(CNN)A former child refugee, Paul Kagame was once a hero to the West, feted for helping to bring Rwanda's bloody genocide to an end.
But with allegations of repression, violence and politically-motivated murder dogging his rule, the military and political leader's international reputation has suffered. Undaunted, the Rwandan leader is standing for re-election on Friday.
Seventeen years into his presidency -- and with the prospect of as many as 17 more to come -- there seems little doubt Kagame will claim victory again come polling day.
"Some people have said that the result of the election is a foregone conclusion. They are not wrong," Kagame said at a rally in Ruhango district, in Rwanda's Southern Province, as the campaign kicked off on July 14.
"Rwandans made their position clear in 2015," he told crowds of supporters, referring to the 2015 referendum in which 98% of voters backed changes to the constitution, allowing him to seek a third, fourth and fifth term in office -- and potentially remain in post until 2034.
Childhood spent in exile
Kagame, who turns 60 this year, had experienced the impact of the Tutsi-Hutu division which threatened to tear his country apart early: he was brought up in exile in neighboring Uganda following an earlier violent uprising in 1959.
His leadership credentials were forged on the battlefield, first as part of Yoweri Museveni's army which overthrew the regime of Milton Obote in Uganda.
After serving as Museveni's intelligence chief, he led the armed wing of the Rwandan Patriotic Front into Kigali to halt the 1994 genocide, in which almost a million Tutsis were murdered by rival Hutus, and up to two million people fled the country.