Women Member of Parliament for Kigali, Kanyange Phoebe, has lost control over the Party for Solidarity and Progress (PSP) – a party she is accused of usurping over 10 years ago.
In elections held Sunday, attended by a few dozen people said to be members, PSP secretary general Nkubana Alphonse, wrestled power from his boss. From 127 delegates, Nkubana beat his party boss, taking 101 votes.
Kanyange and Nkubana have all along been at the helm of PSP, a party with no political significance – except for its usual alliance with the dominant Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) party of President Paul Kagame.
PSP was born immediately after the demise of the infamous Republican Democratic Movement (MDR). This party was dissolved by Parliament in April 2003, accused of a range of very serious cases.
Among MDR former leaders is exiled ex-Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu, and Bernard Makuza, who until recently was President of the Senate, and is also a former Prime Minister.
MDR was forced out of existance after a 900-page report by commission of inquiry accused MDR of ethnic divisionism, spreading discontent in the army, discrediting the government abroad so as to diminish foreign assistance, and, possibly, that it spied for a foreign power.
A man called Safari Stanley, an MP at the time, emerged from the shadows of MDR to be a very powerful power broker at the time. Many accuse him of having aided the RPF party to destroy MDR. No one knows why Safari opted not to join RPF like many others, but instead founded the PSP party.
In late 2003, a new constitution was adopted introducing the Senate. Safari was named by Kagame among the 8 presidential appointees to the Senate.
However, his fortunes also ran out even before his 8-year tenure in the Senate could end. Around 2008, news began doing the rounds that then Senator Safari had taken part in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. He attended some sessions of the Gacaca community court in Huye district.
In May 2009, Senator Safari disappeared. Then in June, he appeared at the UNHCR office in Kampala, Uganda, with his family seeking protection.
Back here, within weeks, a Gacaca community court in Huye district sentenced the fugitive Safari to life in prison for genocide. He was found responsible for the death of 8 people who were killed in his house in 1994.
With Safari Stanley out of the way, a controversial election took place in August 2009 in Huye district where Kanyange Phoebe, little-known at the time, took over Safari’s party PSP. A war of words ensued in the media between two factions, but Kanyange’s was more powerful and backed by the Local Government Ministry. Kanyange faction openly accused the other of promoting ethnic politics, a final nail for any political actor.
Today, Safari lives in South Africa, and one of the leaders of the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) of ex-army chief Lt Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa.
The PSP party, like six other similar small parties, have appeared on the same Parliamentary list with RPF in every election since 2008. These petit parties usually get one or two MPs on the list, and that candidate is the party president.
Kanyange herself has been the sole PSP party MP in the Lower Chamber of Deputies. During the September 2018, PSP candidate was at the bottom of the RPF coalition list and therefore may never enter Parliament.
In the same polls, Kanyange tactfully appeared on the women list for Kigali. She went to Parliament and is the only PSP party MP.
After losing her leadership of PSP to her secretary general Nkubana, it opens the doors for him to go to Parliament in the 2023 parliamentary elections. Kanyange’s political usefulness has clearly run out.
For now, since PSP is one of the 11 parties registered in Rwanda, it is part of the consultative forum for political parties – allowing it to “eat” from state-funded cash transfers.
In her handover speech this Sunday, Kanyange said PSP has attracted a membership of 11,000 people countrywide, from a population of 12.2m in the country.
Legally, there is no specific number of members a party must have. For a group to be registered as a political party, it must only show proof of delegates from all 30 districts by providing total of 600 signatures.