By Justin Mhaka
Famous words from Michael Corleone, chief protagonist in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather.
Corleone, a ruthlessly efficient, tactful, suave mafia boss, is intent on going straight.
The men in dark shades whom he fraternises with – heartless, shady gangsters with insatiable appetites for money, power, mistresses, finely-tailored Italian suits, Cuban cigars, and single malt whiskey, won’t let him go, legitimate.
Corleone’s their man: he’s made them all untouchable, filthy rich mobsters.
Power, the recurring leitmotiv in Mario Puzzo’s Academy Award-nominated classic, loudly resonates across African politics: once you are in – you are in.
Paul Kagame’s ostensibly the Godfather of Rwanda.
The man is intelligent, fearless, eloquent, powerful.
The man is a national hero: the nation’s hero.
Kagame led the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), the largely-Tutsi rebel force that halted the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
About 1 million Rwandans, mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus, died in the genocide.
Kagame has overseen hugely successful reconciliation efforts in the central east-African state.
He has presided over Rwanda’s highly-regarded economic transformation.
And Rwanda is relatively stable and prosperous.
In January, Kagame made a much-anticipated announcement.
“You requested me to lead the country again after 2017. Given the importance and consideration you attach to this, I can only accept. But I don’t think that what we need is an eternal leader.”
Constitutional amendments allowing Kagame to run for a third term were passed by parliament and approved by Rwandans in a referendum.
The much-discussed third term has been strongly condemned by the EU and US.
The Americans have encouraged Kagame to step down in 2017.
The EU’s criticised the timing of the referendum, coming so soon after constitutional changes were approved.
See third terms tend to be bloody, highly contentious affairs in Africa.
In April 2015, Pierre Nkurunziza’s machinations to seek a third term in neighbouring Burundi, triggered massive violent protests in Bujumbura, the capital city.
Two people were killed and scores of opposition party members were injured in the raging protests.
In Uganda, which shares a border in the southwest with Rwanda, Yoweri Museveni, a former soldier, shrewdly engineered a third term for himself in 2006.
Some ten years later, on February 18, 2016, Museveni was again declared winner of the Presidential election.
His rival in the election, Kizza Besigye, leader of the FDC, who was arrested on flimsy, trumped up charges several times, in the lead up to the roundly disputed election, accused Museveni of “using intimidation of voters, imprisonment of opponents, sabotage of rallies, late delivery of election materials, delayed opening of election centres, vote falsification at undisclosed tally centers, and bribery, among other malpractices”.
Sierre Leone, like Rwanda, plans to hold a referendum on extending the presidential term limit next year.
Supporters of Ernest Bai Koroma, say the president needs a further term of office, as his efforts to advance Sierre Leone have been infrequently interrupted by outbreaks of Ebola.
Third term fever is seemingly afflicting the entire continent.
Since 98% of Rwandans voted in favour of doing away with presidential term limits, Kagame’s third-term aspirations have the full backing of the Rwandan populace.
And he has been an amazing leader par excellence undoubtedly.
The real question here is: who stands to benefit the most from Kagame’s extended tenure in office?
The people of Rwanda?
Or the political elites of Rwanda?
Just when he thought he was out, they pull him back in.