Rwandan president hits back at US

2016-01-05 13:55
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

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Kigali - Rwandan President Paul Kagame has hit back at the United States for criticising his decision to seek a third term in office, repeating his earlier stand that foreigners shouldn't determine the destiny of Rwandans.

More than 98% of Rwandans voted in a December 18 referendum to lift term limits and allow Kagame extend his time in power, possibly until 2034.

Carry own burden

The US is "deeply disappointed" by Kagame's decision to run for re-election in 2017, said State Department spokesperson John Kirby.

"With this decision, President Kagame ignores a historic opportunity to reinforce and solidify the democratic institutions the Rwandan people have for more than 20 years laboured so hard to establish," Kirby said in a statement.

Responding on Twitter, Kagame said he was not concerned that the US government was disappointed: "Africa's problems: poverty, disease, governance, technology etc etc will not easily be solved by what is behind this (deeply disappointed) attitude !!!"

"There are quite many very disappointing things happening across the globe we hope to carry our own burden and not be others' burden!!!" he wrote in a series of tweets. "I promise we don't intend to disappoint ... especially ourselves!!!"

The United States has been a key ally of Rwanda. But in its response to Kagame's decision to run again, the State Department said it believes constitutional transitions of power are essential for strong democracies and that efforts by incumbents to change rules to stay in power weaken democratic institutions.

Lead the country

Kagame thinks differently. In his New Year's message to Rwandans he said: "You clearly expressed your choices for the future of our country (in the referendum) ... You requested me to lead the country again after 2017. Given the importance and consideration you attach to this, I can only accept."

Kagame 58, has been Rwanda's effective leader since 1994 when his rebel movement ended a genocide by Hutu extremists in which more than 800 000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

He is widely credited with bringing stability and economic growth to Rwanda but he is seen as an authoritarian ruler and guilty of human rights abuses.

Read more on:    paul kagame  |  us  |  rwanda  |  east africa

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