UNITED NATIONS, Wednesday
Rwandan President Paul Kagame must set an example for his region and step down at the end of his term in 2017, the US ambassador to the United Nations said yesterday.
Ms Samantha Power spoke after Rwanda’s senate last month passed a constitutional amendment that would allow Mr Kagame to run for a third term in 2017, and potentially remain in power for the next two decades.
“President Kagame has an opportunity to set an example for a region in which leaders seem too tempted to view themselves as indispensable to their own countries’ trajectories,” Ms Power told a news conference.
Jakaya Kikwete, whose two terms as Tanzania’s president ended last month, has already presented such an example by “giving up power peacefully,” Ambassador Power noted.
She also addressed the continuing conflict in South Sudan.
Nearly two years of civil war has resulted in “tens of thousands of lives lost and unimaginable atrocities,” Ambassador Power said.
‘‘The scale of the destruction has set this young nation back more than a generation,” she declared.
“While there is finally an agreement in place that can lead to peace, the parties have not met critical deadlines on implementation, fighting continues and the humanitarian situation looks set to worsen significantly in the coming months,” she said.
“Nobody is indispensable,” she added.
“We expect President Kagame to step down at the end of his term in 2017.”
A strong US ally in East Africa, President Kagame, 58 has run Rwanda since his rebel army ended the 1994 genocide and ousted Hutu extremists.
He won elections in 2003 and 2010 and under the current law is due to step aside in 2017 at the end of his second term.
But earlier this year, more than 60 per cent of voters signed a petition calling for constitutional changes that would allow Mr Kagame to stand again.
Mr Kagame’s aides have insisted that any bid for a third term would be in response to “popular demand.”
Ms Power noted that while there were manoeuvrings in parliament to extend his rule, Mr Kagame had not made his intentions clear.
“We really do expect President Kagame to follow through on the commitments he has made many times in the past to allow the next generation of leaders to come forward,” she said.
Within minutes of reports emerging of Ms Power’s comments, President Kagame responded via Twitter.
“This adds to things that help reach a decision on resolving the complexity of the Rwandan politics by Rwandans!!!” said Mr Kagame.
“….forget about the ”parliamentary manoeuverings’’ !!!”
Ms Power’s remarks came as the UN Security Council is moving to stamp out months of deadly violence in neighbouring Burundi sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for re-election.