Rwandans abroad vote on presidential term limit

Rwandans abroad vote for constitutional change that may give Kagame 17 more years as president

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

A poll clerk hands gives ballot papers to a registered Rwandan voter at a polling station on December 17, 2015 at the Rwandan High Commission in Nairobi.

Updated Mar 10, 2016

Rwandans abroad on Thursday are voting in a referendum to amend the country's constitution so that the country's president, Paul Kagame, would potentially be able to stay in power until 2034.

The United States and the European Union (EU) have criticised the proposed changes, saying they ignore democratic norms.

Kagame has many times told "other nations" not to interfere in Rwanda's internal affairs.

Senator Tito Rutaremara for the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front - speaking at a rally in Kigali - said,  "People asked us to revise the constitution." 

Kagame is an ethnic Tutsi and former rebel army leader whose forces ended a genocide in 1994 which an estimated 800,000 people were massacred, most of them Tutsis.

An amendment passed last month in parliament reduces presidential terms to five years and maintains a two term limit, but makes an exception for the current president.

If the changes to the constitution are passed Kagame could run for a third seven year term and two five year terms after that, meaning he could potentially hold the presidency for 17 more years.

Rwanda’s neighbour Burundi has faced violence after President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to pursue a controversial third term.

But RPF members of parliament in Rwanda are backing Kagame’s changes.

Rutaremara an RPF politician said, "Here we are accounting to the people."

"Paul Kagame has done so much for us," said Jean-Baptiste, a welder, thanking the president for the country's economic growth, which is over six percent per year according to the World Bank.

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

TRTWorld and agencies