Rwandan President Paul Kagame said Friday he would run for a third term in office in 2017 in line with a constitution amendment which won overwhelming backing in a referendum earlier this month.
“You have asked me to lead the country after 2017. Given the importance you ascribe to this matter, I can only accept,” he said during a televised address at midnight (2200 GMT) as the nation welcomed in the New Year.
“You have clearly expressed your choice on our country’s future,” he said, describing the constitutional changes as “worthy and wise”.
The December 18 poll saw voters massively approve constitutional amendments allowing Kagame, 58, to run for an exceptional third seven-year term in 2017.
Thereafter, the new rules will take effect and enable him to run for a further two five-year terms through to 2034, cementing his hold on a country he has effectively controlled since his rebel force ended the 1994 genocide which left some 800,000 dead.
The “yes” vote in favour of the constitutional change garnered 98.4 percent, leaving just 1.6 percent of voters opposed.
But Washington and the European Union denounced the outcome as undermining democracy in the central African country and called on Kagame to step down in 2017.
He has insisted he will stay.
Kagame was elected with some 90 percent of ballots cast both in 2003 and 2010 and he said the outcome of the referendum would determine whether he continued in office.
Several African states have recently lifted or tried to lift constitutional bars to multiple presidential mandates.
Such was the case in neighbouring Burundi, which descended into bloodshed in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his intention to run for a controversial third term in a July election that he went on to win.