Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rwanda: Forget 2010 poll, the real thing is in 2017

Asuman Bisiika

On August 9, Rwanda will go to polls and President Kagame is expected to win
By Asuman Bisiika ON August 9, Rwandans will head for second universal suffrage elections after the 1994 genocide. The general assumption is that President Paul Kagame will easily sail through. Whether Kagame wins because he is popular or not is beside the point. What is clear is that Kagame and his Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) derive their legitimacy as critical political players in Rwanda from a double mandate: the RPF’s character of a liberation movement and the stopping of the Rwanda genocide. Against this background, elections or any other political or civil actions, are mere administrative processes. Indeed, if any aspect of national civics like press freedom, human rights and other civic processes does not feed into Kubohoza (liberation) and Itsemba Bwoko (Genocide), it is unlikely to take root as a national narrative. That is why there are always allegations (accusations) of deficiencies in human rights and democracy in Rwanda. The Rwanda Patriotic Front On October 1, 1990, a band of armed Rwandan refugees made a third attempt to return to Rwanda. They were fighting under the banner of RPF. However, given the revolutionary momentousness of the early 1990s, the homecoming was couched in revolutionary verbiage. The RPF struggle adopted the character of a national liberation movement aimed at liberating the whole country from what they called the dictatorial clutches of the Habyarimana regime. This message resonated with the nascent political opposition inside Rwanda led by Mr. Faustin Twagiramungu’s Democratic Republican Movement. Although the character of a national liberation movement may have wittingly worked during the struggle, it placed a burden on the shoulders of the RPF to behave as such when in power: a mass movement. And like any liberation movement, the character of the RPF and its ideological outlook as an organisation was very much influenced by the person and personality of Kagame. He took over the RPF command at a very challenging time and led it to success: toppling the Habyarimana government and stopping the genocide. Whatever his shortcomings, no one can take away that feat from Kagame. However, we are yet to see his biggest achievement. Third term or not? President Kagame will constitutionally not be eligible to stand for office in 2017. From the time he takes the oath of office after this August poll to the last day of the term, the question will always be: will or will he not seek a third term in office? In a recent interview with Daily Monitor, Kagame gave a winding and very un-Kagameish answer when he was asked about the issue of presidential term limits and whether he would seek a third term in office. He did not say no, but made a lengthy explanation. But there will be no surprise if he sought a third term of office. He would, after all, not be the first president to do it. But because we cynics expect (or we would not be surprised if) Kagame to seek a third term, the most exciting scenario will be if he chooses to leave power. How would he relate with the new government? Without Kagame, can the RPF win an election? If the RPF won, what role would Kagame play in national politics? Who are the likely candidates to succeed him? From Kagame to who The four well-placed people likely to replace or influence the process of replacing President Kagame are Dr. Emmanuel Ndahiro, the director general of the National Security Services (NASS), Gen. James Kabarebe, minister for defence, James Musoni, minister for local government (also Kagame’s political assistant on RPF matters) and Lt. Col. Tom Byabagambi, commandant of the republican guard. Kagame and his son Ivan Cyomoro Kagame are also likely to be part of (factors in) the jostling. It is also a safe bet to say that Mrs. Janet Kagame is likely to join active politics if her husband leaves power. In the second tier is Protais Musoni (no relation to James Musoni), Don Kaberuka (president of the African Development Bank), Christopher Bazivamo (minister responsible for environment), Gen. Charles Kayonga, the joint army chief and Bernard Makuza, the prime minister. However, if Kagame left power in 2017, he would remain RPF’s party chairman. And before he leaves power, RPF would amend its constitution to strengthen the party chairman’s position. The party (or actually Kagame) would then exercise effective control (ok, supervision) of the government like the ANC of South Africa. Kagame, as RPF party chairman, would, therefore, still hold power legally structured and exercised as ‘party supervision over government’.

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