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Rwanda's Kagame backs calls to change constitution, allowing him third term

Rwandan President Paul Kagame is praised for helping to end the country's 1994 genocide but accused of cracking down on journalists and political opponents critical of his rule.

Rwanda kagame third term 2011 12 12Enlarge
Rwandan President Paul Kagame has said he has no problem with calls to change his country's constitution to allow him a third term. (Stephen Chernin/AFP/Getty Images)

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame said Monday that he doesn't mind calls for his country's constitution to be changed to allow him to run for a third term.

Kagame, praised for his role in helping to end Rwanda's 1994 genocide but criticized for being increasingly despotic, told a press conference in Uganda that those asking him to run again for president were exercising their freedom of expression, Reuters reported.

Rwanda's internal security minister, Sheikh Fazil Musa Harerimana, was quoted in local media as calling for the constitutional changes.

"I will not be uncomfortable at all with people saying this or the other," Kagame told reporters in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, according to Reuters.

"There's contradiction, on one hand you say people should have freedom to express themselves. On the other hand, you start questioning somebody expressing himself."

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Kagame and his Rwandan Patriotic Front party have been in power since the end of the 1994 genocide that killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, when he led a rebel army into the capital to expel a Hutu-led government. Kagame has been praised for bringing stability and economic growth to the country.

But human rights groups say opposition politicians, journalists and civil society activists in Rwanda have been subjected to growing crackdowns. Kagame was re-elected in a landslide last year after opposition parties were harassed and silenced.

Rwandan dissidents have accused Kagame’s government of sending out agents to assassinate critics in foreign countries. 

On December 1, Charles Ingabire, an editor of Rwanda's Inyenyeri News website and a critic of Kagame who lived in exile, was shot dead at a bar in Kampala. 

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said Ingabire had been targeted before:

In October 2011, unknown assailants attacked Ingabire, demanding he shutter his website, news reports said. Inyenyeri News was highly critical of the Rwandan government and extensively covered the Rwandan military, often publishing interviews with exiled Rwandan soldiers.

At Monday's news conference, Kagame said Ingabire was a thief who was killed because he stole money belonging to an association of genocide survivors, and he criticized the international media for blaming his death on the Rwandan government.

"It's just hearsay," Kagame said, according to Reuters. "Somebody has died, a journalist has died and, even before they know whether he has died because of an accident, the conclusion is that Kagame has killed him."

More from GlobalPost: Rwanda News: Blood on Kagame's hands?

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/111212/rwanda-paul-kagame-supports-constitution-changes-third-term