Rwanda: Who Is Likely to Replace Bernard Makuza As Senate President?


Bernard Makuza's tenure as the President of the Senate is coming to an end after five at the helm of the country's second highest political position.

Makuza joined the Senate as a Presidential appointee having served as Prime Minister for 11 years.

As the debate revolving around the future of his political career ensues, the country is eagerly awaiting the Presidential announcement that will close the curtain on the old Senate and usher in a new one.

The question that is lingering on many people's minds continues to be which of the incoming members is likely to take over the powerful position of Senate President.

Constitutionally, the Senate President is number two to the President of the Republic.

In the event that the President of the Republic is convicted and definitively sentenced by the Supreme Court for treason or a serious and deliberate violation of the Constitution, if he or she dies, resigns, or is permanently incapacitated, he or she is replaced in an acting capacity by the President of the Senate.

Through a vote, the Senators are expected to choose the Senate President and two new Vice Presidents, one in charge of Legal Affairs and Oversight of the Government Action and another in charge of Administration and Finance.

The nature of the position requires one to be an experienced politician who is not from the ruling party, Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi).

The Executive Secretary of the Rwanda Civil Society Platform, John Bosco Nyemazi, says that the ideal candidate for the President of the Senate position must have a combination of experience, diplomacy and exposure.

"He or she must understand national trends, especially policy and legal framework. This means that he or she must understand the national vision like for example Vision 2050, National Strategy for Transformation, and the new Kigali Master Plan and Secondary cities among others," he said.

Nyemazi argues that the candidate's experience in global instruments and diplomacy are crucial credentials.

"For instance, we are members of the UN, Commonwealth, EAC and we are signatories to different instruments. For you to lead a team that is going to vote on these instruments, you must possess a global understanding and perspective of the national and international legal terrain," he said.

The Deputy Spokesman of the National Consultative Forum of Political Organisations, Abbas Mukama last week told The New Times in a telephone interview that while other qualities are as important for one to be a Senator, experience takes precedent.

"You are required to have the capacity to critically analyse issues and advice the government especially when it comes to the fundamental principles that guide the Senate," he said.

Based on the profiles of the new Senators, Dr Augustin Iyamuremye, Alvera Mukabaramba and Juvenal Nkusi appear to be the most suitable for the job.

Here is why:

1. Juvenal Nkusi

Until his decision not to stand in this year's lower chamber elections, Nkusi had been the longest-serving Member of Parliament (MP), having joined the Lower Chamber more than two decades ago.

He joined Parliament on November 25, 1994, when the Transitional National Assembly held its first sitting, serving as the first post-Genocide House Speaker until 1997.

The advantage Nkusi has over other possible contenders for the Senate seat is his experience on the nitty-gritty workings and politics (in any) of the parliament.

A senior member of Social Democratic Party (PSD) party, he was part of the team that prepared the party's initial manifesto when it was being created in 1991.

Fellow MPs have previously shown their confidence in Nkusi when they chose him to head the Standing Committee in charge of Economy and Trade.

Their vote of confidence in him was more evident in 2011 when he stood unopposed to head the then newly formed Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

He is remembered by many for his tough demeanour while fielding hard-hitting questions to government officials during the process to analyse the Auditor General's reports.

Nkusi led the Committee until he left the Lower Chamber this year. At 64, Nkusi is relatively young.

2. Dr Augustin Iyamuremye

If Nkusi is interested in this position, the person whose credentials he should worry about is fellow party member Iyamuremye.

A trained veterinary doctor, Iyamuremye's political career spans over three decades.

During past regimes, he served as the Governor of Gitarama and later, the Head of Intelligence.

He was later appointed a Minister in the Ministries of Agriculture, Information and Foreign Affairs before becoming a Member of the Lower Chamber of Parliament.

Until he was appointed to the parliament, Iyamuremye was serving as the Chairperson of Rwanda Elders Advisory Forum (REAF), a role reserved for people who have proven experience and ability in solving national problems and who have previously occupied senior leadership positions.

A senior member of PSD, Iyamuremye has ample understanding of Rwanda's political terrain.

The only disadvantage that could work against him is probably his advanced age. He is 74.

3. Alvera Mukabaramba

The third potential Senate President candidate is Alvera Mukabaramba.

A paediatrician by training, Mukabaramba's political career sheet may not be a long one as compared to the two above.

However, for a country that promotes gender equality and that has never had a female number two, this could be her chance to shine.

Her political career kicked off in 1999 when she became a member of the National Transitional Assembly where she served until 2003.

From 2003 until October 2011, she was a Senator. Until her appointment back to the Senate, she was the State Minister for Social Affairs and Community Development in the Ministry of Local Government for eight years.

Mukabaramba has twice unsuccessfully contested as a Presdiential candidate.

The first time was in 2003, but she withdrew her candidature and decided to support President Paul Kagame.

However, in 2010, she ran again but lost. She may have not clinched the top office but Mukabaramba, who belongs to the Party of Progress and Concord (PPC), stands a chance to become Rwanda's first female Senate President.

Will the next Senate President come from these three? Most likely but only time will tell.

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