Rwandan Lawmakers Back Referendum on Presidential Term Limit

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Rwandan lawmakers backed a petition calling for a referendum in which voters will be asked whether to amend the constitution and enable President Paul Kagame to extend his 15 years in power.

Twenty-three out of 24 senators supported a petition signed by 3.7 million Rwandans, Senate President Bernard Makuza said Tuesday in the capital, Kigali. The petition was also approved by 79 of 80 members of parliament present, the Speaker of Parliament Donatille Mukabalisa said.

Kagame has been in power since 2000 after he led a rebel army that ended the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which about 800,000 people were killed. He hasn’t said whether he’ll stand if deemed eligible for elections scheduled for 2017.

Rwanda has a $7.5 billion economy that relies on exports of crops including coffee for most of its foreign-exchange revenue. Starbucks Corp., the world’s largest coffee-shop operator, plans to double its purchases of the country’s output. The nation sold $400 million of Eurobonds for the first time in April 2013.

In an interview with the East African, a Nairobi-based newspaper, published at the weekend, Kagame said term limits for leaders didn’t guarantee a country’s success.

“There are places where they observe term limits and the only thing that is constant is the mess they are in,” he said. “But we have seen other places with no term limits” such as Singapore “and things are going right.”

In neighboring Burundi, the ruling party’s April nomination of President Pierre Nkurunziza to seek a third term sparked violent protests that have left at least 77 people dead.

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