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Rwanda constitution allowing Kagame extra terms comes into force

Rwanda’s amended constitution allowing President Paul Kagame to potentially rule until 2034 has come into force, the justice minister said Friday.

The amendments allow Kagame, 58, to run for an exceptional third seven-year term in 2017, at the end of which the new rules take effect and he will be eligible to run for a further two five-year terms.

"The Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda, 2015 revised edition, is in force," Minister of Justice Busingye Johnstone said in a brief statement on Christmas Day.

The United States and European Union have denounced the constitutional amendments as undermining democracy in the central African country, with the White House urging Kagame to respect the limits of his term in office.

The "yes" vote in favour of the constitutional change garnered 98.4 percent, leaving just 1.6 percent of voters opposed.

Kagame has effectively ruled Rwanda since his rebel force ended the country’s 1994 genocide. He took part in the first post-genocide government as vice president and defence minister.

The issue of long-serving rulers clinging to power has caused turmoil in Africa, where some leaders have been at the helm for decades.

Elysee NZASHIMIMANA

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