The New Times (Kigali)

27 February 2013

Rwanda: Kagame Clarifies Transition Debate

Photo: Paulo Filgueiras /UN
Rwanda President Paul Kagame (file photo).

President Paul Kagame has said that he is not interested in a third term and that he will do what the constitution says or what the Rwandan people will decide in the interest of continued progress and stability in the country after 2017.

The debate on whether the President will again run for office has been rife within and out of Rwanda alike, drawing lots of speculation.

Addressing a news conference at Village Urugwiro yesterday, Kagame explained that his priority is to ensure the wellbeing of the citizens considering Rwanda's complex history.

"I am thinking about the future of this country, I am not thinking about third term." Kagame said, adding that he has been asked over and again about third term, and whatever response he gives, the same question keeps coming.

"If there is trust that I will do what I have said I will do relating to what is there, meaning the Constitution and so on and so forth, why then would people continue asking this question? Why don't people just keep the trust and wait?" he said.

The President urged mostly journalists and other political analysts to stop trivializing the issue of third term because it creates confusion among citizens who get lost in the debate of whether the president is leaving or staying instead of focusing on building their country.

However, the President noted that even if he isn't interested in another term in office, he still leaves it to the Rwandan people to choose what they want for a better future of their country.

"This debate is welcome, let's go on for as long as we want with it but at the end of the day let's remember that it is Rwandans who have to decide," he told the reporters.

During recent citizen outreach programmes, Rwandans especially in rural arears gave testimonies of how their lives have improved remarkably and openly pleaded with the President to continue leading the country after 2017 so that their progress is maintained.

Earlier this month, the President tasked senior cadres of his ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front to come up with a formula that would deliver the change entailed in the constitution while ensuring the continuity with the progress the country has registered as well as guarantee stability.

Opposition welcome to Rwanda

Meanwhile, the President has welcomed members of opposition groups who might want to come back home and operate from Rwanda

"They are welcome in any form or shape," President Kagame said as he reacted to a journalist's question on whether he would like to see more opposition parties registered ahead of parliamentary elections this year. "I even always wonder why they have to live outside. They need to come and live here and face the challenges that other Rwandans face."

He, however, added that having numerous opposition parties is no sign of democracy as there are countries with many parties and no democracy, yet those that advocate for more opposition have only a couple of parties.

The President took questions on a wide range of issues ranging from sharing Rwanda best practices in areas such as forestry to International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) archives which he emphasized are a part of the country's history and should be kept in Rwanda.

Rwanda has faced resistance in the quest to host the archives. This has happened amidst reluctance to bring to justice Genocide perpetrators. Of recent there have been cases of masterminds being released.

The President observed that the same way there are forces that will not tire to do wrong against Rwanda or its people, is the same way those doing right should keep doing so.

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