Out goes the Old Guard: New faces and experience in Kagame’s govt

Saturday October 20 2018

Rwanda cabinet and government official.

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame (centre) with his new Cabinet and other newly appointed government officials. PHOTO | URUGWIRO 

EDMUND KAGIRE
By EDMUND KAGIRE
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In December 2017 when the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF–Inkotanyi) was celebrating its 30th birthday, President Paul Kagame urged the country’s youth to take up leadership positions to allow a transition from one generation to another, pointing out that he wouldn’t mind being replaced by a younger leader.

A few months after his re-election, President Kagame hinted that the ruling party would be looking to retire old cadres and allow young party members to take over, and has continuously urged young people to step up and take their place.

The highly anticipated Cabinet shake-up follows the election of the outgoing Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo to head the International Organisation of the Francophonie (OIF) last week, did not therefore disappoint, as the president named new young faces to the Cabinet.

Maj-Gen Albert Murasira was appointed Defence Minister replacing Gen James Kabarebe who has held the docket since April 2010.

Maj-Gen Murasira, 53, had been rising steadily through the ranks, having joined the Rwanda Defence Force at the rank of Lieutenant, after defecting from the then government forces in 1994.

Prior to his appointment, he was the managing director of Zigama Credit and Savings Bank, the armed forces’ bank.

Maj-Gen Murasira is credited for the reforms in the financial institution that lead to its increased profitability and total assets to $256m and also the improvement in the welfare of the military and police. This year the bank announced a $10.5 million profit.

Surprise move

The highly educated Murasira has two Masters degrees, one in Project Management from Liverpool University, UK, and the other in Military Studies from China. He also has several postgraduate certificates and a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics.

A surprise move that also came as a shock to many was the dropping of Francis Kaboneka as Minister of Local Government, to be replaced by Prof Anastase Shyaka, who was the chief executive of the Rwanda Governance Board. According to unconfirmed reports, Mr Kaboneka will return to the ruling party secretariat.

Mr Kaboneka wielded a lot of power and seemingly had the president’s trust since taking over. He took the reins of local government in July 2014.

Similarly, Vincent Munyeshyaka was dropped from the Ministry of Trade and Industry and replaced by newcomer Soraya Hakuziyaremye, who was the second vice president, financial institutions/financial markets risk management at ING, based in London.

Ms Hakuziyaremye’s appointment has created a lot of positive buzz in the country, with her ‘‘youthful’’ photos making rounds on social media.

Mr Munyeshyaka was not reappointed. His Cabinet stay was short having been appointed in September 2017 following President Kagame’s re-election in August of the same year.

Among the youthful newcomers is Paula Ingabire, who until her appointment was the Director of ICT at the Rwanda Development Board. She was appointed Minister for ICT and Innovation, replacing Jean de Dieu Rurangirwa, who was also dropped after a short stint in the Cabinet.

An outstanding appointment is that of Dr Richard Sezibera, 54, the former East African Community secretary general who was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Dr Sezibera has been a Senator since December 2016, having completed his mandate at the EAC in April of the same year. He returns to the Cabinet eight years later. Prior to joining the EAC in April 2011, Dr Sezibera was the minister of health.

Sources say his appointment will be pivotal for the region and his first assignment will be to put in order Rwanda’s diplomatic and bilateral situation.

Sezibera comes into office at time when Kigali is experiencing uneasy ties with neighbours Uganda, Burundi and DR Congo.

Key changes

He is replacing Louise Mushikiwabo who was elected Secretary General of the International Organisation of the Francophonie (OIF).

Among the key changes, the Minister of Sports and Culture Julienne Uwacu was dropped a few days after apologising for the poor organisation of an African Cup of Nations qualifier match between Rwanda and Guinea. The national anthems of the two countries failed to be played before the match at the Kigali Stadium as per Fifa regulations.

President Kagame, who is known not to tolerate inefficiency in his government, replaced Ms Uwacu with Esperance Nyirasafali, who prior to the appointment was the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion.

Ms Nyirasafali was replaced by Solina Nyirahabimana, who bounced back after a couple of years out of government.

On Friday while officiating at the Judicial Year, President Kagame said women are increasingly being put in decision making positions, because they are effective in addressing issues in society that affect women.

“Increasing the number of women and girls in decision making position should help us address some of these issues we are talking about in our society,” President Kagame said in reference to growing cases of sexual and gender-based violence.

“It is not the role of women alone, even men have to play their part. You all work together to find a solution. Historically, we have not had many women in decision making positions. With the number going up, we should see more progress in regard to addressing issues particularly faced by women and girls,” President Kagame said.

Among the issues to address, he highlighted gender based violence and sexual violence, human trafficking, drug abuse and corruption.

The chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat congratulated President Kagame on his new look government.

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