by Ann Garrison
Rodney D. Ford, spokesman for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, has said, in no uncertain terms, that the U.S. will not be supporting a third term by sitting Rwandan President Paul Kagame:
“President Kagame is currently serving his second seven-year term in office, having run previously in 2003 and 2010, after winning his first election for president in 2000. The next presidential election is scheduled for 2017. The current Rwandan constitution provides a two-term limit.
“The United States supports the principle of democratic transition in all countries in the region through free, fair, and credible elections, held in accordance with current constitutions, including provisions regarding term limits.
“The United States believes that democracy is best advanced through the development of strong institutions, not strongmen. For that reason, as Secretary Kerry has said, we do not support changing constitutions to benefit the personal or political interests of individuals or parties. Changing constitutions and eliminating term limits to favor incumbents is inconsistent with democratic principles and reduces confidence in democratic institutions.
“The United States believes that democracy is best advanced through the development of strong institutions, not strongmen. For that reason, as Secretary Kerry has said, we do not support changing constitutions to benefit the personal or political interests of individuals or parties.” – Rodney D. Ford, spokesman for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs
“We are committed to support a peaceful, democratic transition in 2017 to a new leader elected by the Rwandan people.”
Ford was responding, in an unclassified email, to an inquiry by this reporter, which noted that President Kagame’s supporters have gathered 3 million signatures demanding that Rwanda’s Parliament force a referendum to amend the Constitution so that he can run for a third term. The query also noted that anyone who follows Rwandan politics knows that there is no such thing as a free and fair vote in Rwanda.
On May 21, 2015, at a Congressional Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing, a Human Rights Watch advocate told U.S. Congressmembers Donald Payne, R-N.J., and Karen Bass, D-Calif., that the organization has repeatedly documented “a climate of fear and incredibly violent tactics that have been used against dissenters” in Rwanda.
Dr. David Himbara, President Kagame’s former economic advisor, testified that a state appointed administrator keeps watch over every 10 households in Rwanda, making it impossible to escape the eye of the state.
Himbara, speaking to KPFA and the San Francisco Bay View, said that no one in Rwanda would dare refuse to sign the petitions or attend rallies to abolish term limits so that Kagame can remain in office. Anyone who did, he said, would soon be dead or disappeared.
“People are signing up, demanding for constitutional change so that Kagame stays in power. So this is the system they are using. They have forms in every 10 houses. People have to sign. If you don’t sign, then you’re gone. You know you have to sign. There’s no way around it. So what you’ll see is millions! Millions of people, when the time comes, marching on the streets, demanding that Kagame stays. That is how this is being done.”
“People are signing up, demanding for constitutional change so that Kagame stays in power. … They have forms in every 10 houses. People have to sign. If you don’t sign, then you’re gone. … So what you’ll see is millions … marching on the streets, demanding that Kagame stays.”
No one at the Rwandan Embassy to the U.N. was available for comment today.
Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News, Counterpunch, Colored Opinions and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News, KPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at email@example.com. In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting.