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US to Rwanda: No New Presidential Term Limits

FILE- Rwandan President Paul Kagame speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 24, 2014.

The United States is urging Rwanda not to make constitutional changes that would allow President Paul Kagame to run for a third term.

In a statement Friday to VOA's French to Africa service, the State Department said the U.S. believes democracy is best advanced by developing "strong institutions, not strongmen."

The statement, issued by the Bureau of African Affairs, said the U.S. is "committed to supporting a peaceful, democratic transition in 2017 to a new leader elected by the Rwandan people."

Rwanda is scheduled to hold its next presidential election in 2017. President Kagame recently told the magazine Jeune Afrique that he has not decided whether he will run again but said decisions on the constitution will be made only by Rwandans.

Kagame has ruled Rwanda since the end of the 1994 genocide and won two presidential elections in 2003 and 2010.

The statement comes amid continued unrest in Rwanda's Central African neighbor Burundi, where President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term triggered violent protests and a failed coup attempt last month.

Burundi's constitution, like Rwanda's, has a two-term limit for presidents. Burundi's constitutional court, however, ruled Nkurunziza is eligible to seek re-election.

On Thursday, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators called on Burundi's president to reconsider his decision. Earlier this week, the State Department said Nkurunziza's re-election bid is destabilizing Burundi, which is trying to recover from a 13-year civil war.

The unrest in Burundi has prompted more than 100,000 people to flee to nearby countries, with the bulk going to Rwanda.