By David Himbara 

On 09 October 2013, the President appointed former deputy director-general of the World Trade Organisation Valentine Sendanyoye Rugwabiza the new Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Development Board (RDB).

Nothing unusual about that. She is qualified. Congratulations to her and the President for placing an able person in this highly strategic position.

But here is a highly unusual thing. President Kagame also made Rugwabiza “a member of the cabinet.” Here I am scratching my head. Somebody help me. What is a “member of the cabinet” who is not a cabinet minister?

The Cabinet as we know it is a constitution derived collective decision-making body composed of the President, Prime Minister and government ministers. The collective co-ordinating function of the Cabinet is reinforced by the statutory position that all the Ministers jointly hold the same level office, and can exercise the same powers. In bigger ministries are junior ministers of state.

Once again I ask: what is this new “cabinet member” that is not a minister as defined by the Rwanda Constitution? Lord have mercy. Laws, and even the Constitution have lost meaning in Rwanda. They can be changed at free will by the Head of State. Will the female majority parliament query this? Do pigs fly?

In this particular case. I pity the MInister responsible for trade and industry, François Kanimba. The “new cabinet member” will effectively become the super minister for trade and industry portfolio, turning the actual minister into a mere figurehead.

David-HimbaraDr David Himbara was the Principal Private Secretary to President Paul Kagame in 2000-2002 and 2009. He was the founding chairperson of the Strategy and Policy Unit (SPU), the founding chairperson of Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and the founding chairperson of the Institute for Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR).  A Rwandan-Canadian, David Himbara is an independent reform strategist and an Adjunct Professor at the University of the Witswaterand, South Africa which he has been associated with on-and-off since 1994. Himbara left Rwanda and returned to South Africa in January 2010.