KIMIHURURA - Legislators, Thursday, paved way for the country to become a signatory to the world's nuclear regulatory body after a lengthy debate in Parliament,
There were mixed feelings in the Lower Chamber, but lawmakers eventually voted for an expedited approval of a draft law allowing Rwanda to ratify the statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
In her explanations before Parliament, State Minister for Energy and Water, Coletha Uwineza Ruhamya, highlighted several benefits to the country, including capacity building in the course of knowledge transfer through national, regional and international projects.
She said Rwanda would gain from IAEA’s wide range of expertise in various fields in addition to equipment and materials; as well as fellowships and scientific visits, training courses and workshops.
Ruhamya added that IAEA also has beneficial “technical cooperation programmes” with a US$ 70 million budget for equipment and services in health, agriculture, water, energy and environment.
Initially, before a 67.3 percent majority vote authorising the draft law to be passed without going through a lengthy routine of committee vetting, the House was divided – with some questioning why the country should ratify the statute.
Lawmakers Abbas Mukama, Nura Nikuze, Gabriel Semasaka, Pierre Claver Rwaka, Faith Mukakalisa, among others ,initially expressed caution.
They raised concerns on issues like the country’s contribution to the UN nuclear watchdog, after ratifying; possible consequences of joining the nuclear ‘fold’ especially given the recent disastrous Japan earthquake; among others.
“I have concerns, especially when the minister says the budget of this body [IAEA] will be a contribution from member countries. We are joining yet we might not even use it adequately,” Mukakalisa said.
“Another thing is (that), in 1986, there was a disaster in Chernobyl [in Ukraine] and recently, it happened in Japan, yet now, we are requesting to join
Rwaka wondered about the impact on the national budget, among others.
Further explanations from the minister, coupled with support from MPs Joseph Nyandwi and former Minister of Health, Dr Ezechias Rwabuhihi, eventually won the day.
Rwabuhihi noted that the bill was long overdue and observed that the ratification should have been done earlier.
He appealed to others to look at the benefits the country would get, especially from IAEA’s research in medicine.
The same session also approved the basis for the law authorising the endorsement of the establishment of the international renewable energy agency (IRENA), after the minister explained the gains.