Rwanda holds referendum over presidential term limits

Rwanda holds referendum on changing constitutional term limits to allow President Paul Kagame to run for third term as president

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A voter has her finger inked by a polling assistant after casting a vote in Rwanda's capital Kigali December 18, 2015

Rwanda held a referendum on Friday to change its constitution so that President Paul Kagame would be able to run for a third term as president, despite criticism from foreign aid donors.

If the proposed amendments to the constitution pass as predicted by most analysts, Paul Kagame would potentially be able to stay in power until 2034, though the United States and the European Union (EU) have criticised the proposed changes, saying they ignore democratic norms.

"Rwanda is secure now and it's thanks to him," Musa Habimana, 60, a businessman, said after voting.  

Despite Kagame’s government's success in delivering economic and social change, opposition parties and rights groups accuse the government of a crackdown on media and political opposition, something it denies.      

The country’s only opposition party, the Green Party, has cancelled its campaign against the constitutional change, claiming it wasn't given enough notice.

The European Union expressed concerns last week about the constitutional changes after the US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said the USA expects Kagame to step down at the end of his term in 2017, as "an example" for the region.    

Kagame became the country’s vice president in 1994, the year that marked the end of a genocide in which an estimated 800,000 people were killed.

He has been Rwanda’s president since 2000. 

TRTWorld and agencies