Third term debate: Done and dusted?

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Last Thursday I sat in the public galleys at the Supreme Court and watched history being made. Reading a ruling that I would call ‘landmark’, Chief Justice Sam Rugege disagreed with Green Party’s motion to halt the term-change process, stating that doing so would be contrary to democratic practice. “Denying the free will of people to choose how they are governed is not democratic. Rather, it is the opposite”, he said.

In fact, the Supreme Court went further to reiterate the fact that ANY article in the Constitution could be amended as long as it followed constitutional procedure.

I was among the people who had a hard time reconciling Article 101 that stated, ‘The President of the Republic is elected for a term of seven years renewable only once. …UNDER NO circumstances shall a person hold the office of President of Republic for more than two terms’, Article 193 that stated, ‘However, if the constitutional amendment concerns the term of the President of the Republic…. the amendment must be passed by referendum, after adoption by each Chamber of Parliament and finally Article 2 that states ‘All power derives from the people’.

I just couldn’t wrap my head around the three articles because I felt they somewhat contradicted each other. I mean, why would the framers of the Supreme Document write one thing i.e. that power belongs to the people, then say that under no circumstances could a person stay as president for longer than two terms and THEN go back and show us what exactly we’d need to do to change term limits?

The Supreme Courts ruling that the “free will” of the people in choosing how they are governed is sacrosanct was a masterstroke. In just a few phrases, they were able to cut through the legal flotsam and jetsam and give us a ruling that was both simple and complex at the same time. I loved it.

I have to take this opportunity to thank the Green Party for challenging the moves to amend the Constitution in a court of law. I will not be among those who thought that they were wasting peoples’ time by seizing the court. In fact, it is my opinion that they showed a certain political maturity in the manner they compiled their dossiers and took their grievances to court. They didn’t simply write a few press releases and social media posts. They argued their point in the correct forum. That is to be applauded.

Green Party head Frank Habineza has vowed to take his lawsuit to the African Court of Justice

Green Party head Frank Habineza has vowed to take his lawsuit to the African Court of Justice

They showed that Rwanda was, and is, a nation of laws. They trusted the judiciary to hear their arguments and rule in a fair and unbiased manner. That trust is a slap in the face of those who will have the world believe that our justice system is an empty shell.

The Supreme Court ruling that all power belongs to the people it is a slap in the face of those who would try to use their bully pulpit to tell us how to govern our lives. Yes, I’m pointing at you US State Department.

After last week’s ruling, Rwandans can now move, confidently, to amend Article 101. In fact, the Constitutional Review team on Monday presented its recommendations to the lower chamber of Parliament. Among the recommendations that they suggested was that Article 101 should read ‘The President of the Republic shall be elected for a term of seven (7) years. He/she may be re-elected for more terms”.

Now, all I ask is that we get set a referendum as soon as possible so that we can get this term issue out of the way. We have too much work to do to let this continue long into the coming year.

After last week’s ruling, Rwandans can now move, confidently, to amend Article 101. In fact, the Constitutional Review team on Monday presented its recommendations to the lower chamber of Parliament. Among the recommendations that they suggested was that Article 101 should read ‘The President of the Republic shall be elected for a term of seven (7) years. He/she may be re-elected for more terms”.

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