If the powers-that-be thought that seats in the Chamber of Deputies would silence Dr Frank Habineza and his Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, it surely has not worked. He also wants positions in the executive, radical reforms in the electoral law to among others, have representatives on the electoral commission; allow journalists to announce results, and parties to get foreign funding.
On Saturday, the Green Party politiburo (highest organ) was in Kigali for a forum on electoral reforms. In exclusive interview, Dr Habineza revealed to The Chronicles’ Protais Mbarushimana his latest project: engaging directly with President Paul Kagame as Head of State and Chairman of the dominant ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) party.
Below are excepts:
The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda Executive Committee is convened here, why?
Firstly, we are attending a lecture and training on elections reform conducted by Dr Kayumba Christopher. At the same time, we will have our Politburo meeting afterwards.
You have been agitating for elections reforms for sometime, what is wrong with our electoral system?
We have had to keep talking about elections because it is a key first step in any democratic dispensation whether in Rwanda or elsewhere.
What reforms have you suggested be brought on board?
As we have pointed out, the Green Party is supposed to have representatives on the National Electoral Commission across all levels including national, provincial, district and other local instances of government such that we are involved in decision making. This is to ensure that we are involved in the collection and tallying of votes. Otherwise, how can we be sure it was done in transparency?
Further from that, as we have repeatedly discussed in previous meetings, the regulations on local government elections should be revised to make them more clear. For example, if an individual seeks office as an independent at [the] district level, they should not be obliged to join any political party after they win.
If an independent candidate wins an election without a political party, you can’t automatically make him or her a member of a political party. Can’t anyone become a district mayor without being endorsed by a political party? We believe this needs to be reviewed.
In the meeting today you highlighted using technology for our elections, what exactly are suggesting is done?
Deploying finger print technology will minimize any doubts that votes may not have been well tallied. However, using paper ballots leaves us unsure whether our votes were recorded. It is not secure. The possibility of cheating is greater. Rwanda is being recognized for the advancement of technology, why not bring that into elections as well. I would also like to raise the issue of involvement of the media in the polls…
Go on, how should it?
Another reform we are advancing is that the media should be allowed to publish results of polling stations where they are located. Why should journalists be required to wait until the end of an election. It makes no sense!
If results of a particular polling station can be tallied by the Returning Officer of that site, why shouldn’t the media also be allowed to do the same? The government needs to look into the issue and review it otherwise it leaves Rwandans wondering.
In your session today you also raised financial challenges experienced by the party, what is happening?
The law says that the party will get state financing after elections and scoring over 5 percent. The Democratic Green Party believes this law should be amended as it leads to [the] death of small parties that do not have sufficient budgets. The funding should come before the election to help the candidates to organize campaigns.
Additionally, the Government of Rwanda receives external funding from different sources including the World Bank and has successfully handled it, there is no reason political parties shouldn’t receive funding from international partners. As long as they will use the funding to participate in the development of the country.
Just as there are no limitations to a government from soliciting foreign funding, the same should apply to political parties.
What could be done is that the parties are obliged to report any such funding and how it was utilized. Such rules will eliminate the myth that political parties are likely to use that funding for terrorist activities.
You have also been constantly agitating for power sharing, what exactly do you want?
The national Constitution stipulates that power sharing should be the norm across all sectors of the country. It does not only refer to cabinet. What we are doing is reminding those concerned that multipartism is a strategic decision taken in Urugwiro [President’s Office] and there was a reason for that. Multipartism was adopted in order to fight against genocide ideology and build together a democratic country.
But you are demanding for cabinet positions, were you promised the positions before the election? What other things were you promised?
We have written letters, but they have not responded till now.
When and what exactly is in the letters?
I wrote the first letter to the Speaker of [the] Chamber of Deputies on February 20, 2016. I have not received any response till now. I wrote another letter to the Prime Minister on April 19, 2016. All the letters which I wrote were about requesting revision of electoral and political parties act. However nothing has been done up to now.
Was there any response from the Prime Minister?
The only response I received was from [Rwanda Governance Board] on August 31, 2016 notifying me that what I was asking for was not feasible.
Why don’t you seek a meeting with the President of the Republic since he is chairman of RPF the dominant ruling party, to discuss with him instead of complaining from the outside?
The Democratic Green Party intends to write a letter to the President of the Republic [reminding him to implement Art 62 of the constitution on power-sharing]. I suppose it is the only remaining instance we didn’t engage. However, we have spoken to some officials from his office and we are sure there is a 95% chance he got the message.
As we finalise this conversation, anything else you would like Rwandans to know?
I urge everyone to respect the rule of law not only by words but in actions as well.