Kagame praises referendum, says no term limit on progress

Monday December 21 2015

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame casts his vote

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame casts his vote on December 18, 2015 during the referendum that will see the country do away with current presidential term restrictions. PHOTO | PRESIDENCY 

By Ivan R. Mugisha

President Paul Kagame has praised the recent referendum on constitutional amendment as a democratic choice started by Rwandans.

He noted that term limits cannot restrict the country's progress.

"No individual is there forever, but there is no term limit on values, institutions, and progress," President Kagame said Monday while delivering the State of the Nation address at the annual national dialogue.

"Rwandans want good politics that keeps delivering... they also expect a democracy in which public office is routinely transferred from one individual of their choice to another, yet real power and decision-making always remain firmly in the hands of the people themselves."

Locally called "Umushikirano", the dialogue brought together over 1,000 Rwandans, including those from the diaspora to discuss the country's progress.

President Kagame castigated those who criticise constitutional change - particularly those from the developed world - and told participants that unlike what critics say, democracy in Rwanda is stronger.

"There is no problem with criticism from any quarter, because it can benefit us. But statements that acknowledge our good results, while depicting Rwandans as people incapable of either thought or feeling, are not critical, they are deliberately abusive," he said.

"Our democracy is stronger because we have continued to define ourselves, and refused to be distracted. Participation in the recent Referendum was massive. Most voted “Yes”. Tens of thousands voted “No”. I thank each one of you".

He acknowledged that at some point Rwanda will get another president, but that it should happen with utmost peace and by what the people choose.

"It is a privilege and a duty to serve Rwanda, not an entitlement," he said.

"When the time comes to transfer responsibility from one public servant to another, Rwandans already have confidence that it will be done in the orderly and harmonious manner which we expect and indeed require".

Sources at the two-day national dialogue say that there is high expectation among the participants that President Kagame will declare his intent to run for a third term in 2017 during the event.

He earlier this month promised his RPF party members that he will " give them what they want" after the just concluded referendum on constitutional amendment.

The amendment received 98 per cent approval from votes cast across the country, and is set to offer Kagame leeway to become president until 2034.