20 February 2013

Rwanda: Bill On Elders Forum Tabled

The government wants to set up an elders forum that will offer advisory services to the state on topical issues, national political orientation and challenges of political, economic, social and cultural dimensions.

Presenting the Bill that seeks to establish the forum to Parliament on Monday, Justice minister Tharcise Karugarama said it was a critical forum of the country's wise men.

Once established, it will be called Rwandan Elders Advisory Forum (REAF) and, in the bill, the forum's members will be above 50 years of age and patriotic Rwandans from various domains including academia, retired civil servants, military, business people, and others.

The minister said that once in place, the men and women of the forum shall be considered as a "think tank for national development."

"This forum of wise men and women will help us avoid the loss of quality, strength and expertise of the retired people," Karugarama said.

Drawing from several examples, MP Constance Mukayuhi Rwaka said current challenges require such a team of people to constantly observe and think for the country.

Mukayuhi said: "Look at the example of think tanks in America and how they play a role in the economic, political and security organisation of their country. Look at individuals like Henry Kissinger, in the US foreign policy, American university professors and other high ranking individuals who look at the nation's superior interests."

The Bill establishing the Forum and determining its mission, organisation and functioning will be further scrutinised by a House committee. Membership to the Forum of elders shall be voluntary.

Not contented

MP Basile Bayihiki, a member of the standing Committee on Education, Technology, Culture and Youth, however, questioned the rational of the proposal.

Bayihiki said: "We have institutions like the Rwanda Governance Board, which I feel has responsibility to advise government on governance and conduct research on many issues, we have the Umushyikirano whereby people meet and give ideas, we also have Itorero."

The Bill, among other things, proposes that it shall initially be composed of seven people but most lawmakers suggested that the number should be increased.

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