Senator Joseph Karemera is the head of the senatorial committee on political and governance affairs within the current parliament. An RPF party member Karemera was recently reported by a section of the press that he has been wooed to join the Green Party. The New Times’ Edwin Musoni sought out Senator Karemera to seek a clarification on his party affiliation in this interview in which Karemera also talks about other relevant issues centering around his calling as a politician.
You head the senatorial standing committee on political and governance affairs. What exactly is your commission charged with?
As the constitution stipulates in its article 87, our committee is tasked to look at political organizations and the conduct of politicians.
You said you look at the conduct of politicians, have you been doing this in the recent past?
Well, we haven’t been doing that for a quite some time. However I must say that since my time in the office, we have handled about three items in line with our mandate including PSP as a party and their politicians as well as UDPR and PS Imberakuri recently.
In this we are trying to show them what the constitution stipulates in as far as how a party should be led and how politicians are supposed to behave be it during campaigns or at any other period.
We are currently handling the issue of PS Imberakuri and we have opened up dialogue with its leadership in which we are looking at how their leaders have been conducting their affairs.
Still on the issue of political parties, you were once on record as saying that some of the political parties in the country become active only during the elections period, has the situation changed?
Well, that is the situation all over the world meaning a vast majority of parties become more active when elections are around the corner. This is natural and it is not about Rwanda only.
Now that the presidential elections are forthcoming, we are hearing some new political parties coming up and they are welcome. The constitution allows a multi-party system and political pluralism.
What do the upcoming elections mean to the workings of the senatorial standing committee on political affairs?
Our job will increase at this time due to an equal increase in political activities. For instance leaders of political parties are very likely to commit errors in this particular period so we have to ensure that the laws of the land are followed to the letter.
We have to ensure that none of the political leaders make inflammatory statements meant to cause divisions which go against the laws. We will particularly make sure that the gains we have made are not disrupted as a country and as a people. So much progress has been recorded in the last 15 years and all that has to be closely guarded.
The laws of the country will have to be upheld no matter what other political shades of opinion dictates.
Actually when you see people coming in while posing as opposition…we have no problem with that but we agreed on consensus on a host of critical issues because that is what our country lacked for decades.
We are actually trying to let people know what we have achieved and telling them not to take us back to the dark days.
That is why these other parties should emulate what the RPF has done so far. Meaning that the new comers such as PS Imberakuri or others should look at how the ruling coalition has come up with its economic policy or a strategy for the purposes of advancing their own causes.
As a committee we are interested in seeing how these parties can be seen to be competing in a more mature manner rather than just merely issuing inflammatory statements. Even this Green party that is shouting within the media.
The Green party cannot beat the RPF’s environmental policy…I don’t think so.
You have praised the RPF for its outstanding initiatives in different areas but of late there have been media reports that you are a member of the Green Party, is it true you changed sides?
I saw those reports and to be very frank I was very surprised because I don’t know anybody in that party apart from someone I used to know by the name of Kabanda whom I haven’t seen for over 16 years.
RPF remains my party. I have been involved in it since its inception and I am very happy we have reached where we are.
One would be very crazy to leave RPF. My party has always entrusted me with critical and vital assignments ever since 1994.I have been a minister heading two portfolios, Health and Education. I was an ambassador for quite sometime and when my tour of duty as an ambassador ended, I was immediately made a senator.
I really don’t know what one would have lacked as a person, as a politician or a citizen to have abandoned my party the RPF given what I have just said.
So when I read this article linking me with the Green Party, I thought about a number of things. In the first place I thought it must me an attack on our party from a competitor. Secondly I thought someone is trying to tarnish the image of our party. They want to give our party an ugly picture; a picture of a party whose members are fleeing.
So what came into my mind was that it was an attack meant to discredit the party that has done all these good things. That is what came into my mind.
The second thing I thought was that as a politician my name was being dragged into the mud. If that was so then it was not the very first time. That is what I told myself. I remember several times during my career as a politician my enemies had tried with no success to tarnish my name.
I remember it happened when I was still the Minister of Education. So to console myself I said that within our society we have people who think like this.
The other possibility I thought about especially with the Green Party, you know some of their members would go to various sources for fund raising for the purposes of the forthcoming election and while being asked about the strength of their party they would gives false statements by saying that they are attracting even seasoned politicians like me -attracting RPF members.
There is such a high possibility. It is politics at the end of the day. In this case they would pick on some senior cadres of the RPF like they have done…I am one of the oldest men in our party RPF. For the purposes of advancing their cheap politics.
Like I said, how can I be disgruntled when I have been holding these portfolios that are really very senior? Actually what I must also point out is that with my age I should actually be stepping down so that within our party young people should be encouraged to take over the different tasks lying ahead within nation building.
Again I want to emphasis the fact that it is simply impossible for me to think of abandoning my party that I have served for all this time. More so having held various positions most of them senior in rank.
What I need to point out is the fact that I have not being told that my performance has been found to be wanting. So why the hell should I leave my party?
You said it is an attack on you and your party so are you taking any legal action?
If I decide to go to court using what has been said in the press I am very sure I would win the case. But sometimes I find having a case involving the press to be another headache altogether. For instance I have every reason to believe that the publisher of that article can not prove what they wrote.
As I have said we live in a multi-party era and hence I have all the rights to belong to a party of my choice. So for me my choice is clear. I am with the party that I have served for all this time.
You talked about handing over to the young generation. If so , when do you intend to retire from politics?
I think I will serve RPF as long as I am capable of doing it. However let me ask a question. When does one quit politics? But I will definitely remain doing jobs within my party that do not require a lot of energy. For instance I can still do some research work for my party.
You know politics is all about the life of the country. As long as someone is still alive and capable of doing something I will definitely make my contributions.
By the way I joined the RPF in June 1979 when I was still a medical student in my third year and since that time I have never thrown in the towel. So why should I quit at this time?
Your senatorial mandate is ending next year and it is not going to be renewed, what will you do after that?
Being a member of the RPF means a lot of things. After my current assignment I can still be of assistance in say at the secretariat. It all depends on how much energy and drive that I still have.
With respect to that question I must point out that I have plenty still to offer. Personally I would like to serve by undertaking some knowledge based assignments like spearheading some research into some of issues affecting our society. In that way I think I would be of more value after my senatorial terms ends.