Rwanda's parliament unanimously voted to amend the
constitution to grant perpetual immunity from prosecution of former presidents.
The new constitutional amendment stipulates that a former head of state cannot
be prosecuted on charges of for which he was not officially put on trial when
he was in office. But critics of
President Paul Kagame dismissed the constitutional amendment as a farce
claiming that Kagame's allies in parliament want to protect him from future
prosecution when his second term of office expires.
European countries have reportedly accused President Kagame of complicity in
the countries 1994 genocide in which scores of Tutsis and moderate Hutus lost
their lives. But Kagame denies the accusations. Jean Bosco Gasasira is the
editor of the Umuvugizi Independent Newspaper. He tells reporter Peter Clottey
from the capital, Kigali that Rwandans welcome the new constitutional
Rwandan parliament changed the constitution, and it indicates a clause which
suggests that President Kagame can be prosecuted during his term of office, but
clears him when he is out of the office. So, any person who has claims or who
has allegations against him could take the allegations to court during his term
of office. That is the new clause in the Rwandan constitution," Gasasira
He said Rwandans welcome the
"This could be politically
positive, but most especially it is a signal that would be paving way for the
succession of President Kagame because most of his predecessors or some
presidents in neighboring countries in the Great Lakes or in Africa refuse to leave
office for the fear of being prosecuted. So, Rwandans see it in a way that at
least he (President Kagame) may be the first president to leave office when his
term expires…so Rwandans believe with this constitutional amendment, it would
ensure that President Kagame and future presidents could leave office without
any fear of future prosecution," he said.
Gasasira said Rwandans are
optimistic that President Kagame would leave office after his term expires,
which he said is uncommon in the Great Lakes region.
"Rwandans are reluctant to
think that President Kagame is trying to protect himself from prosecution. You
find them mostly emphasizing that at least compared to other presidents in the
region, he (President Kagame) has been doing good and don't forget that under
the new clause, with every allegation, he could still be taken to court before
his term of office expires," Gasasira noted.
He said the constitutional
amendment seems to be specifically skewed in President Kagame's favor.
"From the political point of
view, the new law is there to protect his Excellency President Paul Kagame when
he is out of the office, and that is all I can say," he said.
the new law could have been implemented due to speculations and accusations of
President Kagame's complicity in the country's 1994 genocide.
"You know Rwanda is
facing some challenges in our post genocide developmental efforts. There are
lots of accusations, a lot of political opposition pressure, so I think this
move would be to protect President Paul Kagame when he is out of the office," Gasasira pointed out.