The Rwandan government has appointed a Constitution Review Commission despite an ongoing Supreme Court case seeking to block the process to amend the country’s Constitution to remove presidential term limits.
A Cabinet meeting chaired by President Paul Kagame on Wednesday named seven members of the commission that will assist both chambers of the Constitution to review and amend some articles with the focus being article 101 on presidential term limits.
The development came on the same day that the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case filed by the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda seeking to halt the ongoing process to amend the Constitution to remove term limits and thus allow President Kagame to contest again in 2017.
The seven members of the Constitution Review Commission who were subsequently approved by the Senate on Friday are Dr Augustin Iyamuremye (chairperson); Usta Kayitesi (vice chairperson); Evode Uwizeyimana; John Mirenge; Aimable Havugiyaremye; Loyce Bamwine and Beata Mukeshimana.
However, the Green Party says the Supreme Court should put an immediate stop to the amendment process until a verdict on the case is reached.
“Our position is, the ongoing process is against the law, until the court makes a decision. Otherwise we will petition the court to effectively put a stop to these activities until the case is over,” said Frank Habineza, the president of the opposition party.
Minister of Justice Johnstone Busingye said the case cannot stop parliament from doing its job, adding the commission and parliament will not be specifically looking at article 101.
He, however, said that in the event the court makes any decision regarding the process, it will be respected.
“The case in the Supreme Court is very specific about one or two provisions in the Constitution. The Commission is about the review of the Constitution from article 1 to article 203,” Mr Busingye said.
“In July and August, parliament passed two decisions, one being amending the Constitution in accordance with the people’s wishes to amend a specific article called 101 using procedures laid down in other articles and the second being reviewing the whole Constitution from the first to the last article to remove provisions that are no longer serving us,” Mr Busingye said.
He said the mission of the commission is much bigger than that the Green Party has petitioned the Supreme Court over. He, however, said that they are ready to abide by any ruling the court makes in that regard.
Mr Habineza insists that the ongoing process contravenes the law considering that the process in parliament directly concerns the case. He admits, however, that it could be a little too late to reverse the process.
Parliament has over the past two months fast-tracked procedures to amend the Constitution in the wake of over 3.8 million petitions calling for the amendment, particularly article 101 to remove presidential term limits.
The move has paved way for President Kagame to seek another term in office even though he is yet to pronounce if he will actually seek it.
Last week, the US said it would not back plans to amend the Constitution to allow President Kagame to continue. Rwanda will be in the spotlight ahead of 2017 if the incumbent continues.
President Kagame’s term expires in 2017. Under the current Constitution, he is not eligible for another term.