Parliament occupies an important place in any nation, and an interesting aspect of it is just how many people are affected by its presence and its importance.
It is in the Parliamentary building that the most important debates and contests are given attention. Ideas from such debates are then used to help determine the character of the activity that takes place in a society.
Few people, however, attend the parliament to witness the law-making process. Occasionally, though, legislative activity can attract many observers. People attend mostly when there are meetings or public hearings.
Our parliament for example, has been making a great impact on political interactions and policy formulation. The parliament has helped to institutionalise effective mechanisms of democratic checks and balances.
The parliament is thus generally necessary to prevent the disintegration of democratic practices, and hence crucial to democratic consolidation.
The Rwandan parliament is sometimes used as a location for a forum, or roundtable, on matters of current public concern. The parliamentary house has been the scene of a number of demonstrations of compassion and sorrow for tragedies that have affected the nation and its people.
Such tragedies include the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda. That such events are held at parliament illustrates its importance in the nation’s psyche.
Should people feel comfortable in approaching and entering the building? All citizens should regularly visit the building to see the workings of democracy in Rwanda.
People who do not closely follow the work done by parliament, end up depending on rumours, to the detriment of the general society.
Do we need to have parliamentary elections in Rwanda? Yes, we do. A strong democracy exhibits the ability of the people of a country to freely elect individuals who can represent the interests of the public, and for those individuals to come to the house of democratic such as the parliament and fight for those issues that are important to the people who elected them.
Ultimately, the main objective of the whole exercise is to have representatives who can enable us to fight for the issues, ideas and solutions that our society needs for its development.
In most cases people ask why they are not seeing ideas and actions put forward so that solutions are got and implemented. We need a system that works on that to continue existing.
We, however, have to work together for the good of our parliament, democracy and for the country.
What should the electorate expect from the parliamentarians?
People queue to vote for a person who can primarily address issues of concern in their respective communities. If you are interested in contesting, then get warned in advance that the people will blame you for not answering their call.
In some cases you find people elected to parliament who never go back to the communities that pushed them to those levels. This is a sad reality. Why does one continue to warm a chair and fail to fulfil his or her promises?
During elections, people vying for posts shout, and out of excitement, promise heaven and earth. Yet some never fulfil even a quarter of their promises.
As we come closer to parliamentary elections, I would like to advise all those who will want the people to push them in one of the most respectable positions in the country, to live to their promises.
I do not think it is of any importance to promise what you will never deliver. What then do you need to do as you contest? The question comes because many aspiring candidates are caught up in a dilemma.
All you need to do is to promise people to facilitate the already existing government programmes to lift up the general standards of living. We have the Millennium Development Goals set for you and all that is left for you is to pick at least one of the goals and tell the people how you are going to facilitate its implementation.
You are not asked to create your own development goals and if you do, you will only be reinventing the wheel and therefore boring the electorate.
Set and be ready to implement people-based programmes. Do not seek to push forward cosmetic changes, for you will be digging your own political grave.
Rwanda with its decentralisation policy has set a very good background for its people and any slight mistake you make, a contradiction is made and then you are finished. You should be guided by the principle that parliament is a people’s house.