The President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, has declared his plans to run for a fourth term in office in the country’s 2024 presidential election.
Kagame disclosed this during an interview with a French language news magazine, Jeune Afrique, published on Tuesday. “Yes, I am indeed a candidate,” Kagame had said.
The 65-year-old president also said he was grateful for the trust Rwandans have in him and would continue to serve them as long as possible.
“I am pleased with the confidence that Rwandans have placed in me. I will always serve them, as long as I can,” he said.
Prior to this announcement, Kagame had kept his intentions regarding future leadership unclear, overseeing contentious changes to the constitution that enabled him to secure a third term in office.
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In March, the Rwandan government made the decision to align the schedules of its parliamentary and presidential elections, both scheduled for August next year.
Kagame, a former rebel leader, has led the country since the end of the 1994 genocide. He garnered global recognition for overseeing peace and fostering economic growth since the conclusion of the 1994 genocide, during which an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus lost their lives.
Kagame, who became president in 2000, is eligible to continue in his position for another decade after a constitutional amendment changed term limits that would have forced him to step down two years later.
In 2015, the constitutional amendment was enacted and extended his potential stay in office until 2034. In the previous presidential election half a decade ago, official reports indicated he secured 99% of the vote, a result often criticized by international observers as lacking credibility. He secured a third term in 2017 with an overwhelming majority, receiving nearly 99 percent of the vote.
In 2022, Kagame had hinted at seeking a fourth term in office in 2024. He had disclosed his plans for the 2024 elections to journalists, saying he intended to rule the country for another 29 years. This marked a change in stance from his 2019 statement when he expressed disinterest in the presidential office for the 2024 elections.
“I consider running for another 20 years. I have no problem with that, elections are about people choosing,” he had been quoted.
Since becoming president, he has been instrumental in transforming Rwanda and positioning the country as a hub for development, however, his critics say he maintains a tight grip over what they term an authoritarian regime.
After his 2022 revelation, Central Africa Director at Human Rights Watch, Lewis Mudge, had said that that citizens found his plan surprising, but in Rwanda, it was perilous to challenge the government or be a political opponent. He opined that the authoritarian system will persist for the foreseeable future. Charles Kambanda, a Rwandan critic went further, warning that if the current leadership continues for another two decades, Rwanda will face significant challenges.
Kagame has also faced criticism for what human rights groups call the suppression of political opposition and the muzzling of independent media but he has denied them.
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