All the power derives from the people & national sovereignty belongs to Rwandans: Should amending 101 be an issue
February 22, 2013 was not an ordinary day in my life. It was a day of great joys for me and the entire residents of Southern Province as we were all excited to welcome President Paul Kagame who had made a special tour visit to the residents of Nyaruguru District. The last, doubles to be my place of origin, but also a tragic scene for my family and relatives killed in 1994 Genocide and whose remains are buried just next the ground where we were gathered to host the Head of State.
I was greatly honored to see President hugging the residents after they had sung a lyric of appreciation for what they have achieved under his leadership. Beyond that, hey were happy to request for the amendment of article 101 of the constitution to allow him to run again in 2017.
From that day on, we all witnessed a significant number of Rwandans, now in millions, from different constituencies requesting the same; that is, to amend the article 101. For example, representatives of political parties, survivors of genocide,Â business leaders from different parts of the country,Â members of the Rwandan in Diaspora, other citizens from different parts of Rwanda, etc.
Like many who expressed their views on this matter, I would like also to dive into the talk about the constitution and the political succession in Rwanda. My views are of an ordinary citizen who follows with kin interest the political developments of my country. I have never occupied any political portfolio and maybe I will never, as I have only accumulated good experience, not in politics, but in the professional service industry.
However, the combination of my interest in political developments in my country and my professional experience gave me the ability: to understand development of events objectively. Without pretending to be a jack of all trades, or a master of one (politics), I stand as an authority when it comes to understanding objectively political developments in my country.
To begin with, it is agreeable to all that an election or any political succession related event is an important development in any state. These to be achieved, a good number of factors are required but one of them is far more important: the participation of the people.
Yes, citizensâ€™ participation in the constitutional arrangements is absolutely important. But because 2017 and the issue of whether the article 101 should be amended have been the central talks, we need first and foremost to engage into a critical analysis and ask ourselves a number of questions to know how we can better move forward:Â what is a constitution and why is it relevant to the people? Who institutes a constitution? Who has the right to amend the constitution? Has the constitution ever been amended before? For which purpose and what impact? Why do the citizens of Rwanda wish to amend it?
A constitution is an important legal instrument which embodies the fundamental principles to which a state should be acknowledged to be governed. The constitution guarantees national sovereignty, interests, etc. Rwanda has a constitution since 2003 that was put in place by its people. Through the constitution; the people of Rwanda defined their rights and power of regulating their affairs.
The people of Rwanda have so far amended their constitution a good number of times. This was done through their elected representatives who are the members of the Parliament. In addition to this arrangement, and in relation with the demands of those who have requested to amend article 101, it is constitutionally acceptable for the peoples of Rwanda to propose the amendment of the constitution.
In fact, it is within the closes of the constitution: Chap. I Art. 2 that states â€œall the power derives from the people. No group of Rwandan people or an individual can vest in themselves the exercise of power. National sovereignty belongs to Rwandans who shall exercise it directly by way of referendum or through their representativesâ€.
So, it is within the powers and rights of Rwandans to decide to amend the constitution and determine the means they can use, that is, directly by the way of a referendum or through their representatives, in this case the members of parliament.
Aware that the power derives from the people and national sovereignty belongs to Rwandans, considering the current demands to amend the constitution by the citizen of Rwanda; itâ€™s very clear that it falls within the citizensâ€™ rights and powers to amend the article 101 of the constitution.
However, one may wonder why the people of Rwanda may be willing to go beyond the article 101 of the constitution and extend Paul Kagame the stay in power.
The first hypothesis is that the people of Rwanda commend the service rendered to them by their leadership particularly Kagame, consequently, they once again wish to recommend to themselves a brand that has worked well for them during his office tenure.
Secondarily, the achievements during President Kagameâ€™s term of office have projected high hopes and inspirations into the future of citizens so that they still wish to tackle challenges of their lives with him, always, at the fore front.
Many in the public opinion affirm that the citizenâ€™s wish to extend the stay in power of their leader is self-explanatory: Rwandaâ€™s recent history has been full of unimaginable challenges but some were called to meet a special share of these challenges. President Paul Kagame is widely admired to have tackled them with determination, distinction and dignity. It fell on him to wage a war to fight for the liberation of Rwandans, stop the genocide, pursue the resilience of his country and create a platform that enabled his people get out of extreme poverty.
Furthermore, Rwandansâ€™ satisfaction about his leadership is reflection of success stories in different sectors. Let me highlight on a few, at least those which touched hearts of many, of course, in our levels of ordinary citizen.
Let me start where things start: when you study well the culture of Rwanda, you will realize that the ultimate needs of the citizen of Rwanda are summarized into three needs: â€œkubyara , gutunga, gutunganirwaâ€. In every household, parents will give birth to children and their fundamental longing is to see them growing up well and live their dreams.
In the last 21 years, the leadership of Rwanda worked to meet those needs. For example, Rwanda is credited to have decreased the maternal mortality ratio by different ways including but not limited to increasing the number of women giving birth in a health-care facility and attended by a qualified health care professional.
