From the Supreme Court chambers, a bench of eight justices, yesterday morning, ruled that the court would proceed to hear the case involving the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and the State, which concerns the ongoing process to amend the Constitution.
At an earlier hearing, state attorneys challenged the competence of the Supreme Court to handle a case concerning interpretation of the Constitution, calling for dismissal of the case on grounds that the petitioner filed the case at a court with no jurisdiction.
However, presiding judge Justice Immaculee Nyirinkwaya said the court, which is the highest judicial organ in the country, cannot abdicate its responsibility by directing the case to any other institution.
Rwanda does not have a Constitutional Court, leaving the Supreme Court with the responsibility to hear such cases, she said.
“The Supreme Court has the jurisdiction to hear this case in the absence of the Constitutional Court. We shall, therefore, proceed and try this case in substance,” she ruled, setting September 23 as the starting date for the case’s hearing.
Principal State Attorney, Epimanque Rubango, who was among the state representatives said after the ruling that they are well prepared to handle the case when the hearing commence.
“We know that this court is competent and we accept their decision. We are going to prepare for the case and we shall be ready,” he said.
The Green Party filed a case with the Supreme Court to halt the process to amend Article 101 of the Constitution, arguing that it is against the law.
Article 101 can only be amended through a referendum.
The article puts the term of office for the President of the Republic to seven years, renewable only once.
However, close to four million Rwandans (70 per cent of the electorate) have petitioned Parliament to initiate the constitutional amendment process. The procedure for amendment is stipulated in the constitution.
The overwhelming support for the constitutional amendment from Rwandans across the country is attributed to remarkable progress the country has seen under the leadership of President Paul Kagame.
In the written petitions that were sent to Parliament, most petitioners indicated how their lives had been transformed and why they would like Kagame to steer the country beyond 2017.
Both chambers of Parliament have since approved the proposed amendment to the Constitution and paved the way for the establishment of a constitutional review commission.