Rwanda says 'yes' to change constitution

Partial referendum results suggest Rwanda has said 'yes' to pave way for President Paul Kagame to run for third term

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Rwandan President Paul Kagame casts his ballot in Kigali on December 18,2015 in a referendum to amend the constitution allowing him to rule until 2034.

Rwanda has voted to change the country's constitution, which will allow President Paul Kagame to run for a third term and stay in power until 2034.

"We have seen the will of the people. It's clear that what the people want, they can achieve," said National Electoral Commission chief Kalisa Mband.

According to the preliminary results, after 70 percent of the vote was counted, the 'yes' vote is ahead with 98.1 percent.

In 1994, the year that marked the end of a genocide in which an estimated 800,000 people were killed, Kagame became Rwanda's vice president and later became the country's president in 2000.

The proposed constitutional change allows Kagame to run for a third seven-year term in the 2017, after which he would also able to run for two five-year terms under the new constitution.

"They called for the change of the constitution and they have made it," Kagame said to the pro-government New Times newspaper.

Therefore, President Paul Kagame, 58, could be in power for the next 17 years with this amendment.

"What is happening is the people's choice," he told reporters.

Washington and Brussels have denounced the amendments saying it will block democracy in the central African country.

"Yes, Rwandans have spoken out loud and clear; they have taken their own destiny and that of their country into their own hands," a New Times editorial said on Saturday.

TRTWorld and agencies