Monday June 19 2017

Kagame sees silver lining in third term as elections shape up

Flag bearer. President Paul Kagame  delivers

Flag bearer. President Paul Kagame delivers his acceptance speech after his confirmation as Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) party presidential candidate in Kigali on Saturday. Courtesy photo 

By Yasiin Mugerwa

KIGALI. In trying to justify President Paul Kagame’s third term bid, visiting Chama Cha Mapinduzi secretary-general, Abdulrahman Kinana, reminded Rwandans about Julius Nyererere’s understanding of true democracy.
That “democracy is not a bottle of Coca-Cola which you can import. Democracy should develop according to that particular country.”
Kinana was among the various invited political leaders from Africa and beyond, who on Saturday watched the nomination of President Kagame as the sole candidate for Rwanda Patriotic Front in the August 4 elections.

The ratification of Mr Kagame’s third term bit by members of the RPF Congress is the latest indication that the 2017 election fever is taking shape ahead of the nominations and campaigns.
In a vote that some Rwandans said sought to confirm “the obvious”, 1,929 RPF delegates out of 1,930, voted Mr Kagame as their preferred candidate in the presidential race. At least one vote was counted invalid.
The delegates from the 30 districts of Rwanda as well as friendly political party leaders in Rwanda, had already voted for Kagame as their choice in the forthcoming presidential elections.

“You have nominated me as the flag bearer of RPF let’s put aside the whole history of how we came to be here for a while. We have got to be with each other in this fight for a better tomorrow and there won’t be short cuts, you have got to do it,” Mr Kagame said.
But the highlight of the nomination euphoria was not so much about the soothing words of visiting fraternal party leaders, not even the inauguration of a state- of- the- art RPF headquarters in Rusororo area, but in Kagame’s acceptance speech in which the RPF chairman underscores the third term a silver lining in a mist of a succession crisis the country faces today.
Recalling what he called the country’s “complicated history”, President Kagame called for political transition in Rwanda and in a no-holds-barred exposition of his third term bid, used his nomination speech as RPF flag bearer, to expound on his role in changing the country’s constitution to allow him to stay in power after his term in office expired.

President Kagame explained that under normal circumstances, after serving his two constitutional terms, he should have stood in the 2017 National Congress of RPF, together with other ruling party leaders, possibly to devise ways of ensuring that the person picked as a flag bear wins the presidency.
“My job would have been to pass the button to another person….but you decided to change that….I didn’t play a role in that. The only role is accept is to grant your wish… and the pressure of not granting that wish or not accepting it was probably less informed and meaningless than the pressure for me to accept,” Mr Kagame said.

“But now that you brought me here to accept [the nomination], the only alternative; I have am glad to inform you as I have always done in the past, I will give it and you my all. I always do it to the best of my knowledge.”
The nomination of Mr Kagame as the RPF flag- bearer followed the December 18 referendum that permitted constitutional amendments that gave the president flexibility to seek for a third term and two more five-year terms thereafter. The president however, insists that he had no hand in this.
At least 98 per cent of Rwandans voted to amend the national Constitution to allow Mr Kagame run for another seven-year term this year.
RPF members and well-wishers on thronged on Rusororo in Gasabo district, about 20km from Kigali city to endorse a man the visiting delegations from China, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Angola, Congo, Ethiopia, Djibouti and praised for uniting a country that was on the brink of collapse as a result of the 1994 genocide, a man who has been praised as an embodiment of Africa’s success story on account of focused reforms bolstered by peace and stability in the country.

In explaining why he accepted to run for a third term, President Kagame told the RPF Congress, that in the fog of succession challenges ahead, he was left with no choice but to stay with hope that within the next seven years, the factors that compelled Rwandans to ask him to go for the third term should have been reduced to allow a smooth transition in Rwanda.
‘Here is a deal’, Mr Kagame proclaimed before asking RPF leaders and members to start thinking seriously about transition in Rwanda after the seven years of his third term. Mr Kagame said he knows the strength of RPF and that his party would win the August presidential election.

“Lets assume and agree that in the seven years to come that we do things either differently or better, we work harder so that the seven years give us some kind of transition…. In the seven years ahead, let’s reduce the kind of worries and needs to ensure that what made you to ask me to stay longer can be addressed within this period” Mr Kagame said, asserting that “much as I have been there before I never get used to it.”
He added: “….I am not putting much pressure on you [RPF) but am requesting you to think about it because you must think about it so that after seven years we are not taken by surprise... let’s double our effort…I know everything is about time and we need to give ourselves time but don’t leave everything to time, it matters also what you do within the time.

“I am not putting a deadline, I am not putting a pre-condition but am asking you to fight with me as we have always done so that we overcome these challenges that compel you to ask me to stay…. There is a lot of work for us to do in the new term and we are going to do it. You have asked me to stay and I have accepted to stay.”
The president who is on the brink of clinching a third term in office, relishes the support of RPF a former paramilitary organisation that has over the years transformed itself into a major political institution, with backing from the various political parties.
One by one, political party leaders in Rwanda, with exception of the Social Party Imberakuri, took to the podium to praise Kagame for uniting a country that had gone to the dogs.

