-Elections in EA countries heat up
The two legislative bodies in Rwanda, the Lower Chamber and Senate are set to debate the petitions of millions of Rwandans who want President Paul Kagame to stand for office after 2017.
Of recent over three million Rwandans have petitioned Parliament to amend Article 101 of the Constitution to allow Kagame stand for a third seven-year term.
Kagame, a former guerilla leader of the Rwanda Patriotic Front/Army (RPF/A), was first elected civilian president under universal adult suffrage in 2003, stood again in 2010 and won both elections with landslide victory. Before that he had been elected by the Parliamentarians to replace Pasteur Bizimungu, after members found the former president culpable of several misdemeanours.
According to a release by Parliament, the debates in both the Chamber of Deputies (MPs) and the Senate chambers that began at 9am, are taking place simultaneously.
The third term debate in Rwanda has caused serious anxiety and the Speaker of Parliament, Donatilla Mukabalisa, has urged all Rwandans to follow today’s proceedings.
According to the Rwandan Constitution that was promulgated in 2003, the President of Rwanda is supposed to serve a maximum of two-seven year terms, non-renewable.
Kagame’s ‘third term’ debate comes in the wake of other east African regional countries: Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, getting ready for elections between now and 2016.
But the leaders of both Burundi and the DRC have encountered strong resistance to their presidential bids, with thousands of citizens in both countries thronging the streets in protest.
In a related development, Tanzania is set to hold elections in October this year, and the ruling party, the Chama Cha Mapinduzi has already zeroed on on its presidential flag bearer, Dr John Pombe Magufuli, a minister of works under President Jakaya Kikwete.
And in Uganda, incumbent president Yoweri Museveni has come under intense competition from his erstwhile Prime Minister John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, who is seeking both the presidency and the chairmanship of the ruling party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM).
Though Museveni has not yet declared his candidature for the 2016 elections, political observers say he may seek the position of NRM flag bearer for president. Other Ugandan politicians who have already declared their presidential ambitions include the Forum for Democratic Change President Major General (rtd) Gregory Mugisha Muntu and his predecessor, Colonel (rtd) Dr Warren Kizza Besigye.
Meanwhile, in troubled Burundi elections have been scheduled for the end of this month, with embattled President Pierre Nkurunziza insisting on standing for the presidency under the CNDD/FDD party, while the opposition says it will boycott the polls should he stand.
Since April when Nkurunziza declared he would contest for the presidency for what some Barundi have described as his ‘third term’, the president has come under intense pressure not to offer himself, resulting in a temporary coup on May 13, carried out by disgruntled army anf police officers led by the former intelligence chief, Major General Godefroid Niyombare.