Rwandan President Paul Kagame says he could even step down after this year’s August elections which is bent on winning with a huge margin.
Kagame told a French News Portal Jeune Afrique in an interview that 2017 – 2024 mandate could be his last.
‘‘I think so, yes. And it is likely that I will clarify this point soon when I enter the election campaign. There is a sort of contract between me, on the one hand, the RPF party and the Rwandan people, on the other,” he said.
He added: “The fear you express would be justified if the Rwandan society was static, frozen. But it’s just the opposite. Like our economy, our institutions and our skills, our society evolves and enters into a virtuous dynamic.”
Kagame’s only strong contender, Frank Habineza, is a former ruling party member who broke away.
A recent vote tally put Habineza, leader of the Green Democratic Party (the only opposition party authorised for four years), at about 5% and Kagame won 95% of votes in 2003 and dropped by 2% points to 93% in 2010.
35-year-old Diane Rwigara, the daughter of a businessman, is the other contender but has already been damaged in the public’s eye.
‘‘They wanted me, through the constitutional referendum of December 2015, to continue my work, which I accepted. But the time has come to tell them that they must start thinking, beyond my person,” Kagame told the French news portal on the question of stepping down.
He denied claims that the Rwandan system was built around him and that there were fears that the country could not thrive in his absence.
“There are competent persons in Rwanda. Things do not work that way. The important thing is that we have built irreversibly and will remain, with or without Kagame. The new generations of Rwandans have incorporated many elements, many different reflections and learned many lessons.”
He went on: ‘‘The fear you express would be justified if the Rwandan society was static, frozen. But it’s just the opposite. Like our economy, our institutions and our skills, our society evolves and enters into a virtuous dynamic. Even if the Rwandan people wanted me to assume leadership for some time, this dynamic will not stop with my departure. Be sure of it.”
Paul Kagame (born 23 October 1957) is the sixth and current President of Rwanda having taken office in 2000 when his predecessor, Pasteur Bizimungu, resigned.
Kagame previously commanded the rebel force that ended the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.
He was considered Rwanda’s de facto leader when he served as Vice President and Minister of Defence from 1994 to 2000.
Kagame was born to a Tutsi family in southern Rwanda. When he was two years old, the Rwandan Revolution ended centuries of Tutsi political dominance; his family fled to Uganda, where he spent the rest of his childhood.
In the 1980s, Kagame fought in Yoweri Museveni’s rebel army, becoming a senior Ugandan army officer after Museveni’s military victories carried him to the Ugandan presidency.
Kagame joined the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which invaded Rwanda in 1990; leader Fred Rwigyema died early in the war and Kagame took control.
By 1993, the RPF controlled significant territory in Rwanda and a ceasefire was negotiated.
The assassination of Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana was the starting point of the genocide, in which Hutu extremists killed an estimated 500,000 to one million Tutsi and moderate Hutu.
Kagame resumed the civil war, and ended the genocide with a military victory.
During his vice-presidency, Kagame controlled the national army and maintained law and order, while other officials began rebuilding the country.
As president, Kagame has prioritised national development, launching a programme to develop Rwanda as a middle income country by 2020.
He won an election in 2003, under a new constitution adopted that year, and was elected for a second term in 2010.