A new Senate took oath of office Thursday at a ceremony presided over by President Paul Kagame – also ushering in a new parliamentary system adopted by the constitutional amendment of 2015.
The first Senate introduced in the 2003 constitution had 8 year single term. The amendments, which also shortened presidential terms from 7 to 5 year term renewable once, also harmonised that of both Houses of parliament. Senators will also be in the House for 5 years, renewable once.
The composition did not change however. This new 26-member Senate was constituted via a combination of 14 elective seats and the rest appointed by the Head of State and the consultative forum for political parties.
In his speech, Kagame said the people of Rwanda expect more from the Senate, as they do with all other government entities.
“Your job is not just to vote YES or NO for laws but also to make sure that Rwandans get all they need to have good living standards they deserve,” said Kagame, in Kinyarwanda, at parliamentary building.
He said the senators need to strengthen their oversight role beyond sitting in their chambers – adding his voice to growing criticism of the inefficiency of parliament as a whole.
The President also repeated his latest stance in all speeches ever since a controversial media campaign from foreign media accused his government of faking the country’s growth numbers. He now never misses to say, we have a lot to do.
“We are not yet where we want to be, but we are on the right path. It is important that we keep owning it,” said Kagame.
At the same event, other newly appointed top government officials were sworn in, including Maj Gen Emmanuel Bayingana, the Air Force Chief of Staff.
In a message to the security forces, Kagame said: “Everything we do is based on security and good governance. Upholding our security is the responsibility of each one of us. Each one of every Rwandan.”
Meanwhile, in choreographed election in the chamber, without any fanfare, the President of the Senate was elected, a seat taken by Augustin Iyamuremye. His only opponent in the race voted for himself alone. A long-serving political name, Iyamuremye served in the first senate.
During the years leading up to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, Iyamuremye was chief of domestic civilian intelligence. His office was under office of the Prime Minister.
After the genocide, he would go on to hold ministerial roles. Since he left the Senate in 2011, he has been on commissions – seen locally as with no political significance.
Iyamuremye’s take over of the Senate, means the seat goes back to the social democratic party (PSD) – considered the second biggest party. It also now means all the top political positions in the country are held by different parties – even when how effective they are, remains contentious.
The senate vice president for legislative affairs and government oversight is Esperance Nyirasafari, who was dropped from cabinet and named among the presidential Senate appointees. She is from Kagame’s ruling and dominant Rwanda Patriotic Party (RPF).
Dr Alvera Mukabaramba, also dropped from cabinet, and named senator on same day, was elected today as senate vice president for administration and finance affairs. She heads the party for Concord and prosperity (PPC), a small party always in coalition with the RPF.