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Rwanda lawmakers debate allowing Kagame third term bid

Zacharias Abubeker, AFP | Rwandan President Paul Kagame attends a press conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on April 16, 2015

Rwanda's parliament is to debate changing the country's constitution in order to allow strongman and President Paul Kagame to stand for a third consecutive term in elections in 2017, an official said Wednesday.

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The debate, set to take place over the next two months, was prompted by parliament being handed petitions signed by a total of two million people – or roughly 17 percent of the population – asking for the constitution to be changed, the head of the chamber, Donatilla Mukabalisa, told AFP.

"We have received two million requests," she said, explaining that parliament has been receiving a number of what she insisted were spontaneous letters and petitions from individuals, groups or associations.

Kagame, 57, has been at the top of Rwandan politics since 1994, when an offensive by his ethnic Tutsi rebel force, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), put an end to a genocide by Hutu extremists that left an estimated 800,000 of his community dead.

He first served as minister of defence and vice president, and then took the presidency in 2003, winning 95 percent of the vote. He was re-elected in 2010 with a similarly resounding mandate.

Rwanda's constitution, however, does not allow for a third term so it would need to be modified.

Rwandan officials have strongly denied that it is Kagame who is seeking a third term, insisting that the president -- hailed by his supporters as a guarantor of stability and economic development -- has popular demand for him to stay.

(AFP)

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