On Monday, Rwandan President Paul Kagame publicly thanked the citizens of the country for voting on a referendum which will allow constitutional changes to be made to permit him to run for a third term in 2017.
The referendum, which took place on December 18th, passed with over 98% support. The referendum will allow President Kagame to run for a third seven-year term. In addition, if he so chose he could then run for an additional two five-year terms.
In total, this could mean that President Kagame would be in power from 2017 to 2034.
The referendum appears to be part of a trend amongst certain African leaders all of whom are seeking third terms. However, unlike in Burundi or Uganda, President Kagame’s efforts to gain a third term have not been met with violent protests.
Mr. Kagame first became president of Rwanda in 2000, although many believe he has been the ruler of the small East African country since the end of the genocide in 1994. The Rwandan President was the leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) the rebel group that defeated the Rwandan government effectively ending the 1994 genocide.
Since the genocide, Rwanda has witnessed unprecedented growth in the sectors of public health, income, and development. However, critics accuse Mr. Kagame of being an authoritarian pointing out that the nation has virtually no opposition party.
The primary opposition party, the Democratic Green Party, does not possess a single seat in parliament.
Several of President Kagame’s opponents have either been jailed, killed, or exiled. Even those who leave the country do not appear to be safe after several vocal critics of his government died abroad under mysterious circumstances or suspected assassinations.
The success of the referendum has brought further criticism of President Kagame from Western powers. When the referendum was announced earlier this year, the United States expressed their concern and warned Mr. Kagame not to pursue it.
The Rwandan president, however, dismissed all criticism of his bid for a third term.
"No individual is forever, but there is no term limit on values, institutions, or progress," President Kagame said during a state of the nation address.
Mr. Kagame has not yet officially announced a bid for the presidency in 2017.