Similarly, Rwanda sustained efforts to reduce child mortality through coordinated interventions like minimizing the causes of killers of children like malaria, anaemia, acute respiratory infection and improving basic and essential health issues like access to water and sanitation, etc.
But what would have happened without the Mutuelle de Sante policy? Simply, Rwanda created a self-help mechanism where citizens share the burden of sickness.Â Mandatory participation in mutual health insurance scheme and public subsidies for the poor have led to remarkable improvement in public health and health care in Rwanda.
Today, the people of Rwanda understand the partnership between the Ministries of Defense and Health to build around 5000 people based health centers, at least one at every cell, nationwide. The people of Rwanda appreciate these efforts and certainly amending the article 101, is a token of reward to the leader who guaranteed those achievements for them.
Obviously, good health mechanisms alone couldnâ€™t make health healthier without proper food security policy. For the past years Rwanda invested heavily in farm inputs, land consolidation, use of fertilizers and extension services to ensure enhanced food production and access. In our respective villages, we have been also seeing efforts to link agriculture to food security. Consequently, all these endeavors has generally reduced some levels of poverty and dropped the prevalence of stunting among children.
Good health and food security were provided for, but they couldnâ€™t have worked without being complimented by the peopleâ€™s economic empowerment. The reality into this matter is that, it has been on the agenda of Kagameâ€™s leadership to spur development and uplift the socio economic status of its citizens, particularly the ordinary citizens.
Saving and Credit schemes were initiated with the support and subside from the national treasury. Today, 491 SACCO and microfinance institutions are up and running with deposits of around Rwf 90 billion today.
These schemes improved the money supply and demand of money on the villagesâ€™ residentsâ€™ level, thus, improving the socioeconomic status of many down there. Rwandans know that this success could not have been achieved without the support of their leadership who created a conducive environment for them to use those schemes, make more from little and earn a living.
Certainly, all these efforts canâ€™t be enough when the rate of illiteracy is still high. Rwanda ranks among the best countries that made fundamental change and progress in the area of education and literacy. Isnâ€™t a good story to hear that Rwanda literacy rate for 15-24 year olds stood at around 90?Â Isnâ€™t good progress to hear that literacy rate is even likely to increase as higher proportion of young people have enrolled to primary and secondary schools and that school dropout is at almost 1 %?
Households, countrywide, get rewarded for any little efforts made to keep their children to school: From primary school any intelligent pupil will get a seat in any good public secondary and those whose performance was not outstanding will enroll to the nine years basic education program. The duo in one structure has paved a way to the success of the Universal primary education in Rwanda.
But, can any development agenda succeed when more than a half of its population is not politically and economically empowered? Here, I mean women. In Rwanda, gender equality was enshrined in the constitution in 2003 and different reports have ranked Rwanda among the top the first countries in the world to have more than 50 per cent female members of parliament and at least more than 30% in other institutions like the cabinet, judiciary and local government.
Aware that any empowerment made to a woman brings light to the entire family, those who benefited from gender equality and women positive discrimination policy still wish to keep the momentum with their leader who changed their lives and safeguarded their interests.
Of course, throughout the walks of resilience, Rwanda understands that its people could not grow in the darkness.Â The Government of Rwanda decided to roll out electricity to lights up lives and boost householdsâ€™ living standards by providing 70 percent of Rwandan households with electricity access by 2017, with schools, hospitals and businesses being the primary beneficiaries and the households the ultimate targets.
Above all, our nation and its successes have had to be protected by all means, the shield included: Rwandaâ€™s defense, security and intelligence services.Â These ones, outstanding and commendable, have firmly assured that Rwanda was not liberated to disappear, rather, to endure and flourish, give hope to the citizens, and turn the country into a homeland of resilient people and a haven of freedom.
We saw threats rising and disappearing, simply, it means someone fought against them, won over them and life continued. Should rewarding this be an issue? Not at all, and it can take any shape, why not going beyond any close of the constitution? Anyway, none should mind, its peopleâ€™s choice.
While the citizens of Rwanda are proud of what they have achieved, they have also set the bar high into the future. The citizens are aware about the outstanding plans and projects they know they would be so beneficial to them but believe they canâ€™t just be implemented by any ordinary performer. Here, I am talking about the projects like Bugesera International Airport, the railway line project under the Northern Corridor Integration Projects, transmission of 30 MW of electricity from Kenya to Rwanda through Uganda, etc.Â The people of Rwanda know the role of their leader to initiate and implement these, in so, they see into him their future.
To sum up the services rendered, our leadershipâ€™s performance and the citizensâ€™ aspirations for the future are the core motivations of the peopleâ€™s wish to amend article Â 101 to ensure for them continuity and better future.
In the end, what matters most is the peopleâ€™s choice, as a people who know the will and energy employed to be where we are today. We, Rwandans today, feel the same energy, same urgency, and same passion to rebuild our country, choose our leader and cover the 1000 hills with 1000 smiles.