By David Himbara
Rwanda’s head of state Paul Kagame is hosting Mo Ibrahim and his Mo Ibrahim’s Foundation beginning on April 26, 2018. Kagame and Ibrahim are strange bedfellows to the extreme. Ibrahim’s mission is to reward African heads of state that leave power as per their national constitutions. Kagame is a dictator who changed the constitution to stay in power.
So what is going on here?
In 2006, Mo Ibrahim, a British-Sudanese telecom billionaire, created the Ibrahim Prize for African leaders. The prize is awarded annually to an African elected head of state who promoted good governance. Most importantly, the recipient of the award is a leader who leaves office in accordance with the constitution. The prize is US$5 million, spread over ten years, followed by $200,000 a year for life.
The challenge is finding an African leader who leaves office in accordance with the constitution.
Only five African presidents have been awarded the prize since it was established. Put in another way, the prize’s criteria has been met only five times. This is an indictment of the quality of African national leadership.
Kagame’s hosting of the Mo Ibrahim’s Foundation is embarrassing.
Kagame is an inappropriate host for Mo Ibrahim’s Foundation. Kagame has broken the most important principle of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. That principle is leaving office in accordance with the constitution — among other good governance practices. Kagame is not in this league by any measure.
Kagame practices the reverse of the Mo Ibrahim’s principle.
Kagame has run Rwanda for 24 years. Of these, Kagame was constitutionally effected for two-seven year terms from 2003 to 2017. He was to step down in 2017. But Kagame changed the constitution, which now allows him to stay in power until 2034. Worse than even clinging to power is the fact that Kagame gave himself immunity from impunity in the amended constitution. Article 114 ”Exemption from prosecution for a former president of the Republic” reads as follows:
”A former President of the Republic cannot be prosecuted for treason or serious and deliberate violation of the Constitution when no legal proceedings in respect of that offense were brought against him or her while in office.”
Mo Ibrahim just sleepwalked into a mess.