, KIGALI, Rwanda, Oct 8 – Rwanda’s Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a legal challenge to constitutional changes designed to allow President Paul Kagame to run for a third term.
“No article is unamendable,” said Chief Justice Sam Rugege, throwing out the case brought by the Democratic Green Party. “The petition… has no basis and is hereby dismissed.”
The Green Party is the only political group to openly challenge plans to amend Article 101 of Rwanda’s constitution, which limits presidential terms to two.
Kagame won elections in 2003 and 2010 – each time scoring more than 90 percent of the vote – but has run the country since his rebel army ended the genocide in 1994.
More than 3.7 million people – over 60 percent of voters – signed a petition calling for the necessary constitutional changes to allow Kagame to stand again in 2017, a move rubber-stamped by both houses of parliament.
A seven-member commission set up last month to review the proposed amendments has not yet presented its findings.
On Thursday judge Rugege said his ruling was in the interests of democracy and in line with the constitution.
“There are clear procedures to ensure that constitution amendment is not abused,” he said.
“Denying the free will of the people to choose how they are governed is not democratic, rather it is the opposite,” the judge said.
The move comes amid a wider controversy in Africa over efforts by leaders to change constitutions in order to stay in office. The United States last month repeated its opposition to a possible third term for Kagame.