History could finally be in the making as the lower chamber of the Rwandan parliament prepares a special sitting due next week to consider petitions of more than 3.7million Rwandans who want the constitution amended so they can keep President Paul Kagame as leader.
As of 9th July, records in the office of the House speaker Donatille Mukabalisa show that 3,784,586 signatures have been received since the process was launched by ordinary villagers more than three months ago. The petitions came in actual elite signatures and many more in thumb prints – suggesting rural folks were driving the process.
What was left was lawmakers deciding what to do with the petitions. This week, a series of consultative meetings of the parliamentary commission, a body of the House’s top decision makers including the speaker and her two deputies, in consultation with head of committees, decided on a date. It will be Tuesday July 14.
MPs will review the legal basis of the petitions to determine if indeed the total number meets the threshold set forth in the constitution requiring for the House to debate an issue, said a lawmaker with knowledge of the behind the scenes goings-on.
But with more than 70per cent of the voting population demanding the House amends the constitution to allow President Kagame remain at the helm of Rwandan politics; lawmakers do not have much of a choice. On the table is Article 101 of the 2003 constitution which gives only two-seven-year elective terms to a sitting president.
President Kagame was first elected by universal suffrage the same year the same constitution was ushered in. Then again in August 2010 – setting way for end of his last term in 2017. But his supporters – and they are in the millions in and outside Rwanda, do not want him to go.
In fact in their own words, many call Kagame’s imminent departure as “abandoning Rwanda”. After the parliamentary session on 14th July, lawmakers will set in motion a series of events that could lead to a national referendum that could eventually burry Article 101 in the history books.
For now, lawmakers are sending out invitations to the public to come witness this historic moment.