9 August 2017

Rwanda: What's Next After Kagame's Re-Election?

Photo: Daily News
Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

Preparations for presidential inauguration have already started in earnest following Friday's election which returned incumbent Paul Kagame to the helm, with a landslide of 98.63 per cent.

The National Electoral Commission (NEC) is expected to release the final results today, effectively paving the way for the President-elect to be sworn in.

Preliminary results show that 6,650,722 Rwandans voted for the RPF-Inkotanyi's flag bearer compared to 49,117 and 31,633 that voted for independent Philippe Mpayimana and Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, respectively.

So, when will the President-elect be taking the oath of office?

Well, article 102 of the country's Constitution says that: "The President of the Republic takes the oath of office within thirty days (after announcement of final results) following his or her election" and that his or her oath of office shall be administered by the Chief Justice.

Sources familiar with the process told The New Times that state protocol and NEC officials agree on the date the President-elect can be sworn in.

This paper has learned from credible government sources that Kagame will be sworn towards the end of next week at Amahoro National Stadium in the capital Kigali.

There, he will take oath of office before Chief Justice Sam Rugege. With his left hand holding the country's flag, he'll raise his right hand as he takes the oath of office.

In the oath, he will commit to be loyal to the Republic of Rwanda, observe and defend the Constitution and other laws, diligently fulfil the responsibilities entrusted to him, preserve peace and national territorial integrity, consolidate national unity, never use powers conferred upon him for personal interests, as well as pledge to strive for the interests of all the people of Rwanda.

The state minister for constitutional and legal affairs, Evode Uwizeyimana, told The New Times that after Kagame has been sworn in, the current government will effectively be dissolved and the President will have to appoint a new Prime Minister.

"Once he's sworn in, the government will be dissolved. Even the ministers who will bounce back in the new line-up will have to be sworn in afresh because this will be a new government," he said yesterday.

Article 116 of the Constitution says that the Prime Minister is appointed within 15 days from the day of the swearing in of the President of the Republic while other Cabinet members shall be appointedwithin 15 days after the appointment of the Prime Minister.

The other Cabinet members are also appointed by the President of the Republic after consultation with the Prime Minister, according to Article 116 of the Constitution.

In the meantime, Kagame will continue to lead the country but there are a few things he can't do until he's been sworn in.

Article 104 of the Constitution says that the incumbent President remains in office until the President-elect assumes office but it also states four things that the incumbent President can't do during the transition.

They include declaration of war, declaration of a state of siege or a state of emergency, calling a referendum, and granting mercy to persons definitively sentenced by Courts of Law.

Similarly, the Constitution cannot be amended during that transitional period.

So is there a leadership vacuum? "No," says Uwizeyimana. "Other than the four functions outlined in article 104, the President can continue to exercise his authority, including chairing Cabinet meetings, ordering the military to defend the country in case of external aggression, among others".

He added that Kagame is technically still serving his second term in office having been sworn in on September 6, 2010. "The Constitution says that the elections must take place not less than 30 days to the expiry of the term of office of the incumbent and not later than 60 days."

During the last presidential inauguration in September 2010, more than 70,000 people attended the event at Amahoro National Stadium.

At the time, large screens were mounted outside the arena to cater for the extra tens of thousands who could not find space inside the stadium while the proceedings were also broadcast live on state television and radio and live-streamed on the internet.

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