Rwandan Supreme Court Dismisses Case on Presidential Terms

Rwanda’s Supreme Court dismissed a case brought by the Democratic Green Party opposing changes to presidential term limits, saying the petition was “baseless.”

“The court finds that it’s normal to change the constitution in Rwanda and any other country as long as it’s through a referendum,” Chief Justice Sam Rugege said in his ruling.

Rwandan lawmakers in July 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.

Kagame has ruled Rwanda since 2000 after he led a rebel army that ended the 1994 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.

The opposition party was “very disappointed by the ruling,” Chairman Frank Habineza told reporters after the verdict. “We expected a win for Rwandan today. Our next move is to petition President Paul Kagame not to submit his candidature.”

While it’s unlikely that a broad popular movement or mass protests against the constitutional change will emerge, there could be a marked increase in opposition, according to Jacques Nel, an analyst at Cape Town-based NKC African Economics.

“We had expected this development, and do not see it as affecting risk by itself, but we do see a risk that opposition to the president and his party might start to become more pronounced,” Nel said in a note to clients.

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.

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