Senators yesterday began a three-day countrywide consultations on the level of democracy in Rwanda with an aim to gather the views of citizens about Rwanda’s model of democracy that is based on principles of power-sharing and concensus decision-making.

The consultations, which senators will conduct in all the country’s thirty districts, are part of the activities to mark the International Day of Democracy, which the world commemorated on Saturday last week.

A statement issued by the Senate yesterday emphasised that the consultations will focus on what Rwandans make of the country’s chosen path for democracy, which focuses on the principles of power sharing and solving problems through dialogue instead of political confrontations.

The senators will consult with ordinary citizens, leaders of public institutions and local governments, policymakers, and members of both the private sector and civil society among other focus groups.

Senator Jacqueline Muhongayire told leaders in Gasabo District yesterday that their ideas were needed as a contribution towards strengthening the country’s democratic process.

“Democratic principles are universal but every country applies them in its historical, cultural, and developmental context. We want to hear from you on what you think about how democracy, based on various concepts, is exercised in Rwanda. Building democracy is a continuous process,” she said.

Many of the local leaders in Gasabo District told senators that they like a number of home-grown initiatives in the country that have given Rwandans a platform to share their ideas.

They include community work, Umuganda, where citizens meet every month to talk about issues in their communities, while also cleaning their neighbourhoods. Others include parents’ evening talks, Itorero civic education programme, and involving both men and women in government structures.

Rose Gahire, a councillor in Gasabo District, said that Rwandans today feel more empowered to express their needs and speak truth to power using different channels that have been set up in the country.

“Today citizens feel free to express themselves and even bring their leaders to account. We have made a lot of progress in terms of making Rwandans free and we need to protect what we have so far achieved in that area,” she told senators yesterday.

Jean d’Amour Bagilijabo, another councillor in Gasabo District, explained that Rwanda has succeeded in creating avenues where citizens can express themselves.

“Rwandans have been given many avenues to share their ideas; we need to stay in this path and continue to develop our country and improve citizens’ lives,” he said.

Rwanda’s model of democracy, known as consensual democracy is based on including all citizens in the country’s governance system.

Under the country’s Constitution, the principle of power-sharing among Rwandans is clearly stated and it is currently respected in State institutions in accordance with the fundamental principles set out under Article 10 of the Constitution and the provisions of other laws.

That’s why, for example, the President of the Republic of Rwanda and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies cannot come from the same political organisation.

Under the same principle of power sharing, Cabinet members in Rwanda are selected from political organisations on the basis of seats held by those political organisations in the Chamber of Deputies.

However, a political organisation holding the majority of seats in the Chamber of Deputies cannot have more than 50 per cent of Cabinet members.

In Parliament, the principle of representation of various categories of Rwandans such as women, the youth, and people living with disabilities is also respected as provided for by the Constitution and other laws of the land.

This year’s International Day of Democracy was observed under the theme, “Democracy under Strain: Solutions for a Changing World”, which the United Nations designated as an opportunity to look for ways to strengthen democracy and seek answers to the systemic challenges it faces.

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