Rwandan president says he is not ready to rule out third term

BOSTON Wed Apr 23, 2014 12:54am BST

Rwanda President Paul Kagame attends a session at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 24, 2014. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

Rwanda President Paul Kagame attends a session at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 24, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Ruben Sprich

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BOSTON (Reuters) - Rwandan President Paul Kagame said on Tuesday it was too early to say whether he will seek a third term as head of the east African state, adding "whatever will happen, we'll have an explanation."

Articles in pro-government newspapers in recent years have raised the prospect of him staying on after his mandate expires in 2017, a move that would anger his critics and require a change to the constitution.

"I have been asked when or whether I am going to leave office right from the time when I started. It is as if I am here just to leave. I'm here to do business on behalf of Rwandans," Kagame told students and faculty after a speech at Tufts University near Boston.

"I don't know what else I can give you on that, but let's wait and see what happens as we go. Whatever will happen, we'll have an explanation."

He was responding to a student's question about how he imagined his political role in Rwanda after his term ends.

Kagame was touring universities around Boston to speak about the country's recovery from its 1994 genocide, in which some 800,000 people were killed. Kagame believes European powers played a role in triggering the conflict and that the international community failed to intervene to stop it.

"What we learned is that people must be responsible for their own fate. If you wait for outsiders you will just perish," Kagame, rail thin and wearing a sharp suit and dark-framed eyeglasses, told the audience.

He accused the "international community" of destabilizing neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo by allowing people who committed the Rwandan genocide to later escape into Congo's eastern hills and giving them guns.

Millions have died in eastern Congo, home to myriad rebel groups, since the end of Rwanda's genocide.

Kagame came to power in 2000 after leading the Rwandan Patriotic Front to overthrow the 1994 government. He won democratic elections in 2003 and 2010. The constitution currently limits presidents to two seven-year terms. Kagame has previously brushed off speculation he could seek to stay on for another term.

Critics accuse Kagame of being authoritarian and trampling on media and political freedoms. South Africa expelled three Rwandan envoys last month and accused them of being linked to attacks on Kagame's dissidents in the country. Kigali has denied the accusations.

But Kagame has also won international praise for progress in his bid to transform Rwanda into a middle-income country by 2020. Rwanda was ranked 2nd in sub-Saharan Africa on the World Bank's annual Doing Business report for 2014, overtaking economic heavyweight South Africa, after a series of economic reforms.

(Editing by Andre Grenon)

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