Buffett, Blair Back Kagame For Third Presidential Term In Rwanda

Buffett, Blair Back Kagame For Third Presidential Term In Rwanda

U.S. philanthropist Howard Buffet and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair endorsed a third term bid by Rwandan President Paul Kagame Wednesday at the World Economic Forum on Africa, underway in Kigali.

Blair moderated the discussion and Buffet said he’s backing Kagame to stay in office, EyewitnessNews reported.

In 2015 the Rwandan legislature approved a change to its constitution that would allow Kagame to run again, supported by a referendum vote.

In the referendum, 98 percent of voters voted in favor of changing the constitution to allow Kagame to run again, DailyMaverick reported. Members of parliament toured the country in the run-up to the vote, and claim they heard from just 10 Rwandans who were opposed.

Kagame says he has no choice. He’ll have to make himself available to stay on.

There are no term limits for Britain’s prime ministers. Blair was elected for a third term in Britain’s general elections while serving as prime minister from 1997 to 2007, according to Quartz.

Kagame’s leadership has widely been credited with the remarkable turnaround of Rwanda’s fortunes following the 1994 genocide that claimed 800,000 lives and devastated the country’s economy.

Rwanda is ranked 161st out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, Recode reported. Western governments that have supported Kagame now chastise him for seeking a third term despite constitutional limits. Critics say Rwanda’s economic gains came at the cost of basic freedoms with dissidents targeted for assassination.

The country also ranks highest in Africa on World Bank’s Ease Of Doing Business Index.

For Western critics, a third term for Kagame could send the wrong signals to other African leaders, Quartz reported. And what’s to stop Kagame from continually being re-elected in the style of president-for-life?

Rwanda’s neighbor, the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a much larger unstable country going through a similar third-term journey but with a less popular president, Joseph Kabila. Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza is also making moves to extend his mandate, which has seen minor conflicts mounting in recent months, with fears that things might escalate into full blown civil war. In Uganda, president Yoweri Museveni, who is about to be sworn in for a fifth term, continues to clamp down on opposition leaders after 30 years in power.

While Africa has become more democratic in recent years, there are still several leaders across the continent who have styled themselves as “presidents for life,” despite creating limited progress for their ordinary citizens. That challenge isn’t facing Kagame but it’s likely, especially if he were to keep being re-elected under the new constitution.

Kagame brings certainty and stability to Rwanda — things that are important to investors and aid agencies, Buffett said, according to DailyMaverick.

A permanent resident of South Africa for more than 10 years, Buffett says he’s been to every country in Africa. He talked about risk as a philanthropist, and said losing Kagame is not a risk he’s prepared to take.

“I see no other answer than that this is what the Rwandans want, they’ve made a statement and there’s a reason they’ve done it,” Buffett said.

“To paraphrase, the rest of the world should stay out of Rwanda,” wrote political correspondent Stephen Grootes.