June 5, 2019

Green Party’s Growing Impatience With President Paul Kagame

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Dr Frank Habineza

From 2006 up until September last year, self-proclaimed environmentalist Frank Habineza has been struggling to join the corridors of political power in Rwanda. This week, he is repeating a demand for more.

Luck or electoral power in favour of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DGPR) brought it two seats from the parliamentary elections for the 80-member Chamber of Deputies.

Party leader, now Dr Habineza, had garnered far less than 1% in the presidential polls the previous year, that were won by incumbent Paul Kagame at 98.8%.

In Parliament, Dr Habineza was elected the vice chair of the social affairs committee, which wields far-reaching authority over the local governments and how they deliver services.

Nearly a year later, the Green Party’s growing aggitation suggests it was expecting more.

First, at a press conference in late February, Dr Habineza said they were eagerly waiting for appointments for Green Party members in the executive, specifically citing cabinet.

He said at the time that the party was concerned over the “none-implementation of the provisions of the constitution relating to power-sharing”.

Article 10 on fundamental principles of the 2003 constitution in its section 3 commits Rwanda to “equitable power sharing”. The concept is reinforced in Article 62 which states that “Cabinet members are selected from political organizations on the basis of seats held by those organizations in the Chamber of Deputies”.

In the September 2018 parliamentary polls, the Green Party obtained 5%, the set threshold to gain seats and entry into the Lower Chamber, and also qualify for other political appointments.

This week, again, Habineza reappeared in local media, reminding the Senate, which is the custodian of Article 10 and 62 that the Green Party has not yet recieved its “rights”.

“Just as [President Kagame] always abides by the law, we believe it is not too late for him to respect the provisions of the constitution,” said Habineza.

Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DGPR) leader Dr Frank Habineza and one of the party’s two lawmakers in the Chamber of Deputies

There was a major cabinet reshuffle in October 2018 by Kagame. The Green party got nothing.

However, Habineza argues that “government is not only about ministries”, in a seeming suggestion that if Kagame has not found space for them, he could as well place Green Party politicians in other offices.

Dr Habineza said: “There are other positions like Ambassadors, Permanent secretaries of the ministries, governors…though, the priority is ministries and cabinet. We are also waiting for that [cabinet]”.

There is no requirement in the constitution that the President should clearly indicate the party of each appointed minister or state minister or other political officials. The identification of ministers’ parties has also not been a practice in previous cabinet reshuffles.

The head of state actually has constitutional room to name anyone to cabinet as par Article 64 which adds: “It is not prohibited for other competent persons to be appointed to Cabinet”.

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