Rwandans will between September 16 and 18 participate in an election exercise that will see the Third Parliament following the 2003 Constitution take office. The election will be held through universal adult suffrage and electoral colleges. The New Times’ James Karuhanga spoke to Rwandans of different backgrounds concerning what they expected from the new parliament.
Nathan Sabiiti, a small business owner in Kimironko:
“The problem of alarming unemployment should be a top priority. They should increase their outreach to the population so that we can let them know our concerns. Otherwise, Parliament has generally tried its best.”
Athan Tashobya, Journalist.
“Parliament should ensure that parliamentary procedures are understood and followed by politicians. Rwanda is faced with numerous problems – social, economical and political and, if our leaders are not willing to face them as they are, I am afraid we might not go as far as we hope to reach.”
“One of my concerns is the gap between the rich and the poor. If I was to put it in football language, Rwanda has strikers and defenders; but there are no midfielders”
Denyse Kanzayire, public relations and communication officer at the Media High Council:
“They [MPs] should put in place a policy to facilitate or encourage investors to build low cost housing in Kigali because houses are presently extremely costly. Everyone [developers] is setting the rates according to their own wishes. This is a big issue that they should look into.”
Jean Damascene Duhungirehe, a shopkeeper in Rugarama:
“One thing I want to see is the new MPs coming down to the people. They should come closer to us, know our issues, so that they can be able to provide appropriate solutions. The outgoing lawmakers were doing a good job, and I would only wish that the new ones pick up from where the previous House ended. I wish them the very best.”
Etienne Mbahongeriki, a gardner in Rugarama sector, in Nyamirambo:
“My wish is that there will be projects set up to cut back on youth unemployment. This really, is a matter that deserves urgent attention. The lawmakers could also help orphans in the country. And then, I would appeal to them [MPs] to put an end to police harassment. Annick Nicky Rudakemwa, Information and Outreach Coordinator for the Rwanda Civil Society Platform:
“The new MPs need to focus more on the Bills that were left pending by the previous members of parliament, especially the very important Bill on persons and family; and others including the ones on health insurance, pension etc. And, they should conduct more research on issues. Unfortunately, the House, as I understand now, has a shortage of trained staff and equipment – so, we still have a long way to go. The population does not really understand the work or activities of the Parliament...maybe they can take time to enlighten the public.”
John Ruhinda, president of Rwandan Canadian Community of London (RCCL) and Secretary General of the federal committee of the Rwandan Diaspora of Canada:
“Rwanda has ensured a more inclusive representation into its Lower Chamber of parliament by making room for representatives from areas of our society which have traditionally been disadvantaged, notably women, the youth and the disabled, and now many in these categories compete on equal basis with other contestants. As a member of the Diaspora, I am tempted to dream about a time when there could be a Diaspora representative too, especially given that there is already a momentum of building a strong and engaged Diaspora. In Ontario, some of us might take comfort in the fact that one of ours, John Ruku Rwabyoma, decided to return to his motherland and is now listed among those aspiring to represent the RPF. He may have decided to go on his personal accord, but his spirit is inspirational and, hopefully, it will encourage others to aspire to be involved in the democratic process of our country.”
Thacien Vuguziga, a mason in Kacyiru:
“They should help deal with the biting issue of unemployment which affects many people. In addition, there are cases where by people are often mistreated by authorities and security organs like the police and local defence The MPs should look into such irresponsible behavior. The MPs should also come to the people, listen to them and be able to address issues especially related to teh services rendered by local authorities.
Evariste Bugingo, an MTN airtime vendor:
“The lawmakers should go down to the grassroots, not just sit in their offices and think that they are doing us any good. They need to be known by the people.
They must reach out to the public and get to know the real problems affecting people from all walks of life. Plus, they should help address the high youth unemployment by devising ways of initiating many youth employment projects. And, perhaps, they could also try to put up a mechanism such as a law that compels the very old people to retire from jobs so that the young can also be employed.”