RWANDAN PARLIAMENT VOTES FOR CHANGE TO THE CONSTITUTION TO KEEP THE PRESIDENT IN POWER: IS IT INSTITUTIONALIZING THE LAW OF THE JUNGLE?

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Background:

Never has Rwanda experienced peaceful transfer of power from one ” elected” president to another since independence. Each president that grabs power declares himself the only ” Rwandan capable of ruling”. Each regime comes in power because ” they want to remove power from the dictator and hand the mantle of State power to ” the people”. Change from one regime to another has always been bloody in Rwanda.

Gen. Habyarimana overthrew president Gregoire Kayibanda, the first elected president of Rwanda, after President Kayibanda had secured constitution amendment which had given him an indefinite tenure in the country’s top job. The law makers of that time, the early 70s, argued that ” the people” of Rwanda were sure President Kayibanda was irreplaceable. In support of the Coup that brought Habyarimana into power, Gen. Habyarimana argued that the army could not stand a life long president. Gen. Habyarimana slaughtered President Kayibanda’s entire cabinet. The 1973 Coup leaders starved president Kayibanda to death.

In 1994 Gen. Kagame burnt President Habyarimana to ashes when he downed Habyarimana’s plane. Gen. Habyarimana had declared himself ” the father of the nation” and the irreplaceable president of Rwanda. Gen. Kagame and his RPF/A waged the 1990 war because ” Gen. Habyarimana had closed all the possible venues for peaceful transfer of power. Gen Kagame and his RPF/A sounded determined to hand power over to ” the people” after the war. Over a million Rwandans perished during the war.

Gen. Kagame and his RPF/A: ” no change”:
After the war and massacres that brought Gen Kagame and his RPF/A into power, Gen Kagame’s diagnosis of Rwanda’s problem was ” bad political leadership and clinging on to power. To address this problem, Gen Kagame and his RPF/A wrote the 2003 Rwanda Constitution. Article 101 of the 2003 Constitution provides, inter alia , ” no person shall be president for more than two terms”. Each term is 7 years under the 2003 Constitution of Rwanda.

Gen Kagame’s second and last term under the 2003 constitution of Rwanda is due to expire in 2017. Gen. Kagame claims that no Rwandan is capable of leading the country and ” the people” need him to consolidate his “achievements”.

Constitution amendment to keep Gen. Kagame in office:

In a bid to legitimize his broad scheme to cling on to power, the ruthless Army General and the absolute leader of Rwanda deployed his brutal security apparatus to all levels of administration in the country to compel ” the people” to petition Parliament for constitution amendment . Millions of Rwandans, including those who cannot read and/or write, ” wrote” to Parliament ” begging” for constitution amendment. The General then instituted a ” constitutional review commission” which ” consulted” the people for the constitutional review proposal Parliament voted on October 28th, 2015.

The new law of the jungle:

Parliament approved various amendments including Article 167 which provides that: Considering the citizen petitions preceeding [preceding] the coming into force of this revised Constitution that were informed by the nation-building achievements and creation of a sustainable development foundation, the President of the Republic completing the term of office referred to in Paragraph One of this Article may be re-elected for a seven (7) years term of office. The President of the Republic who has completed the term of office of seven (7) years referred to in [ …] this Article may be re-elected as provided for by Article 101 of this Constitution. Article 168: Senators Senators in office at the time of commencement. Article 167 comes under a Section termed ” Transitional Provisions”.

Article 101 provides that ” The President of the Republic is elected for a term of office of five (5) years. He/she may be re-elected only once.”

Unknown law:
Article 167 read together with Article 101 has many implications.

First, the ” amendment ” has created an exception for the current president, the all powerful General of Rwanda. Article 101 will be shelved until after seven years – the exceptional term created for him after 2017 – when Kagame will start running for five years term renewable only once, giving Kagame a chance to rule for 17 years after 2017. This is confirmation that ” some animals are more equal than others ” in the Animal farm, thereby rendering the constitutional principle of equality before the law null and void.

Second, the law does not mention whether or not if Kagame died or is otherwise incapacitated after 2017 but before 2024 Article 101 would come into force immediately. In any case, a constitutional provision ( the proposed Article 101) that shall not come into force until after 7 years is unusual at law.

Third, the amendment creates ” transitional provisions” in a constitution without a provisional government. Transitional Provisions without a transitional government is good proof that what Kagame junta has done is Constitutional Coup, not amendment to the constitution as the junta calls it.

Conclusion:

Any reasonable person knows or should know that dictators perpetrate crimes and they legitimize their insane rule by terrorizing the citizens into submission and silence. However, it’s well documented that no matter how long it takes, the people fight for their rights and the dictator is defeated. In Rwanda, the episode hasn’t been different. Kagame knows the consequences of clinging to power because none of his predecessor was an exception to a bloody end owing to their attempt to cling on to power. Rwanda is set for a long and probably bloody ” fight” for people to regain what rightly belong to them. The current amendment to the 2003 Rwandan constitution is history repeating itself; the consequences will NOT probably be different.

Dr Charles Kambanda

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