As the parliamentary campaigns enter the second week, different political parties continue to traverse the country seeking the to garner votes to ensure they get as many seats in the next parliament as possible. One of the contestants is the Social Democratic Party (PSD).
Speaking to The New Times’ Marie-Anne Dushimimana, the Secretary General of PSD, Dr Jean-Chrysostome Ngabitsinze said that their main focus is to ensure they get more than the 13 per cent they got in the previous election to be able to get more seats.
Briefly tell us about the manifesto that you are selling to the electorate as you continue to traverse the country canvassing for votes for your candidates.
PSD was founded 27 years ago to enhance the welfare of Rwandans, to champion the country’s development and to make sure every citizen has life they desire.
Most of our ideas are already embedded in various government programmes so we are simply emphasising and fine-tuning.
As you know, since the end of the Genocide against the Tutsi, PSD has had representation in parliament, even in Government and various institutions, I myself have worked for the Government.
Having said that, we have to make sure the manifesto looks at the national life at large.
The national constitution prescribes that the political party which wins the elections should not work alone; it means that even if the PSD won the election, it will have to work together with others so we have to make sure our manifesto is all inclusive.
Having a good manifesto is one thing, but don’t you see that some of your ideas could be too ambitious to achieve for a developing country?
No, we can’t develop ideas which are not achievable but we can ask ourselves when and how they can be implemented.
All the 41 campaign promises in the PSD manifesto are achievable. For example, during our campaigns, many voters and the media ask themselves if a cable-car transport system can be possible in Rwanda. However, it’s very cheap compared to constructing a road, say through a mountain.
Our country is very hilly and it is very expensive to build roads in this mountainous topography. It would be very easy to just create sky cable cars which cross directly from a mountain to another.
Rwanda has achieved many things which people used to think were impossible. These are the ideas which require polishing and mobilising resources to implement them but there is no idea that is unachievable.
Who is a good MP, according to PSD?
A good Member of Parliament loves the people; he/she is ready to have good relationship with them and put people’s interest above self. A good MP doesn’t think he/she is just a Honourable, it means reaching out to the people.
A good MP is a good mobiliser who is capable of breaking down the existing laws to the people in a language they all understand; he/she takes note of their concerns and convey them to where they should be addressed.
A good legislator has to be knowledgeable. Having knowledge doesn’t require being highly educated; it is about being informed about the situation and vision of the country, the aspirations of people and their wishes and how to achieve that.
He/she should be someone ready to always learn new things and available anytime for the people and the country. Briefly, a good MP is a humble person.
People want the incoming MPs to be close to them, how do you take their wish?
What people say is right. I agree, the previous parliament did everything possible to approach the people, and that was visible even where I was in local government.
For me, I think that MPs should spend a lot of time with the people collecting their views to inform their debate in parliament or to use them in shaping various government programmes basing on people’s priorities.
This will raise citizen participation in government programmes.
Do you think the number of MPs from PSD will increase this time?
Hope should be the last thing to be lost on any politician. We always have hope that the number will increase, and we have increased the momentum during these campaigns.
However, we don’t believe only in the number of MPs we have, but also in people we work with.
We believe that even if the number is not bigger, if an idea we present is good, it will be mainstreamed into the national programme and implemented because we have an inclusive type of governance that any good political programme is welcome irrespective of whether or not you are the majority in parliament.
How is the PSD parliamentary campaign so far?
Everything is going as planned, people are attending our rallies and up to now, it remains incident-free, except some misunderstandings on individual basis from people who sometimes don’t understand the laws, but we have handled them effectively where they have come up.
There is also a case of some journalist who said we pay people to attend our campaigns, which was not true, but we explained to him because we don’t buy members.
How do you feel to be the first on the list of candidates presented by your party?
I didn’t play any role to be the first on the PSD candidate list. However, there will always be number one on any list.
It’s just the confidence the party has in me and that cannot distract me. We have to work hard together with other candidates to win as many seats as possible.
Do you have any specific message concerning parliamentary elections?
I’m sure our population has become politically mature enough. In these elections, there are many candidates from many political parties and independents.
I would like to ask them to be careful to not be misled, they have to understand what the country needs and its vision, entertain them all but when they go to the ballot, elect those who are able to help them achieve their aspirations.
They should keep intact their integrity during this electoral time, and vote for PSD to give us the chance to continue our vision of improving the welfare of Rwandans.
Who is MP candidate Jean-Chrysostome Ngabitsinze?
Ngabitsinze is a husband and a father of three, with a PhD in agricultural economics and natural resources from Italy. I have more than ten years of experience as a lecturer at University of Rwanda, and I have taught at other universities abroad.
I have been a member of PSD for long but I officially joined in 2003. From 2010 I headed the party at Nyamagabe District level, until 2015 when I was elected the party Secretary-General, a position I hold until today.
I also headed the National Land Commission from 2011 until 2014, and since 2016 I chair the board of the National Agriculture Export Development Board (NAEB). I’m also the president of Huye District Council.
I have published many research works mostly linking agriculture to economics.
Why do you want to become an MP?
When I conduct research, I work with people, we use interviews. Even in the university, I’ve been in charge of many activities that involve direct engagement of people.
The fact that I lead a district council, which most of the times works with residents to hear their concerns, showed me that I can even serve them better in parliament.
Being part of parliament as a PSD member is another way to work for people and giving our contribution as a party to improve the welfare of the people of Rwanda.