Third time’s not a charm

My thoughts on the whole abortion debate last week attracted quite a response and by informal straw poll, readers were politely but firmly for criminalising abortion. While it did not come as a surprise, I was hoping to hear from one or two fellow fringe liberals.  Shortly after my piece, it was reported that three teenage girls had been convicted for one year in Musanze on abortion charges.
Oscar Kabbatende
Oscar Kabbatende

My thoughts on the whole abortion debate last week attracted quite a response and by informal straw poll, readers were politely but firmly for criminalising abortion. While it did not come as a surprise, I was hoping to hear from one or two fellow fringe liberals.

Shortly after my piece, it was reported that three teenage girls had been convicted for one year in Musanze on abortion charges.

As always, the men who were 50 percent responsible for the unwanted pregnancies got away. All I’m saying is that there is something wrong with this picture and as a country, we can do much better.

In the meantime, the Honourable Minister for Internal Affairs, Sheik Fazil Musa Harerimana was making his views known on other hot debate topics.

In an interview with a local newspaper, the good Sheik proclaimed that he was all for amending the 2003 Constitution, particularly the provisions outlawing polygamy and instituting Presidential term limits.

Having exhausted my liberal credit for the month of November in last week’s writings, I’ll let someone else write about how polygamy is a backward step for women [he was specific in his definition of polygamy – one man, many women].

As the man in charge of the Police force, he will know that marrying more than one woman would easily get an amorous man an arrest and conviction ranging from three months to three years.

Let’s stick to the minister’s position on amending the constitution in order to enable incumbent President Kagame to stand for a third [and why not fourth and fifth] term.

Personally, I think   he should have got someone else in his Idealist Democratic Party [PDI] to state the party’s support for a constitutional amendment on term limits. As a Minister and member of the executive branch of government, more than a few might begin to believe that this is the vanguard of a campaign to change the people’s will. 

Naturally, he has the right to his views but his statement may give the wrong impression and unnecessary ammunition to our perennial critics.

Sheik Harerimana backs up his position by alluding to the undemocratic nature of the term-limits. According to him, the electorate should be able to vote for a presidential candidate for as long as they support him/her and that term limits deprive them of this.

The Honourable Minister conveniently forgot that when Rwandans voted in favour of the draft Constitution in a 2003 referendum, they were also voting in favour of a two-term limit. Sir, the people spoke in 2003 and they do not want to have the same President for more than two terms. Come to think of it, by the Minister’s own admission, President Kagame does not want to stay for another term either.

The Constitution is only eight years old and for the next 20 years or so, precedents for Rwanda’s democratic progress are being set. Amending the Constitution for a single Rwandan, no matter how phenomenal he may be as President, sets the wrong example.

Today, it’s a good President, tomorrow it may be a not-so-good-one that no one can get rid of especially if s/he is able to manipulate the voters or the results in her/his favour at every election. 

Also consider that if a President cannot accomplish most of his objectives within 14 years, why should we believe that s/he would achieve them in 21, 28 or [God forbid] 35 years? 

It’s also an insult on 11 million Rwandans, almost as if the Minister is suggesting that any Presidential candidate in 2017 will be an agent for regression of all the gains Rwanda would have made up till that time. Dear Honourable Minister of Internal Affairs, when it comes to Presidential term limits, third time is not a charm. 

okabatende@gmail.com

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