This week, Rwandans aged 18 and above cast votes to elect a President who they believe represents the interests of all Rwandans, young and old. The right to elect a president and other leaders in the government is protected by the Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda.
In the preamble, one of the functions of the Constitution is said to be fighting dictatorship by “putting in place democratic institutions and leaders freely elected by ourselves.”
Article one of the Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda further elaborates the fact that Rwanda is an independent, free and democratic country in which the principle of governance is “government of the people, by the people and for the people”.
The explanation for this is given in article two of the constitution which says that no individual or group of Rwandans can give themselves the authority to rule or lead other Rwandans without attaining consent. This is done through elections.
All citizens who are of legal age have the right to vote and get elected. This is according to article eight of the Constitution of Rwanda. Voting is done by secret ballot. This is to preserve peace among people with different political opinions since there is always the risk of fighting and if/when one openly declares their candidate of choice.
A presidential election is treated with utmost importance because according to article 98 of the Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda, the president is responsible for ensuring that the country is united, independent and that it shall continue to thrive.
This essentially means that the President of Rwanda is expected to keep the interests of the country at heart at all times during his/her term of office. To this end, article 99 of the Constitution provides conditions under which someone can qualify to contest for the office of the president.
He/she must be Rwandan by origin whereby at least one parent is of the Rwandan nationality and he/she must not hold any other nationality. This is important because for a president to give his/her absolute best, he/she must be patriotic. Patriotism can only be expected from people who have their roots and identity in Rwanda.
Another aspect for eligibility to contest for presidency is having unquestionable morals and integrity. The presidential candidate should not have been convicted or sentenced to a term of imprisonment of six months or more. They must also not have been deprived of civil or political rights. This is because a person who is responsible for millions of lives should inevitably be accountable and trustworthy.
A presidential candidate is also expected to be thirty-five years and older, and a resident of Rwanda.
As a child, you do not yet have the right to vote. However, since the president elect represents all population groups in the country, and since his/her decisions affect your wellbeing, the right to a democratically elected president affects you.