KIGALI, Rwanda – Rwandan President Paul Kagame was sworn in for a third term Friday after winning re-election with nearly 99 percent of the vote.
Many African leaders attended the ceremony in the capital, Kigali. The longtime president had described the Aug. 4 election as “a formality” while campaigning.
The East African nation has virtually no political opposition, and critics accuse Kagame of being intolerant of dissent. He denies it.
“It’s a day of gratitude and I will continue to work for Rwandans with pride and honor,” Kagame said Friday. “Africa is on the right path, and we are going to do just fine.”
Kagame has been de facto leader or president since the end of the 1994 genocide. Because of a change to the constitution in 2015, he can legally stay in power until 2034.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement that in the months leading to the election it documented a pattern of harassment, arrests and detentions of opposition party leaders and supporters, activists and journalists.
Several were forcibly disappeared or prosecuted after making comments critical of the current government or ruling party, the rights group said.
“Kagame’s landslide win came as no surprise in a context in which Rwandans who have dared raise their voices or challenge the status quo have been arrested, forcibly disappeared or killed,” the group’s Ida Sawyer said in the statement.
Amnesty International had described a “climate of fear” ahead of the vote.