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Rwandan lawmakers back move to abolish presidential term limits

Storyline:Archive, World

KagameRwandan lawmakers approved a measure Tuesday that would pave the way for President Paul Kagame to seek re-election when his second term ends in 2017.

Both houses of parliament voted in favor of a petition that calls for the removal of presidential term limits from the country’s constitution. A reported 3.7 million Rwandans signed the petition, more than 30 percent of the population.

The proposal will now be taken up by a parliamentary committee.

Kagame has effectively ruled Rwanda since the end of the 1994 genocide, and he won easy victories in the 2003 and 2010 elections.

The president’s supporters say he has restored order and rebuilt Rwanda’s economy since the end of the genocide, while critics accuse him of being authoritarian and repressive.

US concerns

Last month, the United States urged Rwanda not to scrap term limits. In a statement to VOA’s French-to-Africa Service, the State Department said the U.S. believes democracy is best advanced by developing “strong institutions, not strongmen.”

In Rwanda’s Central African neighbor Burundi, President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term has triggered violent protests and a failed coup attempt in May.

Burundi’s constitution, like Rwanda’s, has a two-term limit for presidents. Burundi’s constitutional court, however, ruled Nkurunziza is eligible to seek re-election because he was first elected by parliament, not voters, in 2005.

Source: VOA