Rwanda opposition figure cheers lifting of term limits


RPP President John Karuranga

On behalf of myself and the Rwandan People’s Party (RPP), we wish to offer our congratulations to the Rwandan People on the successful holding of the Referendum on the lifting of the Presidential term.

We see this vote as an essential part in the increasing modern democratization of our country. The result was in favour of lifting the limit on presidential terms.

Some 98.3% of Rwandans voted ‘yes’ and some 1.7% voted ‘no’ to the lifting of restrictions on presidential terms. The result of the referendum is not as important as the fact that it took place.

The Rwanda People’s Party (RPP) believes that it is right to hold a referendum on the Presidential term in line with European nations. It shows that our nation is a truly democratic society. We are especially pleased with the high turnout. Some 6.2 million people voted in the Referendum.

The referendum was held because the people believe President Kagame has the capacity and energy to continue the current process of political, economic and social emancipation, should the people of Rwanda re-elect him in power in 2017.

The current Rwanda’s economic, political and social programme is evident in the petition of some 4.5 million Rwandans both in the country and abroad calling for a change in the constitution to allow him to stand again for re-election.

The referendum to lift the term limits on the President was carried out in line with the constitution and was endorsed by the Senate and the lower house of Parliament last month and by the country’s Supreme Court.

The ‘yes’ vote will allow President Kagame to seek re-election for a third term. The RPP believes that this is not a threat to our nation’s democracy, so long as he is democratically elected by the people and through fair and freely competitive elections.

What is destroying democracy in many African societies is that many politicians are denying the voiceless and powerless citizens any say in government. This is not the case in Rwanda, where the people have been given their say on the future direction of their government and country.

Another factor, destroying African democracy is the use of foreign aid as the only tool deployed to strip Africans of their rights to choose their leaders.

Foreign governments use the powerful weapons of economic aid to undermine African democracy, for their own selfish interests. They threaten to withhold economic aid if African leaders or people don’t submit to their terms and conditions even if they are too harsh and unfair and not in the best interest of the nation.

This practice of blackmail by foreign countries and agencies is the main source of the political instability in Africa. To safeguard democracy, Africans needs to end their dependence on foreign aid.

Some Rwandans, especially those living comfortably in Western capitals, believe that the removal of the term limit on a President could be undemocratic and could lead to an authoritarian form of government.

Unfortunately, the majority of these Rwandans in Western capitals don’t know the people or what they have been going through, where Rwanda has come and where it is today.

Ultimately, it is only those Rwandans who still live in their native land that really know about the reality of Rwanda, today. There is no link between a head of state’s length in office and the health of a country’s democracy.

Many European democracies, including Britain, Sweden, Norway, France, Belgium, Germany, Holland etc., have no term limits on their time in office and are considered models of democracy.

Their leaders are democratically elected and they can be voted out or re-elected to office based good or poor performance. Those who condemned Rwanda’s referendum are being hypocritical.

For example, Iran and Russia both have Presidential term limits but are not considered democratic by western nations. Those who criticized the referendum must remember that democracy is not only about term limits and open government.

They need to understand that term limits and other issues are not as important as a nation’s social and economic emancipation.

In a truly modern democratic state, democracy is about the rights of the voiceless to express themselves and their views.

It is about improved social services, economic rights and opportunities, gender balance and the peace and security of the citizens.

Democracy is about the people holding their leaders’ accountable, the right to elect and to remove their leaders on the basis of their conduct in office.

Democracy has nothing to do with term limits. Those who want term limits on President terms; want to see African leaders to continue obeying the orders of some foreign governments, companies and agencies that have continued to unleash intolerable and unjust miseries on the continent and its people.

The referendum in Rwanda, therefore, is not about Kagame as an individual, or presidential term limits, but rather about the continued future direction of the country. The referendum is about who decides the country’s future, Rwandans or foreigners.

Western nations who criticize the Referendum are still influenced by the “bankrupt philosophy” that “inherent foreign privileges” exists in African democracy. The world is a different place today.

The main problem facing Africa is no longer the same as in the Cold War when capitalist and communist factions fought over the control of the Continent’s resources.

Today the threats facing Africa are the many wars and genocides, the corruption and abject poverty that is a result of economic mismanagement, while the lack of an African model of democracy, often means foreigners can freely intervene in Africa’s affairs.

It is extremely difficult; to defeat the enemy of ignorance, but it must be defeated. For unless, Africans are made to understand that no one will ever help us except ourselves. Only Africans can help Africa. We must have confidence in ourselves, confidence to protect and use what we have, for our own benefit and not for the benefit of foreign multinational corporations and agencies.

Only then can we end the chronic problems that devastate the lives of so many innocent Africans.

On behalf of myself and my party, the Rwanda People’s Party (RPP), we would like to congratulate Rwandans on the referendum as an example of the growing strength of democracy in our country. There is no winner or losers in this referendum.

All Rwandans, no matter if they voted ‘yes’ or ‘no’ have gained by the Referendum, as it shows that the country is able to make its own decisions without foreign interference.

May Almighty God bless the people of Rwanda.

John V Karuranga, President Rwanda People’s Party (RPP) Twitter @rppimvura Skype: John.Karuranga

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