Senate scrutinises bill on constitutional reforms

Senators have unanimously approved the relevance of a draft law proposing amendments to the current Constitution of the country, a step that marks the start of the Senate’s own assessment of the proposed amendments.
President of the Senate Bernard Makuza (R) and his vice, Jeanne d'Arc Gakuba, during yesterday's plenary. (Faustin Niyigena)
President of the Senate Bernard Makuza (R) and his vice, Jeanne d'Arc Gakuba, during yesterday's plenary. (Faustin Niyigena)

Senators have unanimously approved the relevance of a draft law proposing amendments to the current Constitution of the country, a step that marks the start of the Senate’s own assessment of the proposed amendments.

The approval of the constitutional bill’s relevance, which is the first step in the process to assess any law in Parliament, was reached yesterday during the senators’ plenary session.

Deputy Speaker of Parliament in charge of administration, Abbas Mukama, presented the draft law on constitutional amendments because it is the Chamber of Deputies which has drafted the changes on the request of millions of Rwandans.

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Senate Jeanne d'Arc Mukakalisa stresses a point during yesterday's plenary..

While expressing their support for the relevance of the bill, most senators indicated that its proposals are in line with people’s wishes to give President Paul Kagame a chance to continue leading Rwanda beyond 2017 while also enacting an up-to-date Constitution for the country.

“I support this proposal because it responds to people’s will of changing article 101 of the Constitution and it has also reduced the Head of State’s term to five years renewable once, which is similar to terms in other East African Community (EAC) countries,” said Senator Evariste Bizimana.

Senator Marie Claire Mukasine concurred, saying she supported the proposal because “it has considered the wishes of Rwandans.”

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Senate Evariste Bizimana reacts to the bill on constitutional reforms yesterday.

More than 3.8 million Rwandans petitioned Parliament to review the Constitution to allow President Kagame to stand again in 2017 when his term expires.

Following countrywide consultations on the issue by Members of Parliament, the House’s Chamber of Deputies has made amendments to the Constitution that have to be endorsed by senators to be passed.

In response to people’s requests, lawmakers in the Lower House of Parliament have unanimously voted to reduce presidential term limits from seven to five years renewable once.

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Senate Perrine Mukankusi comments during the discussion on constitutional reforms yesterday.

But the change will be preceded by one transitional presidential term of seven years for which any presidential candidates, including President Paul Kagame, should he choose to run, will be eligible.

“The proposal responds to people’s wishes in a sustainable way,” said Senator Chrysologue Karangwa.

A number of other changes were also made in the Constitution, ranging from vetting process of the Senate, senators’ term in office, and modalities at which a former president vies for a senatorial position, among others.

Following yesterday’s approval of the relevance of the Constitutional amendments by the Senate, the bill will be discussed further in the Senate’s standing committee on political affairs and good governance.

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Senate Charles Uyisenga goes through the articles of the constitution. (All photos by Faustin Niyigena)

After the committee’s deeper examination of the bill, it will be referred back to the Senate’s plenary session for passing by all the senators before it is sent back to the Chamber of Deputies to integrate senators’ wishes in the bill.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

 

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