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US: Rwanda's Kagame Should Step Down When Term Ends

FILE- Rwandan President Paul Kagame
FILE- Rwandan President Paul Kagame

The United States expects Rwandan President Paul Kagame to set an example and step down at the end of his second term in office next year, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said Tuesday.

"President Kagame has an opportunity to set an example for a region in which leaders seem too tempted to view themselves as indispensable to their own countries' trajectories," Power told reporters.

"We really do expect President Kagame to follow through on the commitments that he has made many times in the past to allow the next generation of leaders to come forward," she said. "We expect President Kagame to step down at the end of his term in 2017."

Last month, the African nation's Senate approved a draft constitution to allow Kagame, in power since 2000, to seek a third term in office, clearing the path for a nationwide referendum that is not expected to face much opposition.

Power said the United States was aware of the "parliamentary maneuverings" but noted that Kagame himself has not said what his intentions were regarding a possible third term in office.

Extended reigns, bloodshed

She was addressing a news conference on her plans as president of the United Nations Security Council for the month of December. She said the 15-nation council was discussing a possible visit to Rwanda's neighbor Burundi this month, where there has been months of bloodshed.

Hundreds of people have been killed and tens of thousands have fled Burundi during months of violence that began when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided in April to run for a third term. He won a disputed election in July.

Kagame has won widespread praise for rebuilding the landlocked Central African country since a 1994 genocide killed about 800,000 people, most of them ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

While praising Rwanda's economic and social development since then, rights groups have said the government severely restricts freedom of expression and does not tolerate dissent.

The government has denied these charges. Kagame, 58, is the latest long-serving ruler in Africa to attempt to extend his hold on power. Similar moves have sparked violence and instability in Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of Congo.