26 August 2017

Rwanda: New Cabinet? Kagame Keeps Them Guessing

Photo: The Rwandan Focus
President Paul Kagame.

More than a week after he was sworn in for a new term in office, Rwanda's President Paul Kagame is yet to name his Cabinet.

Article 116 of the Constitution gives the President 15 days to appoint a Prime Minister who then has 15 days to announce a new Cabinet.

It had been expected that President Kagame would begin naming his new Cabinet right after taking oath on August 18, but for more than a week now, there is none in sight.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi officiated at the opening of the Rwanda International Trade Fair and was also expected to officiate at the graduation ceremony at the University of Rwanda.

Details of the new government or its composition are tightly guarded and it is not yet clear who will retain their dockets.

In a response to inquiries by The EastAfrican, government spokesperson Louise Mushikiwabo said there was no cause for alarm as "we are well within the constitutional timeline."

President Kagame has up to September 2 to nominate a Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister is selected, appointed and dismissed by the President while other Cabinet members are appointed by the President after consultation with the Prime Minister.

There have been reports of anxiety in the Cabinet, with members unsure of whether they will bounce back.

According to a source, President Kagame is likely to alter the composition to accommodate eight political parties which backed the ruling party in the recently concluded election.

Several parties, including the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the Liberal Party (PL) are likely to retain key positions in the new Cabinet alongside the ruling party Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi).

Some of the smaller parties which allied with RPF might need to wait for next year's parliamentary polls to get their reward.

Consultations

Consultations are said to be ongoing within the RPF ranks and between the President and the sitting Premier, but only the Head of State is privy to the details of who makes the new government.

In 2010, following his re-election, President Kagame did not make many changes, pointing out that "you don't change the winning team."

Seven years later however, only four out of 22 ministers and three Ministers of State announced by the then Prime Minister Bernard Makuza have survived.

They are James Musoni, currently in Infrastructure, Louise Mushikiwabo of Foreign Affairs, Gen James Kabarebe of Defence and the premier Mr Murekezi.

The majority lost their jobs or were allocated other duties outside Cabinet while others were dismissed for wrongdoing.

Several dockets have been scrapped off or merged with others, including Internal Security which was merged with Justice while the Ministry of Trade and Industry was merged with that of East African Affairs.

According to sources privy to the impending changes, the Rwandan leader is likely to introduce youthful members into the Cabinet, having hinted on the need for young people to take over the country's leadership in a transition likely to characterise the next seven years.

Delayed targets

Before the campaigns, during citizens outreach programmes, President Kagame expressed concern over some delayed targets, mainly in the health, socio-economic and agricultural sectors, which have set back the country's efforts to achieve middle income status by 2020.

It is expected that the Rwandan leader will overhaul several key ministries.

President Kagame has also promised to accommodate and work with "everybody" over the next seven years, including the allied parties or even his opponents.

For Frank Habineza, the head of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DGPR), there is little optimism that his party or himself will make the next government, but he hopes the ideas in his manifesto will be executed by the new government.

"Our expectation is that our manifesto will be integrated and implemented by the new government because of the ideas we brought on board" said Mr Habineza.

Mr Habineza and his party would only be guaranteed to be part of the government if he had garnered at least five per cent in the August 4 election but he managed a paltry 0.48 per cent while independent candidate Philippe Mpayimana got 0.73 against President Kagame's 98.79 per cent.

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