, KIGALI, Rwanda, Oct 23 – A campaign for Rwandan President Paul Kagame to seek a third term has begun with allies suggesting a constitutional change to allow him to run in 2017.
Kagame, whose Rwandan Patriotic Front or RPF – a former rebel army that helped end the 1994 genocide and is now the major political party – was elected in 2003 and 2010 and is therefore ineligible to stand again.
But smaller parties close to the RPF are being used to launch the case for a fresh mandate to avoid it being seen as a direct move by Kagame himself, critics claim.
“We do not accept the idea of limiting the number of mandates because this is not democracy,” Minister of Internal Security Musa Fazil Harerimana told AFP.
“Democracy is leaving the choice to the people,” Harerimana added, speaking as the president of the Ideal Democratic Party (PDI), a small within the ruling coalition.
The pro-government news website Ighie this month published an article in which three parties close to the ruling RPF – Harerimana’s PDI, the Party for Solidarity and Progress (PSP) and PS-Imberakuri – suggested abolishing a cap on presidential terms.
Christine Mukabunani, PS-Imberakuri president, said the question should be put to a vote.
“If people agree to change the constitution, then we too agree,” she told AFP.
PS-Imberakuri was once a vocal opposition party but its founding leader Bernard Ntaganda was pushed out after being jailed for threatening state security just before the 2010 elections in which he had planned to run for president.
“These parties are saying out loud what the RPF is thinking, they are the spokesmen of the RPF, they have pledged allegiance to them,” said Ntaganda, released in June after four years in prison.