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PSD proposals cover 90% of 2002 constitution – Ntawukuriryayo

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Kigali: Less then a week to voting day on August 09, criticism of the candidates running against the incumbent President Paul Kagame have not changed. They are accused of having nothing new to propose as well as being stooges of the RPF. But in an interview with RNA’s Gaaki Kigambo, Dr. Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo forcefully defends his candidacy, detailing what he says differentiates PSD from the other parties. For the very vocal critics, Ntawukuriryayo says: “I think that they don’t read."

Ntawukuriryayo holds a girl who had presented him with a bouquet of flowers in Rubavu July 28 (Photo: Gaaki Kigambo)

With over two-thirds of your rallies done now, how do you feel and what are your impressions of the race?

I feel well. Our objective [was] to go around the whole country and we’ve done it. In some places it was a bit difficult to have so many people coming to our meetings but the importance for this [campaign] and for PSD is to be present where we go, to distribute our manifesto and to talk to people because our voters are not only our members.

Crowds at rallies have become a big issue in this campaign. Some people don’t think you draw out large crowds to your rallies while your camp team has blamed the media for incorrectly portraying your rallies. What’s your take?

Our party has never compared itself to others. Our target is to reach people with whatever means we have and that is what we are doing. Our people at the level of sectors and cells are doing their job. That is more important for me than to have so many people [at rallies]. I’m not even sure that we would be able to handle a bigger mass of people at the meetings we have had.

About the media coverage, I don’t know the reason why. What I focus on is always to let our news to pass through all channels. If you cannot say [something] by radio or television you can say it online and I’ve been seeing reports saying what’s happening about PSD since we started [our campaigns] on July 20. So overall, I think we have had the same kind of chance [to be covered]. But there are some people who don’t want to report what they have seen and my job is not to go and cry after that.

At a recent televised political debate, some people claimed they weren’t hearing anything new from you, or other candidates, the ruling party has not done or is not doing. And that if you have them, did you hide them from the coalition in order to use them during the campaigns?

Our manifesto is clear enough. We are proposing so many changes. [For instance] We’ve said if we win we are going to share power among parties at all levels [of governance]. We have proposed to decentralise the forum of parties from the high [national] level to the lowest [village] level. We have proposed to separate political power from the administrative power. At the economic level, we are the one party in this exercise proposing to allocate 10 percent of our national budget to agriculture and livestock. Actually, what we are seeing is that there are some colleagues in this exercise trying to repeat the same. Socially, we are so sure that if we win [the election] the salaries of teachers should be doubled or even tripled within two years. This depends on the economy but also on the will of the one who is leading the country. So the ones who are criticising us I think that they don’t read.

Did you hide anything from the coalition in order to use it during the campaigns?

We have been proposing things which have been done within the government since 1994. The abolition of the death penalty was part of our manifesto in 1991. Some of the roads that have been rehabilitated were part of our manifesto. It is known and it has been said PSD contributed 90 percent of all the concepts of the constitution which is governing this country. Then Mutuelle de Sante [the health insurance scheme]. We agreed in 1994 to govern together and each party had to contribute ideas through consultation with its members. People can criticise whatever they want but our contribution has been there [and] it is going to be there whatever happens even after August 9.

Are you concerned that some of the things you’ve stressed in your campaigns – power sharing, removing the 30 percent quota for women representation in parliament, raising the agriculture budget – puts you at odds with the government which considers them among its highest achievements?

No. It is an evolution and a different way of doing things. In 2003 we set up a mechanism to promote women at all levels of representation and governance. It was too early for [competitive politics]. But now if we are saying we have built the capacity, we have promoted women and we have reached a level where equity between men and women is not questionable in Rwanda we are proposing that women in parliament be voted through their parties. It will [help us] avoid going through many mechanisms of voting people [to] represent others. We want to exercise the leadership through the political parties as agreed in the country.

How will removing the 30 percent quota actually make women representation equal with men?

If we decide that 50 percent of the list of people in PSD proposed for election should be women, whatever is won should be equally shared between men and women. We should be building that and we should actually ask women to build that confidence of competition with their brothers without saying there’s another way to take us to a certain level. If as PSD and the country we have reached a certain level of maturity in politics, we should be doing it.

The minister of finance, John Rwangombwa, has said the current infrastructure cannot handle increasing the agriculture budget to 10 percent, which you want to do. Do you disagree with that?

I don’t know why he would say that. [African] leaders, including our president, [while in] Maputo in 2004 agreed every country should raise their agricultural budget to 10 percent of the national income. If you do so you have to cater for the entire necessary infrastructure to help people to consume that budget. It’s like you are telling me if you raise to 15 percent the health sector [budget] like it is agreed for the MDGs [millennium development goals] that we won’t be able to consume that budget. What we are saying is let’s allocate it up to this [much] and then perhaps look for other sectors we need to boost in the whole development of the country. People have to first of all have food security and then we transform for export. Our export balance is so negative. We have to aim on that. If we can’t do it today, like the minister said, why can’t we do it tomorrow it’s a mandate of seven years?

How exactly will you raise access to electricity to 35 percent of the population that you have promised?

Here in Rwanda power is so expensive because we don’t even have enough. We only have one source of power, hydro. If now we diversify to wire power or gas as we have trying to do or biogas, that is going to be affordable for people at the grassroots level and then the expensive power should be used by industries and bigger business chains that can afford it.

As the campaigns come to an end, what are your chances of winning the election?

For us we decided to go and campaign for our programme. People have been receptive. So I’ll wait for the final decision that will be given by the Rwandan people. I don’t in my life weigh my chances. I work then I wait for the final result. Our party has demonstrated it exists and has ideas. 



 

 

 

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