EU questions constitutional amendment in Rwanda

Friday December 04 2015
rwan opp

Rwandan President Paul Kagame at a past rally. PHOTO | FILE

The European Union (EU) has, for the first time, raised concern over the ongoing Rwanda constitutional amendment debate.

EU noted that the push by the government to remove presidential term limits could undermine the principles of democratic change.

The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in Rwanda, Ms Federica Mogherini, said Thursday: “The adoption of provisions that can apply only to one individual weakens the credibility of the constitutional reform process as it undermines the principle of democratic change of government enshrined in Article 23 of the African Charter of Democracy, Elections and Governance.”

Article 23 states that illegal means of accessing or maintaining power constitute an unconstitutional change of government and shall draw appropriate sanctions by the African Union.

AU charter

Part five of the article further rejects any amendment or revision of the constitution or legal instruments, which was an infringement on the principles of democratic change of government.


Ms Mogherini said whereas it was a legitimate expectation of a country to revise its governance, the amendments to the Rwandan constitution recently approved by Parliament - if confirmed by referendum - would give rise to this situation condemned by the AU charter.

“The EU strongly supports the principle of democratic transitions, based on transparent, inclusive and accountable processes as laid down in the African Charter,” she said.

“In countries that have consistently respected term limits and allowed for change, societies have become more resilient and institutions more credible. There are many examples for that on the continent.”

She added that the EU would remain engaged in support of peace and prosperity in the Great Lakes region and looked forward to its continued dialogue with Rwandan authorities.

President Kagame’s final term in office comes to a conclusion in 2017, upon which he will be barred from running for again under the current constitution.

However, late last month, Rwanda’s Cabinet approved the amended constitution to allow President Kagame to run for a third successive term.

Strong criticism

Although term limits were maintained and even slashed to five years from seven in the draft constitution, article 167 states that the president who has completed the term of office of seven years may be re-elected.

READ: Rwanda senate okays President Kagame third term

This move has also come under strong criticism from the US.

Washington ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power last week termed the constitutional amendment as “parliamentary manoeuvring”, noting that her country expects President Kagame to “follow through on the commitments that he has made many times in the past to allow the next generation of leaders to come forward.”