Statement by NSC Spokesperson Ned Price on Rwandan Constitutional Referendum

The United States is disappointed that a referendum was called on short notice to amend the Rwandan constitution and introduce exceptions to term limits. While we commend the people of Rwanda for peacefully exercising their civic rights, we regret that the arrangements for the referendum failed to provide sufficient time and opportunity for political debate on the merits of the proposed provisions.

The United States continues to be concerned by long-standing restrictions on peaceful assembly, association, and free expression in Rwanda. We urge the Government of Rwanda to enable the full and unfettered exercise of these fundamental freedoms as the country moves toward local elections in 2016, presidential elections in 2017, and parliamentary elections in 2018.

The peaceful transfer of power from one leader to another is the hallmark of stable, prosperous democracies. President Kagame, who in many ways has strengthened and developed Rwanda, now has an historic opportunity to enshrine his legacy by honoring his commitments to respect the term limits set when he entered office. By doing so, President Kagame would establish a credible foundation for democracy in Rwanda, reinforce the substantial progress that has been achieved towards sustained peace and prosperity for all Rwandans, and set a laudable example not only for Rwanda, but for the region and the world.

As President Obama has stated, great leaders throughout history “forged a lasting legacy not only because of what they did in office, but because they were willing to leave office and transfer power peacefully.” The United States remains committed to supporting the people of Rwanda in their effort to ensure a strong, stable, democratic, and prosperous future.