Rwandan President Paul Kagame publicly confirmed for the first time that he intends to pursue a fourth term in next year’s election, despite facing mounting criticism over his long authoritarian rule.

“I am happy with the confidence Rwandans have shown in me. I will always serve them as long as I can. Yes, I am indeed a candidate,” the 65-year-old Kagame told French magazine Jeune Afrique in an interview.

Kagame has effectively led Rwanda since the 1994 genocide ended. He won prior elections in 2003, 2010 and 2017 with over 90% of votes. Controversial constitutional changes enabled him to stay in power beyond term limits.

If he wins again in 2024, Kagame could potentially govern until 2034. His announcement came after Rwanda decided to synchronize presidential and parliamentary polls.

Rights groups accuse Kagame of repressing opposition and dissent. Rwanda ranks near the bottom worldwide in press freedom. But the president dismisses such criticism.

So far, only opposition leader Frank Habineza has entered the race. He vowed to keep fighting for democracy after Kagame confirmed another run.

While praised for Rwanda’s stability and economic growth, concerns persist over Kagame’s lack of political space. His fourth term bid will generate scrutiny.