December 8, 2020

Francophonie Chief Mushikiwabo: President Kagame Can Stay in Power For As long As He Wants

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Before becoming secretary general of La Francophonie in October 2018, Louise Mushikiwabo was foreign affairs minister in Rwanda for several years

Former foreign affairs minister and current secretary general of the French grouping La Francophonie Louise Mushikiwabo is of the view that the democratic system in Rwanda should be seen from its own unique context.

Mushikiwabo says there is nothing wrong with President Kagame vying for more presidential terms, in response to critics who say he intends to rule Rwanda up to 2034.

In a wide ranging interview with Belgian daily La Libre published Friday last week, Mushikiwabo said: “For the vast majority of Rwandans, Paul Kagame can stay in power for as long they need him and as he wants too, precisely because he has won their trust, he has proven himself, he has rebuilt [Rwanda], he has practically recreated a country.”

Mushikiwabo said power in Rwanda is “not embodied in one man” Paul Kagame, adding that it was up to Rwandans to decide who should be their leader.

She said: “This is the feeling among Rwandans. What is important is the will of Rwandans. It is the citizens who decide who should govern their country. In other dispensations, it is different. In some countries, voter turnout of 20% is acceptable. In our system it is incomprehensible. It is important to understand the context in which the country has evolved.”

As per the 2015 constitutional amendment, President Kagame is serving out his last 7-year term which ends in 2024, after coming to power in 2000. However, the amendment also allows him to stand in the election in the 5-year system which comes into force then.

Critics says with the political dynamics in the country, it is unthinkable any other person would win in 2024, and the next poll, if Kagame remains on the scene. They point to his own personal impact on the country and dominance of the ruling RPF party.

Supporters however, have tended to point to what they say are President Kagame’s achievements, as what should be important and not how long he stays.

For his part, Kagame has also emphasized this argument of his supporters. But at the annual Doha Forum in Qatar in December last year, Kagame hinted that he may not be on the ballot come 2024.

“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.”

For Mushikiwabo though, the presence of Kagame and the ruling party have been worth it for Rwanda.

“Paul Kagame is a man who has achieved so much for his country. He came to power at a historic juncture. His political party has made a huge contribution in rebuilding the country.”

In October 2018, Mushikiwabo was voted as secretary general of the ‘Organisation internationale de la Francophonie’, which comprises former French colonies, and Canada. Actually, Mushikiwabo beat a Canadian, coming as part of new rapprochement between France and Rwanda.

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