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Rwanda’s Opposition Loses ‘Constitution’ Case

by Jean de la Croix Tabaro
3:04 pm
President of Democratic Green Party of Rwanda Frank Habineza (R) consults with his lawyer during a court session

President of Democratic Green Party of Rwanda Frank Habineza (R) consults with his lawyer during a court session

Rwanda’s Supreme Court has trashed a lawsuit by an opposition political party that has been seeking to block an ongoing process to amend the country’s constitution.

The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DGPR) lost their case after it contested the amendment of the constitution that is aimed at lifting presidential term limits.

Chief Justice and presiding judge in the trial, Prof. Sam Rugege, said that, “The allegation of Democratic Green Party has no basis.”

In June, DGPR dragged government to court in an attempt to block parliament from considering over 4 million petitions that sought to amend article 101 of the 2003 constitution.

The article limits an incumbent to two 7-year term non renewable.

DGPR’s argument is that; “the article is not subject to amendment, not even through referendum.”

But Chief Justice Rugege poked holes in the argument. In the highly anticipated ruling, he told DGPR that, “amendment of constitutional is not against democratic principles, contrary to the complainant allegation.”

In particular, paragraph 3 of the article in question states that “If  constitutional  amendment  concerns  the  term  of    President  of  the Republic  or system  of  democratic  government  based  on  political pluralism,  or constitutional  regime  established  by  this  Constitution  especially  the  republican  form  of  government  or  national  sovereignty,  amendment  must  be  passed  by  referendum,  after adoption by each Chamber of Parliament.”

The Supreme Court chose to unequivocally rule out that the article on constitutional amendment is subject to amendment, provided that it follows constitutional procedures provided in article 193.

It also said constitution amendment is a right of the people.

Shortly after the ruling, Frank Habineza, the president of DGPR said that, “We were not expecting to lose the case at all.”

Plan B for DGPR is not to sit back and watch things happen. They have announced that they will sensitize Rwandans to vote No to the constitution amendment.

A parliamentary committee responsible for assessing and advising the house on the amendment has already been established.

If amended, President Paul Kagame will be eligible for another term in office. Notably, all the 4 million petitions are President Paul Kagame’s supporters who are demanding he continues to lead.

DGPR says it will propose to president Kagame not to seek re-election in 2017 when his second and last term ends.

When the Democratic Green party filed a case, President Kagame said it was their right. “They are exercising their right…the Green Party, good thing.”