Rwanda Patriotic Front turns 30, urges youth to take up positions

Saturday December 16 2017

Rwandan president Paul Kagame greets RPF supporters in Ruhango district, Southern Province, during the kick off of his campaign on July 14, 2017. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NMG


The ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front-RPF Inkotanyi last week capped celebrations of 30 years of existence with the party chairman President Paul Kagame urging members to remain true to the values of the political entity which has been in power for 23 years now.

But as Rwanda’s ruling party celebrates three decades of existence, it faces an uphill task of replacing cadres who played a role of its formation 30 years, who are either retiring, ageing or falling out of favour.

On Thursday, the party held its congress, the finale of the many activities to mark 30 years of existence held at the swanky new party headquarters in Rusororo, Gasabo district.

A day earlier, the party held an International Conference on African Liberation and Transformation, which was addressed by among other people, Benjamin Mkapa, the former President of Tanzania.

During the congress, President Kagame talked about the 30-year journey of the party, pointing out that during this time, some party members forgot the values of RPF Inkotanyi and instead chose to pursue personal interests, in reference to disgraced or exiled members.

“It has become clear, over the years, we have people who strayed from the values of RPF we adhere to every day,” the Rwandan leader said, adding that those individuals went on to become tools used by external forces seeking to destabilise Rwanda.


President Kagame’s remarks dwelled on former party members who fell out with the party and fled to exile where they joined or formed opposition groups challenging the government.

RPF remains intact

But despite the falling out, senior RPF-Inkotanyi cadres believe the party remains intact and on course, with vice chairman Christophe Bazivamo saying that “every political organisation has a few bad apples” that if removed do not mean the party is losing its composition.

However, political analysts argue that RPF’s biggest challenge at the moment is replacing ageing cadres with youthful party members to take over and maintaining a similar stance and respect.
In an interview with The East African, Mr Bazivamo said that the party has a clear plan in its agenda and manifesto that provides for young people to be prepared and groomed to occupy important positions.

“Whatever we do today as a party does not only focus on what we want to achieve today but also preparing the country for the future, which means grooming and involving young people who are the future,”

“RPF-Inkotanyi has been at the forefront of putting young people, not only within the party ranks, but also in different government positions, to prepare them to play leadership roles,” Mr Bazivamo said.

Youth in leadership

Earlier this year, ahead of the August polls, President Kagame urged the party to involve youth in what is seen as a key transition for the party, pointing out that he wouldn’t mind seeing a youthful person replace him.

Mr Bazivamo said the party has a policy to put youth in leadership roles and encourage them to learn from their older peers “who are ageing today and stepping aside” while at the same time encouraging them to adhere to the principles of the party.

“It is one of our core principles which we religiously adhere to because we believe the youth are the future of the country. We do not only place them in positions of leadership but we also make them understand that they have a duty to steer the country forward,” he said.

Dr Christopher Kayumba, a scholar, agues that one of the key RPF achievements includes involving youth in leadership, right from the Cabinet down to the grassroots.

A quick survey done by The EastAfrican on the average age of individuals occupying high ranking positions shows that the average age of Rwanda’s Cabinet is 45 with the youngest aged 30 and the oldest 59 while the average age of permanent secretaries in Ministries is 37.

A look at heads of key government institutions and parastatals shows, the average age is 37 while in local government the average age is 38.

According to Francoise Ngarambe, secretary general of RPF Inkotanyi, the party has prepared youthful leaders to take over as the old cadres retire.

Involving youth

“The youth are in charge as you have seen even the celebration activities were done and co-ordinated by the youth,” Mr Ngarambe told The EastAfrican.

During an earlier youth league meeting, Gen James Kabarebe, the Minister of Defence and one of the Rwandan youth in exile at the time who led the struggle, urged young Rwandans to take over the mantle from the now ageing cadres who, in their youth, 30 years ago decided to liberate the country.

“Be catalysts of development; 30 years ago, people of your age took the initiative to liberate the country. It is your duty to drive Rwanda to middle income status in the coming years,” Gen Kabarebe told the youth, challenging them to take over from their elder compatriots. Over the past 30 years, the party has evolved, with some senior cadres falling out of favour with the leadership, finding themselves outside the party hierarchy while others have had to flee the country where they formed opposition parties in exile.

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