The ruling party, the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) has finally offered to give its official position in the ongoing serialisation of the third term debate and the possibility of amending the constitution to allow president Kagame to stand again as called for by Minister Musa Fazil Harerimana. In an exclusive interview with The Chronicles touching on a range of issues on January 3, 2012, one of the party’s high level officials and founders, Senator Tito Rutaremara emphasised that the party is against the amendment of the constitution to delete term limits or to introduce a third term to allow president Kagame to stand again.
“When we have a constitution written by people, debated by people, voted by people and passed by people, in order to change it you have to have a very serious reason,” observed Senator Tito adding that the only think that would call for prolonging President Kagame’s stay in office after his current second and last constitution term is if the country was at war and no time to organize elections.
He noted, “For instance, if we are at a war and we don’t have time to go to elections, then we can let him go on. That is one of the reasons”.
The former Ombudsman, who is also the Commissioner for communication and media within the RPF added that even if his party wanted the constitution changed to introduce a third term, they would not use PDI or any other political party.
The senator went on, “[Some] people.. are saying we are using PDI to change the constitution…No, what RPF says it does it. You understand? We don’t fear! When we said we are going to attack to liberate the country… we did it. When we said we are going to chase president Habyarimana…we did it! And we said we are going to change the politics of this country and we did [it]! What we really say we are going to do we do it, because we don’t hide. Now if we are to do it [change the constitution]… why should we use PDI? No”. We can’t use another party… We can’t do that”
RFP’s rebuttal is in response to the claim by FDU-Inkingi of embattled Victoire Ingabire that it was using PDI and Minister Fazil to engineer changing the constitution to introduce a third term for president Kagame. Boniface Twagirimana, the FDU-Inkingi vice president told The Chronicles on December 07, that Sheikh Harerimana’s call for the third term “is a strategy” used “by RPF members…because they are ashamed to say it under the RPF umberella”.
Tito also asserts that RPF initially did not want to enter into the third term fray but was keeping tabs with the debate in the media after PDI’s chairman and Minister of Internal Security, Sheikh Musa Fazil Harelimana had told The Chronicles that his party wished to amend the constitution to allow President Kagame to stand for a third term.
In the same interview, minister Fazil said that his PDI had written to each party in the forum for political parties to back the proposal. Some parties we have interviewed acknowledged that they had received the letter. For instance, Phoebe Kanyange, the chairperson of PSP admitted to The Chronicles that her party had read the letter, but suggested that PDI instead should have sent their proposition to parliament for discussions.
Senator Rutaremara however says that his party knows nothing about the letter.
RPF needs no outsider to act on its behalf
Instead, Tito says RPF has its unique and well known means of introducing policy and making decisions right from the village level to the national level, where the party’s general assembly validates it before taking the resolution to a referendum. “That is how we do things, when we say something we do it and when we do it, 99 percent of the time, we succeed. Why should we use PDI? Are they more (influential) than RPF?” he poses.
Moreover, the former Ombudsman reminds of the president’s statement at the 11th RPF congress on December 17 when he said he did not want to keep repeating himself in answering the media, saying that he is not interested in standing for the third term, because, even whe he clearly states his stand, the media gets it wrong.
Kagame doesn’t lie
When we asked Rutaremara whether he believes that Kagame may change his stated stand regarding term limits and his wish to stand down after his current second term expires in 2017, he said: “The president? I have worked with president since 1986 and I know that he means what he says. I remember when the interahamwe were five kms from the border in Goma. He asked the international community to disarm them and if you are not doing it, we are coming to attack because it was something big, they were there [ready] to attack. The international did nothing and we went there! So imagine if he challenged the whole world, why should he hide for a few Rwandans, 11 millions. Why should he [be] hiding [that he wants a third term]?
Who will succeed Kagame and is Tito ready to take the mantle?
If President Kagame does not carry on as head of state after 2017, Rutaremara believes RPF would have other competent candidates. “We have so many people in RPF but we can even have other good names in other party among 11 million Rwandans”. However, Tito declined to name who he thinks might be qualified to succeed president Kagame saying that if he did so, it would be interpreted as if he is campaigning for that person.
When asked whether he was ready and considering to run for president, he answered: “…I can’t [stand for president] because this country needs young people and there are many young people, new blood in this country, I can use my wisdom in other [ways]”. Rutaremara also underscores that RPF believes in institutions and not individuals, adding, “The structures will remain for more than 200 years, but we will never create a president who will remain for 200 years. We are not God,” he stresses.
The RPF founder member also talked about a range of other issues, including the fight against corruption in Rwanda, who might succeed him as the ombudsman among other issues.