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Radio France Internationale
Radio France Internationale
Melissa Chemam with RFI

Rwandan President Kagame announces plan to run for a fourth term

Rwandan President Paul Kagame addresses delegates, in Kigali, on 7 April 2023. REUTERS - JEAN BIZIMANA

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has said for the first time he plans to run for a fourth term in elections due to be held next year.

"Yes, I am indeed a candidate," Paul Kagame, told Jeune Afrique, a French-language news magazine, in an interview published online on Tuesday.

"I am pleased with the confidence that Rwandans have placed in me. I will always serve them, as long as I can," the 65-year-old was quoted as saying.

Kagame had previously not made his intentions clear, but presided over controversial constitutional amendments in 2015 that allowed him to run for more terms and stay in power until 2034.

Asked in 2022 if he would seek re-election, Kagame said he would "consider running for another 20 years".

Then, in April 2023, he joked that he was looking forward to retiring and becoming a journalist, while at a joint press briefing with his Kenyan counterpart, William Ruto in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

Over two decades in power

A former rebel chief, Kagame has ruled over the country with an iron fist for more than two decades.

He was just 36 when his Rwandan Patriotic Front party forced out Hutu extremists blamed for the genocide in which some 800,000 people, mainly Tutsi but also moderate Hutus, were murdered between April and July 1994.

He has been regarded as the country's de facto leader since the end of the 1994 genocide, and became president in April 2000.

He was re-elected with more than 90 percent of the vote in 2003, in 2010 and in 2017, and promoted African unity and growth.

The Rwandan government in March decided to synchronise the dates for its parliamentary and presidential elections, which are due to be held in August next year.

Worries around democracy and freedom

Rwanda is considered as one of the most stable countries in Africa, but rights groups regularly accuse Kagame of ruling in a climate of fear, stifling dissent and free speech.

In 2021, outspoken Kagame critic Paul Rusesabagina was sentenced to 25 years in jail on terrorism charges, following his arrest the previous year.

Freed from jail in March this year and flown to the United States following a presidential pardon, Rusesabagina released a video message in July, saying that Rwandans were "prisoners in their own country".

Opponents often had to flee the country and the press also feels threatened.

The country was ranked 131 out of 180 countries in the 2023 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.

(with newswires)

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