D-Day (s): Rwanda’s constitution amendment referendum set for next week

DECISION TIME: President Paul Kagame of Rwanda will announce whether or not he is running for the third controversial term after next week's referendum on the constitutional change

DECISION TIME: President Paul Kagame of Rwanda will announce whether or not he is running for the third controversial term after next week’s referendum on the constitutional change.

The long awaited referendum on whether or not to amend Rwanda’s 2003 constitution and allow President Paul Kagame to run for the third term is due to take place next week both in Rwanda and abroad.

According to this Tuesday’s Cabinet Meeting Chaired by President Kagame, Rwandans in the diaspora will vote next week Thursday, December 17th in the referendum, and Rwandans in the country will participate in the exercise Friday, December 18th.

This development follows Kagame’s recent revelation that his highly anticipated decision on whether or not he is running for the third term is contingent on the outcomes of the referendum.

“The answers you want from me still depend on the outcomes of the referendum, that means I cant decide before it (referendum),”  President Kagame said at his party’s leadership forum over the weekend.

Kagame is both under local and international pressure to make up his mind regarding the third term bid, and at last weekend’s ruling RPF gathering, members had come expecting the 58-year old former freedom fighter to finally announce his decision; that he is indeed running for the third term.

The international community however, wants the Rwandan leader to honour his numerous pledges and step aside for another leader to steer Rwanda forward.

“President Kagame has an opportunity to set an example for a region in which leaders seem too tempted to view themselves as indispensable to their own countries’ trajectories,” said Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the United Nations last week in New York.

The European Union has joined the United States indicating Kagame’s third term run would contravene  the African Charter of Democracy, Elections and Governance.

President Kagame has warned the West not to meddle in his country’s internal politics and as his decision time inches closer, the stage is set for an intense row pitting Kigali authorities and the mighty allies in the West.

The Rwandan leader, who has effectively been in power since the end of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, has repeatedly said “I will not be around as president in 2017″ but if his recent statements are anything to go by, he is set to make a complete reversal and extend his stay in power like his many counterparts in the region.

“We can be good friends, we can agree to disagree but there is a line when it comes to the interest of Rwandans,” said Kagame on Sunday in response to the West’s criticism.

Over the last few months more than 3 million Rwandans have petitioned parliament to amend the constitution, lift the two term-limit provision and allow the popular leader a third term. But critics say his support at home is over exaggerated and that it’s Kagame and his ruling RPF who are manipulating the proceedings.

The Rwandan national assembly has already approved a draft constitution amendment that allow President Kagame to run for the third term.