Before the Supreme Court Judges
Rwanda’s Supreme Court has today, the 29th of July 2015, started hearing, the petition against the change of the Rwandan Constitution, especially Article 101, regarding lifting of Presidential term limits, filed by the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda.
The Court process, started with the acceptance of the Amicus Curiae, filled by the Centre for Human Rights-Rwanda. The State advocates prayed to Court not to accept this Amicus Curiae, that, its petition was aimed at supporting the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and had nothing new. They wished the center not to take a position in this case. Finally a decision was reached by the Supreme Court to not accept these friends of the Court, even though Maitre Gatete Thierry, the Centre’s representative, indicated new information, including jurisprudences from South Africa, history perspective of the country and the independence of the Centre, which would have been considered for its acceptance as a friend of the Court. DGPR was not pleased with this decision.
Thereafter, the Court hearing continued with the acceptability and the competence of the Supreme Court to try this case. State advocates indicated that the Supreme Court does not have competence to try this case and that the Government of Rwanda has not committed any act against the constitution.
The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, through its President and attorney, Maitre Antoinette Mukamusoni, urged that the Supreme Court as the highest court of the land, indeed has competence to try this case, since we do not have a constitutional court. DGPR also urged that several members of the Government, including Ministers, mayors, local authorities and some members of Parliament and Senators have been on the forefront of this campaign to lift Presidential term limits from the constitution, so that the Incumbent President could stand again for a third term and more terms.
DGPR indicated that the Government of Rwanda, did not do anything to stop its Ministers and several dignitaries from conducting this campaign, it also indicated that this campaign was not started by the people but rather by members of the Government. This being the reason why DGPR decided to take Government to Court.
DGPR also indicated that petitions by the people to Parliament were always received by either the Speaker or the President of the Senate, yet, when DGPR took a contrary petition to parliament, none of the leaders of both chambers, or their deputies and lower staff, received this petition, it was just left at the reception, even state media did not report the matter, yet all other petitions from the people were always covered by both the National Radio and National Television, an indication that State institutions had already taken sides, confirming the complicity of Government in the change of the constitution.
The Supreme Court, chaired by the Chief Justice, announced that it will give its decision on this first phase of the case on the 9th of September 2015, since the Court will be on recess in August.
Done at Kigali on 29th July 2015
Dr. Frank HABINEZA
President, Democratic Green Part of Rwanda