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions.

The tiny Democratic Green Party, the only real opposition party, tried to block the move in court but the case was rejected. It complained it could not campaign either. "It was
not a level playing field," said party leader Frank Habineza.

Western diplomats also said the changes were rushed through.

"Kagame clearly enjoys considerable public support across the country, but it is difficult to know what many Rwandans really think," wrote Carina Tertsakian of Human Rights Watch, citing restrictions on free speech.

The government has dismissed such criticism. It says the decision to change the constitution and hold a referendum was taken after a public petition was presented to parliament with 3.7 million signatories in a nation of 11 million people.

(REUTERS)
 

Date created : 2015-12-19

  • RWANDA

    Count begins in vote to allow Rwanda’s Kagame a third term

    Read more

  • RWANDA

    Rwanda to hold referendum on Kagame third term

    Read more

  • RWANDA

    Leading Rwandan genocide suspect arrested in DR Congo

    Read more

COMMENT(S)