US says Kagame should go when term ends in 2017

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - Rwandan President Paul Kagame must set an example for his region and step down at the end of his term in 2017, the US ambassador to the United Nations said Tuesday.

Samantha Power spoke after Rwanda's senate last month passed a constitutional amendment that would allow Kagame to run for a third term in 2017, and potentially remain in power for the next two decades.

"President Kagame has an opportunity to set an example for a region in which leaders seem too tempted to view themselves as indispensable to their own countries' trajectories," Power told a news conference.

"Nobody is indispensable," she added.

"We expect President Kagame to step down at the end of his term in 2017."

A strong US ally in East Africa, Kagame has run Rwanda since his rebel army ended the 1994 genocide and ousted Hutu extremists.

He won elections in 2003 and 2010 and under the current law is due to step aside in 2017 at the end of his second term.

But earlier this year, more than 60 percent of voters signed a petition calling for constitutional changes that would allow Kagame to stand again.

Kagame's aides have insisted that any bid for a third term would be in response to "popular demand."

Power noted that while there were manoeuvrings in parliament to extend his rule, Kagame had not made his intentions clear.

"We really do expect President Kagame to follow through on the commitments he has made many times in the past to allow the next generation of leaders to come forward," she said.

Her remarks came as the UN Security Council is moving to stamp out months of deadly violence in neighboring Burundi sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for re-election.

The 15-member council is considering a visit to Burundi to highlight international concern for the country that was torn apart by war from 1993 to 2006.