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Kagame eyes re-election in 2024 polls

By Mercy Simiyu September 20th, 2023 2 min read

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has declared his intent to contest for a fourth term in the country’s general elections set for 2024.

“Yes, I am indeed a candidate,” Kagame, who has ruled over the tiny East African country since 2000, told Jeune Afrique, a French-language news magazine.

“I am pleased with the confidence that Rwandans have placed in me. I will always serve them, as long as I can,” the 65-year-old was quoted as saying.

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The Rwandan government in March 2023 decided to synchronise the dates for its parliamentary and presidential elections, which are due to be held in August 2024.

Kagame had previously not made his intentions clear, but presided over controversial constitutional amendments in 2015 that allowed him to run for more terms and stay in power until 2034.

A former rebel chief, has been regarded as the country’s de facto leader since the end of the 1994 genocide.

He was returned to office, with more than 90 percent of the vote, in elections in 2003, 2010 and 2017.

While Rwanda lays claim to being one of the most stable countries in Africa, rights groups accuse Kagame of ruling in a climate of fear, stifling dissent and free speech.

In 2021, “Hotel Rwanda” hero and outspoken Kagame critic Paul Rusesabagina was sentenced to 25 years in jail on terrorism charges, following his arrest the previous year when a plane he believed was bound for Burundi landed instead in Kigali in what his family called a kidnapping.

Freed from jail in March 2023 and flown to the United States following a presidential pardon, Rusesabagina released a video message in July 2023, saying Rwandans were “prisoners in their own country”.

The country was ranked 131 out of 180 countries in the 2023 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.

Asked in 2022 if he would seek re-election, Kagame said he would “consider running for another 20 years”.

“Elections are about people choosing,” he told the France 24 news channel in an interview.

Kagame was just 36 when his Rwandan Patriotic Front party forced out Hutu extremists blamed for the genocide in which some 800,000 people, mainly Tutsi but also moderate Hutus, were murdered between April and July 1994.