On Monday, hundreds of Rwandans marched to the country’s Parliament (Senate) to deliver their petitions seeking to lift the Presidential term limits.
Some of the petitions seeking to lift presidential term limits in Rwanda have been brought in gift form, according to some of the petitioners who went to Parliament.
We earlier received reports of citizens travelling long journeys from the villages to the capital, Kigali, to “unanimously” petition Parliament to lift term limits.
While some say this is propaganda being planted by a government whose mandate runs out in 2017, more than a million petitions have been served to Parliament, asking that Article 101 of the Constitution be amended, and most likely, that would end in a Referendum.
In April 2015, Kagame said that Rwandan lives and the future of a nation should not be defined by term limits.
“How did it become that the lives of Rwandans can be switched off or on by term limits? You are trivialising lives, culture or national interest. It’s as if Rwandan lives and their future is hinged on the question of going or not going. Let Rwandans mind their own affairs. Rwandans are not grass you dry up and set fire on. We are a proud people and we should be left to decide our own business.”
While answering questions from journalists, President Kagame shared that he belongs to the school of thoughts that believe term limits should not be removed:
“I have not raised a complaint at all, to anyone. I have not told anybody how to think or what to think. I have not and I don’t intend to. Those who want me to stay are the ones who have the task to convince me, not the ones who want me to go. They have to convince me that I have to stay or why I have to stay. Those who think nothing should be done don’t have to convince me because I have no problem with not continuing.”
“I am not in this office to serve my own interest. For now I want to do my job which is serving all Rwandans. I will leave office depending on the future of the country,” President Kagame added.
Rwanda opposition “divided” on term limits
In his address to Rwandans, John V Karuranga, President Rwanda People’s Party, said the country faces a crucial decision on whether or not to lift the limit on presidential terms, to enable President Paul Kagame to extend his presidency beyond that allowed by the Rwandan constitution.
“We believe that Mr. Kagame is a law abiding person, a man who loves his country and people, a man who would do everything to protect and to preserve the dignity of the Rwandan constitution, and a person who would never do anything that could stain his reputation and harm Rwanda as a nation.”
He added: “We also believe this question on how to handle the Presidential term issue critical to Kagame’s legacy and the progress of our country. Thus, based on the importance and complexity of this question, the RPP as a party, will issue a separate statement on the subject in the near future.”
On the other hand, the Social Democratic Party (PSD) during a two-day annual convention in Kigali, gave a go-ahead for the calling of referendum on term limits.
PSD president Vincent Biruta, a minister in the Rwandan government, told journalists at the sidelines of the convention that term limits have been lifted for his party leaders, and subsequently, for other leadership positions in the country, as principle.
“We have agreed that we are going to field our candidate. We removed term limits in our internal elections, we have removed that principle, (and) the same has dictated to us to remove the term limits for any other elections,” he said.
He said that his party believes that the people (Rwandans) should fix term limits not a small group of people.
In Uganda, opposition is fighting hard to restore term limits through electoral reforms.
In Tanzania, President Jakaya Kikwete says he is satisfied with his two terms and will be leaving soon as they are done.
Meanwhile, term limits have thrown Burundi into civil unrest and a military coup that has displaced more than 100,000 people to Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
Protests are still ongoing in the capital Bujumbura as citizens resist President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to breach the constitution and seek a third term in office.
In South Sudan, President Salva Kiir’s term was extended from 2015 due to the ongoing civil war.