President Paul Kagame today gave the closest clue to a power shift in Rwanda when he told a gathering of the 13thannual National Dialogue Council in Kigali that Rwandans now have a chance to change public office from one person to another.
Mr. Kagame’s comments could be interpreted to mean that Rwandans, fresh from a referendum in which they overwhelmingly voted to change the constitution to allow a president to potentially rule until 2034, can freely vote any president/public official of their choice other than him.
Speaking this morning from Rwanda Conference Centre where over 3000 delegates from Rwanda and the diaspora are holding the dialogue locally known as to as ‘Umushikirano,’ Mr. Kagame said the results from the referendum had showed him what Rwandans overwhelmingly want.
This year’s Umushyikirano, is premised on the theme; ‘ Rwandans’ Choices- Foundation for National Development and Dignity.’
“Rwandans expect good governance in which public office is routinely transferred from one person of their choice to another. They have shown that this decision is their real power and that that decision making will always remain firmly with the people,” Mr. Kagame told the gathering that includes members of the diplomatic corps, Rwandans in the diaspora, local leaders and ordinary Rwandan citizens.
Rwandans on Thursday, December 18, overwhelmingly voted to change the constitution to allow a president run for another two terms of five years each from 2017. By Saturday, the nationwide results had turned out a 98% “yes” vote in favour of the constitutional from all of the country’s 30 districts as well as overseas votes.
Commenting on the overwhelming turn up, Kagame, who has come under international pressure to step down when his term of office expires in 2017, added that Rwandan democracy was stronger than ever.
“We have completed the process of the referendum that was well attended. This shows that our democracy continues to grow and is rooted in ourselves. Our democracy is strong because we have refused to be instructed on how to determine our destiny,” Kagame fired back.
He observed that through the referendum, Rwandans had made two more statements;
“One is that serving Rwanda is a privilege and duty not an entitlement. No individual is there forever. But there’s no term limit on values, institutions or progress. When the time comes to transfer responsibility from one public servant to another, Rwandans already have confidence that it will be done in an orderly and harmonious manner. This is what they want.”
The third statement was, according to Mr. Kagame, that Rwandans had told the leadership that as much the country has achieved, this was not as good as it got.
“The future is expected to be brighter for our country. We have to work harder and manage our responsibilities correctly. There’s a better Rwanda ahead and the chance to definitively to transform our country must not be squandered,” he said
However, Mr. Kagame hastened to add that although there was no problem with criticism from outside because the country could sometimes benefit from it, double edged statements that praise Rwanda on the one hand and then insist on the other, that Rwandans are incapable of thought and determining their future, were ‘abusive.’
“To that we listen attentively and then put that to where it belongs and move on,” he said to a thunderous clap from the audience.
To galvanize his point, he cautioned; “World over, states fail. It makes no sense to undermine the legitimate and effective governments that are best able to tackle global challenges facing all of us just to score debating points.”
He instead warned that a country without values has no future.
“A country without values has no future. Our vision for the future is not technical. It’s deeply meaningful to us reflecting what we feel for each other and our homeland.”
Note: Readers can follow live proceedings on twitter on hashtag #Umushyikirano2015