U.S. Reiterates Criticism of Kagame Bid to Extend Presidency

The U.S. reiterated its criticism of Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s plan to extend his 15-year rule in elections next year, while saying it will continue to deepen commercial ties with the East African nation.

“We believe that respecting established term limits can strengthen democratic institutions and help build a vibrant and free society,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said in a statement issued during a visit to Rwanda Wednesday. Pritzker met Kagame to discuss opportunities presented by the integration of the five-nation East African Community.

“One lesson I have learned during 27 years in the private sector is that senior executives need to foster an environment that encourages ideas and creativity, as well as to plan for leadership transitions that ensure that success is not based on a single leader,” she said.

The U.S. State Department said earlier this month it was “deeply disappointed” with Kagame for announcing his candidacy in elections planned for next year. Kagame, who has governed Rwanda since 2000, rejected the criticism.

Pritzker traveled to Rwanda with a group of executives who make up President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa. Rwanda is forecast to be one of sub-Saharan Africa’s fastest-growing economies this year, with growth predicted at 7 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund.

“The council members wanted to develop a deeper understanding of what Rwanda has done that has worked, and how Rwanda’s progress can serve as an example for other countries in the region and across the continent,” Pritzker said.

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