The new Constitution of Rwanda shall provide the establishment of a two-chamber Parliament. The Senate shall be especially in charge of seeing to the respect of the national unity and equal sharing of power.
1) On the 12th September 2002, the Constitutional Committee published in the press a summary about the «basic ideas on the future Constitution», collected during its missions around the country on the 1st semester of 2002.
The creation of a bicameral Parliament was part of it.
2) The constitutional draft made by the legal and constitutional committee was discussed during a national conference held on the 8th-10th November 2002.
3) The constitutional draft, adopted by the Parliament on 23rd April 2003, was submitted to a referendum on 26th May 2003. It was approved by 93 % of voters.
I - COMPOSITION
The Senate is composed of 26 senators, of whom :
- 12 are elected by members of district executive committees and councils in each province, and by the city of Kigali, on the basis of one for each province and for the city of Kigali ;
- 8 are appointed by the President of the Republic, «making sure that the historically most disadvantaged national community is properly represented» ;
- 4 are designated by the Political Parties Forum ;
- 2 having at least the title of professor, are elected respectively by professors from universities, and from public and private superior institutes.
At their request, former Heads of State may become Senate members as of right.
II - ELECTION AND NOMINATION SYSTEM
The parliamentary office is incompatible with a post as a member of the Government.
Minimal age : 40 years.
Voting system: senators who are elected in each province and in the city of Kigali shall be elected with the absolute majority on the first round, and the relative majority on the second round.
As the Senate shall «represent the unity of the Rwanda people», the President of the Republic shall be the last to nominate his senators in order to offset any imbalance - notably ethnic ones - which may be the consequence of other nominations.
The term of office shall be eight years with no possible re-election.
Senate members shall be designated among nationals with high qualifications in scientific, legal, economic, political, social, and cultural fields, or among those who have had high positions in the public or private sectors.
Nominations shall take into account the national unity and the gender representation. At least 30% of the senators shall be women.
First election : 29 september 2003.
According to the constitution, in 2004, the President of the Republic of Rwanda will appoint 4 senators and the forum of the political organisations will appoint 2 others senators.
III - SESSIONS SYSTEM
Ordinary sessions of the Chamber of Deputies and of the Senate shall take place at the same dates.
A - ORDINARY SESSIONS
There shall be three two-month ordinary sessions :
- the first opens on February 5th ;
- the second opens on June 5th ;
- the third opens on October 5th.
B - EXTRAORDINARY SESSIONS
- when convened by the President of the Senate after consulting other members of the Bureau or at the request either of the President of the Republic following a proposal by the government, or 1/4 of senators.
- may be convened of a common accord by the two Chambers' presidents, at the request of the President of the Republic, or 1/4 of each Chamber's members.
- are closed as soon as the Senate or the Parliament has exhausted the agenda of the summoning.
- may not last more than two weeks.
IV - RELATIONS WITH THE OTHER ASSEMBLY AND THE EXECUTIVE
A - LEGISLATIVE POWER
The Senate shall be given a specialised legislative competence: it shall vote the most important texts, notably organic laws and texts dealing with basic questions such as rights of the individual.
1) Legislative initiative
The Senate shall not enjoy the right of the lgislative initiative, wich is reserved to the Chamber of Deputies and to the Government.
2) Right to amendment
Yes. Amendments resulting either in a reduction in public resources, or in the establishment of, or increase in, a public charge, shall be accompanied with the proposal of an increase in revenue or equivalent savings.
3) Legislative procedure
a) Competence of the Senate
1. organic laws ;
2. laws dealing with creating, modifying, operating, and suppressing public or para-public institutions, and organising the territory ;
3. laws dealing with freedoms, basic rights and duties of the individual ;
4. criminal laws, judicial organisation and competence laws, as well as criminal procedure laws ;
5. laws dealing with defence and security ;
6. laws dealing elections and referendums ;
7. laws dealing with international treaties and agreements.
As far as the budget is concerned, the Senate's opinion is requested by the President of the Chamber of Deputies before the final adoption of the finance draft bill.
Private and public bills are first submitted to the examination of the Chamber of Deputies, and then submitted to the Senate.
c) Emergency procedure
It may be requested either by a senator - or a deputy - or by the government to the concerned chamber: in the first case, it shall decide on the issue; in the second one, emergency shall be as of right.
Emergency has the effect of giving priority on the agenda to the text affected by it.
Ordinary laws shall be passed with the absolute majority of present members of each chamber; organic laws, with the 3/5 majority.
e) Disagreement between the two assemblies
Has the Senate not been able to adopt the text, or does the Chamber of Deputies not accept its amendments, subsequently a joint committee, which is in charge of proposing a text on provisions still in discussion, shall be established by the two assemblies.
