Mukabalisa discusses founding of PL, Kagame’s presidential bid, and journey as Speaker of Parliament since 2013

By Esther Muhozi
On 18 May 2024 at 06:39

In 2013, Donatille Mukabalisa, who had spent about 10 years in the Rwandan Parliament, was elected as its speaker, an experience that provided her with significant insight into its responsibilities, including legislation and overseeing government activities.

MP Donatille Mukabalisa expresses that during her tenure, both as a speaker and parliamentarian, she takes pride in the achievements of the Rwandan Government, which have been accomplished with contributions from everyone.

In an interview with IGIHE recently, she discussed various topics, including her views on the Parliament’s responsibilities in representing the citizens, the preparations for elections within the Liberal Party (PL), which she leads, and other diverse subjects.

IGIHE: How are the preparations for the elections within PL going?

Donatille Mukabalisa: As you know, in July 2024, there will be Presidential and Parliamentary elections, and we in the Liberal Party (PL) are well prepared. Whenever there are elections, the first thing a political party thinks about is how to present its agenda to Rwandans to gain their votes.

The key preparation involves creating a political agenda that outlines what we intend to deliver.

We have carefully prepared our agenda, the Liberal Party’s (PL) principles, and our plans for Rwandans from 2024 to 2029 during this five-year term. This is based on the pillars of the economy, social welfare, and good governance.

Every political party has the responsibility to lead Rwandans toward sustainable development, ensuring their welfare, safety, and a country that experiences rapid and lasting progress.

All of this is grounded in the vision we have collectively set as Rwandans, whether you belong to a political party or not.

We have all contributed to the Vision 2050, and there are other sustainable development goals we must achieve as a country and globally, such as Vision 2063. These foundations are what we will present to Rwandans to secure their votes, enabling us to contribute to the goals we have set as a nation.

MP Donatille Mukabalisa expresses that during her tenure in the Parliament, both as a speaker and parliamentarian, she takes pride in the achievements of the Rwandan Government, which have been accomplished with contributions from everyone.

We have seen that you have chosen to support Paul Kagame. As a significant party in Rwanda, don’t you think you should present your own candidate instead of supporting another party’s candidate?

It is not only in Rwanda that a political party supports a candidate from another party.

The Liberal Party granted its members the freedom to choose. We asked them if they saw fit to present a candidate, and if so, who within the party would be suitable? They chose to support the candidate presented by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) Inkotanyi, Paul Kagame.

During the deliberations, each speaker highlighted the reasons why they felt we should support the RPF Inkotanyi candidate, emphasizing the achievements and positive direction he has brought to the country.

When considering a Head of State, you ask what Rwandans need. But you must also conduct a broader analysis, asking what Rwanda as a country needs and who has the capability to meet those needs.

Given the critical challenges we faced after President Paul Kagame stopped the Genocide against the Tutsi and liberated our country from all possible evils, looking at our progress and vision, it is clear that there is no reason to change a winning team.

From the worst possible state, we have reached a place where even the world marvels at our progress. What seemed like a dead country has resurrected, with people rebuilding and showing great resilience, all thanks to good leadership.

We believe this good leadership should continue to guide us to reach and even surpass our goals, establishing a strong foundation and pillars while collaborating with him in all aspects.

In 2010, you had a candidate in the Presidential election. Did the unsatisfactory results lead you to support Paul Kagame this time?

You must consider the state of the country, the region, and the world at large because the world has become like a village. You must look at the interests of the country and Rwandans.

Considering all these factors, we concluded that the right candidate to support is Paul Kagame. However, this does not prevent us from preparing to present our own candidate in the future.

Do you think President Kagame’s successor could come from the Liberal Party?

We will assess that in due time, as it requires thorough preparation. When the time comes, you will know.

Before the Genocide against the Tutsi, the Liberal Party was very active, but now many people wonder what you do that would attract someone without a political affiliation to join the PL. What would you say to them?

The Liberal Party was founded on July 14, 1991. This July, we will be celebrating 33 years. It started during a very challenging and politically difficult time, with significant strength and noble goals.

The party fought for individual freedom, which was not available to Rwandans, for justice, and for development.

Living in a country that denies people their rights, where there is no justice, and where people cannot freely pursue activities that can lead to their development is unacceptable.

A country with severe exclusion and oppression of some Rwandans cannot progress if it is divided.

Fighting for these causes during such challenging times was not easy. We persisted, but Habyarimana’s regime saw the power of the Liberal Party and split it, creating a faction called PL Power based on ethnicity, while the rest of us continued with the original mission.

Understandably, many PL members were victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi, but those who survived drew strength from within to rebuild the party’s political foundation, focusing on unifying Rwandans, which had been shattered.

We had the framework and the place to work from, which enabled us to continue building our strength to collaborate with other Rwandans in rebuilding the country, advancing it, and fostering a sense of unity. We are proud of the role we played in achieving this progress.

You have led the parliament for 11 years; when you look back, which achievements do you appreciate that have changed the lives of the citizens?

When we talk about the Assembly, it’s not about an individual looking at themselves alone, speaking as a leader or viewing it as just the Parliament because it involves collaboration with colleagues.

The Parliament has different organs, including the General Assembly as the main body, the Chairpersons’ Council, and various committee works where we all work together.

Regarding its responsibilities of enacting laws and overseeing government activities, we do all this collectively.

We are proud of all we have achieved as a country because we have fulfilled our duties as the Parliament while working with other institutions.

When we talk about enacting laws, they are established to ensure that the policies that have been set can be implemented, and laws are made to address specific issues.

When we oversee the government’s activities, we are looking at things like the past seven-year program, the 2050 vision, and ensuring that the goals Rwandans need to achieve are met appropriately, bringing visible changes in the lives of Rwandans.

I can say that we are proud of what we have achieved because we played our part in our duties as the Parliament across all levels. We cannot claim it was just us alone; we all worked together.

We sometimes see laws being enacted and then amended shortly after; how does this happen, and why aren’t enduring laws passed from the beginning?

We are a developing country; when laws are enacted, we do not stop there. After some time, we go back and review our oversight duty to monitor the implementation of those laws to see if they are solving the issues they were created to address.

We review how they are being implemented, often after about three years. When we review their implementation, we sometimes find that they are not being implemented correctly or are not solving the issues they were created to address, making it necessary to amend them.

We are a country that wants to progress quickly, and like when you build a house, there comes a point where you notice things that need to be improved even though the plan was initially well-drawn. You may need to make adjustments to make it better.

When building a country, you reach a point where you review and ask if what you are doing is solving the problems that led to the laws being enacted. That is where amendments come in.

There is nothing wrong with amending; the problem would be to leave something that is not working well unaddressed because you are not amending it.