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By Eric Kabera, SUNDAY, 12 APRIL 2015, The Independent (Uganda)
Rwandan President Paul Kagame says he belongs to the school of thought that does not want the Rwandan constitution to be amended to allow the incumbent leader to run again for the presidency in 2017. But he says, it is “healthy” for the issue to be debated. Kagame’s views are what are causing a frenzy of debate going into elections come 2017. The debate is raging within and outside country with some people advocating for the removal of term limits to allow President Kagame to continue. But another group advocates not amending the constitution. During his regular press conference in Kigali on April 2, Kagame told journalists that debate about 2017 should be directly between the two schools of thoughts not him personally.
Kagame said: “But actually what is the problem? What is exciting people about 2017? What’s the issue probably you’re asking a wrong person. I haven’t made any application for the job beyond 2017 which is time I will be seen and assumed to be unemployed. I have not been asking for the job so what’s the issue? What’s this thing am always crucified for?” He added: “I belong to the school of thought that believes that constitution should not be changed. Personally I have not raised a complaint to anyone how to think or what to think about 2017 and I don’t intend to.”
President Kagame explained that the debate was healthy and that both groups had all the rights to discuss about the 2017 issue. Asked if he could accept to stay on if Rwandans decide to change the constitution for him to continue leading the nation, he observed that they will need to convince him. “Those who think the Article should be changed they have the right to think that way but since it concerns me personally I will have to be convinced. If they convince me, I will listen to what they’re saying. There is a lot of convincing for me to change my opinion. The constitution article under consideration reads: “The President of the Republic is elected for a term of seven years renewable only once. Under no circumstances shall a person hold the office of President of Republic for more than two terms.”
“Whatever is unfolding I’m listening and I’m open to going and open to not going depending on who takes the day in the interest of this country,” Kagame told journalists gathered in the President’s Office in the capital Kigali Kagame said he was not the right person to answer the questions on changing the constitution adding it was done by Rwandans and they had all the rights to decide what fits them.
“How do the lives of Rwandans really depend on that one Article? How does the whole country get narrowed to one piece of Article? Did I write a constitution? I’m not asking anybody to change the constitution but everyone is finding it easy to attack me. No; you attack the ones who want to change the constitution,” he said.
Some people in Rwanda have reportedly said they will flee the country and commit suicide if President Kagame refuses to continue leading the country. They say the country is still healing from the wounds of the former government. President Kagame has been nationally and globally credited for leading the country from ashes to a competitive economy today. The country that suffered the 1994 genocide against Tutsi is today referred to as the Singapore of Africa due to its rapid economic growth. With over one million people slaughtered mercilessly, the Rwandan society remained disunited with millions of nationals fleeing to other parts of the country. However, the current government put in place the mechanisms to repatriate the refugees and preaches unity and reconciliation which are the key factor that has united the nation.
Providing health insurance to over 90 percent Rwandans, fighting corruption and, the use of ICT in development and joining the East African Community to open up the market for trade and investments are among the factors that have led the country to another level. In spite of some infrastructural challenges that impede economy growth, Rwanda’s economy has been among the fastest growing economies in the world with an average of 8% growth rate.
Rwanda, a landlocked country, is ranked as the most competitive economy in the region though it depends on the ports of Mombasa in Kenya and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania on the Indian Ocean. Its major challenge appears to be the trade deficit which impacts negatively on the economy because it represents huge net outflows of hard currency to foreign markets. Rwanda mostly exports tea and coffee, raw hides and skins, vegetables and flowers, while it imports clothing, fertilizers, sugar, palm oil, and cement among other goods.