“My wish is that one day, a woman takes up this position that you gave me,” Kagame told delegates during the Nation Address at the 17th National Annual Dialogue last Thursday.
He has previously made similar claims, notably in 2017 when he said he “can only accept” to run for a third term after being persuaded by the Rwandan population.
While it would be difficult to dislodge a president who is credited with the nation’s economic transformation, no woman has made it to the ballot for the presidency in Rwanda’s history despite the president’s wish.
Only two women have attempted to run for the top seat — Victoire Ingabire in 2010 and Diane Rwigara in 2017.
But their attempts were short-lived and unsuccessful as both were arrested shortly after announcing their bids to run against Kagame.
The ruling party, Rwanda Patriotic Front, has notable women who have previously risen through the ranks and are seen as potential successors once Kagame decides to pass on the button.
Experts say Rwanda has a pool of women leaders who can match the challenge.
The Cabinet is 52 per cent female while they make up 68 per cent of parliament.
YOUNG AND EXPERIENCED
“There are many young and experienced women in political offices now. One name that comes up to me easily is Louise Mushikiwabo, who has vast experience in leadership and can take the challenge,” said Ismail Buchanan, a professor of politics.
“But most importantly, I think it is not about a particular individual but the need for continuation of Rwanda’s (upward) trajectory.”
Ms Mushikiwabo is the secretary-general of Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie and previously served as Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Co-operation of Rwanda from 2009 to 2018.
A week ago, President Kagame had again talked about his retirement, this time in a more subtle manner.
While attending the 2019 Doha Forum, he answered “most likely not” to a question on whether he will seek for a fourth term in 2024.
“I don’t know yet, but most likely no. When I say most likely, I mean I don’t want to lock myself into anything. I want to have some breathing space,” Kagame said.
“But I think that given the way things are or have been in the past, it depends on two things. But I think I have made up my mind where I am concerned personally that it is not going to happen next time.”
President Kagame won a resounding third term in 2017 by 99 per cent of the vote, following a referendum in 2015 that suspended term limits.
Before that, Kagame had made several suggestions that he might not seek a third term, but changed his mind after the constitution was amended in 2015.
Having served as president since 2000, Kagame and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni are the longest-serving leaders in the East African Community.