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Inside story of why Rwanda Senate president resigned

by Patrick Bigabo
10:34 am

Rwanda’s Senate President Dr. Jean Damascène Ntawukuliryayo 53, has resigned from his position citing personal reasons.

An emergency session, Wednesday 17, which involved a quorum of 25 senators, convened with 24 of them voting in favour of his resignation. The other senator abstained.

Dr. Ntawukuliryayo a member of Social Democratic Party (PSD), said he was ‘happy’ that senators had accepted his resignation adding that, “I will continue to serve my country.” He immediately walked off the high table.

Effectively, subject to provisions of the constitutional, Senate Vice President, Bernard Makuza 53, assumed the position.

Shortly before stepping down, Dr. Ntawukuliryayo had to face venomous session of questioning and grilling from seemingly unhappy subordinates.

Some senate members accused him of, among others, to explain the Bureau’s failure, senate’s supreme organ, to function properly.

Indeed the grilling followed a petition from 15 senators who had prior to his resignation, sought for an extraordinary session to assess how the senate president had performed his duties and responsibilities.

KT has learnt that Dr. Ntawukuliryayo’s reign has been in question for long and his resignation was thus long overdue. Senators say it was a ‘fait accompli’.

Information obtained from inside the senate indicate the Doctor, a PhD holder in in pharmaceutical technology, had turned into a lunatic.

A list of allegations on the petition indicate he had developed aggressive behaviors and was involved acts that are contrary to official protocol.

Senators said they could not put up with a boss who was secretly holding diplomatic meeting in his office without any of his advisors.

Records also indicated sectarian actions right from the first day he assumed office. He reportedly refused to accept his official driver because he is a Tutsi.

Similarly, he immediately sacked a staff in his office saying Tutsi should work from somewhere else and not in his office.

A large number of parliamentary staff had officially reported of his harassment too. They said he had no respect for anyone and and always undermined junior staff.

Deputies also wondered what was happening with the Senate President as he was obsessed with signing himself all the diplomatic missions and allowing no other person to travel.

Meanwhile, a damning account of his stealth sabotage of the Ndi Umunyarwanda program was reported to his boss, the President, who subsequently during a rare cabinet retreat convened at Primature Offices, expressed his disappointment with the doctor.

Upon learning of a possible censure motion, Dr. Ntawukuliryayo took the move to avoid embarrassment.

However, the development of a possible censure came at an ugly time. He would have had the opportunity to tender his resignation to President Kagame who appointed him as a presidential appointee, but the President was on his way to Atalanta, USA, to attend Rwanda Day cerebrations.

Who is Dr. Ntawukuliryayo?

Ntawukuriryayo is a holder of PhD in pharmaceutical technology from Ghent University in Belgium. He has previously held cabinet positions including Minister of Health (2004), Infrastructure (2002) and Education State Minister (1999).

He also previously worked as Deputy-Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies and Vice Rector of former National University of Rwanda.

During the 2010 Rwandan presidential elections, his party, PSD fielded him as their candidate. The incumbent, President Kagame, won with a landslide of 92.9% of the vote. Dr. Ntawukuriryayo came second with 4.9%.

In the Rwandan parliament, the ruling coalition controls 42 seats while PSD, formed in 1991, has 7 seats. The remaining 4 seats belong to the Liberal Party.

Dr. Ntawukuriryayo is the secretary general of his party while Dr. Vincent Biruta, the current Minister for Education, who also previously served as senate president, is the president of the party.

In Rwanda, the senate president is in the third most powerful office after the president of the republic. Dr. Ntawukuriryayo rose to this third most powerful office in 2011 and would have completed three years in office on October 11,2014.

The mood at the parliament yesterday indicted a moment of relief. Shortly after a successfully relinquishing his job, Dr. Ntawukuriryayo refused to talk to journalists, despite being known as friendly to the press.

Dr.Ntawukuliryayo’s resignation is a second shocker after a recent dropping of Dr. Pierre Damien Habumuremyi who served as Prime Minister from 7 October 2011 until 24 July 2014.

Dr.Ntawukuliryayo’s successor, Makuza, who was replaced by Dr. Habumuremyi, is an experienced politician who served as Prime Minister of Rwanda from 8 March 2000 to 6 October 2011. He is not a member of any of the political parties.


By Patrick Bigabo