The president of Rwanda’s small but main opposition Democratic Green Party said he’s disappointed by parliament’s vote Tuesday for a constitutional amendment to allow President Paul Kagame to run for a third term.
The parliament said it was acting on the wishes of 3.7 million Rwandans who signed a petition to amend Article 101 of the constitution, which limits the president to just two terms.
The Green Party had challenged the move to amend the constitution in the Rwandan Supreme Court, and the hearing is set for July 29.
A week ago, the party said it was having trouble finding a lawyer to take up its case after most of the lawyers said they had either been threatened or did not want to go against the wishes of 3.7 million Rwandans.
Green Party President Frank Habineza said the parliament could have waited for the Supreme Court to first render its decision.
“We are very disappointed today because we don’t see any reason why the parliament rush[ed] into such a discussion because they know very well that the Supreme Court is set to hear our case on the 29th of July which is just two weeks away,” he said.
Habineza said his party hopes to use the parliament's vote as evidence before the Supreme Court that the constitution can only be revised to reduce the duration of the president’s mandate because all along people had said his case had no merit.
“We had gone to the Supreme Court first of all to ask the court to stop parliament from changing the constitution, and two, to ask the court to give a deeper understanding of Article 101 and 193. But we believe that these articles are intangible and cannot be changed, and we want the court to confirm that,” Habineza said.
Supporters of Kagame have said the president deserves another term because he has restored order and rebuilt Rwanda’s economy.
Habineza said 3.7 million petitioners, if that figure is true, are not a true representation of the Rwandan people’s wishes because the country has a population of about 11 million, and added he had gone to Nairobi, Kenya to find a lawyer to represent his party at the Supreme Court.
“We have got another lawyer right now, and we are trying to get another from Uganda. So this time around we believe that whatever happens, we shall have a lawyer, whether from Kenya, Uganda, or Rwanda,” Habineza said.