The 2003 Rwandan constitution is clear. The presidential terms limit can be changed. There is no circumstance of situation that can trigger its modification.
Actions that are underway in Rwanda in order to drop presidential terms limit, to permit the president Paul Kagame to run for the office after his two constitutional terms expires in 2017, are unconstitutional.
Efforts that are being made to get high number of populations to sign a petition requesting the parliament to change the article 101 of the constitution, deliberately ignore details of the article 101 and its unchangeable nature.
The argument is that “the people” have powers to change any article of the constitution when necessary is wrong as far as the article 101 is concern.
Article 101 of the Rwandan Constitution provides that, “The President of the Republic is elected for a term of seven years, renewable only once. Under no circumstances shall a person hold the office of President of Republic for more than two terms.”
This article is divided in three major points:
(a) No circumstance – external or internal, political or social, present or future by any institution or individual – may be the basis for allowing any person to be president if that person has served two terms.
It is clearly stated, no amendment to this provision is possible as such grounds for such amendment would amount to circumstances that certainly prohibited by the “under no circumstance” clause of Article 101.
(b) Whether one serves two presidential terms uninterrupted or interrupted, two terms is the cut-off point; no person can hold that office beyond two terms under the 2003 Rwandan Constitution.
(c) Serving more than two terms is as prohibited, as is amending Article 101 on terms limit.
This means that as long as the 2003 constitution is in force, no circumstance – including “the people’s” wishes to maintain a successful and popular president is permitted to modify the article 101.
Furthermore article 101 cannot be amended using Article 193 of Rwandan Constitution:
Article 193 provides that “The power to initiate amendment of the Constitution is vested concurrently in the President of the Republic upon the proposal of the Cabinet and each Chamber of Parliament upon a resolution passed by a two thirds majority vote of its members.
The passage of a constitutional amendment requires a three quarters majority vote of the members of each chamber of Parliament. However, if the constitutional amendment concerns the term of the President of the Republic or the system of democratic government based on political pluralism, or the constitutional regime established by this Constitution especially the republican form of the government or national sovereignty, the amendment must be passed by referendum, after adoption by each Chamber of Parliament…”
It is clearly unconstitutional to use the constitution amendment procedure under Article 193 including a referendum to amend the Article 101 on presidential terms limit (number of times a person can be elected as a president).
However it would be constitutional to use the constitution amendment procedure under Article 193 including a referendum to amend the Article 101 on presidential term limit (number of years a presidential hold an office after election)
Under Article 193, the President and Parliament may initiate an amendment to the constitution, Article 101 “under no circumstance” clause prevents the President or Parliament to initiate amendment to Article 101 because any reasons and/or circumstances for such amendment would trigger Article 101 “under no circumstances …” clause.
However the Article 193 provides for amendment of other provisions of the constitution for the constitution to adopt to changing circumstances, using any circumstance thereof would be inconsistent with Article 101 “ under no circumstance …” clause. Consequently, any law that seeks to amend Article 101 to reflect changing circumstances (political or social) – to the extent it is inconsistent with Article 101 “under no circumstance” clause – is null and void under Article 200 of the Rwandan Constitution, which provides that “The Constitution is the supreme law of the state. Any law which is contrary to this Constitution is null and void”.
Due to the above information and the clarifications of the 2003 Rwandan Constitution, Global Campaign for Rwandan’s Human Rights recommends that the Rwandan government respect the constitution. Any changes of the presidential terms limit would be a Constitutional Coup d’état, which should be avoid for the benefit and the strengthening of the rule of law.
Global Campaign for Rwandan’s Human Rights