MPs say 3.7 million Rwandan petitions are constitutional

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parliament debate article 101

(Courtesy photo)

The MPs from both chambers voted on Tuesday to confirm the legality of the 3.78 million petitions sent to Parliament by Rwandans requesting the amendment of article 101 of the Constitution that stipulates that; ”the President of the Republic of Rwanda is elected for a term of seven years renewable only once”.

About 3,000 Rwandans in favor of the amendment gathered in the Parliament auditoriums on Tuesday to witness the process of examining the legality of their request.

The crowd cheered and clapped as MPs recounted the “incomparable achievements” that Rwanda has attained thanks to the leadership of President Paul Kagame.

In the lower chamber, the compiled report was presented by the chamber’s vice-president Jean D’ Arc Uwimanimpaye, who explained the rationale and legal basis of the petitions.

Uwimanimpaye highlighted the achievements the country has attained in the domain of security, democracy, economic development, and the role President Kagame played in ending the Genocide against the Tutsis. She also explained to the cheering crowd and fellow MPs the underlying principle of the petitions.

She cited article 2 of the Constitution that states thus; “national sovereignty belongs to Rwandans who shall exercise it directly by way of referendum or through their representatives,” before highlighting  article 193 provisions of the referendum process.

“If the Constitutional amendment concerns the term of the President of the Republic or the system of democratic government based on political pluralism, or the constitutional regime established by this constitution especially the republican form of the government or national sovereignty, the amendment must be passed by referendum, after adoption by each chamber of the Parliament, ” she read out the Constitution.

MPs showed their support for the amendment of article 101 to allow President Kagame run for President in the 2017 Presidential elections.

As MPs vented their support, it became almost impossible to control the joy of the crowd and the president of the lower chamber had to intervene to calm the cheerful crowd.

MP Juvenal Nkusi said voting in favor of the request marks the beginning of the process of “respecting citizens wish which shows the level of democratization the country has attained while guaranteeing respect for the Constitution”,.

The legality of the request to amend article 101 was voted for by 79 out of 80 MPs who attended the session.  The next process is to have it discussed further in the political affairs commission.

“The petitions we have received are a reflection of about 62% of Rwandans’ thoughts. There is another 38% we need to consider, “said MP Eugene Barikana.

MPs voted at the same rate of 79 out of 80 attendants to go and seek the consent of the citizens as well as examine other constitutional provisions that need to be reviewed.

In 2017, President Kagame will be ineligible to run for another term of office but the majority of Rwandans want article 101 changed to allow him run in 2017.

The Parliament vote went in favor of the article amendment request legality in spite of the Green Party of Rwanda lawsuit that is pending in the Supreme Court.

The Speaker of Parliament, Donatille Mukabalisa, said that she will support the fast-tracking of the request to change article 101.

In the chamber of senators, 23 out of 24 senators voted in favor of the amendment while all the senators voted for further examination of the Constitutional provisions for eventual review.

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