Using his success story particularly, in reversing the country’s ‘ugly past’, Mr Kagame reminded Rwandans how RPF took over a country that had been deprived of almost everything and started rebuilding state pillars because “the country was on sinking in a bottomless pit.”
To the young people, Kagame reminded them especially those who were 15 and above in 1994 that they have since matured into men and women who qualify to be presidents.
“But there is a caveat, it’s not just having a right to be a president. Rwanda needs and deserves the right president,” Mr Kagame said.
He asked the young people to participate in politics, warning that “You don’t get involved in politics the next day bad politics takes care of, and the next day, you are led by people you don’t deserve.”

Credited with putting an end to genocide 23 years ago, building institutions and shepherding a new political dispensation in Rwanda, President Kagame, according to his supporters, heads to the August 4 polls with optimism in spite of opposition contenders in the race.

Development. President Kagame unveils a plaque

Development. President Kagame unveils a plaque during the opening of the new RPF party headquarters in Kigali on Saturday.


Although Rwandans who did not want to be quoted have asked Kagame to do something about poverty and quality of education and health services especially in the countryside, RPF members praised Kagame for accepting to stay in order to safeguard the gains achieved in 23 years of his leadership and promised to use the third term opportunity, to chart a way forward for Rwanda.
In the August elections, President Kagame will face Rwandan opposition politician Frank Habineza who was nominated by his Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DGPR) last week and Ms Diane Shima Rwigara, a 35-year old accountant- the first female independent candidate to vie for the highest office in Rwanda, who is running on an independent ticket.

Others are independent candidates, Fred Barafinda Ssekikubo and Gilbert Mwenesata. However, all these candidates including Mr Kagame, will have to be approved by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to contest for presidency.
The NEC will receive nominations from the presidential candidates from June 12 to 23. A provisional list of qualified candidates will then be announced on June 27.
Candidates according to NEC’s executive secretary, Mr Charles Munyaniza will then have 20 days for campaigns before the polls. Mr Munyaniza explained that the campaign period was deliberately condensed to allow the country complete the electoral process and focus of development agenda as enshrined in vision 2020.
Mr Kagame has been in power since 2000.

The country’s NEC in 2010 announced official results of the presidential elections where Mr Kagame won a second term with an overwhelming 93 per cent of the vote. And in 2003 elections, Mr Kagame won with 95 per cent in an election, observers from both the East African Community (EAC) and the Commonwealth called “democratic and peaceful” in spite of opposition criticism.
His critics accuse him of failing to end poverty in the country even as RPF leaders insists that a lot has been achieved under his “visionary leadership”.
The Rwandans who talked to Daily Monitor, re-echoed the words Mr Kagame used seven years ago in trying to justify his 93 per cent victory. Many Rwandans particularly the members of the ruling RPF described their presidential candidate as a “hero of genocide” and expressed gratitude to a man they said saved their country from collapse, “returned peace a country that had gone to the dogs”, built institutions and a pro-people party that has gained the confidence of people.

Though the genocide ended 23 years ago, it is deeply ingrained in the lives many Rwandans.
However, under the leadership of President Kagame, RPF members who talked to Daily Monitor insist that his criticism notwithstanding, his leadership in terms of unity, democracy and developments has been a unique experiment in national reconciliation after a devastating genocide that left nearly one million people dead.
Giving accountability for the past seven years and unveiling the RPF manifesto for the August presidential elections, Prof Shyaka Anastase, head of Rwanda Governance Board, cited three broad areas such as Justice and good governance, Social well-being of Rwandans and Economic development to recapitulate the government accomplishments.

In the years ahead, RPF leadership will focus on human development, increased investments in social development- prioritising health and education; home-grown solutions to address Rwanda’s challenges, patriotism and hard work.
“I the next seven years, we want to be a country like Singapore with low corruption levels, Mr Anastase said. “Currently, we are at the same level with some European countries but our target is to eradicate corruption within the next ten years. We will invest in Rwanda Air to boost our economy and also ensure that our people have good services using advanced technology.”
At the RPF headquarters in Rusororo, it was a day of euphoria, designed by RPF architects to ensure that the nomination was all about their man, president Kagame, who is at liberty to contest until 2034 although he insists on a transition plan. From the testimonies of the political party leaders in Rwanda, acclaiming Kagame for his “exemplary leadership” to endearing songs, the chats and dancing, promising their candidate a 100 per cent vote in the upcoming general elections.

Manifesto

Giving accountability for the past seven years and unveiling the RPF manifesto for the August presidential elections, Prof Shyaka Anastase, head of Rwanda Governance Board, cited three broad areas such as Justice and good governance, Social well-being of Rwandans and Economic development to recapitulate the government accomplishments.
In the years ahead, RPF leadership will focus on human development, increased investments in social development-prioritising health and education; home-grown solutions to address Rwanda’s challenges, patriotism and hard work.
“In the next seven years, we want to be a country like Singapore with low corruption levels, Mr Anastase said.

ymmugerwa@ug.nationmedia.com

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