"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. 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. We expect President Kagame to step down at the end of his term in 2017... Nobody is indispensable" It is with this unequivocal statement that the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power yet again underlined the US Government position against the attempts by African dictators, including Rwandan President Paul Kagame, to cling to power.
Ambassador Samantha Power made the statements at the United Nations, on Tuesday December 1, 2015, as she was taking over as the rotating President of the UN Security Council for the month of December 2015.
She was reacting to the decision by the Rwandan Senate, composed mostly by Paul Kagame's stooges, to allow a constitutional change lifting term limits. The change would allow Paul Kagame to run for a forbidden third and fourth term after a 7-year transition, and hence to remain in power for the next 17 years.
Following the Rwandan Senate vote, the U.S. State Department in Washington, had expressed "great concern" and renewed its calls for General Paul Kagame to step down at the end of his term in 2017 (see our article):
"We expect President Kagame to follow through on the commitments he has made previously to foster a new generation of leaders in Rwanda and to step down at the end of his current term in 2017," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.
Asked by the US media whether the United States, one of the major aid donors to Rwanda, was considering suspending or reducing U.S. assistance to Kigali, Toner replied: "Not at this time."
Earlier, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Sarah Sewall during her trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in late October 2015, had said that if Kagame does decide to stay beyond his current term, it could impact U.S.-Rwanda relations:
"Rwanda, while it has made remarkable progress over the last decade against all odds –increasing economic growth and youth literacy, dramatically lowering child and infant mortality –has not kept pace with progress on the political front. There have been unmistakable efforts in that country to stifle critical voices in civil society, in the media, and in the political opposition. And those who speak out often live in fear and face harassment or intimidation. Some have simply disappeared. While we celebrate Rwanda’s progress, of course, sustaining it will require trust in the people and the respect for democratic process and fundamental human rights.
President Kagame has repeatedly stated his commitment to respect the constitutional term limit, and the United States expects him to keep his word,"
The repeated and more pointed statements from the US Government appear to indicate growing determination to send a strong message to a reluctant Paul Kagame. In fact, according to sources close to Paul Kagame, he initially was poised to ignore the calls by the United Stated Government and go ahead with the change, but lately has sent hints to his aides indicating that he has softened his stance.
US Government in A Tough Spot as Rwandan Paul Kagame's Decision Likely to Test Its Objectivity
Observers wonder how the US Government will behave if Paul Kagame ignores the warnings. In fact, the US Government has taken heavy handed measures against the Burundian dictator Pierre Nkurunziza, who recently decided to change the constitution to remain in power beyond two terms allowed by the constitution.
However, US Government did not do anything or followup with threats when it came to other African dictators, such as Ugandan Yoweri Museveni or Republic of Congo's Sassou Nguesso.
Now the question is: will the US Government continue to be tough against Burundian dictator Pierre Nkurunziza, while giving a free ride to Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame, his neighbor to the North?
As statements multiply from several officials within the US Government, it appears that Paul Kagame may not have any choice than to start grooming his successor.
"President Paul Kagame very much appreciate the determination of the US Government. Before the statement by Ambassador Samantha Power, a US official called Paul Kagame to let him know that the statement will be made. After the calls, he became moody and cursed, but this time, appeared resigned to the inevitable," a source within Paul Kagame's entourage told AfroAmerica Network.
In his statement on Twitter, Paul Kagame reacted to Ambassador Samantha Power's statement by saying that the decision belongs to the Rwandan people; his usual ambiguous line of defense.