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Rwandan Senate Paves Way for Kagame to Extend Rule

FILE- Rwandan President Paul Kagame speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York, Sept. 24, 2014.

The Rwandan Senate has endorsed constitutional amendments that would allow President Paul Kagame to stay in office for another two decades.

The vote Tuesday in the Senate was unanimous. The proposed changes will be put to a national referendum, where they are expected to win easy approval.

Kagame, 58, has ruled Rwanda since his army ended the 1994 genocide and ousted Hutu extremists from power.

Under current law, he has to step down at the end of his second elected term in 2017. But the proposed amendments would allow him to run for another seven-year term, followed by two five-year terms, potentially extending his rule until 2034.

The lower house of parliament endorsed the changes earlier this month.

The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda opposition party said Tuesday the amendments are a challenge to "sustainable peace and security." It said it will run a "no change" campaign ahead of the referendum. Officials have not yet announced a date for that vote.

Kagame is the latest in a string of African leaders seeking to work around two-term limits in their countries' constitutions.

In neighboring Burundi, President Pierre Nkurunziza set off continuing violence by running for and winning a third term earlier this year.

Burkina Faso's longtime president Blaise Compaore was ousted by a popular uprising in October 2014 as he tried to make parliament abolish term limits.

Rwanda has so far seen no protests against Kagame, who has won widespread popular support by maintaining peace and building up the Central African country's economy. But critics say his government suppresses freedom of speech and does not tolerate dissent.