Rwandan President Paul Kagame has told off his critics, saying only Rwandans have the right to choose their leaders.
“For foreign critics, they can continue being unhappy with what Rwandans chose to do. We have the right to choose how we live as a nation, society and individuals,” President Kagame said at the National Dialogue Council, locally known as Umushyikirano.
He added: “Some of the things you hear out there are okay. They raise our blood pressure a little but we take control of ourselves.”
He said critics who call him a dictator are “undermining the voice of Rwandans.”
“If producing security, stability, women empowerment, peace, progress and food security amounts to dictatorship, what can I say?” said President Kagame.
On whether he would be worried about sanctions or withdrawal of aid by Rwanda’s donors in case he stands for another term, President Kagame argued that bowing to pressure from the West does not always solve problems.
“We have to live our lives in spite of what they do.
“If we surrender that right to them, it will be determined by what they have to offer. They offer a lot but you lose a lot more by being too submissive to them,” he said.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom has joined the list of donors opposed to the constitutional change in Rwanda, which could hand President Kagame a third term. Others are the European Union and the United States.
UK Minister for Africa James Duddridge said the way in which the referendum was conducted damaged Rwanda’s international reputation.
“The short timeframe between the announcement of the referendum and the vote did not allow sufficient time for voters to consider and debate the proposed changes and for the case for and against to be made. A copy of the revised Constitution was only made available one day ahead of the referendum,” he said.
“The UK believes that a leader who willingly cedes power and enables a peaceful and democratic transition will always be held in high regard by both their people and the rest of the world. Changing the Constitution for the benefit of the incumbent risks serious damage to long-term stability and Rwanda’s reputation as a world leader,” Mr Duddridge said.