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Rwandan Court Paves Way for Kagame Third Term

FILE - Rwanda's President Paul Kagame addresses the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. Headquarters, Sept. 29, 2015.

Rwanda's Supreme Court has cleared the way for President Paul Kagame to run for a third seven-year term when his current term expires in 2017.

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

The opposition Green Party had petitioned the court to block the proposed changes, after Rwanda's parliament passed a motion in July supporting another term for Kagame.

Voters would still have to approve any changes in a referendum. The amendment would be likely to pass, given Kagame's control of media and politics in the East African country, and his popularity for keeping the peace since the end of the 1994 genocide.

Last month, the U.S. State Department expressed concern about the moves to keep Kagame in power. Spokesman John Kirby said "We do not support those in positions of power changing constitutions solely for their political self-interest."

Kagame is the latest in a string of African presidents seeking to eliminate or sidestep term limits.

Later this month, the Republic of Congo holds a vote on constitutional changes that would allow President Denis Sassou Nguesso to extend his 18-year stay in office.

In Burundi, President Pierre Nkurunziza triggered weeks of violent protests and a failed coup attempt by running for a third term.

Critics said Nkurunziza was violating a two-term limit in the constitution. The country's constitutional court ruled the president's first term in 2005 did not count because he had been elected by parliament instead of voters.