KagameThe United States government has denounced ongoing efforts by Rwandan President, Paul Kagame to run for third term of office next year, saying it is “deeply disappointed”.

According to a statement issued by the spokesperson for the US  Department of State, John Kirby, the White House argues that  constitutional transitions of power are essential for strong democracies and that efforts by incumbents to change rules to stay in power weaken democratic institutions.

Kagame’s decision to take a third shot at the Rwandan presidency, it stressed, “ignores an historic opportunity to reinforce and solidify the democratic institutions the Rwandan people have for more than 20 years laboured so hard to establish”.

The statement read further: “We are particularly concerned by changes that favour one individual over the principle of democratic transitions.

“As Rwanda moves toward local elections this year, presidential elections next year, and parliamentary elections in 2018, we call upon the Government of Rwanda to ensure and respect the rights of its citizens to exercise their freedom of expression, conscience, and peaceful assembly — the hallmarks of true democracies.

“The United States remains committed to supporting the free and full participation of the Rwandan people in the electoral processes ahead.”

Kagame’s controversial third term plot recently secured a much needed constitutional backing when the citizens voted overwhelmingly in last Month’s referendum which cleared the legal mine field.

The adjustment of the presidential term rules was done despite the unfolding political crisis in neighbouring Burundi.

At least 200 people have died and tens of thousands have left the country after months of violence and protests since President Pierre Nkurunziza declared he would seek a third term in office, which he then won in a contested vote in July.

Mr. Nkurunziza, a former Hutu rebel leader, became Burundi’s first democratically elected president after its civil war, but is now reluctant to leave power.

In similar move, Mr. Kagame recently gave a speech pointedly critical of Mr. Nkurunziza, saying he was allowing his people to die. “No one knows where he is, no one can talk to him, how he leads his people, people are dying every day, dead bodies are being dragged on the streets every day,” Kagame said.

In October, Congo Democratic Republic voted in a referendum which cleared its 72-year old President, Denis Sassou Nguesso, to legally stand for a third consecutive term in this year’s election.

In October 2014, Burkina Faso’s leader of 27 years, Blaise Campaore was toppled, amid violent protests as he made to stay put in office.

By Olisemeka Obeche (with agency reports)

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