KIGALI, Rwanda, Jan. 1 (UPI) -- Rwandan president Paul Kagame announced in a televised New Years address that he plans to run for a third term.
"You requested me to lead the country again after 2017. Given the importance and consideration you attach to this, I can only accept," he told the nation in his address. "But I don't think that what we need is an eternal leader."
Thanks to a referendum last month on changes to Rwanda's constitution, Kagame is able to run for one more seven-year term, and then two more five-year terms, meaning he could stay in power until 2034.
Although Kagame became acting president in 2000, he has effectively been in power since 1994 when his rebel army took the capital city of Kigali in 1994, ending the Rwandan Genocide. Kagame was then elected in 2003 after Rwanda's new constitution was adopted, and was re-elected in 2003 and 2010.
The referendum last month was denounced by the United States and the European Union as too speedy for voters to have made informed decisions on constitutional changes. The United States and the EU have also called for Kagame to step down in 2017 to allow for new leadership.
Although Kagame has been praised for sparking economic development in Rwanda, the BBC reported many accuse him of being a heavy-handed ruler, stifling opposition as well as the media.
Two other presidents in the region are seeking third terms. President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi won a third term in July, sparking widespread violence throughout the country. Kkurunziza survived an attempted coup in May.
The BBC reported President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo is widely believed to attempt a third term, despite a constitutional requirement that he must step down at the end of 2016.