Rwanda opposition group unhappy with political parties Bill

Sunday March 25 2018

Rwanda Democratic Green Party leader Frank

Rwanda Democratic Green Party leader Frank Habineza at the National Electoral Commission on June 12, 2017. The party had proposed that political parties get campaign funding in advance, but the suggestion was not adopted. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NMG 

ROBERT MBARAGA
By ROBERT MBARAGA
More by this Author

A recently tabled Bill on political parties and politicians has elicited mixed reactions, with the opposition terming provisions on funding for political parties as “not favourable for a vibrant democracy.”

The proposed law leaves out reforms requested by the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, which the party believed would create a level playing field for all political parties.

The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda had requested that the election law be revised for political parties to receive, in advance, campaign funding from the state, instead of being reimbursed after getting five per cent of the national vote after the elections.

“This fund only helps the winners, yet it should support competing parties to run a good campaign instead of appreciating parties after the elections,” said Frank Habineza the president of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda.

Donations

The proposed law also keeps the provision that states it is illegal for political organisations to receive donations from foreigners, foreign states, non-governmental organisations, faith-based organisations, foreign companies or industries and organisations where foreigners are shareholders.

Advertisement

This provision was well received by politicians, including Théobald Mporanyi, a member of parliament from the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front.

“If you look at what is happening worldwide, there are many political parties that target foreign donations, whether from organisations or individuals.

These donors tend to influence the activities of the political organisations and derail them from their political agendas,” he said when the Bill was tabled in parliament.

Judith Uwizeye the Minister in the Office of the President, who tabled the Bill on behalf of the government, said “foreign organisations” whose donations are prohibited include foreign political parties.

“There is irony in the state receiving foreign funding, but finding it inappropriate for political parties to do the same,” said Decried Habineza, the former presidential candidate who has been championing for political and electoral reforms for the past three years.

Suspension

A political party that receives funding from foreign entities would be liable to suspension of its activities for two years.

“In case this violation occurs during elections, the political party could have its activities suspended for five years and the government would seize the donation,” the Bill reads.

However, the Bill provides for budget allocation from the government to political parties. The funds will be channelled through the Rwanda Governance Board.

“Each financial year the government will give registered political parties grants, according to the state’s financial resources,” the Bill reads.

The state usually provides a budget to parties through the National Consultative Forum of Political Organisations, and the forum manages the funds.

The government grants are subject to strict annual reporting to the office of the Ombudsman, failure to which the parties risk suspension of funding and other administrative sanctions.

The proposed reforms by the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda were termed “individual opinions without substantive evidence” by several government agencies.