STATEMENT OF THE NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS ON SENATORIAL ELECTIONS HELD IN SEPTEMBER 2019

1.     Introduction

 

Article 42 of the Constitution entrusts the National Commission for Human Rights with the mission of human rights promotion and provides for its independence. The Commission is now accredited under ‘A’ status issued by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) based on the review carried out by the Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) that reviews if National Human Rights Institutions operate in compliance with Paris Principles adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993.

 

Article 6(5o) of the law no 19/2013 of 25/03/2013 determining its missions, organization and functioning, modified by law n° 61/2018 of 24/08/2018 confers to the Commission a special mission to monitor the respect for Human Rights throughout elections process and submit report to relevant organs.

 

In this line, the National Commission for Human Rights has monitored activities related to elections of twelve (12) senators elected by specific electoral colleges in accordance with the National administrative entities held on 16 September 2019, one (1) Senator from public universities and institutions of higher learning held on 17 September 2019 and one (1) Senator from private universities and institutions of higher learning held on 18 September 2019.

 

2.     Organization of the Elections

 

Article 80 of the Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda of 2003 revised in 2015, provides that

the Senate is composed of twenty-six (26) Senators elected or appointed as follows:

-          twelve (12) Senators elected by specific electoral colleges in accordance with national administrative entities;

-          eight (8) Senators appointed by the President of the Republic, giving particular consideration to the principles of national unity, the representation of historically marginalised groups, and any other national interests;

-          four (4) Senators designated by the National Consultative Forum of Political Organisations;

-          one (1) academician or researcher from public universities and institutions of higher learning, holding at least the rank of Associate Professor, elected by the academic and research staff of the same universities and institutions;

-          one (1) academician or researcher from private universities and institutions of higher learning, holding at least the rank of Associate Professor, elected by the academic and research staff of the same universities and institutions.

 

Elected and appointed Senators serve a five (5) years term, renewable once as provided by article 81 of the above mentioned Constitution.

 

During the indirect elections conducted on 16-18 September 2019, 14 persons were elected including:

 

-          twelve (12) senators elected by specific electoral colleges in accordance with national administrative entities. They are elected by members of the Bureau of Sector Councils of each District making up the electoral constituency and members of the Council of that District and members of the Bureaux of Sector Councils of Sectors making up the City of Kigali and members of the Council of the City of Kigali. Taking into account that the electoral constituency of Senators ‘elections is Province and the City of Kigali, the Northern Province elects two (2) senators, the Southern Province three (3) senators; the Eastern Province three (3) senators; Western Province three (3) senators and one (1) for the City of Kigali.

 

-          one (1) academician or researcher from public or private universities and institutions of higher learning, elected by the academic and research staff of the same universities and institutions.

 

3.     Pre-elections activities

 

Prior to monitoring activities, the National Commission for Human Rights met with the Authorities of the National Electoral Commission on 2nd Septembers 2019 to examine the progress of the preparations of the 2019 senatorial elections. In this meeting, both Institutions discussed the implementation of the recommendations issued by the National Commission for Human Rights after Parliamentarians elections held in September 2018 to ensure a better scrutiny is scheduled for September 2019 Senatorial elections.

 

The National Commission for Human Rights knew that the activity related to submission of candidatures was closed and eligible Senatorial candidates’ names had been published.

 

In addition to that, the Commission was informed that assessors and members of electoral college had been trained as stipulated by the law governing elections and instructions.

 

Based on the shared information by the National Electoral Commission, the National Commission for Human Rights found that preparations were well done and in due time.

 

4.     Elections process

 

The National Commission for Human Rights deployed 41 monitors (14 males and 27 females) who monitored both campaigns and election activities in all 30 Districts around the Country, in public and private Higher Learning Institutions. 

 

All monitors who went for field work were deployed in teams under the supervision of Commissioners. They were assigned to monitor the process of elections from the commencement till the end.

 

Important issues observed by monitors during campaign, elections processes and votes counting are the following:

 

4.1.          Campaign process

 

The Commission carried out electoral campaign activities which were scheduled from 27 August to 15 September 2019;

 

The Electoral campaign went on smoothly since none of the candidates was refused his//her right to campaign, and more particularly, all candidates were accorded equal rights to campaign in front of the Electoral college and equal access to State media.

 

4.2.          Electoral materials

 

In general, the National Commission for Human Rights found that enough electoral materials reached different sites in time. Nevertheless, monitors realized that there were no special papers designed for votes counting with Candidates names and where electoral staffs could sign;

 

Those materials were gathered in polling rooms in which polling booths were very well build.

 

4.3.          Evaluation of the Polling Day

 

At all polling sites as monitored by the National Human Rights Commission, various formalities and time to start the polls were respected. Besides, the Commission observed the respect of the rights of electoral colleges, observers and candidates.

Finally, the Commission monitored votes counting activities to ensure transparency.

 

Based on its observations, the National Human Rights Commission found that:

-          The ballot was secret because in every polling room were built polling booths;

-          The rights of voters and electoral college were respected;

-          Observers and journalists performed their duties freely;

-          The security was insured;

-          Votes counting was performed in a manner that is transparent.

 

Based on its observations, the National Commission for Human Rights found that senatorial elections went on smoothly, in accordance with the National administrative guidelines and the existing laws on elections in Rwanda. The suffrage was in secret, calm, free and transparent.

 

 

5.     Participation of Women

 

The Commission found that female members of electoral college participated in campaigns and election processes. Nevertheless, among all 63 candidates there were 21 (33.33%) female candidates while male candidates were 42(66.66%) at Provincial and City of Kigali levels even in public and private universities and institutions of higher learning.

The Commission found that no female candidate was in public, private universities and other higher learning institutions.

 

6.     Recommendations

 

Though Senatorial elections of September 2019 went on smoothly in general, the National Commission for Human Rights would like to highlight some recommendations for better planning and implementation of elections in the future as follows:

 

-          Provide for special papers designed for votes counting;

-          Electoral sites should be chosen in consideration of the rights of persons with disability;

-          Awareness should be raised so that women can be involved in competing for the Senate seats in future.

 

           7.     Conclusion

 

The National Commission for Human Rights commends the elections preparation, running of campaigns and elections processes and appreciates the progress made by Rwanda in promoting democracy.

 

The Commission is preparing a detailed report on the monitoring of human rights during these Senatorial elections to be submitted to relevant organs within the time frame as provided for by the law.

Done at Kigali, on 20 September 2019

 

                                                                               NIRERE Madeleine,

The Chairperson of the Commission.