Rwanda passes draft constitution amendment amidst controversy

Critics say President Paul Kagame is orchestrating constitutional change to facilitate his stay in power

Critics say President Paul Kagame is orchestrating constitutional change to facilitate his stay in power

Rwandan parliament has passed the Draft constitution amendment Paul Kagame to run for the third term even amidst growing pressure from the west and one opposition party challenging the move.

Last week, Rwandan Supreme Court dismissed a case filled by the Democratic Green Party opposing proposed changes to article 101 regarding presidential term limits, but the party has promised to ‘mobilize’ Rwandans to vote “No” in the forthcoming referendum on the issue.

The Chamber of Deputies overwhelmingly endorsed the measure with 71 out of available 76 votes. The Bill will now move to the senate and the upper chamber is likely to follow suit and seal approval.

The international community especially US has opposed is opposed to Rwanda’s proposals to change the constitution to allow President Paul Kagame to run for the third term but over three million Rwandans have petitioned parliament to amend article 101 and remove the two seven-year term limit provision and clear the way for Kagame to run.

Critics particularly those in the diaspora argue the number of people who have petitioned parliament is exaggerated and that the entire process is meant to prop up president Kagame. Kagame on the other hand has distanced himself from the apparent “movement” to have him stay on for another term.

Parliament has setup a constitutional review commission to advise and provide technical assistance on the amendment process.

The commission that was recently appointed and approved by parliament has hit the ground running putting forth recommendations on how lawmakers should handle article 101 but legislators still want the commission to clarify some of the recommendations and to consider input by the members of parliament in the final proposals.

Lawmakers raised concerns on issues like poor Kinyarwanda (local language) used in translation of the articles, clarity on the citizens’ role, lawmakers wants residents (voters) to evaluate the head of state after every 10 years.

The Deputy Speaker in charge of legislative affairs, Jeanne d’Arc Uwimanimpaye, the commission’s rapporteur said that there won’t be any problem with choosing leadership after seven years, since the terminology is clear and correction in language used will be done.

“If we get a go ahead on this first draft, there is more that will be changed but the issue we kept clear was not to have many irrelevant articles which can be supported by the laws, but we didn’t create any judicial gaps in amending the constitution,” Uwimanimpaye said.

President Kagame is serving his second and last term that is due to expire in 2017, he has on several occasions vowed not “to be around as president in 2017” but all indications on the ground point to the Rwandan leader running for the third term.

All opposition parties but one have publicly declared their support for Kagame to run for another term. Kagame led the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front/Army (RPF/A) to victory in 1994 and was instrumental in halting the Genocide.