President Paul Kagame says he will “most likely” not seek a 4th term – a question that keeps coming up even when he is barely halfway in the current 7yr term.
Speaking at the annual Doha Forum in Qatar on Saturday evening, Kagame made it clear he is having his final term in office.
The issue about term limits arise in the period leading up to 2015. Article 101 of the 2003 constitution was amended as a result of massive popular campaign, in which 3.7m Rwandans petitioned Parliament to remove the double 7year term.
After the whole process, instead, a new mechanism emerged in which the 7year term was maintained only once. And from 2024, the presidential mandate will be 5 years, renewable once.
Then in 2017, scheduled elections took place in which Kagame, with backing from all but one party, the Green Party, backed the incumbent. He won with landslide with 98%. Kagame will be President up to 2024.
Since then, President Kagame has had to explain at global fora what will happen next – amid constant questions as to whether he intends to rule forever.
At the Doha Forum, Kagame was asked by former Aljazeera TV anchor Ghida Fakhry: “I know its never too early to ask, but will you be seeking a fourth term in office?”
“I don’t know yet, but most likely NO!” said Kagame, adding: “I always want not to lock myself into anything. I want to have some breathing space.”
“I think, given the way thing are, and have been in the past, it depends on two things. But I think I’ve made up my mind where am concerned personally that its not going to happen next time.”
The Q&A session lasting about 24mins touched on various other issues. Kagame spoke about Rwanda’s anti-corruption stance. He also explained the difficult policy choices the country has had to take so there will never be ethnic politics in Rwanda.
On the regional stage, Kagame said there was “good progress” in terms of relations with DR Congo, following the election of President Felix Tshisekedi, whom he said was “more open to cooperation”.
As for the Rwanda-Uganda fight, Kagame called it a “quarrel in the family”.
He went on: “Sometimes even quarrels that are not justified or reasonable. So we find ourselves in some of these. Personally, I really feel embarrassed sometimes because, you cannot touch exactly why there would be such a misunderstanding, because we are not quarrelling over territory or a border….”
Asked if he sees another war between Rwanda and Uganda, Kagame emphatically responded: “No, no, no, no! At least we are still more reasonable…to be able to do that. So, we will talk things out. There have been discussion going on. I think any problem can be discussed and resolved, and that’s where we are headed in my view.”