Former senator Donatille Mukabalisa is the new Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies.
She was almost unanimously elected speaker of the Third Lower House after new Members of Parliament were sworn in at the Parliamentary Buildings in Kimihurura yesterday.
Mukabalisa, 53, who quit her senatorial seat to run in the polls for the Lower Chamber on the Liberal Party (PL) ticket, was elected by 79 of the 80-member chamber, with her only challenger Nura Nikuze taking the other vote.
Mukabalisa, a long serving lawmaker and trained lawyer, was fronted by her PL colleague and MP François Byabarumwanzi, who cited the former’s vast experience in legislative work.
Her elevation to the speaker means the position has gone to women in two successive parliaments after Rose Mukantabana became the country’s first female speaker – during the 2008-2013 House tenure.
Rose Mukantabana, who returned to parliament after successfully retaining her seat as representative of women in the City of Kigali, did not seek re-election to Speaker’s position, neither was she fronted by any member.
Nikuze had offered herself up for election.
According to the Constitution, the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies must not come from the same political party as the President of the Republic, meaning RPF members were automatically ineligible to run for the post.
The new Lower House is predominantly female, at a world record 64 per cent, and saw 50 of the 80 MPs in the previous House bouncing back.
Jeanne d’Arc Uwimanimpaye (Women, Eastern Province) and Abbas Mukama (Ideal Democratic Party) were also overwhelmingly elected vice speakers in charge of Government Oversight and Legislation, and Finance and Administration, respectively.
Uwimanimpaye received 70 votes out of a possible 80 while Mukama, who stood unopposed, garnered 72 votes.
The new Speaker, Mukabalisa, is no stranger to Rwanda’s legislature and politics in general.
From July 2000 through 2003, the mother of three was an MP in the Transitional National Assembly during which time she served as deputy chairperson on the standing committee on economy and trade.
Later, from October 2003 to August 2008, the PL politician returned as an MP in the first Parliament after the transition and promulgation of the 2003 Constitution, which ushered Rwanda into a bicameral legislative system, with the establishment of the Senate.
During that period, she served as deputy chairperson, standing committee on political affairs in the Chamber of Deputies.
Later, in September 2011, Mukabalisa campaigned in senatorial polls and was elected by voters in the Eastern Province.
Prior to joining politics, Mukabalisa worked in different capacities at UNDP offices in Kigali between October 1981 and December 2000, first as personal assistant to the resident coordinator, and later as a programme assistant.
In her maiden speech as speaker, Mukabalisa thanked President Paul Kagame for leading the way in the country’s stunning recovery from the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, empowering women in all spheres of life and inspiring a generation.
“We shall work hard to help the country achieve its development targets as envisioned in Vision 2020,” she pledged.
Vice speaker Uwimanimpaye (Government Oversight and Legislation) replaces Evariste Kalisa (PL), who was also sworn in back into the House. She holds a master’s degree in economics.
She was a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in the previous Lower Chamber, and prior to that, she was serving on the standing committee on economy and trade.
Mukama, formerly deputy chairperson on the standing committee on budget and national patrimony during the tenure of the second Chamber of Deputies, replaces Marie Josee Kankera (RPF) in the position of vice speaker in charge of finance and administration. Mukama has been an MP since 2000.
Kankera is also among the 50 incumbents who returned to parliament. Just like Mukantabana, neither Kalisa nor Kankera did seek to retain their positions in the Chamber of Deputies’ bureau.