President Paul Kagame of Rwanda has announced that he is actively discussing a succession plan within his ruling party. During a joint press briefing with his Kenyan counterpart, William Ruto, in Kigali, Mr Kagame referred to his retirement as an “inevitability.” This announcement comes as a surprise to many, as Kagame has been the country’s leader for more than two decades.
In a report by the BBC, Mr Kagame stated that he is not necessarily interested in choosing his successor but rather in creating an environment that would give rise to people who can lead. “We have been having this discussion within our [ruling] party since 2010 but circumstances, challenges, and history of Rwanda tend to dictate certain things,” he said.
Mr Kagame’s comments come amid the election of the Rwandan Patriotic Front’s first woman vice-chairperson. Despite this, President Kagame retained the chairmanship position, which he has held since 1998.
This is not the first time Mr Kagame has talked about retirement. In December 2022, he stated that he had no problem becoming an ordinary senior citizen. In 2015, a controversial referendum in Rwanda removed a two-term constitutional limit for presidents, allowing Mr Kagame to run for a third term and win the election.
While there is no clear timeline for his retirement, Mr Kagame’s statement signals a shift in Rwandan politics. The country has made significant strides in the last two decades under Kagame’s leadership, and many are now left wondering who will take his place.
As the discussion around his succession continues, it is worth reflecting on Mr Kagame’s legacy. Under his leadership, Rwanda has undergone a significant transformation, from a country devastated by genocide in the 1990s to one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa. His government’s focus on investment in infrastructure, education, and healthcare has improved the lives of millions of Rwandans.
However, his leadership has also been criticised for its authoritarian tendencies, including censorship of the press and opposition voices. The government’s human rights record has also been called into question, with reports of torture, extrajudicial killings, and repression of political dissidents.
As Rwanda enters a new era of leadership, it is crucial to continue the progress made under Kagame while addressing the challenges that remain. This will require a commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, as well as a continued focus on economic development.
The task of finding a successor to Mr Kagame is not an easy one, but it is one that must be undertaken with great care. The new leader will need to navigate the complexities of Rwandan politics while maintaining the progress made under Kagame’s leadership.
It is also worth noting that the succession plan will have implications beyond Rwanda’s borders. Mr Kagame has been a key figure in African politics, serving as chair of the African Union in 2018 and playing a leading role in the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement.
President Kagame’s announcement of a succession plan marks the beginning of a new era in Rwandan politics. As the country prepares for a transition of power, it is essential to reflect on the legacy of Kagame’s leadership while looking forward to the challenges and opportunities of the future. A commitment to democracy, human rights, and economic development will be crucial in ensuring a smooth and successful transition of power.