Rwandan parliament votes to amend constitution, okays Kagame’s third term bid

Rwandan women in queue to witness Constitutional Amendment debate

Rwandan women in queue to witness Constitutional Amendment debate

The Rwandan parliament has overwhelmingly voted in favour of changing the country’s constitution to get rid of term limits thereby paving way for President Paul Kagame’s third term candidacy for president in 2017.

The decision was first approved by the Senate 100% and subsequently by the Lower Chamber of the deputies by 99%.

It has been in the works for a longtime as the movement to have President Kagame stay on has been gaining momentum lately as manifested by millions of Rwandans submitting petitions to parliament demand lawmakers lift the term limits.

More than 3 million Rwandans of all walks of life have signed petitions requesting parliament lift term limits and allow Kagame to run for a third term.

NO MORE PROBLEMS: Rwandan Parliament has given President Paul Kagame the green light to run for the third term in 2017

NO MORE PROBLEMS: Rwandan Parliament has given President Paul Kagame the green light to run for the third term in 2017

From religious leaders and cabinet ministers to convicted genocidaires and opposition politicians, Kagame’s movement has been diverse and unprecedented.

“The fact that Rwandans ask for change of the constitution change to let one person Paul Kagame to remain president beyond his terms, means Rwandans have advanced in democracy,” Senator Evariste Bizimana said after the pivotal vote.

The Rwandan leader is serving his second seven-year term that is due to expire in 2017. The Rwandan 2003 Constitution allows the head of state tw0 seven-year terms. In its present form it bars Kagame from running for another term thus the urgency to amend article 101 and lift term limits and facilitate the president’s third term run.

“During the sessions, several legislators said that the demands by the people was justified and that it was in order to have the process kick-started to ensure all obstacles to President Kagame’s continued leadership should be removed,” The New Times, a local government-leaning daily wrote about the petitions and the voting exercise.

There hasn’t been opposition to the looming constitutional amendment save for Rwanda Democratic Green Party’s unsuccessful efforts to block it.

The Green Party, a small opposition political party with no clout whatsoever is the only opposition to file counter petitions to parliament to stop parliament from altering the constitution. Other parties have publicly declared their support for the president’s run.

The party has even sued the government in the Supreme Court but the case has been postponed to July 29 as the plaintiffs have failed to get a lawyer in Rwanda to take on the case against the government.

The President of the party Frank Habineza was recently quoted as saying “Even our party lawyer has refused to take on the case, just like other lawyers. We are now looking for lawyers from outside Rwanda. We are asking for more time to be granted by the court for us to be prepared legally.”

After hearing about Tuesday’s long anticipated vote in parliament, Habineza to his Facebook Page and wrote “we are disappointed that Parliament could not wait for the Supreme Court ruling on our case planned for 29th July. This is more evidence for our case that our lawsuit was not based on rumours.”

As the lawmakers were debating and voting, throngs of Rwandans lined up to witness the landmark decision, the galleries and corridors were full to capacity as others braved the sunshine outside waiting for the vote results.

The vote has however, angered opposition groups and figures in the diaspora.

David Himbara, a fierce critic of Kagame and former aide to the Rwandan leader, and one of the founders of Democracy in Rwanda Now (DIRN) wrote on his Facebook “The parliament is now the biggest laughing stock in the world – 100% sycophants”