Rwanda members of parliament (MPs) on Monday kicked off a countrywide tour to gather public views on the proposed amendment of Article 101 of the constitution to allow President Paul Kagame staying in office beyond 2017.
The small Central African nation’s constitution, adopted in 2003, limits the number of presidential terms to two, and therefore bars Kagame – elected first in 2003 and again in 2010 – to stand for a third term, but there have been growing calls for Kagame to be allowed to stay on for a third.
According to Rwanda parliament, more than 3.7 million Rwandans have submitted petitions, seeking lifting of term limits to have Kagame for another term in power beyond 2017.
For about three weeks, both senators and deputies will traverse all the country’s 416 sectors and the exercise will mark for the either amendment of the constitution or not.
“We would like to confirm from citizens if they really want Article 101 of the constitution to be amended to allow President Kagame for another term in office. Views from the public will give powers to the parliament to change the constitution,” Donatilla Mukabalisa, Speaker of Rwanda parliament told reporters on Monday shortly before legislators’ departure to countryside.
Mukabalisa said that parliament has received petitions from the public but members of parliament have gone further to collect more public views.
“MPs will make reports that will be tabled in parliament for debate and this will make it possible for legislators to vote on whether they approve the idea to change Article 101 of the Constitution, it will require the electoral commission to organize a referendum for Rwandans to vote for constitution amendment,” she explained.
The legislators are also scheduled to meet opinion leaders in the country, such as leaders of farmers’ cooperatives and trade unions, Private Sector Federation, political parties and religious groups, as well as leaders of professions such as doctors and operators of financial institutions.
Article 101 of the Constitution can only be amended through a national referendum which can only be called by two-thirds majority of the Senate and the lower chamber.
Kagame is serving his last official term as specified by the constitution. The head of state has of recent said that he is open to going or remaining based on what Rwandans decide ahead of 2017.
Kagame who belong to the ruling party Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) came to power in 2000 after leading the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) to overthrow the extremist Hutu government behind the 1994 genocide.
The Rwandan leader has been praised for overseeing rapid growth in the Rwandan economy and marked improvements in health, security, governance and education. Enditem