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Iran Press TV

Rwanda president says will run for 3rd term in 2017

Iran Press TV

Fri Jan 1, 2016 10:38AM

Rwanda President Paul Kagame says he will run for a third term in 2017 following an approval of constitutional amendments that allow him to potentially remain in power until 2034.

"You requested me to lead the country again after 2017. Given the importance and consideration you attach to this, I can only accept," Kagame said in a New Year speech on Friday.

He took office in 2000 after the former president, Pasteur Bizimungu, resigned. Kagame then won the 2003 and 2010 elections with a majority of votes.

He was originally limited to two presidential terms. However, Rwandans voted "yes" in a referendum held on December 18, 2015, to changes to the country's constitution, giving Kagame the permission to run for an exceptional third seven-year term in 2017.

The African country's senate had approved draft constitutional amendments last November and allowed Kagame to take part in the 2017 elections.

The amendments, however, also decreased the length of a presidential term from seven to five years and kept a two-term limit.

The rules would only come into force in 2024, at the end of Kagame's third term. Kagame, 58, could therefore run for another two five-year terms and rule until 2034.

The referendum that received the support of 98 percent of voters sparked criticism among Western countries. Washington said Kagame could best serve his country with leaving the office in 2017.

The EU also said the move would undermine democracy in Rwanda and called on Kagame to step down in 2017. Rights groups also accused authorities in Rwanda of stifling the media and opposition voices.

However, the Rwandan president has criticized "other nations" for interfering in the domestic affairs of his country.

Kagame was effectively leading the country after his ethnic Tutsi group marched into Kigali and ended the genocide perpetrated by Hutu extremists in 1994. Some 800,000 people, mainly Tutsis, were killed in the Rwandan genocide.

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