Members of Parliament yesterday expressed dissatisfaction over the lack of public involvement in parliamentary activities and vowed to improve their outreach programme.
The concern was raised during the second Parliamentary Open Day that drew about 470 youth and women representatives from all districts across the country.
“Members of Parliament are elected by the masses, they are the same people that the Parliament is answerable to; it is important that you follow up the work the parliament does,” Senator Rwigamba Balinda said.
He added that; “We don’t get many people following our business, this is why we organise events like the Open Day so that we can have people’s representatives learn about the work we do so (that) they pass on the message to those they represent.”
The Open Day is a bi-annual event where members of the public visit the parliament buildings and lawmakers showcase their achievements, challenges and future plans.
According to MP Adolph Bazatoha; “members of the public are free to participate in the committee and plenary sessions. During the committee sittings, members of the public are allowed, by law, to participate and give their opinions.”
Bazatoha heads the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Environment, which is currently reviewing the bill on the standard set up of cities and towns in Rwanda.
He pointed out that ever since his committee started working on the bill, no member of the public has attended the sessions.
“This is a bill that concerns all Rwandans; it is very disappointing that no one has attended these sessions,” Bazatoha said.
Yesterday’s open day mainly focused on youth and women representatives at the sector level.
Following a tour around the parliament buildings, the representatives were addressed by the Speaker of Parliament, Rose Mukantabana and Senate vice president, Prosper Higiro.
Mukantabana emphasised that parliament is accountable to the people noting that it was upon the people to hold lawmakers accountable.
She stated that; “parliament is open to whoever wants to attend a parliamentary session, no invitations are required.”
The Speaker added that it was her hope that the women and youth representatives would encourage people to frequently follow up on the house’s proceedings.
Higiro presented the Senate’s achievements over the past eight years saying that a lot had been achieved by the country’s first senate whose mandate expires this year.
“As we end our mandate, we are happy to note that in the past eight years, the Senate passed 378 bills; this is an equivalent of the 72 percent of the work done by the Lower Chamber in the same timeframe,” Higiro said.
In an interview with The New Times, Joseph Bigingo, a youth representative from Nyabihu District stressed that, there was need to improve the awareness of the parliamentary work.
“What we have seen here is more than what we thought and expected. Parliament needs to improve its public outreach; people need to know that their representatives are indeed working,” said Bigingo.
The first Parliamentary Open day was held in December last year and drew members of the civil society and media representatives.