Rwanda’s opposition Green Party has petitioned the Supreme Court to prevent parliament from moving ahead with plans to amend the constitution to pave way for President Paul Kagame to seek re-election, according to Frank Habineza, chairman of the party.
He says it would be illegal for parliament to change the constitution. Adopted in 2003, the Rwanda constitution stipulates only two presidential term limits.
President Kagame was first elected in 2003 and won re-election in 2010. But, parliament plans to soon begin a constitutional amendments debate.
This, after receiving a petition with over two million signatures demanding changes to allow Mr. Kagame to stay in office after his term expires in 2017.
Mr. Kagame has often dismissed accusations that he wants constitutional term limits removed. Speaking with his cabinet, President Kagame said in a video that he does not need a third term.
“The issue of saying there is ambiguity, the president wants a third term …Well look at me, I am not the person who needs a third term. Look at me, I don’t need it. I don’t do this job; I am doing as a job for being paid or as something that benefits me or something that pleases anyone else. It’s not how I do business, it’s not me. So, I don’t need your third term whoever is saying it,” said Kagame.
Opposition leader Habineza says the constitution should be respected, despite the petition demanding it be changed.
“We filed a suit at the Supreme Court demanding the Supreme Court to stop parliament from any attempt of changing the constitution especially on article 101, which concerns the lifting of terms limit. So it doesn’t matter whether there are two million or four million. It’s just their wishes but it is not legal,” said Habineza.
“So, we think that the Supreme Court which is also in charge of protecting the constitution will give value to our petition, and should order parliament to stop any attempt to change the constitution. But also help in giving proper interpretation…So that all confusion can be taken away.”
Habineza dismissed accusations that he is being paid to provide weak opposition to the ruling party. Critics say the petition is unlikely to succeed. Habineza disagreed.
“That’s completely, baseless because if you don’t make any contribution people say oh now you are keeping quiet, the government has threatened you to keep quiet. But when you act then they say oh [why say that]” said Habineza.
“We know that democracy is a struggle. You have to struggle for it you have to demand for it, no one is going to give anything to you on a silver plate. So, it’s a process which has started and we will continue to make Rwanda a better country,” he added.
Meanwhile, in a press statement, Washington says it does not changing constitutions to benefit the personal or political interests of individuals or parties.
“Changing constitutions to eliminate term limits in order to favor incumbents is inconsistent with democratic principles and reduces confidence in democratic institutions… We are committed to support peaceful, democratic transition in 2017 to a new leader elected by the Rwandan people.”