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Rwanda Opposition Leader Continues Fight on Constitution

Rwandan President Paul Kagame delivers a speech during the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, in Kigali, April 7, 2014. A court ruling paved the way for Kagame to amend the constitution and seek another seven-year term.

The leader of Rwanda’s main opposition Green Party says next week his organization will officially appeal to President Paul Kagame to urge him not to contravene the constitution by seeking another term.

A recent court ruling paves the way for Kagame to amend the constitution and seek another seven-year term.

The constitution only allows a president two seven year terms. Kagame’s second term is set to expire in 2017, but supporters want term limits removed from the constitution to allow Kagame to seek another term.

The Supreme Court recently ruled that amending the constitution to remove the current two-term limit for presidents is legal, as long as the process respects the law.

But opposition Green Party leader, Frank Habineza, who petitioned the court to block the constitutional changes, said he has not given up the fight to thwart efforts of the ruling party to amend the constitution.

“We are not going to give up. We are continuing a peaceful democratic struggle. We have decided that next week we are going to appeal to the president of the republic because ...He is the guardian of the constitution and the guarantor of national unity ...We are going to make it clear to him that what is taking place is actually a violation of the constitution,” said Habineza.

"We are organizing a nationwide campaign to make sure that we sensitize Rwandans that they should not vote for any change of the constitution if the parliament approves the referendum... We are also in the [process] of submitting another case in the African Court of Justice and African Court of Human and People’s Rights as well as the East African Court of Justice.”

He said the Green Party would also urge Kagame not to submit himself as a candidate to lead the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) party in the next presidential election.

Habineza also called for the international community to follow the lead of the U.S. government’s opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment to pressure the ruling party and its supporters not to change the constitution.

The U.S. State Department has expressed opposition to the calls to amend the constitution to enable another Kagame term.

“The international community should be more serious and more willing to helping in providing sustainable peace and security in the Great Lakes Region, and we think that maintaining presidential term limits is one of the ways of proving for peace sustainably,” said Habineza.