Rwandan lawmakers have removed term limits for the President, allowing the incumbent to rule the country for the next 19 years ending in 2034, if he decides to contest in 2017.
The lower house on Thursday approved a constitutional amendment allowing President Kagame, in power since 2000, to run for a third seven-year term, after which he could run for two more terms of five years each.
Specifically, Rwandan legislators approved a standalone Article 172 in the draft constitution which will allow President Kagame to rule the country as long as he wishes.
The article stipulates that “the President of the Republic in office at the time of commencement of this revised Constitution – that is President Paul Kagame in this case — shall continue to serve the term for which he was elected, and the provisions of Article 101 of this revised Constitution shall be applicable after the expiry of a seven-year term.”
The term ends in 2017.
Chamber of deputies’ speaker, Donatille Mukabalisa, said the provisions in Article 172 was crafted to respond to the “public demands” in whose petitions to parliament early this year, called for removal of term limits so that President Kagame be allowed to extent his stay in office beyond 2017.
The same wish was highlighted in a past nationwide consultation process on the matter where the majority of the people insisted that article 101 be changed specifically for President Kagame, and not for others.
The amendments are expected to be approved by the Senate prior to being put to a referendum.
While President Kagame has kept everyone guessing as to whether he would accept a third term, should the amendments pass, he will be joining the league of the long-serving heads of state on the African continent.
Kagame, who turned 58 this year, would be aged 77 in 2034 when time allowed to him to extend his rule expires, but this is in case he chose to contest again and again and again, and win.