Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has recently made a significant announcement, confirming his intention to run for a fourth term in the upcoming 2024 elections.
This bid, if successful, would extend his presidency to nearly three decades, solidifying his position as one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders.
In an interview with French-language magazine Jeune Afriqu, President Kagame expressed his gratitude for the confidence that Rwandans have placed in him.
Despite facing criticism from rights groups over alleged crackdowns on the opposition, the president remains unfazed by the opinions of outsiders.
His overwhelming victory in the last presidential election in 2017, where he secured nearly 99% of the vote, has further cemented his popularity among the Rwandan people.
Human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch have voiced concerns regarding the limited freedom of speech during the previous election. However, President Kagame dismisses this criticism and highlights his commitment to serving the Rwandan people as long as they desire him to stay in power.
While President Kagame had previously hinted at the possibility of running for re-election, this is the first time that he has categorically stated his intention to be a candidate in the 2024 elections. The poll is scheduled to take place in August of next year.
President Kagame, who is 65 years old, has been the dominant figure in Rwandan politics ever since his rebel group, the Rwanda Patriotic Front, seized power at the end of the genocide. However, his presidency only officially began in 2000 after the resignation of Pasteur Bizimungu.
Rwanda introduced a new constitution in 2003, which allows the president to have a seven-year tenure that can be renewed once. This constitutional provision has given President Kagame the opportunity to remain in power for an extended period, should he win the upcoming election.
However, these changes were amended in a highly debated referendum held in 2015. With an overwhelming 90% approval rate, the amendments allowed President Kagame to run for re-election in 2017 and subsequently serve two additional five-year terms starting from 2024.
When questioned about potential criticism from Western countries regarding his decision to seek re-election, President Kagame expressed indifference, stating that he does not concern himself with their opinions.
“On a personal level, I no longer understand what is meant by Western values. What exactly is democracy? Are Western nations dictating how others should govern themselves? Furthermore, if they themselves violate these principles, how can we listen to them?” President Kagame remarked in an interview with Jeune Afrique.
President Kagame went on to argue that attempting to impose democracy on others is already a violation of democratic ideals. He believes that individuals and nations should have the autonomy to determine their own governance according to their preferences.
Critics have raised concerns about political opposition and human rights in Rwanda. Lewis Mudge, the Central Africa director of Human Rights Watch, asserted last year that opposing the government or even being a political opponent in Rwanda can be extremely perilous.
Multiple prominent figures from opposition parties have experienced physical attacks and some have tragically lost their lives while residing outside of Rwanda.
Despite these challenges, President Kagame has staunchly defended Rwanda’s human rights record, affirming that his country respects political freedoms.
President Kagame has been widely credited for leading Rwanda’s remarkable transformation since the devastating genocide in 1994, which claimed the lives of approximately 800,000 people in just 100 days.
Under his leadership, Rwanda has made significant strides in various sectors, including economy, healthcare, and education. The country has become known for its efficient governance, low corruption levels, and impressive economic growth.