If no agreement has been reached, the text shall be sent back to the initiator.
f) Other deliberation
Before the promulgation enactment, the President of the Republic may ask the Parliament for a second reading of the law.
In this case, if the Parliament passes the same bill - with a 2/3 majority for ordinary laws and a 3/4 majority for organic laws - the President of the Republic should promulgate it within an ordinary period of 15 days following the reception of the text by the Government.
g) Interpretation power
Interpretation of laws shall fall within the competence of both chambers together, after the Supreme Court had previously expressed its opinion.
It may be requested by the Government, an MP, or the association of barristers. These latter two may be asked by anyone who would result interested.
4) Statutory orders
When it is absolutely impossible for the Parliament to sit, the President of the Republic shall take statutory orders adopted during the Council of Ministers, and considered as ordinary laws. If not confirmed by the Parliament at the following session, statutory orders shall lose their binding force.
B - CONTROLLING POWER
Senators may ask oral or written questions to the Prime minister who may reply himself or through concerned ministers.
One meeting per week shall be dedicated to questions.
The Senate may set up some hearings.
Before the opening of the budgetary session, the general auditor office shall submit each year to both assemblies a report about the execution of the past financial year budget.
The Parliament may ask the office to carry out any financial auditing in State services, or concerning the use of funds allocated by the State.
4) International field
Peace treaties, trade treaties, and treaties or agreements regarding international organisations, those which involve public finances, modify legislative provisions, those regarding the state of people, can only be ratified after an authorisation from the parliament.
C - RELATIONSHIP WITH THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC
1) The President of the Republic shall communicate with the Parliament through messages addressed to one or both chambers together, either personally, or through the Prime minister. These messages shall not imply any discussion.
When it does not sit, the Parliament or the concerned chamber shall be convened and meet especially to this end.
The president of the Senate (and the president of the Chamber of Deputies, and then the Prime minister) shall replace the President of the Republic in the event of death, resignation or definitive impeachment.
V - SPECIAL ARRANGEMENTS
A - CONSTITUTIONAL FIELD
1) Amending the Constitution
The President of the Republic shall have the initiative, together with each assembly with a 2/3 majority of their members.
The revision shall be adopted with a 3/4 majority in each chamber (for some issues, it then shall be approved by referendum).
2) Constitutional control
The Supreme Court shall rule on the constitutionality of laws, international treaties and agreements at the request of the President of the Republic, the presidents of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, one-fifth of senators or one-fifth of deputies.
B - JURISDICTIONAL FIELD
1) Indictment before the Supreme Court
The indictment of the President of the Republic for high treason or serious and deliberate infringement of the Constitution shall be voted by both chambers together with a 2/3 majority in each of them, after which the President shall be tried by the Supreme Court.
2) Reference to the High Court
Any serious default from a political party to constitutional obligations implied by democratic principles, among which the non-discrimination principle, shall be submitted by the Senate to the High Court of the Republic, which may pronounce a sanction ranging from a formal warning to the dissolution of the party.
C - NOMINATION POWER
The Senate :
1. shall elect the president, the vice-president, the judges of the Supreme Court, the public prosecutor, and the deputy state prosecutor;
2. shall approve the nomination of heads and members of the national committees (rights of the individual; unity and reconciliation; genocide prevention, etc.), the ombudsman and his deputies, the public auditor for finances and his deputy, ambassadors and permanent delegates, province representatives, heads of public and para-public bodies, being a legal entity.
The president, the vice-president of the Supreme Court - for only one term of office of eight years - and judges shall be elected with an absolute majority of senators, on proposal of the President of the Republic. There shall be two candidates per position, and the Council of ministers as well as the High Council of judges shall be consulted before.
The president and the vice-president of the Court may be dismissed by the Parliament because of lack in dignity, incompetence, or any serious professional misconduct. The Parliament shall decide with a 2/3 majority of members in each chamber, and on the initiative of 3/5 of deputies or senators.
D - DECLARATION OF WAR
War shall be declared by the President of the Republic, who shall inform the Parliament within a period of 7 days. The Parliament shall give its opinion on the declaration with the majority of the members in each chamber.
E - STATE OF SIEGE AND STATE OF EMERGENCY
- Declared by the President of the Republic, after the decision of the Council of Ministers.
- Their extension beyond 15 days can only be authorised by the Parliament by a two-third majority of each chamber.
During the state of siege or state of emergency, the Parliament is automatically convened if it does not sit in ordinary session.
If at the time the state of siege or emergency has been declared, the Chamber of Deputies had been dissolved, or the life of Parliament had ended, the Parliament competence regarding the state of siege or emergency belong to the Senate.