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Third Term: Kagame Set To Join The Circus Show




In a manner suggesting that crisis may well be embedded in the DNAs of African leaders, Rwandan President Paul Kagame appear set to plunge his country into turmoil not dissimilar to the one his counterpart, President Pierre Nkurunziza, visited on Burundi.

Lawmakers began a national tour last month to gather opinions after both houses of parliament voted in support of constitutional change allowing Kagame a third term. Curiously, but according to the lawmakers, only 10 Rwandans are opposed to the agenda.

Over 3.7 million people – 60 percent of voters – purportedly signed the petition calling for a change to Article 101 of the constitution, which limits the President to two terms, according to Rwandan media.

“Of millions of Rwandans consulted by lawmakers on the need to amend Article 101 of the constitution in the past few weeks, only 10 were against the idea,” the New Times of Rwanda reported recently. But analysts said the lawmakers’ tour was sponsored and designed to give rubberstamp endorsement to Kagame’s ambition.

Any change to the constitution would require a vote in support by at least three-quarters of both parliamentary houses, followed by a national referendum.

On Friday, the United Nations human rights office urged leaders in neighbouring Burundi on the need to renounce violence and resume their dialogue to prevent the country’s political crisis from escalating.

Tensions have been high in Burundi since late April when Nkurunziza decided to seek a third term in office, a move his analysts said violated the constitution and which triggered a failed coup in May.

According to the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman, told a news briefing in Geneva that at least 96 people had been killed since the start of election-related violence in April.

The violence has continued since Nkurunziza was re-elected on July 21.

Shamdasani said at least eight members of the ruling CNDD-FDD party had been shot dead by unidentified gunmen in the past two weeks.

In early August, a human rights activist who openly opposed Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term was also shot and seriously wounded.

Burundi has been slipping closer to the edge even as the world await stakeholders to take concrete steps to renounce the use of violence and to resolve differences peacefully.

There have been at least 60 cases of people being tortured in police and intelligence services custody. The number of those killed, detained or tortured may be much higher. This is even as a Burundi government spokesman said those involved in torture and killing were acting on their own accord and “will be prosecuted and punished accordingly.”

Meanwhile, due to the violence, more than 181,000 people have fled to neighboring countries, ironically including Rwanda, where Kagame, 57, has been at the helm of politics since 1994, when an offensive by his Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebels put an end to a genocide by Hutu extremists that left an estimated 800 000 people dead, most of whom were Tutsis, the major ethnic group in Burundi.

As minister of defence and then vice president, Kagame was widely seen as the power behind the throne even before he took the presidency in 2003, winning 95 percent of the vote. He was re-elected in 2010 with a similarly resounding mandate. The next elections are due in 2017.

From the trauma of genocide, he has been painted as a guarantor of stability and economic development, earning praise from donors – and his supporters say many in Rwanda view the prospect of his departure as a step into the unknown.

Critics say however that he has silenced the opposition and the media, even as Kagame says the decision on a third term is for the “Rwandan people”.

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