Rwanda: Kagame tells US to back off as third term rift deepens

KAGAME SHOULD STEP ASIDE: US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power

KAGAME SHOULD STEP ASIDE: US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power

The President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame has dismissed US calls on him not to run for the third term in 2017 when his second term expires saying Americans should not meddle in the politics of the East African nation.

Responding the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power’s statements that the US expects the Rwandan leader to step aside when his term comes to and end, President said via his Twitter handle the politics of Rwanda should be left to Rwandans to decide.

“This adds to things that help reach a decision on resolving the complexity of the Rw.politics by Rwandans!!!,” Kagame tweeted Tuesday night adding “forget about parliamentary manouverings.”

Kagame sharp comments came following Power’s assertions Tuesday urging President Paul Kagame of Rwanda to relinquish power in 2017 when his second constitutional term expires.

Addressing Journalists in New York, Tuesday, Ms Power said “We really do expect President Kagame to follow through on the commitments that he has made many times in the past to allow the next generation of leaders to come forward.

Despite the fact that Kagame has on several occasions reiterated his intentions to leave office in 2017, the Rwandan National Assembly has already endorsed a draft constitution paving way for him to run for the third term, and the East African nation is due to hold a referendum on the issue and Kagame’s third term bid, and the draft constitution are expected to garner overwhelming support.

“”We expect President Kagame to step down at the end of his term in 2017,” Power, the President of the United Nations Security council for the month of December told the press adding “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.”

At one point in her press conference Ambassador Power said Kagame was not indispensable, that he should honour his pledges and let fresh minds take over from him in 2017.

Millions of Rwandans have petitioned parliament to amend the constitution and allow Kagame a third term but critics say Kagame and his ruling RPF have orchestrated what Samantha Power dubbed “parliamentary maneuverings” designed to prop up the Rwandan leader who has been in power since 2000.

President Kagame, in the past has been critical of leaders on the African continent who manipulate their countries’ constitutions to cling on to power, and has vowed “not to be around as president in 2017.”

“I cannot be here and say I must be President for life,” President Kagame told Johns Hopkins University’s International Reporting Project fellows in 2012.

In that same interview the Rwandan leader laughed off questions about him changing the constitution to extend his stay in power.

“I will not be around as president come 2017, I don’t know how many times I will have to stress this,” he said.

As Kagame’s third term bid in Rwanda continues to gain momentum, US suspicion and discomfort that the Rwandan leader and his ruling party are methodically stage-managing the entire process, are growing in tandem.

Ambassador Power’s inference to apparent “parliamentary maneuverings” behind Kagame’s third term pursuit follow US State Departments concerns this September about the formation of the constitutional review commission in Rwanda’s National Assembly.

“We respect the ability of any parliament to pass legislation that reflects the will of the people it is elected to represent; however, we continue to firmly support the principle of democratic transition of power in all countries through free, fair, and credible elections, held in accordance with constitutions, including provisions regarding term limits,” John Kirby State Department Spokesperson in September.

Kirby went on to say “we do not support those in positions of power changing constitutions solely for their political self-interest.”

Mr. Kagame is not the only leader in the region targeted by US criticism over third term ambitions, Presidents Pierre Nkurunziza and Joseph Kabila of Burundi and DRC respectively are not on good terms with Washington thanks to disagreements over third term and changing constitutions.

Nkurunziza has already won his third term in Burundi but the move has affected ties with the United States, and the US has warned Kabila to step aside  next year when his second constitutional term ends.